How long should you wait between coats of paint?

by Team MD


When you’re starting a DIY painting project, you probably don’t think about how long to wait between coats of paint, and that is why this guide is here to help you. Rule number one is to be patient. It could take you 24 hours to wait for the paint to dry, but here are some further details about this whole process.


There are different time frames

When painting, there are 3 different time frames that you need to take into account, no matter if you are using water-based (latex) or oil-base (alkyd or solvent-based) paint. The first of these time frames is the dry time. This represents the period that the wet paint takes to become tack-free and not stick to your fingers.

The recoat time is the next time frame, and it represents the period that it takes the paint to be ready for another layer of paint. As you can see, it’s different from the dry time. The last of these time frames is the cure time, representing how long it takes the paint to be fully hardened. This means that by the final of this stage the paint becomes washable and you can touch it without a problem. This final stage can take weeks for some types of paint in different climates.

As you can see, you won’t have to worry about the cure time when you want to recoat the paint (when you want to add an extra layer). Those with some experience will know that water-based paints will dry faster than their counterparts, the oil-based paints. This is because the basic formula containing water evaporates faster and allows the paint left to dry.

Every kind of paint has binders in its formula to help the pigment stick together. Those paints considered flat have the least amount of these binders, while glossy paints have the most. The more binders a formula has, the more time it will take for that paint to dry. This is why glossy paints take the most time to dry.

With eggshell or semi-gloss paints, you will have to wait an average time for them to dry, while flat paints will dry the fastest.


The recoat times

As already quickly mentioned, recoat times differ from water-based paint to oil-based paint. The later is more durable, and that is why it takes longer to dry. You might feel that oil-based paint is dry after 2 or 3 hours of application. However, you will want to recoat only after a full 24 hours after the initial application to make sure the surface is completely dry. Only then you will know it is ready for a new layer.

Don’t forget that temperature and humidity have a huge influence on the drying time. Even if you are indoors, the temperature will affect the recoat time. Few people know, but it’s essential to apply the paint within the temperature parameters written on the paint. However, there are some general rules to follow if the manufacturer doesn’t specify drying times.

Water-based paints will dry fastest in a room that is around 72 degrees Fahrenheit, and where there is little humidity. On the other hand, oil-based paints will do best in rooms above 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature shouldn’t exceed 90 degrees.

Generally, for most water-based paints, cold temperatures and high humidity will slow the drying time. This is because water has a harder time evaporating at lower temperatures, and when the air is already humid (filled with water vapors), it is even more difficult for that to happen. To speed up the drying process you can use a fan to allow for air to circulate better.

You can also let in fresh air through open windows but only do that if the weather outside is not too hot, cold, or humid.


Applying the paint

There are advantages and disadvantages when using both kinds of paint. For example, oil-based paints are known for their smoother finish, but they tend to have a stronger smell. They also dry slower and are messier to clean up. Water-based paints are easier to use, and that is why they are favored by those looking to accomplish DIY projects.

Getting a smooth finish with latex paints requires more precise surface preparation and the use of more precise tools and paints. If you want to create professional-looking results, you need to learn some special painting techniques. A smoother finish depends on the preparation routine, but on the technique as well.

If you want to obtain a smooth finish with the help of water-based paints you will have to repair the walls and trim. First of all, sponge the walls with a cleanser mixed with water. If you have dents, gouges, or nail holes, you should fill them with spackling compound and then sand them smooth.

You should never apply paint while the surface is dusty; also, make sure it’s completely smooth, otherwise, dust remains will get stuck to the brush and ruin your paint job. You can mix the paint with a paint conditioner if you want to make it more spreadable. However, this will lengthen the drying time, but you will get a smoother finish.

Before you do this, be sure to find the specific type of product you need for your paint. Following the instructions written on the paint conditioner, you will be able to use it more effectively. A conditioner is a product meant to thin the paint, so applying too much of it will make the paint drippier and decrease the coverage potential.


Be patient

Keep in mind that your walls might feel dry soon after you apply the first coat, however, you will need to wait until the paint has had enough time to completely rest for you to be ready to give it a second coat. If you are using water-based paint, you can apply the second layer after 2 to 4 hours. But for the best result, it’s suggested that you wait 24 hours.

Applying the second coat of paint too soon can cause the previous coat to roll up as you roll over it. This will result in streaks, uneven color, or even peeling. Furthermore, if you wait for the first coat to dry as it should, you will be able to better differentiate where you have applied a second coat or not, as the paint is brighter when wet.

There are some things to do while you’re waiting for the paint to dry. First of all, don’t leave the tools uncovered in the room, and don’t forget to put the lid back on the paint bucket or can, so it doesn’t dry out. Also, cover or clean the roller tray if you are using a roller. The paintbrushes and rollers should also be covered with plastic wrap and kept in a refrigerator if you intend on using them again.

Otherwise, you can wash them – you don’t want paint residue left on them. The quality of your second coat will be affected if the brush or roller has paint on it.


Technique matters

When applying the second coat try to use the same technique and direction as you did for the first coat. One of the more difficult things to do is keep track of where you have previously painted. To solve this issue you should start in the same spot – choosing a top corner of a wall and going on from there should work well.

Start with an angled brush and focus on the trim and corners at first. After that, start rolling the paint in small sections. Some people prefer rolling in 3-foot wide W shapes and then filling them in. This technique will ensure that you can finish a wall entirely before painting the adjacent one without skipping any section.

Painting with rich colors such as bright red or dark blue, you will have a lot of pigment to work with. This pigment will settle at the bottom of the can or bucket if it has been left waiting for a long time. Even while you are working, some paints will tend to have their pigment settle on the bottom, so make sure you are mixing the paint every now and then to prevent that from happening.

It is difficult to work with such colorful paints because, if you are using more than one can for a room, you can end up in the situation that you mix the paint differently and you get slightly different nuances. To solve this issue you should estimate how much paint you need for the whole project and get all of that paint together, in a bucket.

There are some types of paint that can be considered “pretentious” as they require expert hands to mix precisely. However, more expensive paints will help you get a better finish, even if you don’t have the skills of an expert. Remember, however, that you will always need to be patient with paint.


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