What Happens If You Stain Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

Knowing what happens if you stain pressure treated wood too soon will help you avoid costly mistakes with your staining projects. Keep reading for more insight…

You must be aware that pressure treating wood guarantees superior protection from common issues like rot and insect damage.

Even so, you may need to stain the surface to improve its appearance and longevity.

So, let’s address a primary concern in staining treated lumber that leads to this predominant question of what happens if you stain pressure treated wood too soon?

For starters, the stain will not fully penetrate the wood if applied too soon to pressure treated lumber.

If you stain pressure treated wood too soon, the stain will not fully penetrate the wood, rendering the stain less effective in offering protective benefits to your wooden structure.

Also, ensure that you use an oil-based stain to give your treated wood the best protection. These stains have maximum and the best sealing properties, especially for exterior projects.

The staining process may lead to a few complications when you do not have experience.

Therefore, following the recommended procedures and taking precautions is advised. Read the guide below for more insight into the exercise.

What Is Wood Staining?

Stained Wooden StructureWood staining involves applying a stain coat to a freshly sanded surface. Woodworkers prefer the technique as it emphasizes the wood grain and even transforms the lumber’s color.

The process is also part of refinishing, which involves sanding and staining a wood workpiece.

Staining lumber requires you to strip the surface of any pre-existing varnish or stain. Then, apply the formula and add a polyurethane topcoat.

In addition, you need various materials to deliver a professional finish. They include:

  • Sandpaper. Get 220, 180, and 120-grit paper to rough the surface. This way, you enhance better adhesion and a smooth topcoat.
  • Tack-cloth. This damp rag wipes away sanding dust before staining.
  • Drop cloth. It protects the surrounding area from oil drips and stains. Further, place it under the workpiece.
  • Lint-free cloth. Use this rag to wipe away excess formula after application.
  • Mineral spirits. The formula helps to clean oil-based products from applicants, such as brushes.
  • Stain applicator. You will require a foam brush, natural or synthetic bristled paintbrush, or clean rag to apply the stain. Please also read the product instructions to choose the best tool for the job.
  • Pre-stain wood conditioner. Soft or porous woods like cherry and pine need a layer of pre-stain wood conditioner before staining. It facilitates smooth and even coverage.
  • Stain. Take some time to select your preferred stain color and type. We have a wide product range.

Consider how the finish matches or complements your home or deck area. And test a few options on scrap wood for better decision-making.

Also, use a gel stain for pine wood. It helps to avoid uneven absorption and blotches.

  • Wood sealer (optional). You do not have to seal the project. However, the wood sealer will help protect it from wear and scratches.

Further, add a polyurethane topcoat for enhanced appearance and longevity.

  • Power sander (optional). You can get a power sander, depending on the job’s size. Otherwise, use a sanding pad or sand by hand when working on small furniture pieces.

We have several stain options in the market for your wood project. They come in two categories: water-based and oil-based formulas.

Both product types are available in multiple finishes and colors. Hence, your choice depends on your desired color and the wood type.

Water-based Stain

This formula is perfect when you do not care to see the wood grain. Thus, it works magic on softwood such as cedar and pine.

You’ll find the product in a wide pigment array, even non-traditional hues like blues and pinks.

In addition, it is fast drying, easy to clean, and has a low odor, making it suitable for indoor applications.

Oil-based Stain

An oil-based stain is suitable for refinishing hardwoods such as maple and oak. Also, it brings out wood grain intricacies and is a common choice among seasoned woodworkers.

The stain has a strong odor and a longer drying time, requiring you to work in well-ventilated areas.

Besides, it needs more sanding and is slightly difficult to clean up. Hence, you’ll need a little elbow grease to yield an impressive result.

So, how do you stain wood?

Here is a guide to ease the process.

