DIY Tips & Tricks: How Long to Wait Between Coats of Paint

how long to wait between coats of paint

Waiting for paint to dry is like… well, waiting for paint to dry — it seems to take forever!

When you’re trying to finish the entire room, you don’t want to wait any longer than you have to. However, applying the second coat of paint too quickly can leave you with uneven colour, streaks or even peeling paint.

In this article, we will tell you how long to wait between coats of paint. We’ll look at the different factors determining when the paint is ready and if you can do anything to speed them up. We will also consider how many coats of paint you’ll need to get the perfect finish.

How Long Should You Leave After the First Coat of Paint?

How long to leave between coats of paint is determined by several factors. Let’s look at them, in turn, to see how they affect paint dry time.

It’s important to remember that there’s a difference between the times you may see quoted on the packaging of the paint.

  • Drying Time – The time when the paint is dry to touch, and you should be able to apply a second coat.
  • Recoat Time – The time window when you should apply the following coat.
  • Curing Time – When the paint is fully hardened and has reached its final finish. You need to treat the finished surface carefully during the cure time as it may be easier to damage.

Type of Paint

The actual time it takes for paint to dry depends on many factors, but the biggest is the type of paint. These are a general indication of the minimum time you should expect to leave before applying the second coat.

  • Primer – Between one and two hours.
  • Gloss Paint – Two hours.
  • Semi-Gloss – Two hours.
  • Matte Paint – Between one and two hours.
  • Eggshell Paint – Two hours.
  • Latex Paint  Two to four hours.
  • Oil-Based Paint – Up to 24 hours.

Remember that it’s better to leave longer than rush the second coat within reason. As a general rule, except for oil-based paint, try and plan for two to four hours between coats to ensure you won’t have problems.

The Thickness of the Paint

Thicker paint will take longer to dry, and thick coats longer still. Try and apply your coats as thinly as possible. This will enable you to achieve an even finish and dry faster. If you want the best final surface, it’s better to apply additional coats than try and apply too much paint in one go.

Using a paint roller rather than a brush will give you an even thin layer and avoid streaks and patches of excessive thickness.

Temperature

Temperature makes a significant difference in how fast your paint dries. You might imagine that only the cold slows your paint down, but extreme heat can also affect it.

Make sure you follow the instructions on the paint can and only paint inside the temperature guidelines. If you are getting close to either minimum or maximum temperature, you’ll need to leave longer until the second coat.

If you’re painting outside, you’re even more likely to be affected by temperature. Plan and check the weather. Ideally, you want dry, sunny weather for your paint to dry as quickly as possible. Cloudy weather will slow your paint down. If it rains on paint that is still drying, you’ll need at least six hours in the sun before making the following coat.

Humidity

In locations with high humidity, you might have to leave up to 24 hours between coats.

Areas like basements or sealed corridors are likely to have higher humidity, so they will need longer. Remember that the more you paint in a room, the higher its humidity will be, so you’ll want to try and ventilate as much as possible.

Don’t Mix Latex Paint and Oil-Based Paint

Finally, don’t try to mix latex paints and oil-based paints on top of one another.

The wrong type of paint painted onto an old surface can take forever to dry and may not adhere at all. Take the time to check what’s already on the walls before you start to avoid big headaches.

How Can You Check Paint Dryness?

Construction worker doing finish renovation in the apartment

As we’ve seen, because outside factors can affect how long your paint takes to dry, you shouldn’t blindly follow the guidelines for the paint type in isolation. Always check your walls and surfaces for yourself to make sure the paint is ready.

So, how long does wall paint take to dry? The first way to check is by touch. Use a wall corner that is out of sight to check the dryness with your finger. Ensure that it’s not still sticky or tacky before applying the second coat.

However, touch alone isn’t necessarily reliable for checking your paint is completely dry, so you should also look at all your walls and surfaces. Check the colour is even and that there aren’t any shiny or darker areas that may still be wet.

