How Long Should You Wait to Stain Pressure-Treated Wood?

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Pressure-treated wood stands out as a superb choice thanks to its ability to resist aging and deter insects. Nevertheless, to fully capitalize on these advantages, it’s crucial to apply a protective stain. 

In this guide, I’ll provide expert insights into how long you should wait before staining pressure-treated wood and share essential tips for the staining process.

Does Stain Protect Pressure-Treated Wood?

Staining is recommended to protect pressure-treated wood. Since this type of wood is porous, external factors like rainwater, dew, or snow can easily penetrate the material. Without staining, the wood will be prone to swelling and will shrink once it dries. 

treated wood

This pattern of swelling and shrinking can cause the material to split and also result in splinters, cracks, and other blemishes. Staining can also protect pressure-treated wood from UV rays that can cause fading, discoloration, and warping over time.

How Long Should You Wait to Stain?

Wet Pressure-Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood undergoes a process in which preservatives are absorbed in the wood. Therefore, it is important to wait for just the right time to start staining—not too early, but also not too late. 

When it comes to drying wet pressure-treated wood, it’s essential to exercise patience. It typically takes several months for the wood to dry adequately. 

While the exact timeline can vary depending on external factors like weather and the local environment, a good rule of thumb is to wait for approximately 90 days after completing your project.

To determine if your wood is ready for staining, a practical approach is to perform a simple test.

Kiln Dried Pressure-Treated Lumber

Kiln-dried pressure-treated lumber offers an advantage over wet pressure-treated wood as it can be stained after the treatment, typically within 72 hours. You can use oil or water-based stain on this type of lumber for a great finish.

Kiln Dried Pressure-Treated Lumber

It is important to note that the wood has already been kiln-dried at the lumber yard. Indicators “KDAT” or “ADAT” are usually stamped on the lumber. KDAT is “Kiln-Dried after treatment”, while ADAT is “air-dried after treatment”.

How to Determine if Pressure-Treated Wood is Dry and Ready for Staining

A few droplets of water on the pressure-treated 8/4 lumber can determine if it is dry enough and ready for staining. If the drops clump instead of being fully immersed, you would need to wait for a few more days. If it absorbs into the wood instantly, then it is ready to be sealed or stained.

See Also: How Long Does Pressure-Treated Wood Last

What Will Happen if it is Stained Too Early?

If pressure-treated wood is stained too early, the staining material will be unable to successfully adhere or absorb to the wood and will result in a waste of resources. 

treated lumbers

Moreso, the protective benefits of the stain on the wood won’t take effect, so you would have to redo the entire process completely.

Which is the Best Stain for Pressure-Treated Wood?

There are a variety of options when choosing a staining material for pressure-treated wood. 

Water-based treatments are easier to work with and are less toxic. However, it may not fully adhere to the deeper grains of the wood. You may also choose between colored or natural-look treatments.

I highly recommend opting for an oil-based stain when working with pressure-treated wood. This is their preferred choice for sealing exterior wood, and for good reason. 

Oil-based stains offer excellent water resistance and have the capacity to penetrate deep into the wood’s grain, ensuring a thorough and effective seal.


Additionally, oil-based stains also offer a uniform finish and will not leave unsightly lap marks. Compared to water-based stains, the dry time of oil-based stains is considerably longer so you have more time to blend and even out the brush strokes.

painting over treated wood

It is also vital to know that you will need to apply more than one coat for certain areas that will need more stain, like the ends. Therefore, when selecting the best stain for pressure-treated wood, look for a decent amount that will do the job completely.

Also, you may want to opt for environmental-friendly and safe brands that won’t harm you or your skin when stained. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) [1] are toxic and should be used while wearing protection like a cotton mask or respirator to avoid inhaling harmful fumes.

Is it Better to Stain or Paint Pressure-Treated Wood?

Staining is better rather than painting when it comes to pressure-treated lumber. This is because paint rarely adheres completely to pressure-treated wood. But is it okay to paint pressure-treated wood? Learn more. 

Similarly, wet lumber also hinders how the paint sticks to the wood. The preservatives ingrained in pressure-treated wood make it more difficult for the paint to bond. Thus, staining is recommended as painting will require extra effort to achieve.

Next Readings


What is the green stuff on pressure-treated wood?

The green stuff on pressure-treated wood is caused by chemical reactions between the preservative components and the wood. Copper, the most widely used element in wood preserving, creates a green stain on the wood.


Staining offers significant advantages for pressure-treated wood due to its ability to provide protection against decay and potential damage. The good news is that staining is a straightforward process, primarily requiring patience until the wood has thoroughly dried.

When executed effectively, this technique can notably enhance the visual appeal of your fence or deck. Hopefully, this guide has clarified the necessary waiting period before applying stain to your pressure-treated wood.

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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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