  • Sand the unfinished wood with 120-grit sandpaper, following the wood grain. This way, you open up the wood pores to improve adhesion.
  • Repeat the above process with 180-grit and then use 220-grit until the surface is smooth.
  • Wipe the wood with a tack cloth.
  • Stir the stain to mix any pigments settling at the bottom. Besides, some stains should only be stirred as shaking introduces bubbles.
  • So, consider using a stir stick for the formula and read the can instructions carefully.
  • Apply the stain using the recommended applicant. For instance, use a natural bristled paintbrush for oil-based products and a foam or synthetic brush for water-based ones.
  • Work the stain into the wood grain in circular motions. Or apply it evenly in the grain’s direction.
  • Allow an oil-based formula to soak into the lumber for about five to fifteen minutes. Then, wipe off the excess.

Besides, the stain will darken if you allow it to sit on the surface for too long.

  • Alternatively, use a water-based stain. It dries faster and requires wiping within two minutes.
  • Let the surface dry before adding a sealer. Oil-based stains need four to six hours, while water-based ones require two to three hours.
  • Also, consider lightly sanding the first sealer coat with 220-grit sandpaper. Then, apply the second layer.
  • Clean the stain applicants with the appropriate solutions. For example, warm water is enough for drop cloths and rags, whereas oil-based products need mineral spirits.
  • Finally, dispose of rags dipped in oil-based stains according to the product instructions.

Fortunately, you need not be a woodworking expert to refinish wood furniture or trim successfully. Only follow the above instructions.

Also, ensure you prepare the surface properly before applying the formula. It enhances adhesion and guarantees a durable finish.

What Is Pressure Treated Wood?

Pressure Treated Wood. can you paint pressure treated wood?Pressure treated wood is lumber that undergoes treatment to improve its durability. It has preservatives protecting it from wood ingesting insects and wood rot.

Pressure treatment starts by putting the lumber into large cylinders in an industrial vacuum system.

The system removes air from the material and floods it with chemicals. It also needs high pressure to force the preservatives into the wood.

Treating plants repeat the process depending on the wood type. Then, they extract the chemicals and leave the wood to dry.

Preservatives used in pressure treated wood make it resistant to fungi and termites. Hence, you can use it for outdoor applications in any weather conditions.

Further, you can also treat lumber with fire-retardants. They help it scorch faster, reducing flames during a fire.

Such wood is suitable for floors and wood structures.

Pressure treated lumber comprises various chemicals.


Borate is a common chemical used in wood treatment. Besides, it is the most natural way of long-term pest control.

The preservative comes from a mineral deposit and prevents insects from advancing in the wood.

It also does not affect further handling or the wood’s color. Thus, you’ll find it in vulnerable parts of buildings like beams and floors.


Propiconazole-Tebuconazole-Imidacloprid (PTI) is a new wood preservation method. It is also perhaps the most cost-effective as it needs a low product amount.

PTI does not have color and works perfectly with most paints and stains. Also, thanks to the added wax stabilizer, the product prevents lumber from splitting.

Therefore, it comes in handy for outdoor applications.

However, the preservative has a reddish pigment. Consider applying the preservative on redwood or cedar to accentuate their natural tones.


Alternatively, you can use Micronized Copper Azole. It is a copper-based wood preservative used to treat wood for residential applications.

Moreover, it accommodates in-ground, above-ground, and freshwater contact. Hence, it is suitable for multiple projects.

The treatment is also PTI with added copper and prevents wood from rotting. In addition, it goes deeper into the lumber, providing superior mold prevention.


We also have Alkaline Copper Quaternary (ACQ), which contains copper, ammonium, and an insecticide.

The preservative is famous for outdoor use. But it needs sealing as the copper makes the wood highly corrosive.

Lastly, we have Nono-Com, a fire-resistant chemical used in wood treatment. It makes the wood burn slowly after catching fire and prevents spontaneous combustion.

However, the treated wood is exclusively for indoor use.

Generally, there are numerous techniques for lumber protection. But most rely on copper ingredients making them outdated and less used.

Moreover, natural wood treatments get more attention daily due to their ecological advantages.

For example, common uses of this lumber include thermal wood protection, mud treatments, and biologically modified lumber with agricultural waste.

