How Long to Let Wood Dry After Pressure Washing Exterior of House Before Painting

How Long to Let Wood Dry After Pressure Washing Exterior of House Before Painting? (The Expert’s Advice!)

By Jason The Painter

How Long Should Exterior Wood Dry Before Painting?

How Long to Let Wood Dry After Pressure Washing Exterior of House Before Painting

house painters pressure washing a wooden fence

The general recommendation is to allow at least 2-3 days of dry time after power washing before painting wood surfaces on the exterior of a home. This allows enough time for the wood to completely dry out before applying primer and paint.

Factors Affecting Drying Time for Exterior Wood

Wood Type and Density

Drying times can vary significantly depending on the type of wood used in your exterior fixtures. This is mainly a result of the varying densities between hardwood and softwood species. Softwoods, like pine, spruce, and cedar typically have less density and tend to absorb and release moisture faster than hardwoods. This means that softwoods can dry relatively quickly before painting is ideal.

Hardwoods, on the other hand, such as oak, teak, and walnut, have higher densities making them slower to dry. Their dense nature means they don’t absorb moisture as quickly, but it also takes them longer to release it.

Understanding the characteristics of the specific wood you’re using is critical, as each variety will have unique drying times. If you’re unsure, you could seek advice from professionals familiar with your specific wood type.

Wood Selection for Exterior Projects

The kind of wood you choose for exterior projects is essential to the project’s durability, maintenance needs, aesthetic appeal, and overall success. Here are some popular wood options often found in exterior applications and their key characteristics:

  1. Cedar: Cedar is a popular choice due to its natural resistance to moisture, decay, and insect damage, requiring less maintenance compared to other woods. Its richly textured grain, availability in a wide variety of dimensions, and its natural, warm coloring make it ideal for many exterior projects.
  2. Redwood: Like cedar, redwood also offers resistance to moisture, decay, and insect infestation. It’s an incredibly sturdy, visually appealing option that can last for years with proper care. It is, however, more expensive than many alternatives, and its availability can be limited.
  3. Pressure-Treated Pine: Pressure-treated pine is an economical and highly accessible choice for exterior applications. It is treated with chemical preservatives to improve its resistance to rot, decay, and insects, making it a durable option despite its relatively soft wood composition.
  4. Teak: Teak is highly prized for its exceptional resistance to rot and weathering. It’s often used for high-end outdoor furniture and boat decks. However, it’s more expensive and may not be as readily available as other options.
  5. Ipe (Brazilian Walnut): Ipe is a dense, tropical hardwood offering premium durability, making it a popular choice for outdoor decking. It boasts strong resistance to rot, decay, and insects. It’s also resistant to fire, like concrete and steel. However, its popularity has led to over-harvesting and potential environmental impact, leading some people to look for alternatives.
  6. Composite: Though not technically wood, composite materials made from wood fibers and plastic are popular for outdoor applications. They are rot and insect-resistant, come in various colors, and require very little maintenance. They don’t offer the same warmth and texture as natural wood, but their resilience makes them a practical choice for many homeowners.

Each wood type has pros and cons, so consider your specific needs regarding durability, aesthetics, maintenance, and budget when selecting wood for your outdoor projects. Make sure also to consider sustainability and the long-term availability of the wood you choose. Always seek advice from a professional if you are unsure about which type to use.

Climate and Weather Conditions

climate and fence painting and pressure washing

Another key factor in determining the drying time is the weather and climate of your location. If you live in a region where the weather is often humid, expect the drying time for your wood to be longer. This is because, in a humid climate, the air is saturated with moisture making it harder for the wood to release its water content. Conversely, in dry climates, wood tends to dry quicker due to the low moisture content in the air.

Also, keep in mind that the specific weather conditions at the time of washing and drying can directly impact how long your wood will take to dry. Suboptimal conditions, such as rain, snow, or even heavy dew, can add to your drying time. Therefore, always check your weather forecast when planning out the stages of your painting project.

