Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood? Best DIY Tips On Pressure Treated Wood

The essence of pressure treatment of wood is to offer protection against insects like termites. However, this is not always enough for total protection as other factors such as sunlight and humidity can cause rotting. One such way that you can protect your wood is through the painting which begs for the question can you paint pressure treated wood?

Yes, feel free to paint pressure treated wood. However, if you want your wooden structure to last longer ensure that the painting is done at the right time- When the wood is cleaned, dried, sanded and primed before painting.

The paint will not adhere to a poorly prepared surface. Also, avoid oil-based paints because they tend to resist the surface.

You can ensure that your wood is dry before pressure treatment by conducting a sprinkler test. In the sprinkler test, sprinkle some drops of water on the surface of the wood and observe: If water bubbles show, it means that the wood is still wet and need more time to dry.

In the event that water absorbs into the wood within 10 minutes, it means that the wood is dry and you can go on with your painting project as long as conditions are right- right weather, etc.

What Is Pressure Treated Wood?

Image of pressure Treated Wood. So which one in the Yellawood vs Pressure Treated option?It’s a wood soaked in chemical preservatives to protect it from rot and insects. During this process, the high pressure in the depressurized holding tank eliminates the air inside the wood and replaces it with a preservative. 

Note: The pressure treatment is, by far, the best way to protect your wood against harmful rot and insects; however, it does not prevent corrosion and weathering.

Until the January 2004, a chemical called chromated copper arsenate (CCA- abbreviation) was used for chemical treatment of wood. The arsenic in this compound is believed to cause cancer when swallowed.

An agreement was reached between manufacturers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to halt the use of CCA in the pressure treatment of wood to curb health concerns for users.

Is It Better to Stain Or Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

One of the best maintenance choices you can make for your pressure treated wood is to use a finish coat, so which one should you use? Paint or stain?

Let’s look at the two options:


It can be a great decision if you choose to paint pressure treated wood over staining it. Painting comes with quite a few advantages over other finish options like staining.

Here are the pros and cons of painting pressure treated wood:

Pros of Paint:

  • Painting gives you room to use the color of your choice. Since the paint is solid, you can entirely cover a previous color, which makes your options wide open.
  • It fills the cracks and gaps. Since it’s a thicker finish, it can always be useful in repairing wood, which is a little damaged.
  • Depending on the color, the paint might be easier to clean. If the paint is of high quality and is allowed time to cure properly before using, it results in a hard shell that is easy to clean.
  • Paint offers more protection to the wood as it resists rot, sun damages, and molds compared to other options.

Cons of Paint:

  • Painting is a “lifetime” decision. Provided you’ve settled on painting your wood; you’ll always have to do that. As much as you can go from sealer or stain to paint, it’s hard to go back the other way without involving extreme measures.
  • It can sometimes be slippery when wet. Different sheens of paint (gloss, semi-gloss, etc.), can be slick when wet.
  • Paint conceal the natural beauty of the wood. 


If the paint isn’t your thing, then you should probably consider staining your wood using a semi-transparent deck stain for your structures. Staining is a broad category with different types of finish material. Let’s take a look at a few of the more general pros and cons.

Pros of Stain

  • Stain retains the original beauty of wood as it allows the wood grain to show through.
  • A stain is less slippery. As much as some stains can have a greasy feel, most stains are more of a flat surface, which protects the wood with a less slick surface.
  • It’s easier to apply a stain as it is more forgiving because you can miss a spot here and there without even noticing, unlike paint.
  • Stain comes in a variety of colors. 

 Cons of Stain

  • A stain has a shorter lifetime compared to paint.
  • Stain leaves the cracks unfilled because it’s much thinner; therefore, it doesn’t serve as a proper repair material for filling cracks and splinters.

When Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

Usually, wood is not completely dry by the time it makes its way to the timber yard and may still be with moisture when you buy it. Therefore, you should allow the moisture to dry before you paint it. 

For you to realize the best results, wait until the moisture level drops to 15%. Regardless of how long the wood stayed at the timber yard before you bought it, it could be ready to paint after between four and sixty days of drying. 

