How Can I Determine If Pressure Treated Wood Is Ready For Staining

Image of a stained wood, but How Can I Determine if Pressure Treated wood is Ready for StainingIf you can stain your pressure treated wood, you’ll be giving it extra protection, primarily when used on the external environment. However, it is even better that you stain your pressure treated wood at the right time. Staining a wet wood can complicate the entire process, this begs the question, How Can I Determine if Pressure Treated wood is Ready for Staining?

If you want to be sure that a pressure treated wood is dry enough for staining, carry out the “sprinkle” test. Sprinkle some water on the wood, if the wood absorbs the water within 10 minutes, stain your wood as soon as possible. In case the water beads or remain stagnant on the surface of the wood, then allow the wood more time to dry.

A wet pressure treated wood is also heavy, and if you realize that wood is extra heavy for its size, it might also mean that it is not ready for stain. You will always get the best results if you stain dry wood, unlike when you stain a wet one.

When Can I Stain Pressure Treated Wood?

You’ll likely interact with pressure treated wood in different forms, and each will require staining at a specific time or under specific conditions, as I have highlighted below.

Considering that in the pressure treatment of wood, there’s the use of water in the forcing of chemical preservatives deep into the wood, a recently pressure treated lumber will contain high moisture content and may take many weeks to dry. It is not effective that you stain pressure treated wood if it’s still wet.

  • “Wet treated wood” has a significant amount of moisture when bought and may take longer to dry compared to the other types of pressure treated wood. 
  • Kiln-dried wood is ready for staining when you buy it. You will notice a stamp or tag reading ADAT (air-dried after treatment) or KDAT (kiln-dried after treatment); it means that this wood is ready for staining. 
  • Pressure treated wood containing a water repellant does not absorb a water-based stain and an exterior oil-based stain.
Watch the video below on a sprinkler test:

How to Stain Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure treated wood has chemical preservatives that prevent the rotting of the wood and infestation by insects. Even so, this wood remains susceptible to the sun, moisture, and dirt. Knowing the right way to stain your pressure treated wood can help extend the life and improve your deck, fencing, picnic tables, and other exterior wood projects.

Note: If you are working with pressure treated wood, ensure that you wear your gloves to avoid direct contact with the wood’s chemical components.

Tools and Materials Needed for Staining Pressure Treated Wood

Tool- Scrub Brushes, Paint Mixer, Paint Brushes, Pressure Washer

Materials- Deck Stain/Sealer

Step One: Choose/Have Your Stain Ready

There are so many types of deck stains that you can choose, and mostly this is dependent on individual preference.

  • For example, a transparent deck stain contains no pigmentation, while semitransparent deck stains come with more pigmentation that adds color and tone to your structure.
  • I’d advise that you go for a lighter-colored stain if your structure is new. It will give you the flexibility to apply darker colors later. A darker stain is excellent on old pressure-treated wood as it hides the imperfections.
  • If your deck is receiving a lot of direct sunlight, I’d recommend that you go for a light stain that reflects heat instead of a dark one that will absorb additional heat.

Step Two: Wash Your Pressure Treated Wood/Deck

Cleaning the deck/wood is very important unless the wood is new. You’ll still need to clean the surface to keep it free of dirt or molds and mildew before applying your finish. Allow the wood to dry before proceeding with your application. Cleaning ensures that your wood stain does not trap any imperfections.

Using a deck cleaner, wash the pressure-treated wood while using a scrubbing brush to clean the surface. If you notice persistent stains, use a pressure washer to remove them.

If you are using a deck cleaner, allow it to soak into the wood for up to 10 minutes or the manufacturer’s directions. 

Rinse your deck/wood properly using a pressure washer. Then, allow the wood up to 24 hours of drying before you can apply your formula.

Step Three: Preparation for Staining

  • Time is essential for your stain to absorb into the wood before it dries; therefore, ensure that you do not apply in the direct sunlight.
  • Ensure that you protect all the plants and vegetation around your structure. Use tarps or painter’s tape to cover and protect areas near the structures. It could be plants or a house’s siding. 
  • Follow the above procedure by dry brushing the wood one more time to remove any debris present on the surface of the deck. It could be leaves, dust, etc. 
  • In preparation for staining, stir the stain thoroughly and pour it into a paint can/container/tray.
  • Apply the stain to the wood’s unsuspecting part to confirm that it is the right color and appearance that you want.

Step Four: Application of the Stain

At this point, your deck/pressure treated wood is ready for staining. Stain the pressure treated deck or wood using a paint pad applicator; it is easier to use this applicator compared to brushing. It is even more accurate in application than other methods, such as using a pressurized sprayer.

Using a paintbrush, stain all the areas between cracks and other problem areas. 

Apply 1-2 coats of your deck stain. Usually, you will find one coat enough to do the job right. 

In case you are staining pressure treated fence posts, or any other vertical surfaces, start your staining from the top working your way down.

Ready seal is one good example of a stain that you can use for your pressure treated wood.

Let the stain dry for at least 24 hours.

What Happens If You Stain Wet Pressure Treated Wood?

Wet pressure treated wood contains moisture components, and it would be a wrong move to paint it when it is still wet. The moisture in the wood prevents adhesion between the stain and the surface of the wood. 

So, if you paint a wet treated wood, there are every chances that your stain will not long before the stain starts to wear or peel off unlike when you stain the structure after the wood dries completely.

Overall, if your wood is wet, allow it days or possibly months to dry properly. You can always use the sprinkler test to determine whether or not your wood is dry.


Pressure treated wood is a reputable and reliable building material for many homeowners and woodworking enthusiasts. This wood contains chemicals that offer protection against insects and other destructive elements. Much as pressure treated wood contains protectin chemicals, it is susceptible to external factors such as UV rays from the sunlight, and that’s why staining is essential. So,

How Can I Determine if Pressure Treated wood is Ready for Staining?

Well, as I’ve stated before, the simple and one sure way of finding out when you treated wood is ready for staining is by carryout the sprinkler tests. If the wood absorbs the water you apply to its surface; it means you can stain it. If the water forms a pool or beads up, the wood is not ready, allowing it more time to dry.

I hope you found this blog post helpful for your quest. If that’s true, kindly share with me your thoughts in the comment section below.

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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.

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