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How Long to Wait Between Paint Coats?

Updated
We share some industry know-how to teach you how long each coat of paint should dry.

Saving that painting project for the weekend but not sure how long between paint coats to wait? Depending on the size of the project and the area you’re painting, you might need more than just a weekend to complete it. This is especially so when you factor in dry times for latex paint vs. oil-based paint.

We go over all the proper dry times to expect when painting right here in this guide! Knowing how long for paint to dry before applying the second coat will help you plan accordingly and get the job done promptly.


How Many Coats of Paint do you Need?

The answer to this question varies, but you almost always need at least two coats. While you’re painting the first coat, you may notice that it looks rough or see streaks in the paint. This isn’t always the case, but more often than not, it is.

Below we’ll go over the average amount of paint coatings you’ll need for different areas of the house, how long the paint takes to dry, and how long you have to wait between paint coats.

On Interior Walls

Typically, interior walls only need two coats. This doesn’t apply if the paint you bought is cheap or the wall behind it is darker. If the paint behind your new layer is dark, you’ll need a primer to cover it. Something else to keep in mind is that cheaper paint also has less pigmentation.

Use a coat of primer for new drywall, as well as for covering dark colors. Treat this as you would a fresh coat of paint for dry times.

On Ceilings

As with walls, you should use two coats (though if you have a higher quality of paint, you may get away with only doing one). After you finish the first round, look at the coating. Is it even, or does it look like it needs another layer?

If so, then slap another on one. It can’t hurt, and it’s easier to do it all at once than come back later because you don’t like it.

On Exterior Walls of Your House

Always have at least two coats on exterior walls. It doesn’t matter if you have the best paint on the market; cutting corners here is a bad idea. The outside of the home gets hit constantly with burning sun or pouring rain.

The constant exposure to the elements wears paint down. But having at least two coats, if not more, can keep your paint looking like new.

For Dark Paint

If you’re using dark paint over light paint, you may get away with as little as two coats. But if you’re painting lighter paint over darker paint, it could take as many as six coatings to cover it completely.

It sounds like a lot, but it’s for the best possible outcome. Your wall may only need a few coats, or it may need six, keep an eye on it and decide for yourself.

When Painting the Same Color

This is one of the few times you can usually get away with using only one coat of paint. Thanks to the previous paint being the same shade as this one, a touch-up is all that’s needed. If it looks like you need more paint, add it, but you probably won’t need it.

Paint Drying Times: How Long Does it Take for Paint to Dry?

And we return to our original question, how long does it take paint to dry? That largely depends on what paint you’re using. But for now, let’s go over how the drying times are broken down. Most water-based paints will be similar in this regard.

First Coat of Drying Time

It generally takes one hour for the paint to dry to the touch; however, this does not mean you should reapply another coat immediately after. This can lead to clumping and an unsatisfactory ending result.

Recoat Time

The typical repaint time is four hours, and I don’t advise trying to shorten it in any circumstance unless the paint you’re using specifically says you can. The time between paint layers ensures the paint adheres correctly and looks the best it can. Patience is needed in these situations.

Paint Cure Time

This depends on the type of paint. If it’s oil-based, the cure time is generally a week. However, if it’s latex-based, that waiting period can jump to 30 days due to the difference in the makeup of the paint.

Don’t Skip This Step

It seems like a long time for something you can’t see, and you may want to ignore the curing, but don’t. That can mess up your finished product as easily as if you poured paint remover on it.

Drying vs. Curing

When you can gently put your fingertips to the surface, and it’s not tacky, it means the paint is ‘dry to the touch.’ You’re able to apply a second coat of paint.

The term curing refers to drying the paint completely. While the surface can be dry to the touch, it can still be wet just below the surface. Curing can take a few days, depending on how much moisture is in the air.

How Long to Wait for Water-Based Primer to Dry?

As you can see in the table below, the amount of time it takes a primer to dry varies from type to type. It may also vary between certain brands, so it’s important to check the product you bought and follow the directions on that label.

Take Note

There are also some primers you cannot immediately put a coat of paint on once dry. This is yet another thing to keep an eye on while shopping for your primer and paint.

Latex 30-60 Minutes
Oil-based 30 Minutes to 4 hours Depending on Brand
Shellac 30-60 Minutes
All Surface 1 Hour
Drywall Primer 30 Minutes
Primer Over Oil Days
Exterior 1-2 Hours

How Long to Wait for Latex Paint to Dry

Latex paint varies, though usually it only takes an hour or two. As with the primers above, you need to carefully examine the paint you choose to buy and follow the directions on it to a T. Skipping over a part of it or painting too soon can ruin the end product, losing you copious amounts of money and time.

Chalk paint takes the most time by far, but that’s because it’s designed to be constantly drawn on. The others are an average of an hour or two.

