Can You Stain a Fence After if Rains?

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Matt Stone

If rain has interrupted your plans to stain your fence you may wonder, “Can you stain a fence after if rains?” How long should you wait? What will happen if you stain a fence while the wood is still wet?

In my experience staining fences, moisture in the wood is one of the worst enemies of a long lasting stain job. A stain job applied over wet wood may look good at first but it will not look good for long.

You must wait for the wood to dry before you stain your fence after it rains.

How Long to Wait After it Rains

It is important to wait long enough for your wood to be dry before staining your fence. Wood acts like a sponge. When it rains, the wood soaks up water. Then, the water will slowly evaporate over time.

This can take as little as half a day or up to three days depending on several factors. Factors that will change the dry time include:

  • Humidity: The higher the humidity, the longer it will take for the water in the wood to evaporate.
  • Temperature: Higher temperatures will decrease dry time. It takes water longer to evaporate when it is cold outside.
  • Whether the wood is stained: If your fence has been stained in the past, the existing stain should offer some protection from moisture. This means your fence will absorb less water in a rainstorm and dry out faster afterward.
  • The amount of rain: A light sprinkle may dry up in just a couple of hours, but a downpour will take longer.

How to tell if your wood is dry.

Picture of a moisture meter measuring the moisture content of a fence

The only sure way to tell if wood is dry is to test it with a moisture meter. These meters can be purchased at most hardware stores. The meter will give you a number based on the percentage of moisture that is still in the wood. For most stain jobs, you will need a moisture percentage of 15% or less. If it is below 12% this is even better.

Note: Because there is always some humidity in the air for a fence to absorb, the moisture meter will likely never read 0%. As long as the wood is under 15% you can proceed with your stain job. Read more about how to use a moisture meter.

If you do not have a moisture meter it is best to wait a couple of days after it rains to give the wood plenty of time to dry.

What Happens if You Stain Wet Wood?

It may be tempting to go ahead and stain even if the wood is wet. This can be especially true in rainy seasons where it may be difficult to get several days in a row without rain. If you stain a wet fence, the stain will probably look good at first, but it will only last for a short time.

Fence stains are designed to soak into the wood. This is especially true of oil-based fence stains. Because oil and water do not mix, an oil-based stain cannot penetrate into a water-logged board. The stain will sit on the surface instead of going into the fence pickets.

This layer of stain on the surface will look good at first. The problems will begin just a few months later. Because the stain is sitting on the surface it will easily wear off and fade. The stain job will likely look faded and worn in as little as three to six months. This is far shorter than the three or four years that a quality fence stain should last.


Making sure that your wood is dry is one of the first steps in getting a good stain job. For the next steps make sure to read our guide on how to stain a fence.

If you are not sure which stain would be the best one for your fence, you can read our fence stain reviews.

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Author: Matt Stone
Matt has worked as a professional painter for over 10 years. This includes much experience with all types of wood stains. He loves to write about wood stains to help others make good choices to protect their homes and make them beautiful.

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