It would be best if you can rent a moisture meter from a local hardware store so that you have an accurate read. If you are more of an adventurer, pour some water on several parts of the wood. The beading up of water means you don’t need to paint it. If the wood absorbs the water, you can go ahead and paint.

How to Prepare Pressure Treated Wood for Painting

It is at the preparation stage where you can get everything right or wrong. Therefore, it becomes crucial that you have everything you need for the project in the right place.

In the case of old pressure treated wood like a deck, you first need to inspect the structure for damages and repair them. Check all the possible cracks on the wood and fill them using wood filler. Fasten lose nails and deck screws to avoid chances of accidents.

Remove debris and dust from the surface of your pressure treated deck. Clean using a pressure washer, for the safety of your deck, work with a pressure level of about 1200psi.

After cleaning your deck, allow it to dry the sand it using an electric wood sander. The choice of sander to use depends on the size of your deck. For small decks, you can go for hand sanding. Larger decks would call for use of electric sander to save on time.

Image of one of the Best Wood Moisture Meter for WoodworkingOnce you have sanded your wooden deck, remove all the dust particles from the surface, you can use a vacuum clean or a damp cotton cloth. A shop vac would help you clean the dirt off the surface fast and effectively. 

After removing the dust particles, allow the surface a couple of days to dry before subsequent steps. 

You can ensure that your pressure treated wooden deck is dry before going on with other steps. Some of the best ways to ensure that your deck is dry enough is by the use of moisture meter alternatively, you can go the sprinkler test way. 

Once you have verified that your wood is dry enough, apply a primer. A water-based or latex primer is the best choice to use on pressure treated wood.

When priming your pressure treated wood, ensure that you apply 2 coats allowing the primer to dry between the coats.

As for painting, I recommend that you go for either an oil-based polyurethane or a water-based option. Two coats of paints will do the trick. Ensure to allow paint to dry properly between the coats.

How to Paint Pressure Treated Wood

A successfully painting of pressure treated wood involves specific steps which when not followed keenly can lead to some levels of frustrations, it’s therefore essential that you are level headed and have a bit of patience while preparing yourself for the process.

Starting to paint before the wood’s ready only wastes a day’s effort. If you are looking for lasting results, follow the procedure below.

Materials and Tools needed

  • Paint sprayer
  • Stiff Bristle brush
  • Soap
  • Garden hose
  • Exterior paint primer for pressure treated wood
  • Paintbrush
  • Latex exterior paint

Step 1 – Clean the Wood

Cleaning is the very first step in the process. Wood may have picked up dust and dirt during its transportation from the manufacturer’s yard to your home. Therefore, use soapy water together with a stiff brush to scour it clean—in the direction of the grain and not against it. Rinse it clean with water.

Step 2 – Allow the Wood to Dry

Unsealed wood usually takes a couple of days to dry, pressure treated timber, however, takes quite a long time to dry thoroughly—it can take either weeks or months, all these depend on the treatment chemical. 

You should, therefore, not paint the wood until it’s fully dry. Otherwise, all the paint will peel away because the moisture forces its way up from the underneath.

You can test whether the wood has thoroughly dried up by pouring a few drops of water onto it. If the water percolate, it means the wood is dry and porous. If the water remains on the surface, it means the wood must be left to dry further before it’s painted.

Step 3 – Pretreat the Wood with Primer

You must use a primer to treat the wood before painting. It’s because pressure treated wood is so selective when it comes to holding onto the paint. Even as you choose the primer, ensure that you buy one designed for outdoor use and with a label that shows it’s for pressure treated wood.

If you disregard these particular descriptions, your primer and paintwork may not last long because of the wood’s resistance to liquids. Coat the wood in the primer as per the instructions on the label.

Have it in mind that whenever you are applying primer or paint, the thin coats dry faster and turn out much more evenly spread than thick layers.

Step 4 – Give the Primer time to Dry

Following the application of the primer, you must allow it some time to dry. Luckily, it won’t take more than two days for it to dry; this depends on the primer.