Latex Chalk Paint 2-6 Hours
Indoor Flat Paint 1 Hour
Semi-Gloss 1 hour
Quick Drying 30 Minutes
Indoor Eggshell 1 Hour
Striping Paint 10 Minutes
Concrete Paint 4 Hours

How Long to Wait for Oil-Based Paint to Dry?

The general answer to this is six to eight hours, though the recoating time is vastly different. You have to wait to recoat at least a day in most cases, but it may vary. This is another example of reading the directions and choosing a product that fits your needs.

Factors Affecting Paint Drying Time

The above information includes estimates based on an average, which means it is entirely possible some things may be different. Keep these in mind while you paint.

Temperature

You wouldn’t think the temperature would affect something like painting, but it does. Lower temperatures can cause paints to thicken, while higher ones can thin it out. Either can result in an unsatisfactory paint job, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

Humidity

The humidity can also affect the texture of the paint. The more water there is in the air, the longer it will take the paint to dry, thanks to the natural moisture keeping the paint wet.

Ventilation

Fresh air helps paint dry, the constant airflow aiding the natural process. While you don’t have to have windows open, it decreases the time you should expect the paint to be dry.

Application Method

The method you use to apply the paint will affect the drying time. Paint sprayers shoot a thin layer of paint in an even coating; thus, they usually dry in 30 minutes. Painting the walls by hand will take longer unless you have fast-drying paint.

Surface

The smoother the surface, the quicker the dry time. Surfaces with texture or super porosity will take longer as paint can get trapped in holes and crevices.

Interior or Exterior

Interior walls have the bonus of being protected from the elements, but exterior walls have wind and sunshine to help speed up the drying process. If it’s a sunny day with a gentle breeze, the outer walls will dry first.

Quick Tip

If you’re painting the exterior, always be sure to check the weather forecast for the next few days.

What Happens if You Apply the Second Coat Too Soon?

Painter Painting Wall With Roller

I keep on cautioning against putting another coat on too soon, but I haven’t specified why that is. Well, there are a few different problems that can occur, including:

  • Peeling paint.
  • Uneven coloring.
  • Streaky finish.
  • Clumping.

You may encounter all of these potential problems if you don’t give the first coat of paint the proper time it needs to dry. Any one of these can ruin the finished product that you’re looking for, so always be sure to give plenty of time and check the instructions on each product.

Tips for Speeding Up Paint Drying Time

After reading this, you may be thinking, ‘I don’t want to wait for the paint to dry; how to make paint dry faster?’ Here are a few tips you can use to potentially quicken the slow process.

  • Apply Thin Coats: It lessens the amount of paint there to dry at one time.
  • Keep The Air Moving: As mentioned before, the better airflow the room has, the quicker it will dry.
  • Get A Dehumidifier: Buying one of these can lessen the amount of time it takes the paint to dry because it literally rips the water out of the air.

FAQs

When is a Second Coat of Paint Unnecessary?

It entirely depends on the paint and primer you bought. The table further up in the article gives you average times, but if you use the wrong one and wait for too little, it will ruin your project.

Is There a Maximum Wait Time to Apply a Second Coat?

Yes, though I doubt you’ll hit that unless it’s exterior paint and life gets away with you. If you leave paint for a week to a month, it weathers and reduces the perfect-looking finish that you wanted.

Do I Need to Apply a Second Coat of Primer?

Usually, this depends on the types of material you’re using the primer on, and it should say on the container what is needed.

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Will Streaks go Away When Paint Dries?

Not usually. If you can see the streaks when it’s wet, they’ll likely still be there when it dries. Going over it again with another coat may fix that.

Why is my Second Coat of Paint Bubbling?

High humidity or damp walls as you paint can cause this. Dehumidifiers can be a potential solution if you live in an especially humid place.

What do I do if I Paint the Second Coat too Soon?

Often, when painting a second coat too soon, you’ll just remove some of the first layer onto your roller or brush. Just wipe away any blemishes from the surface, let it dry, and apply your coat properly.

What Happens if You Sleep in a Freshly Painted Room?

You can get sick from the chemicals in the paint. This is especially dangerous for the elderly, pets, children, and pregnant women.

Quick Tip

Always be sure to sleep outside of the painted room to avoid potential health risks.


The Bottom Line

With that, ladies and gentlemen, we bring our article to a close. As you can see, there’s no cut-and-dry answer to how long it takes paint to dry between coats. Before you start the massive undertaking that is painting anything in or outside your house, be sure to keep the above information in mind to reduce mistakes as you paint.

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About the Author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Interior Designer. Using her years of hands-on experience, she now writes about design and DIY. She currently resides on the rocky East Coast of Canada with her family and slobbery bulldog.