Previous Treatments or Finishes

The presence of prior treatments or finishes on the wood is another crucial factor. Wood that has been previously treated, like stains, sealers, or paints, may have formed a moisture barrier that prevents the wood from quickly releasing moisture. Consequently, these woods would take more time to dry or might even require stripping off the old finish before drying.

Moreover, some treatments might still be curing or drying out. It’s important to allow ample time after treating the wood before you begin washing and subsequent drying. Always follow the recommended timings provided by the manufacturer of the previous treatment for adequate curing before you take the next step.

Understanding Moisture Content in Wood

To ensure a successful and long-lasting paint job on exterior wood, it is crucial to understand the significance of moisture content in wood and the tools used to measure it.

Ideal Moisture Content for Painting

The moisture content of wood refers to the amount of water present within the wood fibers as a percentage of the wood’s oven-dry weight. An ideal moisture content for painting exterior wood is generally around 15%. This level ensures that the wood retains enough moisture to maintain its flexibility and structural integrity, while still allowing the paint to adhere properly without being compromised by excess moisture.

Painting wood with a moisture content higher than 15% can lead to several issues, such as paint peeling, blistering, or warping due to the trapped moisture evaporating over time. Conversely, painting wood with a moisture content lower than 15% might make it more susceptible to cracking or splitting as the wood expands and contracts with fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

Tools to Measure Moisture Content

When preparing for a paint job, measuring the wood’s moisture content is a necessary step. A moisture meter is an indispensable tool for this task. There are generally two types of moisture meters: pin-type and pinless.

  • Pin-type meters rely on two pins that penetrate the wood surface when pressed down. The device then measures the electrical resistance between the two pins to calculate the moisture content based on the assumption that higher resistance corresponds to lower moisture content.
  • Pinless meters, also known as non-invasive or non-destructive meters, use radio frequency technology to measure the wood’s moisture content. Instead of penetrating the wood, they emit an electromagnetic signal that scans the wood fibers beneath the surface. The device then interprets how much moisture is present based on the signal strength.

Both types of moisture meters can provide accurate readings of the wood’s moisture content, assisting you in determining when it is ready for painting. By using a moisture meter and ensuring the wood’s moisture content remains within the recommended range, you can avoid potential problems and achieve a smooth, long-lasting finish.

How to Prepare Exterior Wood for Painting

Preparing exterior wood for painting is crucial in achieving a durable, visually appealing finish. Attention to detail and proper technique can significantly improve the longevity and quality of the paint job. The following steps will guide you through the process and outline key considerations when preparing exterior wood for painting.

Proper Cleaning and Sanding of the Wood Surface

  1. Cleaning: Begin by cleaning the wood surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, dust, algae, mold, mildew, or other contaminants. You can use a power washer or a stiff-bristle brush with water and an appropriate cleaner, like a wood cleaner or a mild detergent, to effectively clean the surface. Always work with the wood grain to avoid damaging the fibers. Rinse the wood thoroughly with clean water, ensuring all cleaning agent residue is removed.
  2. Sanding: After the wood has dried completely to its ideal moisture content (around 15% for exterior wood), sand the surface to remove rough edges, uneven areas, or weathered surfaces, and to create a smooth surface for painting. Start with a coarse sandpaper (like 60-grit) and progress to a medium grit (80-120-grit) for a smooth finish. Remember to sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid scratches and adhere to the wood’s natural patterns. After sanding, use a vacuum or a tack cloth to remove any dust or debris from the surface.

Repair Cracks and Imperfections

Before you begin painting, it’s essential to repair any cracks, holes, or imperfections in the wood.

