Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood? We Reveal All

Can you paint pressure treated wood? The short answer is yes! But, before you jump right into it, there’s a lot more you should know about different kinds of pressure woods, and the right way to paint them. Read on to ensure you do the job right!

Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood – Introduction

Today’s discussion is all about treated wood. One may not like to see their decks or stairs with those green hues, as pressure-treated lumber leaves the surface somewhat brown or greenwood. So the answer for your question, “can we paint those treated woods,” is yes. You can definitely paint them!

Below we will explain what treated woods are, especially pressure treated wood, what are its properties, types, benefits, how to apply paint, safety concerns and much more. So let us begin our discussion and hope that the article will help you and enhance your knowledge regarding treated woods.

The treatment of woods has been practiced from the time when the use of wood started itself. If you look back in history, you may find traces of wood preservation. Here, mentioning down some records of the past to show the relevance of wood preservation.

During the reign of Alexander the Great in ancient Greece, when their bridge wood soaked in olive oil; The Romans protected their ship by brushing the wood with tar. Another record is during the industrial revolution wood preservation was at peak because of the wood processing industry. These treated woods were used primarily for industrial, agricultural and utility purposes.

can you paint pressure treated wood
Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood

What Is Treated Wood?

Treated wood is a wood that is treated with preservative chemicals in order to prolong its usefulness as compared to untreated wood. Different types of preservatives are used to protect from degradation, rotting, termites, flames etc.

The interesting fact is untreated woods can last only up to five years and it also begins to rot within one or two years whereas treated woods can last up to twenty-five years.

What Are Pressure Treated Woods?

In pressure-treated woods, preservatives are added into the wood through high pressure, inserting the preservative agents deep into the lumber so that it can extend the lifespan of the wood.

The active ingredients commonly used in treated wood are alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ), copper azole (CA) or micronized copper azole (MCA). These ingredients mix with wood so that it can slow down the decay and have properties to resist fungus, moisture, rotting and degradation.

What Chemicals Are Used?

Chromated Copper Arsenic was the preservative that was used from a longer period of time. However, because of its extremely toxic nature, it caught the attention of EPA who started strict oversight on the companies that used chromate copper arsenic. It stopped the production of residential chromate copper arsenic. However, it is considered as the most effective chemical preservative and used in many commercial and industrial projects.

What Are The Three Categories Of Pressure Treatments?

Three Categories of Pressure Treatments are:

Waterborne treated lumber

It includes CCA (chromated copper arsenate) and is generally used in building structures that are residential, commercial and industrial.  The copper in the wood serves as the fungicide whereas arsenic protects the wood against insects. It produces no odor and it can be painted easily.

Creosote-Treated Lumber

It is used for treating guardrail posts, railroad ties, and timbers used in marine structures.

Oil-Borne Treated Lumber

It includes pentachlorophenol, creosote and fire – retardants and is used for treating utility poles and cross arms. Both pentachlorophenol and creosote gives dark color to the wood, have an odor and result in an oily surface which becomes difficult to paint.

Benefits of Pressure-Treated Wood

The purpose behind using pressure-treated wood for projects like wooden decks and fences will keep your outdoor structures beautiful for years and it protects from rotting, termites, and fungal decay.

Let us talk about how pressure-treated wood are made in such a way that it can resist the nature and for what pressure-treated woods used for.

Pressure-treated wood absorbs a good amount of liquid thereby it remains wet even after reaching the store. Hence it takes significant time to dry up and the preservatives remain in the lumber after the water evaporates.

Types of Pressure-Treated Wood

  • Above-ground pressure-treated wood: can be used when the wood has proper ventilation and drainage. It can be used in applications which are easily maintained or replaced or in applications that are more than 6-inches from the ground. It is used only when the wood has proper ventilation and drainage
  • Ground-contact pressure-treated wood: It can be used in any above-ground application and it has twice the level of chemical retention and must be used for applications where wood is difficult to maintain or replace

Uses for Pressure-Treated Wood

  • Pressure-treated woods are commonly used for decks and fences for the longevity of wooden walkways, docks, ramps and outdoor structure. It is also used in raised garden beds, stair stringers, wooden swing sets, pergolas and arbors.
  • Pressure-treated wood should not be used for any indoor applications.

Safety Regarding Pressure Treated Woods

pressure treated wood

The preservatives used in treated lumber are not harmful. In order to reduce the exposure and irritation, then take precautions like wearing gloves or wash hands after handling the lumber. Use eye protection and mask while cutting the wood.

Pressure-treated wood is fantastic and a good option for outdoor use. It is been treated with chemicals and sealants so that it can be protected from the elements like rain, wind, bugs, and snow etc.

Pressure-treated wood is completely paintable. However, if you want to paint the wood then you have to end up doing some extra work. As it takes lots of time for the wood to be cleaned and dry enough to paint. It must be done properly; else the paint will not last very long. Ensure that the surface is dry in order to check sprinkle some water droplets, if it remains in droplet form then it is not dry and if the droplet is absorbed that means the wood is ready to paint. So, ensure that wood is entirely dry before painting. The second step is to use perfect combination of paint and primer.

It is suggested to use latex paint or water-based paints instead of oil-based.