Pressure treated wood also falls into two primary categories: Ground contact and above-ground.

These types vary depending on how and where you use them, but use similar steps for painting and staining.

  • Ground-Contact Pressure Treated Wood

This wood type receives a more generous preservative amount than above-ground wood. Therefore, they are more appropriate for above-ground projects.

Also, you can use them for projects requiring the wood to be directly on the ground or in poorly ventilated areas.

Some ground-contact lumber applications include fencing where posts are in-ground.

  • Above-Ground Pressure Treated Wood

Above-ground treated lumber is ideal when the wood is easily accessible and needs replacement or maintenance with little trouble.

Builders use the material for projects six inches above the ground. But it is advisable to use it in well-ventilated areas.

Also, allow the wood to drain when it gets well.

Above-ground lumber works well for deck boards and deck rails. However, these structures must be easy to reach or replace when necessary.

Health experts raise many concerns due to health and environmental hazards associated with pressure treated wood.

Therefore, wear gloves when handling the wood, especially when it’s damp. In addition, wash your clothes and aprons immediately and in a separate cycle.

Put on a mask when cutting lumber treated with more toxic chemicals. Moreover, consider working in a well-ventilated area.

The treated wood may also react mildly with the formula during staining. Even worse, it may release some toxic gases, endangering your safety.

Please avoid cutting pressure treated wood without confirming that the treatments used are safe. Besides, the dust could be dangerous for your health.

Further, do not burn scraps from treated lumber. Instead, discard them with other construction materials.

Lastly, keep the wood away from kitchen appliances or surfaces directly contacting food or drinks.

Is It Better to Stain or Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

Professionals recommend staining pressure treated wood instead of painting. The primary reason is that paint rarely bonds with the wood due to the treating process.

Also, although painting delivers an even finish, it does not allow the wood to breathe. Thus, it facilitates rot, mold, and mildew development.

Treating wood keeps it wet for weeks in most environments. You’d need to wait for the material to dry thoroughly before painting.

In addition, the exercise requires additional wood preparation to deliver a durable finish.

Apply a primer coat and two paint layers for added protection. This way, you keep mold and mildew at bay.

Next, sand the surface, clean it with water and soap, and let it dry before painting.

On the other hand, staining wood requires less preparation time and effort. Besides, you only need to clean the surface with water and soap before application.

Wood stain protects the project from moisture damage, craking, harmful UV rays, and elements.

Further, although treated lumber resists insect and moisture damage, tough stains make it more durable.

Stains also allow you to accentuate the wood’s natural beauty and attributes. Thus, it adds character to your work.

How Do I Prepare Pressure Treated Wood for Staining?

Treated wood becomes green, brown, tan, dark, brown, or retains its color after treatment.

A new deck fence may even appear dull and uninviting.

Moreover, pressure treated wood is still susceptible to aging signs despite being insect and decay-resistant.

Thankfully, you can deal with the above by staining the surface.

A stain offers another protection layer, keeping the wood from mold and mildew. In addition, it minimizes wood cracking and splintering risks.

Furthermore, the formula imparts aesthetic benefits to the lumber. An attractively colored surface enriches and adds personality to your landscape.

Stains also enhance the wood’s natural beauty, highlighting its texture and grain pattern.

It is advisable to prepare the wood before staining. Follow the tips below for an expert finish.

  • Check the Weather Forecast

Start the wood preparation and staining project on the third day of sunny weather. In addition, please avoid working directly under the sun.

The heat quickly evaporates the stain before the wood absorbs it.

Check the weather forecast as working on a cool day with a 50-degree Celsius temperature range is advisable.

Further, confirm that there will be no rain for the next 24 to 48 hours.

Remember that the wood is still prone to humidity and excess heat. Therefore, ensure that the conditions are favorable.

  • Confirm The Wood is Dry

Give the wood a two to three weeks drying time before staining. Damp lumber will not deliver a successful project.

