How Long to Wait Between Coats of Paint

How Long to Wait Between Coats of Paint

Painting can be a pain because of all the prep work that goes into it, such as figuring out how long to wait between coats of paint. Picking a color, paint type, and finishing alone can be exhausting but now you have to get the room, door, cabinet, etc. ready to paint. Furniture needs to be moved and covered, edges taped off, and children and pets distracted or otherwise out of the way. By this point, we just want to be done with one coat, but most paint jobs look better with two (or more!) coats, so everyone wants to know: how long do I have to wait between coats of paint?

The answer is: it depends. Many factors go into waiting to recoat the paint. Some of these are temperature, humidity, type of paint (water, oil), finish (flat, eggshell, etc.), ventilation, and surface type.

How Long to Wait Between Coats of Water-based Paint

Most water-based paint needs four hours between coats, but a glossy finish needs a bit longer. Each manufacturer will have a recommended time on the can so make sure you use their numbers. It is better to wait longer than the recommended time, so you don’t get blobs, streaks, or unevenness. If you are painting a room, one thing to remember is to set a timer when you start painting. It will likely take a while to paint everything so you might be able to wait a shorter amount of time between finishing the first coat and starting the second. One thing to keep in mind is to make sure you do everything in the same order as the first time and at roughly the same speed. This might be hard to do, mainly because the second coat is likely to go on faster. 

How Long to Wait Between Coats of Oil-based Paint

Oil-based paint is more durable making it excellent for painting cabinets, doors, and trim but the drawback is 24 hours between coats. Oil-based paint needs time to oxidize and harden which differs from water-based paint which dries via evaporation. As with water-based paint, read the manufacturer’s recommended time between coats so you don’t mess up your project. This is especially true for areas where the paint will touch itself later like cabinet doors.

Speeding Up Drying Time

Most paint manufacturers recommend painting in a well-ventilated area that is about 72° F. A room that is too cold or too hot will make your drying times longer. You can help by bringing in a heater if it’s cold in the room or turning on the AC on a hot day. Humidity can greatly affect water-based drying times because a room with too much moisture already can’t hold anymore. Having a dehumidifier in the room can help. You are aiming for a humidity level of 50% or less. Running a fan can also help by circulating the air and allowing the process of evaporation to happen. Opening a window will also help if the weather is good outside.

Things To Do While the Paint Dries

You could watch it dry, but I’ve heard that’s not very interesting. Instead, you could plan your project to be asleep while it dries which might be necessary if prep work took longer than you anticipated (which it will). Doing a second coat with the morning light coming in will help you see where you might have gone light the day before. Other things to do are watch a movie, read a book, take a walk, or take a nap. Painting can work those arm muscles so anything that lets them relax while the time passes will make the second coat much easier. 

Other Things to Keep in Mind

After you stand back and admire your handy work…fixing that spot by the outlet…it is tempting to want everything back to normal and start moving the furniture back in and screwing the trim plates back in place. It is better to hold off just a bit longer so the paint can cure. This can take one to three weeks! All is not lost though. You can move the furniture back to roughly where you want it but don’t let it touch the walls and be mindful of slick furniture on a slick floor that could hit the wall when you sit down. You really should wait as long as possible to put the trim covers back in place. This will give a neater finish around the thing that lots of people see and make it easier to remove when you need to (anyone else ever had to use a flathead screwdriver to pry a trim cover off?). You should let this cure time be a guide to when you should sleep in a freshly painted room. While there are more “green” paints on the market than there used to be they can still be hard to find or cost-prohibitive to many people, so some toxic fumes are going to be released while the paint cures. Keeping the room windows open (if the humidity level outside is okay) and running a fan will help to dissipate the fumes and keep the paint headache away. 

How Long to Wait Between Coats of Paint: Conclusion

Anyone who says that painting is an easy way to change a room can come to help you next time. Pick your color and finish carefully so you are sure you like it. If you have kids or pets consider finding them a sitter to keep them out of the way and let you get on with painting. 

Written by Leslie Nall

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