Total newbie here. Building a bed frame for campervan. Wanted to seal the wood somehow after sanding. Finally decided just a poly coating would be the answer.

Went to apply the finish and read the directions like a newbie does... It says recommend using in temps 60-90 degrees.

So it's not getting up to those temps during the day yet.... Also I've been staying in the van already. I don't have a residence to bring up the inside.

If I put the finish on. I planned on doing so outdoors. In order to minimize fumes. While the wood was drying I planned on letting it sit inside a storage unit... I don't want to bring the wood inside my van till any fumes are gone.... So this is my question.

Will applying the finish in temps under 45 degrees be okay, the wood will be stored for a 24-48 hour period to dry, but in a climate controlled unit that is only 60 degrees? Will this cause unforseen problems?

  • Coincidentally I just addressed this in an Answer yesterday, see Other variables here. Waterbased finishes are prone to drying issues when the temps are low, in a way that other finishes are not — those other finish types do still struggle to dry (and then subsequently toughen up during the curing phase) but they get through it eventually. The very different chemistry and physical makeup of waterbased finishes make for markedly different drying mechanisms.
    – Graphus
    Feb 20 at 6:53
  • Now that aside, you're using a waterbased poly..... what fumes exactly are you worried about?? Low-to-zero VOCs are one of the reasons to favour waterbased finishes in the first place. You can take full advantage of this by just embracing that you can safely finish the project indoors.
    – Graphus
    Feb 20 at 6:56
  • That's funny I did three separate searches looking for a similar question on here and didn't find one!
    – Elisa
    Feb 20 at 13:46
  • As far as fumes, again totally new, I'm going based off things I've been reading. So what I have read says water based has lower fumes, but made it seem like fumes were still a concern. Suggesting to let the item air out for 24 hours or so after before being put in rotation. I am glad I asked this question ffirst before just doing the finish anyway. I would have been very discouraged had it not worked out!!
    – Elisa
    Feb 20 at 13:49
  • You have a tin of waterbased poly right there, yes? Open the tin up and have a sniff. Don't stick your nose right at the opening or anything (at least not straight away!) but I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised at how little odour there is, and that what little smell there is is not offensive. Yes there are generally some VOCs in waterbased finishes, but not only are they way way lower than solvent-based finishes (6-10 times lower) they're mostly or completely different chemicals which are not generally dangerous (at the levels found in the liquid finish).
    – Graphus
    Feb 21 at 9:16

1 Answer 1


Your finish may never dry/cure, and if it does, it may not adhere very well to the wood.

The manufacturers put recommended temp ranges on their products because, whether they've tested them outside these ranges or not, they're not willing to back them if they're applied outside these ranges.

You can, of course, apply it and see what happens, but there's a significant chance that you won't be happy with the results.

I'd suggest that you simply use the bed frame as-is until Spring temperatures warm up enough to give you 4-5 days of consistent night-time temperatures no lower than the minimum recommended on the can. Apply your finish then.

  • Okay thank you for letting me know. I guess my concern would be in the spring I will be using the bed frame daily, and I wouldn't want to sleep in it if the finish were still giving off fumes. The campervan is and will be my main residence for the next year or so......I suppose I can wait till I'm at a hotel for a weekend or whatever.
    – Elisa
    Feb 20 at 13:43
  • Park somewhere convenient, throw the mattress on the floor of the van, take the frame outside to finish it. Camp there (using the mattress on the floor) until the finish has had a chance to cure enough to survive being reinstalled, rattled around while driving and take the bumps & bruises of you moving in the vehicle. You may as well do it right the first time to stave off having to redo it later... Allowing the frame to sit, unused, is more about allowing the finish to cure than to allow the limited VOCs of a water based finish to off-gas.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 20 at 13:57
  • 1
    Thanks, I'll follow this advice! I guess I'll be waiting till April/May or so for a consistent above 60degree 24 hours. I really appreciate your help!
    – Elisa
    Feb 20 at 14:24
  • Happy to help! Please be sure to up vote answers that help and check mark the one that helps the most. I'd suggest waiting another day or two in case someone else wants to chime in with another answer - you might find it more helpful...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 20 at 14:25

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