On the other hand, check the material’s moisture content periodically to avoid overdrying it. Otherwise, it loses its natural ability to bond with the stain.

Use the sprinkle test to verify the wood’s dryness.

First, sprinkle some water on the surface and check if it beads on the wet spot.

The lumber is dry and ready for staining if it absorbs the water, and it needs more drying time if you see water beads.

Alternatively, press a nail into the lumber. You’ll have to wait more days if water comes out of the pressed area.

You can also use a moisture meter when in doubt. The ideal moisture level is below 19%, above which mold and rot start to develop.

Tip: Stack the treated lumber in a crisscross pattern during warm, low humidity weather. This way, the material air dries naturally. 

Also, the waiting duration is two to three days. So, you won’t be waiting a long time.

  • Choose the Correct Stain

We have two product types in the market: Latex and oil-based stains.

No formula is superior to the other, as they feature distinct attributes, advantages, and disadvantages.

Therefore, the best stain varies per application.

For example, it is better to use an oil-based stain formula for a new deck. It penetrates the surface, sealing the surface from water.

Besides, the additional layer protects your work from harmful UV rays. Thus, you do not have to stress about project discoloration.

Oil-based products enhance the lumber’s natural appearance. And they come in multiple wood tones like oak, cedar, and redwood.

You can also opt for a transparent or semi-transparent stain.

The finish brings more character to exposed, old wood and lets its natural beauty enhance your porch or deck.

Unfortunately, oil-based exterior formulas do not last long. Thus, they need annual reapplication.

Plus, oil is food for mildew, algae, and mold.

Conversely, latex or water-based stains dry quickly. Besides, they soak into the lumber and adhere tightly even if the wood is wet.

The product delivers an easier-to-clean surface, making water and soap sufficient supplies.

However, water-based stains give the wood a paint-like finish. Hence, they hide the lumber’s natural grain pattern and conceal its natural appearance.

Stains designed for outdoor applications work well with pressure treated lumber. Besides, some manufacturers have stains specifically made for treated wood.

Also, consider working with oil-based products for treated wood types. They soak into the lumber, creating an impervious barrier.

  • Clean the Lumber’s Surface

Use water, mild detergent, and a stiff brush to remove dirt from the wood. Consider soapy water as it is gentle on your project.

Otherwise, a power washer will wash away the preservatives on the wood.

  • Let the Wood Dry

Give the wood enough time to dry. Sadly, the process requires a few weeks, but this is the only way to guarantee a successful project.

In addition, this duration allows the stain’s chemicals to leach on the wood.

Perform the water or sprinkle test to confirm that the wood is ready for staining. Again, be conscious of whether or not you see beads on the surface.

Alternatively, use a moisture meter. Check if the moisture level is within the recommended range, below 19 percent.

How to Stain Pressure Treated Wood

First, protect the surrounding area and vegetation with plastic sheeting or a drop cloth. Also, you can use painter’s tape for areas you do not want to stain.

Follow the steps below once you are ready.

  • Prepare the Stain.

Thoroughly mix the formula by stirring or shaking it carefully. Or you can request the hardware store to help you during the purchase.

Either way, consider stirring the stain frequently during application to guarantee the best finish.

  • Test the Finish

It is tempting to rush to apply the stain once the surface is ready. But please pause and test the finish first.

Select a small inconspicuous area and brush on the formula. Allow it to dry before working on the entire surface.

Then, confirm if it matches or compliments your landscape or surrounding. Also, check if the finish has the right shade before it adheres to all your boards and planks.

This test helps ensure you’re happy with the completed task before committing time and energy.

In addition, you can tell whether the finish will soak into the wood well without any issues.

  • Apply at Least One Stain Coat

Continue staining the entire structure if the finish looks good. Remember that brushstrokes constitute additional layers, causing color variation.

Therefore, start at the top when staining a fence or other vertical surfaces. This way, it is easier to cover runs and drips as you work downwards.

Also, exposed wood ends need additional staining due to a greater absorption rate.

