Here's How Long to Wait Between Coats of Paint

Rolling on Paint

Tim Ridley / Getty Images

With today's improved paint technology, paint dries faster than ever, allowing you to finish rooms within a day or two instead of over several days. Still, you do want to make sure that your current coat of paint is fully dry and cured before applying the next coat. It can be a delicate balancing act. If you wait too long, the project stretches out longer than is necessary. If you hurry up the paint coats too much, you risk ruining your paint job. Stay within the margins of drying and recoat times for both water-based and oil-based paints for a smooth, flawless finish.

Water-Based Paints and Primers

  Drying Time Recoat Time
Flat or Matte Paint 30 minutes to 1 hour 1 to 2 hours
Eggshell Paint 1 hour 2 hours
Semi-Gloss Paint 1 hour 2 hours
Glossy Paint 1 to 1 1/2 hours 2 to 2 1/2 hours
Primer 30 minutes 1 hour

Oil-Based (Alkyd) Paints

  • Drying Time: 2 to 4 hours
  • Handling Time: 5 to 9 hours
  • Recoat Time: 24 hours

Factors Controlling Paint Drying Times

Dry Time, Recoat Time, and Full Cure Time

Drying time is the period of time that it takes for wet paint to become tack-free and dry to the light touch. Yet if you were to push into the paint or attempt another coat of paint, the paint may fail. Drying times for water-based paint range from as little as 30 minutes or even less for matte or flat sheen paints to around 1 to 1 and a half hours for glossy paint.

Recoat time is the period of time that it takes for the paint to be thoroughly ready for application of another coat of paint. For water-based paints, expect recoat times ranging from as little as 1 hour for flat/matte paint to as much as 2 and a half hours for glossy paint.

The widest possible margin of safety is called full cure: The amount of time that you need to wait before cleaning or applying force to the paint. Many paint manufacturers set this period at 30 days for water-based paints.

Temperature and Humidity

Room and surface temperature affect paint drying and recoat times. You must always apply paint within the temperature parameters specified by the paint manufacturer. Most acrylic-latex paints should be applied between 35 and 90 F. Colder temperatures and humidity both will slow drying time for water-based paints since water from the paint needs to evaporate for it to dry. Generally you will want the room to be around 77 F with a relative humidity of 50-percent for an optimal drying time.

Air Circulation and Venting

Circulating the air with a fan, as well as providing a source of fresh air (as with an open window) will affect paint drying and recoat times. If possible, it is usually a good idea to turn a fan on low to aid the paint drying process.

Paint Sheens

The flatter the paint sheen, the faster it will dry. Glossy paints take the longest amount of time to dry. Eggshell and semi-gloss paints, being in the middle of the paint sheen scale, represent average paint drying times.

Delivery System

Whether spray, brush, or roller, the mode of paint delivery affects drying time between coats. Spray paint can dry to the touch in as little as 30 minutes and can be ready for another coat in as little as one hour—even for glossy paint. The reason is that spray paint applies thin and evenly. Rolled-on paint takes the longest amount of time between coats due to its heavy layering. When rolling on paint, always wait for the full drying and recoat times before applying the next coat.

Water-Based vs. Oil-Based Paints

Water-based paints always will dry considerably faster than oil-based alkyd paints. Water-based paint's curing process is based on evaporation. As long as you can control the evaporation, you can, to some degree, control drying and recoat times.

Oil-based paint contains no water, nor is the oil within the paint capable of evaporation. Rather, the paint, spread thin on the work surface, is now given full access to oxygen, and the paint's molecules cross-link during this oxidation process. So, it is not accurate to say that oil-based paint dries; instead, the paint oxidizes and hardens. To accelerate oil-based paint's hardening process, add a siccative, an inexpensive oil-drying agent containing linseed oils and alkyd resins. Japan drier is the generic term for these types of catalysts.