Risks of Painting Damp Wood and How to Properly Dry Wood

If you just bought wood from your local hardware store or home depo then chances are that you might need to dry the wood a little bit before you can paint it properly. If you bought your wood from a local wood supplier then you rarely have to dry it first because they know how to properly store their wood. But if you are in a hurry can you just paint the wood even if it is still a little damp? In this article, I will tell you what can happen if you paint wood when it is still damp or even wet, how to properly dry your wood before painting it, and more.

You can´t paint damp wood if you want a nice and even finish. Any water that is still inside the wood will hinder any paint from bonding to the surface properly. You can test if the wood is dry enough by testing I fit absorbs or rejects water that is sprinkled on ist surface.

Paint needs to be absorbed at least a little bit into the wood in order o create a strong bond with the surface.

However, if there is too much water inside the wood already then the paint won´t be able to properly get absorbed.

Oil paints will be repelled by the water inside the wood because oil and water don´t mix and water-based paints won´t get absorbed by the wood if the wood already holds too much water.

So why is this a problem?

Well if the paint is not absorbed properly then the paint won´t be able to create a strong bond with the surface of the wood.

This will eventually result in paint peeling and the slightest scratch or hit will remove parts of the paint right away. The paint might also crack.

So painting on damp or even wet wood just isn´t a good idea and even it fit works short-term in the long run the paint will eventually come off.

How Do You Know if Wood is Dry Enough to Paint it

So now that you know that you should not paint damp wood the logical follow-up question is properly how to determine if the wood is dry enough for painting?

Luckily it is actually quite easy to test if your wood is dry enough!

If you have a moisture meter then simply use that to check the moisture content of your wood. You can also rent one at your local hardware store.

If you don´t have a moisture meter then don´t thread! There is an easy way to check if the wood is dry enough for painting or not.

Remember what I told you before? The wood has to be able to absorb the paint in order to create a strong bond. So all you have to do is to check if your wood can absorb water.

Wood is dry enough for painting if it can absorb water. Simply sprinkle some water on the surface of the wood. If the water is being absorbed right away then the wood is ready to be painted. But if the water beads up then the wood is too wet to be painted.

This test works on pretty much any type of wood including HDF, MDF, and pressure-treated wood.

We are using water to test if the wood is dry enough but this test also works for oil paints. If water can be absorbed then the wood is dry enough to accept any kind of paint including oil paints and latex paints.

How Long Should You Let Wood Dry Before Painting it

Unfortunately, there is no real way to answer this question definitely because it really depends on the type of wood, how it was cut, and how big the piece of wood is.

You should let the wood dry anywhere between three days and a month depending on how big it is and if it is softwood or hardwood. Softwood as well as thinner pieces of wood tend to dry quicker. A well ventilated dry location is best for drying wood.

The time it takes for your wood to dry can vary greatly.

I would recommend periodically testing how dry the wood is by sprinkling it with water as I described before.

If the wood is softwood then it will dry slightly faster than hardwood because the fibers in the wood aren’t as dense. This means that the water caught inside the wood has an easier time to evaporate.

Most of the time anyway. There are hardwood variants that will dry just as fast as softwood but generally, hardwood will dry slower.

The same applies if the wood pieces are thinner.

You can speed up the drying process if you give the wood perfect conditions to dry quickly.

How to Dry Wood Properly and Fast

There are a lot of tricks and tips out there to speed up the drying time of wood.

I personally tried quite a few of them but none of them were as effective as the method that I am going to share with you.

To dry wood fast it is important to keep surrounding humidity levels as low as possible. This can be done with a dehumidifier. To speed up the drying process it can also be helpful to introduce some airflow to the room where the wood is drying in.

The two most important parts of drying wood properly are humidity and airflow.

So you should make sure that the humidity levels of the room, where you want to dry the wood, are either normal or low.

Wood will always strive to find an equilibrium between its own moisture content and the moisture content of the air sorrounding it.

So if the air humidity is low then the wood will start drying.

When humidity levels are very high then the wood will actually absorb more water.

So keep humidity levels as low as possible.

How can you do that?

Well, there are several ways to lower humidity levels but the easiest options are either using a dehumidifier (my personal favorite method) or by heating up the room slightly by using a heater, for example.

You can get a dehumidifier reasonably cheap on Amazon right here or you can rent them at some hardware stores.

Either way, you can get one pretty easily and it is well worth it if you are working with wood on a regular basis.

If you are using a heater then it is very important to heat the room as evenly as possible to avoid any warping of the wood.

The second thing is the airflow.

Airflow is important because when the wood disperses water in the air it is important to introduce movement to the air in order to transport the humid air to the dehumidifier or heater and to transport dry air close to the wood so that the wood can continue to dry properly.

How do you get a good airflow for drying your wood?

Well, ist actually rather easy. Just use a simple fan or maybe even two.

It is not important where the fan is pointing. It is just important that the air is not stagnant in the room.

So as long as the fan is either close to the wood or to the dehumidifier then everything should be fine.

Using this method for drying wood will speed up the drying process significantly.

I personally found that by drying wood this way I was able to reduce drying times from a month down to only two or three days.

Sometimes a week when the wood was a bit on the harder side.

So if you are in a hurry this is probably the fastest way to properly dry your wood and prepare it for painting.