Staining Pressure Treated Wood: Quick Tips for Successful Application


Pressure treated wood does not necessarily need protection as it contains chemicals that inhibit the destructive actions by microorganisms and insects such as termites. However, there are other aspects of the environment such as rain and sunlight that can lead to rotting and discoloration of your treated wood, painting and staining can help prevent such. So, is staining pressure treated wood a way of offering it enhanced protection against the environmental elements?

Yes, staining pressure treated wood is a great method of protection. Staining pressure treated wood is suitable for a new deck. Treated wood does not necessarily need protection against rot, however, staining it will help reduce surface cracking, warping, and splintering due to impacts of moisture and prolonged exposure to UV light.

Staining pressure treated wood is a good move for those who are not so much into painting. It gives your wood a more beautiful look on top of the long-lasting protection. 

Why Does Pressure-Treated Wood Need Protection?

Usually, the pressure-treated wood is porous, and failure to protect it with paint or sealant makes it susceptible to damaging effects of rainwater, snow, or dew. When water penetrates the surface of your wooden deck, it will lead to swelling. Upon heating, this wood will shrink again. The constant swelling and shrinking of your pressure treated will damage your wooden structure as it will start to split, check, form splinters, cracks, and other unwanted blemishes over the surface. 

Additionally, when the wood is in an external environment where it experiences prolonged exposure to sunlight, it will start to lose color due to UV rays’ effects. To avoid such damages on your treated wood, you need to offer it protection through painting or staining.

Read the related post on the best deck stain for pressure treated wood:

How Long Should You Wait Before Staining Pressure-TreatedWood?

This question is quite open and depends on so many factors. First, the type of pressure-treated wood you have determines how fast you stain your structure. 

premium pressure-treated lumber comes dry and ready to use as soon as you get it from the store. Usually, the manufacturing companies dry these woods immediately after treatment to remove the excess moisture. So feel free to stain this wood as soon as you get it from the vendor.

If you are using an ordinary pressure-treated wood from a home center, or any local store, you must allow it up to at least 3 more days to dry thoroughly before applying a water-based semi-transparent deck stain

Another factor that affects the duration of wait until you can stain your pressure-treated wood is the type of finish you use. Some finished demands that you first wash the surface thoroughly before you can apply them. Washing helps remove dirt, grease, and any form of imperfection present on the surface. After washing, you will have to wait a few extra days for the finish to dry before you can proceed with the staining duties.

What Happens If You Stain Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

It is a bad idea to stain pressure treated wood too soon. If you do so, the wood will swell as it dries then starts to shrink again with time. The constant swelling and shrinking of the wood come with a damaging effect as the wood will start to develop splits, crack, splinters, and other forms of blemishes.

Staining wood is important as a way of protecting it from damaging elements such as water and UV. Even so, it is better that you stain your wood at the right time. Unless the wood you are using is kiln dried, you must allow it enough time to dry before you can stain.

Sprinkler test is important to help you determine whether or not your wood has dried. Alternatively, you can use moisture meters to test water levels inside a wood.

Is Oil or Water Based Stain Better for Pressure Treated Wood?

The answer to this question largely depends on the type of wood that is pressure treated. Soft pressure treated woods such as pine responds well to water based wood stains. 

Oil based stains are cheaper than their water-based counterparts and are best for you, especially if you don’t mind restaining annually.

Oil-based stains start to yellow after some during application, especially when exposed to UV light. These stains contain dissolved chemicals which produce fumes with a bad smell.

Water based stains dry faster and, above all, contain zero volatile organic compounds, which means they are less likely to cause you any health complications. They are easy to apply, especially if you are working on a short timeline.

Overall, both the paints work well pressure treated wood. From personal experience with the two stains, I find the water-based stains have a little edge over the oil-based as it does not go yellow, is easy to apply and clean, does not have dissolved compounds, among other advantages.

How Can I Determine If Pressure Treated Wood Is Ready for Staining?

Staining a pressure treated wood before it fully dries can be a great mistake as your wood is likely to crack and split. So, you must assess the moisture contents to work with dried wood.

I’m going to look at two of the most effective ways of determining if pressure treated wood is ready for staining or not. The methods are:

Sprinkler Test: In this method, you will need to pour some water over the surface of your pressure treated wood and observe the behavior. If the water on the surface beads up, it means that your wood is not dry. Therefore, you must allow it more time to dry.

If the wood absorbs the water poured on the surface soon ( within 10 minutes), then it means that your wood is dry and ready for staining.

Moisture Meter: Wood moisture meters are digital devices that can tell the moisture content in wood. Using these devices can help you determine whether to stain your wood or not. The moisture content in your wood must not be more than 15% when you are looking to stain.

How Do I Know When My Pressure-Treated Wood Is Dry?

Determining whether your wood is dry enough for staining is not the hardest thing to do; in fact, it is quite simple and straightforward. Here’s what you need to do to determine if your wood is dry enough for staining.

Sprinkle a few drops of clean water on the surface of your treated wood and observe its behavior. If the droplets of water bead up immediately instead of getting absorbed, it means that the wood is not dry, and you should allow it more days to dry thoroughly. Even so, you don’t have to wait too long before staining because the more the wood gets exposed to sunlight, the more ultraviolet light can degrade its cell structure.