Wear gloves when handling pressure treated wood and applying stains. In addition, apply the formula at the same time. 

Otherwise, repeated brushstrokes will add unnecessary layers, altering the shade of your final output.

Please avoid applying the formula directly under the sun. The heat dries it too fast before it can soak into the lumber.

The above instructions guarantee a lovely, uniform, and durable finish. Follow them keenly and patiently.

Here’s a Video On How to Stain Pressure Treated Wood:

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

You can determine if pressure treated wood is ready for staining by checking whether it is clean and dry.

A dirty surface will compromise adhesion, and the finish will fail sooner or later.

Similarly, the formula will not penetrate damp lumber. And you will only partially enjoy staining benefits.

Also, the finish won’t stick to the wood, so rain can easily wash it away.

Therefore, first, check the lumber’s moisture level.

You can use the bead test. Sprinkle some water on the surface and observe.

The wood is dry if it absorbs the water within minutes.

Alternatively, press a nail into the material to test for wetness. The lumber needs more drying time if water seeps out around the fastener.

Finally, a moisture meter will determine if the wood is dry enough for staining. The recommended moisture level is 19 percent.

Proceed to clean the surface after confirming the wood is dry. Also, ensure that you give it enough time to dry after cleaning.

How Long Does Pressure Treated Wood Take to Dry

Pressure treated wood needs 72 hours to dry. Lumberyards usually kiln dry the wood. Thus, you won’t wait a long time.

However, the wood requires a few weeks to six months after treatment if the manufacturer does not dry it. Only then can you successfully paint or stain it.

Check the lumber tag or ask the hardware store staff when in doubt.

As a rule of thumb, always use dry wood for your work. 

Besides, although you can build with wet treated lumber, it contracts during drying. Hence, you’ll start noticing warps and splinters.

Even worse, the contraction will throw your initial measurements off, compromising your framing, decking, or fencing.

Fortunately, you can dry pressure treated wood at your workstation. For instance, use a dehumidifying kiln to speed up the process.

However, be careful not to dehydrate the lumber. Otherwise, it will crack.

Also, you can lay the wood flat. Then, stack the boards in a crisscross pattern and air them for two to three days.

Alternatively, consider the kiln-drying process. Use an oven (kiln) to remove excess moisture and preservatives from the material.

Here, lay a clear plastic roll on the ground and use 2×4 studs to build a frame. Then, position the lumber.

Leave enough space for a standard dehumidifier at one end and a fan on the other. This way, air circulates freely in the kiln and evens the drying.

In addition, set the correct temperature, steam, and humidity levels for a successful venture.

Then, wait about one to eight weeks before using the wood.

Warping may occur if you do not dry the wood correctly. Further, overdrying leads to splits, cracking, and end grain checking.

Periodically check the damp wood for moisture content.

Also, do not allow partially dry wood to regain moisture quickly. So, start building your picnic table or deck after confirming it is dry.

The following storage tips for pressure treated lumber will help avoid the above scenarios.

  • Ensure the wood piles are not in a humid place.
  • Align stickers vertically and position the lumber flat.
  • Have stickers and boards of similar thickness and size on the same stack.
  • Allow enough space between the wood stacks.
  • Put wood piles on a flat area.
  • Cover the lumber to seal it from vapor.
  • Place weights on the woodpile to prevent cupping.

Lastly, do not dry lumber too slowly. Besides, the traditional rule of thumb recommends air drying the wood for one year for each inch.

This way, you can monitor the lumber with the moisture meter for more flexibility.

How Do I Know If My Deck Is Dry Enough to Stain?

You can quickly check whether a deck is dry enough for staining.

First, scan the wood with your eyes. Then, go over it with your hands. Please wear gloves as you do this.

Next, conduct a water test. Sprinkle water on the wood board and observe if it soaks into the surface.

The lumber is still wet if the surface repels the water.

Lastly, use a digital moisture meter. Place the two prongs into the lumber and check the reading.

Calibrate the device correctly and test two different spots. Then, get an average of the moisture level.

