The folks at Cabots (http://www.cabotstain.com ) recommend waiting, but no
longer than 3 months.
Seasoning a new deck [Decking Questions] FAQ#105
"Q: If I build a deck in the fall, should I allow the wood to season until
the following spring or summer?
A: No. Test dry wood with a few drops of water. If the water soaks in
immediately, the wood is ready to absorb stain. If a mill glaze is present,
the water drops may not absorb readily and you may have to wait for a short
period of seasoning before staining. Mill glaze is thought to be a thin,
resinous coating on the surface of smooth-planed lumber produced in the mill
at the time the boards are planed. It is believed to be associated more with
cedars and redwood, although improperly kiln-dried, smooth-planed pine may
also have a resinous buildup. Cabot recommends pressure-treated wood be
stained as soon as the wood is dry, usually 2-3 weeks if the wood was not
kiln-dried and is purchased in a wet condition. Wet wood will shrink. For
the best results, wet wood should be dried before the construction of a deck
or dock. Wet wood should not be stained or painted. The moisture content of
the wood should be 15% or less as measured with an electronic moisture meter
before painting or staining."
Also, from Cabot Technical Bulletin No. 3, Deck Problems, Autumn 1992:
"The homeowner should not allow wood to remain exposed for longer than 3
months. Recent research by the Forest Products Laboratory has shown that
over-exposing unprotected wood for long periods of time can cause surface
damage that reduces the wood's ability to hold on to applied stain or paint
coatings - leading to premature coating failure. Some weathering of the wood
is necessary if non-film forming finishes, such as stains and water
repellents, are to penetrate the wood's surface and thus work effectively.
Whether old or new wood, the surface should be inspected for cleanliness; it
must be free of mildew, dirt and other foreign matter. If the deck is dirty,
it should be scrubbed with Cabot Problem-Solver Wood Cleaner #8002, rinsed
with clean water and allowed to dry for 3-5 days prior to staining."
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