  • Identifying Imperfections: Inspect the wood carefully, paying attention to any cracks, holes, splits, or other defects that might compromise the final result. Sometimes, rough or damaged surfaces can be adequately fixed through sanding. However, more significant issues will require additional attention.
  • Using Wood Filler: Fill any cracks or holes with a high-quality wood filler designed for exterior use. Apply the filler according to the manufacturer’s instructions, using a putty knife, and remember to overfill slightly to account for shrinkage during the drying process. Allow the filler to dry completely as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Sanding Repaired Areas: After the filler has dried, sand the filled areas until they blend seamlessly with the surrounding wood surface. Again, start with coarse sandpaper and progress to a finer grit to achieve a smooth finish.

Ensuring that your wood surface is flawless and smooth before painting not only improves its overall appearance but also enhances the adhesion and lasting performance of the paint.

By following these steps and paying attention to detail, you can create an ideal surface for painting exterior wood and enjoy a high-quality, long-lasting final result.

Best Conditions for Painting Exterior Wood

fence painting after drying from pressure wash

Achieving a flawless and long-lasting paint finish on exterior wood is not only about the materials you use or your preparation work. The environmental conditions during and after applying the paint can greatly affect the final outcome. Here’s more detailed information about the ideal temperature and humidity for painting.

Ideal Temperature for Painting

Paint manufacturers usually recommend applying paint within a certain temperature range for optimal results. Warmer temperatures are favorable because they help paint to flow smoothly and dry more rapidly. However, temperatures that are too high can also cause paint to dry too quickly, leading to an uneven coat or the formation of cracks.

In general, you should aim for a temperature between 50°F (10°C) and 90°F (32°C) when painting exterior wood. This range provides the ideal conditions where the paint can cure properly for a durable, even finish.

Do note that the temperature should remain within this range for at least a couple of hours after application – not only for the duration of your painting project. This duration is crucial as it allows the paint enough time to start the curing process before the temperatures drop below the recommended range.

Ideal Humidity for Painting

While temperature plays a vital role in how well your paint job turns out, so does humidity. High levels of relative humidity in the air can significantly slow down the drying process, risk the formation of dew or moisture on the surface, and compromise paint adhesion, leading to a less-than-ideal finish.

A relative humidity level below 85% is recommended for exterior painting tasks. If the humidity is too high, consider postponing your painting project to a drier day. Similarly, avoid painting if rain is forecasted within the next 24 hours, as the paint needs a minimum amount of time to dry and cure effectively without interference from excess moisture.

Monitoring Weather Conditions

Before you embark on your painting project, it is beneficial to check the weather forecast for the day and the following couple of days. Seek a day that promises ideal temperature and humidity levels. Digital weather stations, local meteorological websites, and several smartphone apps can provide this information at your fingertips.

In conclusion, thoughtful planning based on ideal environmental conditions will go a long way in helping you achieve a professional, durable finish when painting exterior wood.

Selecting the Right Paint for Exterior Wood

Choosing the right paint for exterior wood isn’t merely a matter of aesthetics. It’s also about selecting a product that can stand the test of time and weather. The right paint should protect your wood, enhance its natural qualities, and complement your home’s overall look. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

wood type for fence painting

Evaluating Paint Quality

High-quality paint is essential for exterior wood applications for several reasons:

  • Durability: The best exterior paints resist weather damage, resist fading despite long exposure to the sun, and maintain their finish over time. They are specially formulated to withstand the harsh conditions of outdoor environments, including UV radiation, temperature fluctuations, and moisture exposure.
  • Adhesion: High-quality paints have excellent adhesion properties, allowing them to bond effectively with the wood surface. This strong bond ensures the paint doesn’t peel or chip easily and can last for several years with proper maintenance.
  • Protection: A good quality exterior paint should offer resistance against mold and mildew, providing an additional layer of protection for your wood.

When selecting paint for exterior wood, ensure it is specifically designed for outdoor use. Look at the paint can labels or ask a home improvement store professional to guide you on the best options available.

Suitable Color and Finish

The color and finish of your paint can greatly influence the aesthetic appeal and the durability of your paint job.

