Is it okay to stain a wet fence?

wet fence

Waiting for Dry Conditions

If you’ve just installed new cedar fence boards, it can be tempting to stain them right away to protect the wood. However, it’s important not to stain until the boards are completely dry inside and out. Staining wet or even partially damp lumber can cause problems as the wood seasons.

Trapped Moisture

When stain is applied to wood that still contains moisture, that moisture gets trapped underneath the new barrier coat. With no way to evaporate out over winter, this trapped moisture can lead to warping, cupping or cracks as the wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity and temperature.

Let Nature Do its Work

Rather than stressing over staining immediately, it’s best to let the fence sit exposed to natural weathering until spring. Cedar is porous, allowing surface water to drain quickly. However, the inside needs time to dry out fully as well before sealing. There’s no need to worry about UV damage in the first year either.

Spring Cleaning and Staining

When warmer and drier conditions return in spring, scrub away any dirt, mold or algae that accumulated over winter using a mild cleaner. Once thoroughly sun-dried again, the fence boards will be ready for a fresh protective stain. Proper drying eliminates the risk of sealing in long-lasting dampness that can degrade the fence over years.

Checking for Dryness

To check if the wood is dry enough, weigh a sample board before and after leaving it in the sun for a full day. If the weight remains stable, no further moisture evaporation is occurring and staining can proceed. Taking the time to fully dry ensures the fence will withstand weather beautifully for seasons to come.

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