Therefore, check its label for how quickly it may dry. Don’t forget, however, that you are dealing with a specially treated wood that will most likely require a little extra drying time for you to realize the best results.

Step 5 – Paint It

It is the final step; at this point, you can paint your pressure-treated wood. For a smooth finish, apply at least two coats of paint. Latex paints are the best for pressure treated wood because oil-based paints resist the surface quite easily.

If done correctly, your paintwork should last a few years without too much visible damage.

What Happens If You Paint Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

I want to stress the importance of allowing your pressure treated wood to dry properly before you can consider painting it. Painting pressure treated wood before it dries causes warping.

If you paint your treated lumber before it’s dry, the non-painted side to dry faster than the painted side. As long as one side of the wood dries before the other side, warping will happen.

Other than warping, the paint will start to peel from the surface due to poor adhesion. Peeling of the paint means the paint loses value before it’s actually service life.

This events will prove to be expensive in the long run, additionally, you will have a big project in your hand considering you might have to redo the work all together.

Can I Use Kilz On Pressure Treated Wood?
Kilz comes with a wide range of painting products and has a reputation for it’s reliability and quality finishes on different woodworking projects. Kilz Premium may alternatively be referred to as Kilz Primer for Pressure-Treated Wood.

This primer is ideal for interior and exterior pressure-treated wood. What’s special about this this premium primer is that it offers a quality finish with a capability to seals and hides marks such as water stains or knots.

Is New Pressure Treated Wood Safe?

Yes, it is safe to use a new pressure treated wood, especially for raised garden frames. A few precautions are necessary! Up until about a decade and a half ago, the most commonly used preservatives for pressure-treatment was chromate copper arsenate (CCA), a compound that uses arsenic as its primary rot protectant.

What Kind of Paint Should You Use on Your Treated Wood?

Latex paints are the best on pressure treated wood because oil-based paints can sometimes resist the surface. A well-done paint job should last a couple of years without too much noticeable damage.


If you have used pressure treated wood before, then you must be aware how precious it is if you are looking to guard against infestation by insect such as termites.

Even so, chemicals used in the pressure treatment of wood is not enough to guard against other destructive environmental elements such as ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and moisture.

Therefore, it would help if you added extra protective layer over your wooden structure for enhanced protection. With all these in mind, let’s answer this question:

Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

Yes, you can paint pressure treated wood. The choice of paint depends on your preferences; you can use oil-based paints or latex for your pressure treated lumber. Before you think of painting over your pressure treated wood, it would help if you did proper preparation for perfect paint adhesion.

Preparation steps include inspection to ensure that your wood is in the condition possible. In the case of pressure treated deck, inspect for crack and fill them with wood fillers, check for lose nails and fasten them.

Once you are sure that the deck is in the best condition, power wash it to remove dust and other foreign particles from the surface. Ensure that you are working with the right pressure levels to avoid surface damages.

Follow the about steps by sanding the surface, do not do rough sanding as you might damage the surface. Use a shop vac to remove dust particles, allow the wood enough time to dry before you can consider priming. 

Carry out a test to ensure the surface has dried well, painting a wet pressure treated wood can be catastrophic and costly in the long run. Some of the methods you can use to determine whether or not your wood has dried include the use of wood moisture meter or conducting a sprinkler test.

Once you are sure that your wood has dried. Apply 2 coats of primer allowing the primer enough time to dry between the coats for proper adhesion. 

After the prime dries, follow it with 2 coats of paint. Allow the paints to dry between coats for the best finish. Depending on your preferences, you can finalize with a sealer.

As we finalize this discussion, I hope that you gained a chunk on handling pressure treated wood. Do you have a question, suggestion or opinion that you would like to share with me? I hope so. Please use the comment section below to reach out and I will respond to your concerns as fast as possible.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

2 thoughts on “Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood? Best DIY Tips On Pressure Treated Wood”

  1. Really a question not a comment. The instructions on painting the pressure treated wood are pretty complete–just one thing, does one do the soap and stiff bristle brush after the 4-60 day waiting period or afterwards when the moisture meter reads 15% or less? Not sure if before since the soap and cleaning will add moisture again.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.