Here, Suggesting You Some Of The Paints That You Can Select:

  1. Rust-Oleum Synthetic Varathane Fast Dry Oil- Based Wood Stain:

This is one of the best stains available to obtain colors to your wood surface without affecting the natural beauty of wood and it also seals wood pores. This product only needs one coat to get that perfect shine and shade. It can be used on furniture, doors, cabinets, floors etc. it works great for interior application and is not recommended for outdoor purpose.

Application: easy application, all you need is a clean dry cotton cloth or a paint brush.

Drying time: it is manufactured with fast drying properties. Therefore it requires only one hour time.

Coverage: 200-250 sq.ft in 1 litre

Coat needed: one

  1. Rust –Oleum Watco Teak Oil Wood Finish:

It is suitable for both interior and exterior surfaces. It is formulated with UV resistance and moisture resistant. It penetrates into the deep wood pores and protects wood from within and will not chip, peel or wear away.

Coverage: 600-800 sq.ft

Drying time: 8 hours

  1. Valspar Season Plus:

It is an exterior paint with primer for complete defense against damaging UV rays. The semi gloss sheen is lustrous and gives a durable finish. It is resistant to moisture and ideal for doors, accent trim etc. it resists cracking, peeling and blistering. It is 100 % acrylic latex formula. And it can be cleaned with soap and water.

Coverage: 400 sq.ft

Drying time: 1 hour

How to Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

If you are absolutely set on painting or staining your pressure-treated lumber, here are a few suggestions to paint:

What You’ll Need

  • Pressure-treated wood
  • Soap
  • Water
  • Scrub
  • Brush
  • Primer Latex exterior paint
  • Painting tools (such as a sprayer or paintbrush)

Step 1 – Clean the Wood

One might think of what is needed to clean the wood. Then you are absolutely wrong, it is important to clean the wood as wood might have collected lots of dust, dirt and debris during its travels from the manufacturer to your home. So, what you can do is use soapy water and brush to clean it and then rinse it with water. Allow it to weather for at least 60 days as it will allow chemicals tto evaporate and work their way out of the wood.

Step 2 – Wait for the Wood to Dry

You have to keep patience until the wood entirely dries up. As pressure treated wood takes longer time to dry might take weeks or months depending on the kind of wood you are using.

It is recommended to test the wood to check whether it has dried or not. If water soaks in the wood then it means that the wood is dry and ready to paint. If water rests on the surface in the beaded drops, then give some time to dry before painting. Since painting on the wet surface will be a waste of both time and paint as paint will peel away because moisture pushes up underneath. It is recommended to paint during warm, dry weather season and low humidity.

Kiln drying: it involves stacking the lumber and applies heat so that it can dry faster. While drying, all the moisture evaporates during the drying process.

Step 3 – Pretreat the Wood with Primer

You need to use primer first before painting. It’s not only water that wants to escape from the cells of the pressure-treated lumber, but natural pitch as well. Once the surface heats up in the sun and starts to dry out, any finish you’ve applied may begin to peel .Ensure that the primer that you purchase should be designed for outdoor use with the label suggested for pressure treated wood. Without these specifications, your primer and paint may not last long due to the wood’s resistance to liquids. Coat the wood in the primer according to the label’s instructions. Remember that while applying primer or paint, thin coats dry more quickly and turn out much more evenly than thick coats.

Step 4 – Let the Primer Dry

After applying primer, give it some time to dry. Fortunately, this won’t take much of your time and will dry in a day or two, depending on the primer. Also remember, you’re dealing with a specially treated wood that might need a little extra time for drying. For best results, it is always suggestible to give that extra time to dry.

Step 5 – Paint It

Finally, you can paint your pressure-treated wood. Apply at least two coats of paint for an even finish.  It is often observed that Latex paint works best on pressure treated wood as oil-based paints can resist the surface and gives longer durability. If you are installing lumbers in an indoor location, you can use interior paint.

You can choose any colors you like. It is observed that light colors may take more coats to hide those green and brown colors.

If you ask me, can we stain pressure treated woods?

Yes, you can stain pressure-treated lumber. In some cases, the stain is preferred since it soaks into the wood and is also easier to apply. But these stains won’t fill in small cracks in the wood like paint will. Though you can use any paint or stain according to your choice just follow the same steps above to stain pressure-treated wood. If you are going for stain instead of paint then, use an oil-based semi transparent exterior stain.

There are others who have an opinion of not to paint these pressure-treated woods.


Because painting often leads to disappointment and repainting often has to be preceded by scraping and sanding. Actually, what paint does, it extends the longevity of wood right. But pressure-treated woods does not need protection from the elements they are made up or prepared or by nature are meant for this purpose only that is to protect.

Despite this, you want to paint, and then you can surely paint as there is no harm.

Another common question that is often get asked, whether painting your pressure-treated lumber will cause it to rot?

Generally speaking, if there are conditions that trap moisture in the wood that will make decay more likely. Some experts recommend not painting because they do not allow wood to breathe, and they can be more challenging to maintain or refresh than penetrating stains.

Why Is Painting Pressure Treated Wood Considered The Best Option?

As said pressure-treated woods are infused with chemical preservatives in order to protect the wood. The wood is placed in a depressurized holding tank that removes air and replaces it with preservatives. Pressure-treated woods are considered to be the best option in order to avoid harmful rot and insects but it also has a demerit that it cannot prevent weathering and corrosion, so you can apply paint or stain to prevent this.

So, can you paint the pressure-treated wood? The answer is yes, you can!

Read Also: Best Outdoor Wood Sealers