  • Color: The color you choose can impact the temperature of your painted wood surface. Lighter colors tend to reflect sunlight, keeping the surface relatively cool, while darker colors absorb more sunlight, leading to hotter surfaces. This absorbed heat can make the paint film more susceptible to premature aging and wear, but high-quality dark paints can withstand such heat absorption to some degree. Ensure the color fits well with your existing house color scheme.
  • Finish: The finish of your paint – whether gloss, semi-gloss, satin, or flat – can affect both the visual appearance and the durability of your painting. Gloss and semi-gloss finishes, due to their reflective properties, can resist external elements better, making them more durable. They also make it easy to clean dirt and stains from the surface. However, they highlight imperfections better than lower-sheen finishes like satin or flat.

In addition to these considerations, bear in mind the specific needs of your project. For instance, different types of wood or different projects – such as painting a deck versus painting siding – may require different kinds of paint. Always consult with a professional or do meticulous research to ensure your choice is not only aesthetically pleasing but also practical and durable.

Tips for Successful Exterior Wood Painting

Painting exterior wood can give your home a fresh, appealing appearance. However, achieving a professional-quality finish requires a bit more effort than simply brushing on a couple of coats of paint. Here are some detailed tips on how to effectively paint your exterior wood:

Prime Before Painting

One of the most essential steps in painting exterior wood is priming. Consider primer as the foundation of your paint job; it helps in multiple ways:

  • Enhanced Adhesion: Primer helps the paint adhere more effectively to the surface, promoting a smoother application and reducing the risk of peeling or flaking over time.
  • Increased Durability: A primer-enhanced surface can improve the durability of your paint job by providing an extra layer of protection against the elements.
  • Wood Sealing: The primer seals the wood, preventing tannins from bleeding into the paint and staining it. This step is especially critical for woods like cedar or redwood.
  • Smooth Finish: Priming provides a more uniform surface for paint, enabling the paint to cover the wood evenly for a more professional finish.

Use an exterior-grade primer for outdoor projects, and let it dry completely before applying the paint.

Use Proper Painting Techniques

Correct technique while applying paint is vital too:

  • Direction of Paint: Always paint along with the wood grain for the best results. This technique helps improve paint adhesion and results in an even, pleasing appearance.
  • Roller or Brush Use: Consider the size and nature of your project when deciding whether to use a brush or roller. Rollers can cover large surfaces more quickly, but a paintbrush may offer better control for detailing and smaller surfaces. Whichever tool you use, ensure it’s of good quality – a cheap brush can shed bristles, and low-quality rollers may not distribute paint evenly.
  • Number of Coats: Apply at least two coats of paint. Between the coats, allow adequate drying time as per the manufacturer’s instructions. A second coat will guarantee even color and optimal protection for the wood.

Understand the Drying Time

Knowing the correct drying time between preparing, priming, and painting the wood is crucial to the success of your project. Always allow enough time for each coat of primer or paint to dry thoroughly before moving on to the next step. The drying time will depend on the type of paint or primer, the temperature, and the humidity.

Regular Maintenance for Exterior Wood Paint

After investing time and effort into painting exterior wood, maintaining the finish is crucial to keeping your property looking fresh and appealing. Regular maintenance not only preserves the appearance but also extends the paint job’s overall lifespan. Here are some key aspects of exterior wood paint maintenance:


Be vigilant in checking for early signs of wear or damage so you can take action before small issues become more significant problems. Inspect your painted wood surfaces seasonally or after severe weather events to identify any:

  • Peeling or flaking paint
  • Fading or discoloration
  • Mold or mildew growth
  • Insect damage or wood rot


Clean your painted exterior wood periodically to remove dirt, dust, and mildew that can accumulate over time. A simple cleaning routine can prevent unnecessary wear and maintain the paint’s vibrancy. Use a soft-bristle brush, water, and a gentle cleaning solution (avoid harsh chemicals that can damage the paint) to clean the wood surfaces. For stubborn dirt or mildew, use a solution of water and bleach (ratio of 3:1). Always test a small, inconspicuous area before applying the solution to the entire surface.