How Many Coats of Paint Can You Do a Day?

This will depend on the paint drying time and the environment. However, most people find that two coats are the maximum they can get done on a typical day.

What Happens if You Do the Second Coat of Paint Too Soon?

When thinking about how long to wait between coats of paint, it’s essential to understand what can happen if you apply the second coat before the first layer is fully dry.

If you rush painting the next coat before it’s completely dry, you can ruin the surface finish with streaks, uneven colour, or peeling. You’ll have to start again, which wastes money, time, and hard work.

What Can Help Speed up the Paint Drying Process?

It’s possible to speed up the paint drying process by managing the environment in which you are painting, so you don’t have to wait so long.

  • Temperature – Heat a cold room with a portable heater to speed up the drying process.
  • Ventilation – Keep the room as well ventilated with fresh air as possible. This makes the environment nicer to work in, and it can speed up the process so long as the outside air isn’t too humid. Use a fan or air blower to dry your surfaces faster. A regular household fan aimed at the wet walls can make a surprising difference, particularly in a well-ventilated room.
  • Humidity – In areas with high humidity, you might need to use a dehumidifier to speed up your first coat, as opening the windows won’t help. The more you paint, the higher the humidity will get, so you may need to move to another area or wait longer if you can’t reduce the moisture.
  • Paint Additives – You can use additives that can make latex paints dry faster. Ensure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using.

What Else Can You Do to Achieve an Even Second Coat?

Not rushing the next coat is one of the best ways to get an excellent paint finish on your walls. But, there are also some other essential factors to remember.

Primer

Always use primer on fresh plaster or new drywall. You may need to use several primer coats to seal the walls before applying your final colour. If you don’t use primer, the wall will soak up the paint leaving an uneven finish.

Take Care of Your Tools

Don’t let the paint dry on your brushes or rollers between the first layer and second coat, as this will undoubtedly mess up your beautiful finish. You can keep your tools wet between coats by wrapping them in cling-film plastic wrap and putting them in a refrigerator.

Naturally, when you’re finished painting for the day, you should give brushes and rollers a proper clean and let them dry.

Remember Your Painting Technique

Use a roller to apply even thin layers of paint. Thin coats dry quicker, but they also result in a better finish even if you need more coats in total.

Professional painters always paint coats in the same pattern for each second coat to avoid roller marks. It’s usually best to cut in the edges and then paint the centre of the walls in an up and down direction. If you’re experienced, depending on the surface, you can use a spray gun to give the ultimate paint job.

Don’t Forget to Mix the Paint!

You should always mix your wet paint before pouring it into the roller tray to apply a new coat. It’s especially important with darker colours. The pigments can settle towards the bottom, so you can end up with uneven shades if you don’t mix properly.

How Many Coats of Paint Do You Need?

How many coats of paint you require will depend on a few factors. In general, three coats is the minimum you should plan for. However, consider the following when you’re working out how much paint you’ll need.

  • Painting the Same Colour – If you’re repainting a wall the same colour, you may only need one or two coats.
  • Painting a New Colour – Covering a wall with a new colour will depend on what you are painting over and how dark the new colour is. If you’re painting a light colour over a dark finish, you may need as many as six coats. Using a coat of primer before your first coat can reduce the number of final coats you’ll need. If you’re painting dark colours over light ones, you might only need two coats.
  • The Quality of the Paint – Finally, don’t forget that cheaper paint is often a false economy. It is usually thinner, so you’ll use more paint to get the desired finish on the entire project. Generally, it’s best to stick to quality paints from well-known brands.

Get an Excellent Paint Finish

So there you have it. We’ve looked at how long to wait between coats of paint. It depends on the type of paint you’re using and the environment, including the temperature and humidity. In most cases, you’ll need to wait between two and four hours between coats. However, don’t rush your painting project and make sure that you thoroughly check the surfaces before you move on so you don’t make a costly mistake.

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