Can You Paint Pressure-Treated Wood? (Your Detailed Guide)

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As a DIYer or homeowner, the last thing you want to do is damage wood by applying the wrong type of paint. Painting might seem like a simple task, but when it comes to pressure-treated wood, there are considerations to keep in mind. 

So can pressure-treated wood be painted effectively and safely? To shed light on this topic, I’ll share everything you need to know in this guide!

Is it Recommended to Apply Paint on Pressure-Treated Wood?

Pressure-treated wood has chemical contents to help preserve the wood. Yet, there are several compelling reasons to consider painting it. Let’s explore why.

lumber pressure treated

First, applying paint can give a layer of protection to the wood and extend its lifespan. Also, paint can highlight the wood fibers and add aesthetic value to your project.

When Should You Paint Wood That’s Pressure-Treated?

Typically, pressure-treated wood requires a more extended period to dry before it can be ready for primer or paint. 

I suggest you allow at least three to four months for its moisture content to level down accordingly. To help you determine if the treated wood is ready for paint, try spilling water on the wood surface. If the wood thoroughly absorbs the water, then you can start painting it. 

What is Pressure-Treated Wood and Where is it Used?

Pressure-treated wood is a common material used for outdoor structures because it can last longer, even when exposed to harsh elements.

The wood undergoes chemical and high-pressure treatment to prevent insect infestation, mold, water damage, and decay. Then the wood is put in a depressurized tank to remove the air content and replace it with chemical preservatives.

pressure treated lumber

You can use pressure-treated lumber for your outdoor projects, such as decks, fences, support docks, walkways, and ramps. You may also use it for your garden beds, swing sets, pergolas, and stair stringers.

But a word of caution: due to its chemical content, it’s not advisable for indoor use. These chemicals can pose health risks. So, whenever you’re working with pressure-treated wood, I highly advise wearing eye protection, a dust mask, and gloves. 

Ground-Contact Pressure-Treated

This type of pressure-treated wood has higher chemical levels to withstand harsh environmental and damp conditions.

Using it for projects where the wood has close or direct contact with the ground is difficult to replace or maintain. 

Above-Ground Pressure-Treated

Meanwhile, this type of treated wood is beneficial for projects that require low maintenance. Typically, this is used for wood structures that have adequate ventilation and place more than five inches above the ground level. 

pressure treated lumbers

Benefits of Pressure-Treated Wood

Using pressure-treated wood can ensure that your project can last longer. It can also be more aesthetically pleasing, especially when you paint it. Below are the most important benefits of using treated wood:

Durability and Pricing

At first glance, it may seem that treated lumber is more expensive than regular lumber.

However, when you consider the number of years it can last, you will be surprised that you can even save with it in the long run. While normal wood can be a cheaper alternative, it will only last a few years. 

Resistance to Insects, Fungi, and Moisture

Unlike untreated lumber, treated wood contains chemical compounds that protect the wood’s natural vulnerability to decay. It preserves the wood even if exposed to excessive moisture.

staining wood with sponge brush

Also, it contains a natural biocide that makes it insect and fungi-resistant. 

What to Do Before Painting: Preparation Tips

Pressure-treated wood has a higher moisture level, which makes the painting process more complicated. If not done properly, it may result in peeling paint, blistering, cracking, and changing colors. Therefore, it is important to prepare the wood properly before starting to paint. 

First, you must test the dryness of the interior of the wood using a moisture meter. You may use pinless moisture content meters, which have an electromagnetic sensor to calculate the internal moisture level of the wood. 

You may also use a pin-style meter, but it is more complicated as it requires small holes to measure the interior moisture level of the wood.

Kiln Dried Pressure-Treated Lumber

Now, if the wood will be used outside, keep the moisture levels to less than 15 percent. Meanwhile, if the wood will be used inside, aim for 12 percent moisture levels.

But if the wood is treated recently, you must wait several weeks for it to dry before it can be ready for painting.

Painting Pressure-Treated Wood: 4 Steps



Step #1: Make Sure the Wood is Dry

The most important step to do before you can paint pressure-treated wood is to make sure it’s dry completely.

You must wait a few months for the wood to dry completely. But to help the drying process faster, you can place it in a warm and dry area. However, direct sunlight should be avoided as it can cause the wood to crack or warp.