If you notice any areas of damage during inspection, touch them up to maintain the protective paint layer and ensure the wood’s continued longevity. Remove any loose, flaking paint with a scraper, brush, or sandpaper, and prime the exposed wood before repainting with a matching exterior paint. Small touch-ups can prevent more extensive repairs down the line.

Protective Measures

Consider the following protective measures to fortify your exteriors against wear and tear:

  • Ensure proper water drainage away from painted surfaces
  • Regularly clean gutters and downspouts to avoid water damage
  • Address any sources of excess moisture to prevent wood rot and mildew growth
  • Trim tree branches and shrubs to maintain airflow and prevent the accumulation of moisture

Routine Repainting

Despite your best efforts, exterior paint will eventually degrade and require a full repaint. Factors such as climate and exposure to harsh elements may speed up the degradation process. Generally, you can expect exterior paint to last around five to ten years, depending on the type and quality of paint. Regularly assessing the condition of your paint and keeping up with ongoing maintenance will help you determine when it’s time to repaint.

In summary, regular maintenance is essential to prolong the life of your exterior wood paint job. By staying vigilant and addressing issues promptly, you’ll keep your painted surfaces looking immaculate and well-protected for years to come.


In conclusion, painting exterior wood isn’t a job to rush. With expert preparation, patient drying, and a carefully executed application, you can ensure a high-quality finish that will improve the appearance and longevity of your outdoor wooden fixtures.


How soon can you paint wood after pressure washing?

The initial step of a flawless paint job involves clean, thoroughly dry wood. While pressure washing is an efficient method to clean exterior wood surfaces, it also introduces moisture to the wood. You generally need to allocate 2-3 days for the wood to entirely dry after pressure washing before you commence painting. This timeline might fluctuate, influenced by factors like the wood’s initial moisture content, as well as local weather and climate conditions.

Can I paint right after pressure washing?

While pressure washing is a critical step when prepping wood for painting, it’s not advisable to paint immediately after washing. The water introduced during this process needs ample time to evaporate completely from the wood before painting. If you paint on damp wood, there’s a risk of paint adhesion issues, resulting in blistering and peeling. Therefore, a little patience can go a long way in ensuring a perfect painting job.

How long to let wood siding dry before painting?

The case isn’t different when dealing with wood siding. Following pressure washing, you typically need to wait around 2-3 days to allow the wood to completely dry before diving into the painting phase. Investing in a moisture meter can help confirm the wood’s moisture content, ensuring you kick off painting at the ideal time. Strive for a moisture level of 15 percent or less for optimal painting outcomes.

Should exterior of house be power washed before painting?

Indeed, power washing is often a recommended preparatory step before painting the exterior of a house. It effectively eliminates dirt, mildew, and loose paint, which could potentially interfere with the paint’s adherence to the surface. However, be mindful to allow a sufficient period for the surfaces to dry before proceeding to the next step—painting.

What happens if you paint pressure treated wood too soon?

If you paint pressure-treated wood prematurely, this could result in a compromised finish and diminished longevity of your paint job. Newly-treated wood possesses moisture and chemicals that can prevent paint from adhering appropriately, leading to issues like bubbling, or peeling. Therefore, it’s advisable to wait at least 3-4 weeks before painting pressure-treated wood, allowing sufficient time for the wood to dry and acclimate to its environment.

How long to let wood dry after washing?

In most cases, you should afford your wood an average of 2-3 days drying time after washing before you paint. This period can be influenced by conditions like weather and the wood’s original moisture content. A moisture meter can provide a more accurate reading, thereby making sure you’re starting on thoroughly dry wood, facilitating a fantastic paint job.

Your home’s exterior painting is a significant project—one that can amplify aesthetic appeal and property value when executed correctly. Guarantee the quality and lifespan of your paint job by allowing your wood enough time to dry after pressure washing. Your patience is a worthwhile investment, enabling a beautiful and lasting result.