Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

Image of hand painting 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. You can paint pressure treated wood using latex paint. However, you must prepare the wood properly before painting or else the paint won’t last long. Also, avoid oil-based paints because they tend to resist the surface.

What is Pressure Treated Wood?

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.

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 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.

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.


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. 

Priming is also vital before you do the painting. 

Remember to apply two coats and let the primer dry properly. The first coat of paint must dry before adding another layer. 

2 thoughts on “Can You Paint 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.

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