Once the wood is properly dry to the touch, you may test its moisture contents using a moisture meter. To ensure that the interior of the wood is dry, observe the moisture level below 14 percent.  

Here are a few ways that can improve the drying process more efficiently:

Use Thin Wood Pieces (Stickers)

Using stickers or thin wood pieces to ensure that the wood will not be warped or damaged from stocking to drying. Put the stickers on the bottom and ensure to place them between four feet stack of wood.

stained Cherry wood

You may use paint stirring pieces or other kinds of sticks of the same length and thickness.

Drying Kiln

Kiln drying is a good option if you do not have enough time to wait for the wood to dry naturally before applying paint. It is a dying process that applies heat to a stack of lumber placed in a secure container.

Kiln-dried lumber, also known as “Kiln-Dried After Treatment,” is readily available at some hardware stores, so you don’t have to do the complicated process. 

Condition of the Weather

It is important to store the wood in a dry place with moderate temperature and low humidity.

Put them inside a shed. But if you do not have a shed, it’s better to do your painting project in the summer months or wait one month after the rainy season.

Observe the Moisture Content

Ensure that the wood has dried completely water test to know the moisture contents of the wood.

drying the wood

Pour some water on the wood and observe what happens. If the water beads on the wood surface, it means that the wood is not fully dry. Meanwhile, if the wood absorbs the water, it means that the wood is ready for paint. 

Step #2: Ensure the Wood is Clean

As with any project, I always emphasize the importance of cleaning the wood before diving into the painting process. After letting the wood sit for several months to dry, it’s common for dust and dirt to gather on the surface.

 Also, some chemicals may have leaked onto the wood surface while drying. If you are wondering how to clean the wood thoroughly, follow the steps below:

Start by Washing

The most effective way to clean the wood is to wash it using water. Prepare the materials that you will need, such as pressure washers or a garden hose with a jet nozzle, mild detergent dissolved in water, and a stiff-bristled brush. Then proceed with the following steps.

washing wood
  1. To start, wet the surface of the wood.
  2. Then proceed to scrub the wood using the brush soaked in soapy water.
  3. Lastly, spray it with water using the garden hose to clean it thoroughly.

Special Reminder

If you have limited time to finish your project, I suggest you use kiln-dried wood, especially for a big project like your backyard deck. This will save you the long drying time and you can complete your project sooner.

Step #3: Apply the Wood Primer

Once you are sure that the wood is clean, fully dry, and has achieved the appropriate moisture levels, you can now apply at least two coats of primer.

Applying high-quality primer is important before you paint pressure-treated wood to avoid inconsistent color and a sloppy look of the wood. It also ensures that the paint adheres evenly to the wood’s smooth surface without cracking or peeling. 

How to Pick the Right Primer

Check the primer label to ensure that is suitable for exterior and treated wood. For lighter-colored woods, I recommend using a white primer. If you’re leaning towards darker colors, then a tinted primer would be more appropriate.

mixing oil-based primer

How to Properly Apply the Primer

Choose only high-quality latex primer. Apply the exterior primer evenly on all surfaces of the wood. Allow the primer to dry completely for at least one day before applying the paint. So, make sure you know how long does primer take to dry!

You may use paint rollers but a paintbrush or paint sprayer can be helpful to reach the areas that the roller can’t like the nooks, crannies, and gaps. 

Brush the Primer on the Wood

Start by pouring the primer into the 5-gallon container. Then put the roller screen inside the container. Ensure to keep the screen to the side so it won’t get in the way of the paintbrush or roller.

Use the paintbrush to apply primer on sunken, high, and narrow areas that your paint roller cannot reach.

Roll the Primer on the Wood

Use the paint roller to apply primer on flat and large sections. To begin painting, soak the roller cover in the bucket of primer, then slowly roll it on the screen. Proceed to move it on the wood.

Stone Coat Countertops Microfiber Paint Roller

Roll in smaller sections or about four feet long and 4 feet wide. Apply the primer evenly and slowly. 

Step #4: Paint or Stain Your Wood

It’s crucial to opt for high-quality paint. I suggest using water-based paints, like exterior latex paint. Steer clear of oil-based paints as they often don’t adhere properly.

Also Read: How to Make Your Dark Stained Wood Lighter

Brushing Paint on Your Wood

It is important to allow the primer to dry first before you paint treated wood. Wait for at least 30 to 60 minutes to ensure that the primer coat has completely dried. You may start cleaning the roller screen and paint bucket while waiting.

