fbpx bloglovinBloglovin iconCombined ShapeCreated with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. rssRSS iconsoundcloudSoundCloud iconFill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. Fill 1Created with Sketch. SearchCreated with Lunacy Search iconCreated with Sketch.

Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

can you paint pressure treated wood

The short answer is yes, you can stain or paint pressure treated wood, but it has some important restrictions you need to know first. This is not like painting regular lumber, so you should know beforehand that it will require some additional steps.

If you paint pressure treated wood with the wrong materials or more importantly too soon you will have a peeling paint disaster under the best circumstances.

So, let’s get into the specifics of how to paint pressure treated wood the right way.

Make Sure It’s Dry

First on this list is allowing the wood to completely dry. Touching it will let you know if it’s dry enough for the water test, which involves spilling some water over the wood’s surface. If the water beads up on the surface, the wood hasn’t yet dried and you still need to wait.

Many factors can influence how quickly or slowly treated wood dries. Putting it in a warm, sunny spot will help but may also cause unwanted warp. Likewise, keeping lumber in dark and damp conditions can impede the process. You can generally count on pressure treated wood to dry naturally within a couple months, but sometimes, the process can take longer in cool damp locations.

To be absolutely sure you can use a moisture meter to check the moisture content of the wood. You should wait until you get a reading below about 14%.

Start With Washing

You might have already guessed that working with treated wood requires some patience. Once it does pass your water test, you’re ready to move forward. But don’t haul out your painter’s whites and paintbrush just yet, you must clean the wood first.

Soapy water and a stiff brush will eliminate dirt and grime that accumulate on the surface. They also remove chemicals so the primer and paint can properly adhere. I recommend against a strong pressure washer because it can tear up the wood and force water deep into thee wood fibers slowing down drying even more.

When clean, the wood needs to dry…again (I know!). This may, as before, take several weeks because you’re adding more liquid on top of the chemicals already applied. The wood is ready when it absorbs the water you drop during your test.

Special Note

If you’re working on a project with a deadline, such as a backyard deck, you may want to go for pressure treated wood that’s been kiln-dried. This significantly reduces your work time by eliminating the need for lengthy drying.

Prime Before You Paint

If you were paying attention earlier, you might have noted we said prime and paint. Unfinished wood needs to be primed before you apply paint or stain. Thanks to the high content of solids, primer creates the smooth surface necessary for the paint to easily glide. It also forms a protective barrier; woods usually soak up lots of paint, which can mean more work – and more expense – that can otherwise be saved.

Your primer should match the paint you want to use: latex needs a stain-block latex or oil-based primer, while oil-based paint needs a stain-blocking oil-based primer.

Keep in mind that primed wood is flexible enough for either option. For help in choosing the best primer check out this earlier post.

Time to Paint

With the primer dry, you can finally apply paint to your project. It’s best to plan on two coats of the best quality paint you can afford. And don’t forget to let the paint thoroughly cure between coats. Re-coating too soon can cause adhesion problems.

If you are painting a deck it may be worthwhile to look into using a deck stain rather than a paint. Even if you want the appearance of a painted deck there are opaque stains that perform better on horizontal surfaces.

What Is Pressure Treated Wood?

Just in case you’re wondering, I wanted to give a brief rundown here. Pressure-treating protects the wood against rot and fungus growth. The lumber is submerged into a drum of chemicals, where high pressure is applied to ensure the chemicals deeply penetrate. Check out this post to help you choose the right kind of pressure treated wood for more info.

Benefits of wood treated in this way include:

  • Increased durability
  • Insect resistance
  • Rot resistance

For your next project, opting for pressure treated wood won’t hinder your creative possibilities. This lumber can, with a few extra steps and time, be painted just as non-treated wood. The benefit is that it arrives to you already protected from things like rot and fungus.

Subscribe Now For Your FREE eBook!

7 thoughts on “Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

  1. Hi Scott
    Thank you this is very helpful. I am so sad I did not read this article before.
    Two years ago we painted our pressure-treated wooden deck. We used the Sunjoe pressure wash and after that, we painted it with BEHR semitransparent waterproofing stain and sealer. Unfortunately, the result was bad. The stain did not fully stick and now it started pealing. I was wondering what advice could you give now to remove that old stain and stain it again.

  2. If I do not want to spend the money and time to paint the steps to my front door (nothing covering it from rain), it is ok to not paint? will it last as long?

  3. Dan, We live in south Florida about 100 yards from the intercoastal, not water front. Our home faces north and south, there is full sun on the porch in the morning until about 12 pm. Our outdoor, wooden railing was originally painted in 2013 with white elastomeric paint on our pressure treated wood. It was repainted with the same paint in 2018. Each time the wood looks dirty but it not. I thought it was mold but its not. I’ve cleaning and scrubbed it with, simply green, dawn, diluted and straight bleach and it does not come clean. Why?
    Would you recommend repainting it with elastomeric paint again or an arcylic paint.

  4. We tack our pickets in place with a Brad gun. One per anchoring location. Then we make any adjustments before we pop a chalk line is a speed square to make 2 evenly spaced crosses on each picket for 2 threaded fasteners(deck screws 1×5/8) over each anchoring point along three evenly spaced 2×4 horizontal rails. With no more than 14 inches of unchored pickets at the top and no more than 12 inches of unanswered pickets at the bottom.

  5. We have been building porches on old houses for 20 years using pressure-treated wood. It has to be painted immediately if it is out in the weather. If you do not, it will cup, bend or get checks. We use a good primer. Always used to use Benjamin Moore Oil based primer but now use a latex called Gripper. We have had great luck with it. A friend stacks and stickers his treated lumber, puts a tent over it and puts a fan and dehumidifier in the tent. I have never done that. I built a picket fence of 100 pickets out of treated wood. If I did not paint them immediately they would have turned into Cs because of the sun. Check out my porch work at oldhouseporches.com

    1. I built a 8ft. Fence with deck boards as well. I didn’t coat them for six months. In new mexico heated summer. However I did have to put temporary spacers in the picket spacing above the last horizontal frame board in order to keep them from warping side to side. Then after six months we clear coated them all and 3 summers later none have moved in any direction. We had about 14 inches of exposed upper pickets we did this trick on.

    2. Hi Dan Miller.
      Do you clean the wood before you paint it? Or do you just prime then paint immediately after installation? Also have you had any experience with using Kilz primer?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.