If the wood absorbs water sprinkles immediately, it means that it is dry and ready for staining or painting.

Is It Better to Paint or Stain a Deck?

This question is common among woodworkers and homeowners; it might not be entirely straight to point out the better of the two as non of the two last “forever.” However, based on my many years of experience in woodworking, having a professional painting service on your wooden structures gives you the best results and prolonged longevity.

Advantages of Staining Pressure Treated Wood

  • Stain enables the wood to retain its original beauty as it allows the wood grain to show through.
  • A stain is not as slippery. Though stains have a waxy texture, most of them result in a more flat surface,
  • A stain is more comfortable to apply. There are fewer complications when using a stain; even if you happen to miss a spot while staining, it can be hard to tell.
  • Stain exists in many different colors from which you can choose. 

Disadvantages of Staining Pressure Treated Wood

  • It does not last longer compared to other finishes, like paint.
  • Because stain is much thinner, it leaves the cracks unfilled on the surface of the wood, which makes it a less effective repair material for filling splinters.

How to Stain Pressure Treated Wood- Step by Step

Knowing the best way to stain pressure treated wood will enable your stain to have a long-lasting effect on the wood. Different pressure treated woods require different types of treatment; therefore, it’s crucial that you are aware of the right treatment for the wood you are using. 

Some people buy pressure treated wood in the form of decking for their outdoor seating and eating areas. Decking is, in most cases, pressure treated by a specific process with chemical preservatives used. A low-pressure tank holds the woods during the procedure; the pressure is then raised, which allows the preservatives to infiltrate the wood to its core fully. After the initial process, it is cured in a subsequent process, after which it’s made ready for use.

Step 1 – Ensure You Cure the Wood

A pressure-treated wood takes roughly two months to “cure” following its installation before staining, therefore, ensure that you have allowed it to go a little past two months before you commence your project.

Step 2 – Cleaning

Clean the deck to eliminate any traces of dirt. Begin by sweeping loose soil using a broom and dustpan. If there are build-ups of grime, carefully follow up the initial cleaning with a pressure washer to clean the wood. A pressure washer can cause damage to the wood if the setting of the pressure is too high. It’s also risky if the nozzle is too close to the surface. It’s advisable to keep the tip at about 12 to 16 inches above the surface and begin with a psi of approximately 1,500, with close monitoring to ensure the wood is not getting burrowed. 

Give your deck a room to dry for at least two days before going ahead with the subsequent process.

Step 3 – Protect the Surrounding Structures

An oil stain is usually very thin, easily splashed, and sprayed on the surrounding areas impulsively. Therefore, cover the basal concrete pad, nearby bushes, and grass with awning clothes to protect them from the splashing coat.

Step 4 – Apply Stain

On the whole, using a paintbrush to apply the stain will give the best results. The bristles spread the stain into the wood grain, which ensures a more even and vivid color. Furthermore, you still can use a roller to spread it; however, you will always have to use a brush for tight and small spaces or use a sprayer. 

As much as both the roller and sprayer have high levels of efficiency, neither will result in the same finished quality as a brush. Ensure that you read the product label on the stain you are using so that you don’t miss any specific application instructions that might be on it.

Step 5 – Test the Seal

After applying and allowing the stain to dry, a second coat can follow. The best way to confirm whether the deck requires another layer is by spraying some water on it. If the wood absorbs the water, it means another sealing coat is necessary. If the water beads, then it means that the seal is right, and you don’t necessarily need to add another. However, you should ensure that you apply more stain the following year to preserve the cohesion of the seal.

Can you Stain New Pressure Treated Wood?

Can You Stain Pressure Treated Wood? Yes, use ready sealYes, you can stain new pressure treated wood. The key is to know precisely when to stain it. There are deck owners with a false impression that “pressure treated” means the wood has been treated can stand any weather. It’s not true because the chemical treatment subjected to the wood only protects it from bugs and insects. A new pressure treated wood has no water repellency or sun blocking treatment. Therefore, the wood still needs treatment with a water repellent wood stain.

Staining a new pressure treated wood is much different from staining an old deck. Older wood is drier and porous, which makes it absorb almost any type of wood stain for adequate protection. 

New pressure treated wood, on the other hand, has higher moisture, which is much denser hence make stain penetration difficult.

It would be best if you allowed a newer deck to age since initially, it has high moisture content. Staining it too soon is not good. Once the deck has stayed for 3-6 months, and its moisture content is 12% or less, you can stain it. 


Much as pressure treated wood comes with protection against infestation by animals such as termites, it still remains vulnerable to elements such as water and the UV radiation from the sunlight. It should therefore be your priority to accord it all forms of protection to ensure that it serves you for as long as it possibly can. So,

Can You Stain Pressure Treated Wood?

Yes, you can stain your pressure-treated wood. Staining with a formula that offers it both water repellency, as well as UV protection, is a bonus to its longevity. A formula such as Ready Seal is a great choice for staining as it is both a stain and a sealer.

Watch a Related Video Below on Staining Pressure Treated Wood:

If you have read this post, I want to believe that you have found it of great help in answering your questions regarding the staining of pressure-treated wood. Do you have any questions, suggestions, or opinions? Kindly share it with me 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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