Can You Paint Wet Wood – If Yes – How?

can you paint wet wood

For some, the idea of painting wood that is still wet seems like a big waste of time.

After all, the moisture should prevent the paint from properly sticking to the surface and the result will be a runny mess.

While it is true for the best results that you should wait until the damp wood is absolutely dry, there are times in which you may have no other choice than to paint the wood while it is still wet.

If you find yourself in a situation where painting wet wood is necessary, then you may try to use the following steps for the best results.

But before we dive into the steps, let’s try to figure out – can you really paint wet wood in the first place? And what may happen if you plan to paint the wet wood?

The short answer is yes, you can paint the wood that is still wet, provided you know how to do it correctly.

The long answer is you can consider painting wet wood but it’s good that you get aware of the risks this may come with.

Because if you do it wrong, without drying the wood to the acceptable moisture content levels, the paint will peel off very soon and you will need to start over again.

How to Paint Wet Wood Properly?

As mentioned, painting over wet wood (like your exterior fence panels, deck, window trim, or wet pressure treated wood) if done right can serve your purpose and can even make the surface last longer.

Remember that paint will eventually peel off wood if you paint the surface that is still wet. So choosing the best water-based paints is preferred in this situation.

Unlike oil-based paints, enamels or creosote; latex paint will bond well and get absorbed in the damp wood letting you get the right finish that may last a bit longer.

Once you have gathered the right paint, here are some steps you may need to follow to get the job done right:

Step 1 – Dry as Much as Possible

Use paper towels and a hairdryer on low heat to remove as much moisture from the surface as you can.

The goal is to get the wood as dry as possible before you paint.

This will, however, depend on the moisture content of the wood which should be checked before painting.

Step 2 – Turn on the Fan

Depending on how much time you have, training an electric fan on the wood can also help dry it more thoroughly.

The more time you have, the dryer the wood will be when you are about to paint.

Remember that the goal is to apply at least two coats of paint, so calculate the time it will take when you start.

Step 3 – Test the Moisture

This step is important to know if the wood surface is dry enough to paint.

You can easily test the moisture content of the wood by using a hand-held moisture meter.

For interior wood, it should read not more than 12% of moisture and for exterior wood surfaces, the allowed moisture content should not be more than 15%.

Based on these readings, you can tell if the wood is dry enough to paint.

Step 4 – Turn Off the Fan and Start

At the very least, turn the fan away from the wood that is to be painted to add ventilation to the room.

Stir the water-based paint and you are ready to begin.

Step 5 – Apply First & Second Coat

Start by applying an even coat of water-based paint to the entire surface of the wood.

Using a foam paintbrush of good quality will help in getting a smooth coat.

Let the first coat fully dry before you apply a second coat.

Step 6 – Clean Up & Hope for the Best

Once you have completed the second coat, clean up your paint brushes.

And allow enough time to dry the freshly painted wood.

Is Water-based Paint Waterproof?
Water based paints are water-resistant (can repel some moisture) but not 100-percent waterproof. Adding a waterproofing paint additive is one ethical way by which you can make water-based paint waterproof.

There are paints in the market that come with waterproofing paint additives as one of their ingredients, but if you still want to be hundred percent sure it’s good to prime before painting and apply a proper sealant after you are done with painting.

Can You Paint Over Water-Damaged Wood?

Yes, painting over the water-damaged wood is an easy way to fix them, provided it’s not rotted or decayed completely.  

Exterior wood surfaces in your house, garden, or backyard are always vulnerable to water damage even when they are nicely painted, finished, and protected.

This is due to the reason that these wood surfaces are always exposed to moisture in the atmosphere, rain, and snow.

The soaked wood which soaks up even more water for an extended period of time can ultimately lead to a rough and rot surface that is hard to repair.

To add extra protection to these types of damaged wood you will need to paint them more often as compared to other exterior surfaces.

can you paint damp wood outside

Despite all the protection, if you happen to have water-damaged wood, you can fix it by painting over them.

  • Before you start painting over them, replace any rotted wood pieces if any
  • You can do this by removing the decayed wood material and patch it with the new wood
  • Fix peeling/loose paint and small holes if any using proper wood filler
  • Then sand the damaged wood surface in the direction of the wood grain using medium-grit sandpaper
  • Now evenly apply a coat of exterior primer using a paintbrush, allow it to dry for a day
  • Finally, paint the water-damaged wood with high-quality exterior wood paint using a paintbrush or a roller

Can You Paint or Stain Freshly Cut Green Wood?

Yes, you can paint “green” freshly cut wood even if it has been treated.

You will however need to evaluate the wood’s moisture content prior to finishing.

Unlike green wood which has an MC level close to 100%, the treated wood will have an MC level ranging between 35% to 75%.

Depending on the moisture content, prime the surface well with the right stain-blocking primer as an undercoat, and then apply water-based latex paint.

Remember, staining green wood is not a good idea because you will need to use oil-based solvents for it.

And since oils and moisture will not mix well staining green wood is not a recommended option.


How Long Should You Let the Wood Dry before Painting?

Ideally, you should allow the wood a full day to dry after its saturated with water.

You can leave the wet wood outdoors in the sun and let it sit there for at least 24 hours.

If the sun is bright enough the wood may dry quickly, but if it’s a more humid climate it may take a little longer to dry.  

Also, the wood pieces with nooks and crannies might take significantly more time to dry, so it’s better to let them sit for a few additional hours.

Before you start painting make sure that the wood is dry enough to paint by testing it with a moisture meter or by the “bead test” method.

Just sprinkle some water on the wood you need to paint. If the water beads up and resists, it means the fibers in the wood are already saturated with moisture. The wood won’t accept the paint in this case.

The bottom line

Wet and water-damaged wood in your home can be hard to paint, stain or varnish over.

But you can still spray paint them for protection if you follow the right process patiently.

It’s good to dry the timber before and pick the high-quality waterproof primer and paint if you want to keep the wood protected for long.

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