cold weather finishing

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Forum topic by piper74 posted 12-12-2011 05:57 AM 1736 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 2351 days

12-12-2011 05:57 AM

I was wondering if anyone has any experience in applying finish in cold weather. I’m trying to complete a project in time for Christmas. I live in northern Michigan and the only location I have to do any finishing is in the garage. It going to be in the low 40’s the next couple of days and I was planning on applying one coat of ZAR oil base stain to the project one day wait 24 hr then apply minwax wipe on poly the next. The project is made from pine. My question is besides having to wait a lot longer between coats to dry do you have any other tips or is it just too cold to finish. I’ll be running some small space heaters to try to raise the temp but the garage is not isolated so it won’t do much good

6 replies so far

View cathyb's profile


768 posts in 3237 days

#1 posted 12-12-2011 07:51 AM

I have the opposite problem. I live in Hawaii, however I am keen about the weather creating problems with my finish work. For me the problem is rain. Since most finishes are evaporative finishes they need a little heat. I have a room off my garage/shop. It’s only about 9’ by 9’. I place my project in there, turn on a dehumidified, which heats up the room. It works like a charm. In your situation, moisture isn’t the issue. I think you are on the right track with the heater. Could you seal off part of the garage with heavy tarps to create a smaller space, add the heater and your work and give it go. If you think about, auto body shops have a set up( at lot fancier of course) in their work space for spraying cars. Just a thought….....

-- cathyb, Hawaii,

View MrDan's profile


205 posts in 3281 days

#2 posted 12-12-2011 09:33 AM

Yeah, this is a tough problem to deal with for me too. I’m hoping other LJers share some real clever solutions on this one. I use a space heater in my garage also, but the flammable finishes and the space heater don’t play well together. I don’t want the fumes to build up to cause a fire hazard with the space heater running, so I open the windows but then there goes my heat…
So how does everyone combine adequate ventilation with retaining heat in a room?

View HamS's profile


1829 posts in 2382 days

#3 posted 12-12-2011 01:02 PM

If your project is small enough you could put it in a large cardboard box (refrigerator or washing machine size), with a light bulb to provide heat and a couple of 1 or 2 in insulation boards around the box. Buy the light bulb now before they become contraband. You would be suprised how much heat a 100 watt light bulb will create and in an insulated box, your project should be just fine. My shop is in a pole barn with only a woodstove for heat and I am very concerned about flammable finishes and the open flame. What I do in the wintertime is do my finishing as the last task of the day, but get the shop very warm before I bank the fire carefully with ashes, keep the stove door shut, finish my project and then leave it. The insulation in my shop will keep it above 50 deg which is the lowest temp you want your surface to be for 24 hours when it is 20 deg outside if I don’t open the doors.

-- Haming it up in the 'bash.

View rhett's profile


742 posts in 3661 days

#4 posted 12-12-2011 01:59 PM

Do not run heaters while applying highly flammable finish. I do not care how careful you think you are being, you are putting your self/home/shop/family in unnecessary danger. Before someone chimes in saying how safe it is if you “do it right” or “I’ve done it for years with no problem” remember it only takes a second to change ones life forever. Accidents happen all the time. Usually, no one means to burn down their workspace.

Take the pieces you are working on in the house to warm to workable temperatures. Put your can or poly in a bowl of hot water and then heat up the space you are working in. Bring the warm piece and the warmed finish out to the warmede room. Apply and when dry bring back in to reheat and repeat.

If you must work outside around open flames or heat sources, for the sake of common sence, use a WB product. I have seen a home burned to the ground because someone was using contact cement by a water heater and an autoshop burn because someone wanted a cigarette after spraying a final coat on an engine block.

-- Doubt kills more dreams than failure.

View Kjuly's profile


308 posts in 3279 days

#5 posted 12-12-2011 02:05 PM

I have used white rigid foam board to build temporary boxes to house the project. Duct tape holds it together and easily comes apart when you are finished.
Use caution with your heat source, contact with a light bulb would be a problem.

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

View tenontim's profile


2131 posts in 3738 days

#6 posted 12-12-2011 02:43 PM

+1 what Rhett said. When I lived in Maine, I would get my shop warmed up good, then turn off the gas heat.
Apply my finishes and wait until the fumes were gone before turning the heat back on. The cool down in the shop also helped prevent the finish from trying to “weep” back out. Let it set most of the day in the cool if you can, then take it in the house, as previously mentioned.

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