Now, pour the paint into the container, then stir thoroughly. Proceed to apply the paint with the brush on areas where the roller cannot reach. 

Rolling Paint on Your Wood

Use a new roller cover to paint the wood to achieve a smooth and consistent look. Start applying one coat of paint, then let it completely dry.

applying polyurethane with a foam roller

Wait for at least 30 minutes for the flat paint or three hours for the glossy paint to dry. Mind you – if you stain or paint pressure-treated wood too soon, the final result will not be as good as you may think of. So, once you are sure that the first coat has dried completely, proceed to apply the subsequent coat. 

(If ever you’re planning to coat large or wide surfaces, you may want to know how many square feet 5 gallons of paint cover to see if it’s enough to finish your project.) 

Do it Yourself vs Hire a Specialist

Seemingly, painting treated wood is manageable and simple, especially if it’s a small-scale project. But the big question is can you paint pressure-treated wood efficiently?

You may do it yourself if you have the appropriate and adequate materials that you can buy from the nearest hardware depot. This way, you can save money on labor costs.

However, for some large-scale projects, it can be more reasonable to hire specialists who can do the job more efficiently, which can even save you more time and money. Below are some of the benefits of hiring professionals. 

Expertise and Credibility

Painting pressure-treated wood is tricky and may require help from a professional before starting your project to avoid further complications. The main reason is it’s difficult to determine if it is ready to be painted.

applying chalk paint

It takes several months for the wood to shrink and often re-contracts. Also, it is soaked in liquid chemical preservatives [1] to protect the wood from insects and resist rot.

This leaves the wood wet, which may cause the paint to crack or not adhere properly. In this case, only a professional woodworker can determine when it is ready to be painted.

High-Quality Materials

Professional painters know the types of materials best for your project. They only use high-quality paints and primers. Also, they are equipped with appropriate brushes and rollers that can complete the job efficiently.

Most importantly, they guarantee a quality output that most DIYers cannot accomplish.

Save Time

When you consider the time, you will need to complete your project, you may be overwhelmed by the long hours it can require.

staining MDF door

From preparing the materials needed to drying the wood and applying the paint, you must invest more time than expected.

But hiring a professional to complete your project can save you all your time that can be spent on other important matters. Remember, time is much more valuable, and saving time means saving more than money.


Which is better for pressure-treated wood, staining or painting?

You will get better results when you paint rather than stain pressure-treated wood. The paint will give you more options in choosing the color, unlike with stain. But if you prefer staining, how long should you wait to stain a pressured-treated wood? Find out next!

How long should you wait before painting a treated wood?

You should not wait before painting on treated wood that underwent the kiln drying process. Meanwhile, if it’s not kiln-dried, you must wait two to four months for it to dry completely before it can be painted.

It is crucial to ensure that the wood is completely dry to allow the paint to adhere properly and prevent any potential issues with the finish. Taking the necessary time to let the treated wood dry adequately will contribute to a successful and long-lasting paint job.

What are the paint types you can apply on treated wood?

Painting treated wood is challenging and only high-quality exterior latex is the best paint that can be applied to it effectively. Do not use oil-based paints because they will not adhere properly.

What happens if you paint treated wood right away?

If you paint pressure-treated lumber without waiting for the chemicals to dry completely, the paint coat will be rejected and the chemicals seep out of the wood. 

Recommended Read: Top-Rated Black Paints for Your Wood Furniture

Do you need to sand wood that’s pressure-treated?

You can sand the treated wood, but it isn’t necessary. It’s not recommend sanding chemically treated lumber as the chemicals may harm your health and affect the environment. Also, sanding may create an inconsistent look and texture on the wood surface. 

Will treated wood turn gray over time?

Treated wood will turn gray and wither over time, especially when exposed to the sun and harsh environments. To preserve the integrity of the wood, apply sealant or stain products as a coat.

More Questions Answered Here



Working with pressure-treated wood can be tricky and should be done cautiously. It’s also important to dedicate adequate time to paint pressure-treated wood as it requires a longer time to dry than normal wood. 

Otherwise, you can damage the wood if you do not follow the steps carefully. I hope this guide has provided clear insights on how to paint pressure-treated wood correctly.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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