The answer to this depends on any number of different factors and all of them need taking into account before you can walk on your deck with confidence after treating it with exterior wood stain.
Take your time.
You have put in a lot of work to get this far. Make sure that you allow sufficient time and don’t get impatient to put the furniture back out there and walk on the surface. Proper treatment of your deck and the time you have invested in stripping and preparing is only time well spent if you have the patience to wait before getting back on it.
If you are too impatient and put your heavy items back onto the decking too quickly then you may find that the stain adheres to the item, and when you move your furniture or planters that the stain is removed where they have been standing.
Which Product did you choose?
Hopefully, you would have consulted the manufacturer’s instructions before commencing the work – and the detailed instructions on the tin will give you a good guide to how long it will take for any specific product to go off.
Oil based products will finish dry within around 2 – 3 hours to the touch, but again, be patient, and give them an extra 24 – 48 hours to fully cure before walking on – and don’t replace your furniture for anything up to a week.
Latex finishes will feel touch dry within about 3 hours, but will need the full 48 hours to cure – don’t be fooled just because they are touch dry, make sure that you give the full time for complete curing. Once again, you can traffic the area, but any heavy furniture should remain elsewhere for about a week.
How much did you apply?
Different stain bases will offer different coverage. If you have applied a generous coating then the stain will take longer to go off. If you have applied a lighter, or first coat, and are waiting for the light coat to dry off before applying the second then it will take slightly less. Subsequent coats will always seem to take longer to dry – do not be impatient between coats, make sure that you follow the instructions and allow sufficient time for the external deck stain to completely go off between coats for the best outcome.
The weather effect.
It goes without saying to be honest that the weather conditions and local humidity will affect both the rate of drying and then the rate of curing of your exterior wood stain.
Hopefully, you took the very sensible precaution of checking the weather forecast before applying your stain, and therefore your deck stain has the benefit of drying in fair, dry weather. Rain showers shouldn’t affect the outcome as long as they are only light – but it seems unnecessary to state that if you have sunny, fair and breezy weather everything will dry out more quickly than it will if it is raining.
What if I HAVE to walk on it?
If you have no choice but to walk on the deck before the time recommended in the manufacturer’s instructions then, as long as you have waited at least 4 – 6 hours it is possible, however, ensure that you clean your feet and walk on it barefoot otherwise you risk leaving footprints.
How long does it take for deck stain to dry?
It depends on many factors, and cannot be hurried – follow the manufacturer’s guidelines, and give as much time as it takes for the best effect.