What’s the Difference Between Brown and Green Pressure Treated Wood?

Green pressure treated lumber undergoes treatment but remains in its natural color. Thus, you’ll find it with hints of green.

On the other hand, brown treated wood has a traditional brown hue due to the brown dye added during treatment.

As a result, brown pressure treated wood is more pricey.

You may visualize a green color when thinking about green-treated wood. Moreover, some may try to compare it with a crisp green grass color.

However, the wood’s name is only an identification term. It has a natural wooden hue with a hint of green.

In addition, the green hue is not the intended wood color. Instead, it is the natural result of the pressure treating process.

The copper-based chemicals used in the vacuum pressure treatment area react with the air and oxidize.

Hence, they leave the wood with some green on its surface.

Green pressure treated wood has various color shades, depending on the industrial process and the oxidation levels.

Nonetheless, the color should not prevent you from purchasing the wood. You can always paint it in your preferred color.

Conversely, brown-treated lumber is a traditional dark brown wood.

It follows the same treatment process as its counterpart, only that the manufacturer adds a brown dye to the copper preservative mix.

The brown dye gives the wood a traditional brown wood color. But it looks like regular untreated wood.

However, remember that we add the dye as an industrial preservation process, not a decorative finish.

So, the color will fade over time.

Thankfully, you can maintain the wood color through regular maintenance. In addition, painting or staining the surface will deliver your preserved hue.

Choosing green or brown pressure treated wood ultimately depends on what you use it for, the available type, and your preference.

Fortunately, regardless of the chosen color, you can always paint the wood.

Frequently Asked Questions

The question are:

  • What Should I do if I Stained Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

For light-colored stains: Wait for the lumber to dry completely. Then, re-apply a stain with a darker color.

On the other hand, remove the stain if you used a darker one. Use light sandpaper or chemical stain stripper.

Then, ensure the wood is completely dry before reapplication.

  • How Do I Maintain Pressure Treated Wood?

The first thing is to keep your project clean. Apply a brightener or cleaner every one to three years.

Next, apply a sealer coat to bring out the stain’s color.

The second tip is to clean the wood porch or deck regularly. Whip out your brush, a garden hose, and detergent every few months.

Clean the porch or deck with a power washer if you’ve not cleaned it for over three years. This way, you can do a thorough job.

Also, over time, you’ll need to refurbish the old treated lumber deck with new boards.

Further, please refrain from putting composite decking over a pressure treated wood frame. The former is heavier and may compromise the structure’s integrity.

  • Can I Stain Green Treated Wood?

You can stain green-treated lumber. Besides, green treated wood only means that it contains chromium, copper, and CCA or arsenic.

While CCA kills termites, fungi, and other wood-eating organisms, stained green-treated wood is crack-resistant.

  • Can I Stain Pressure Treated Lumber Right Away?

It is okay to stain pressure treated lumber right away. However, there are a few pointers for a durable finish.

First, use exterior oil or a water-based product if the wood is Kiln-dried at the lumber yard.

Also, confirm with the stamp or tag that the lumber is dry. Stain the surface immediately if you see kiln-dried after treatment (KDAT) or air-dried after treatment (ADAT).

  • Which Is the Best Primer for Pressure Treated Wood?

We do not have one recommended primer for treated lumber. Every woodworker has their preferences depending on the topcoat.

Therefore, consider a formula that makes the deck or fence look brand new and protects it from water damage, rot, and decay.


Although preservatives in pressure treatment leave some moisture residue, the wood does not take too long to dry.

However, it is prudent to stain after the wood dries completely. Otherwise, you’ll learn from experience:

What Happens If You Stain Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

Staining pressure treated wood too soon will not give the desired result. For instance, the formula will not penetrate the wood properly.

Thus, you’ll be left with a patched surface, and a failed deck upgrade.

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 “What Happens If You Stain Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?”

  1. Very Informative.
    Staining pressure treated wood is beneficial. However, it should be done at the right time.

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