Is It Better to Stain or Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

While both options have their advantages and disadvantages, the choice ultimately comes down to personal preference.

Painting or staining pressure treated wood is a question that many people will ask. Painting can be done in as little as 2 hours while staining may take up to 4 hours before it is completely dry.

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For exterior projects, pressure-treated timber has been a godsend, extending the life of wood beyond its normal lifetime under severe outside circumstances. When done incorrectly, the same process that provides wood its preservation characteristics may wreak havoc on stain or paint treatments. This begs the issue of whether paint or stain is preferable for pressure-treated wood. And how can you put it into practice without having your hard work undone in a hurry?

Instead of painting pressure treated wood, experts advise staining it. The fundamental reason for this is that paint seldom adheres well on pressure-treated wood due to the pressure-treatment procedure. 

However, as we’ll see later, painting pressure-treated wood is achievable if you follow the right methods. Understanding what makes pressure-treated wood special as a kind of timber and how to deal with it efficiently are the keys to success.



Contents Table of Contents

  • Is Pressure Treated Wood Paintable or Stainable?
  • Pressure-Treated Wood Staining
  • Pressure-Treated Wood: How to Paint It
  • Last Thoughts 


Is Pressure Treated Wood Paintable or Stainable?

Pressure-treated wood has undergone a procedure in which a combination of water and preservation chemicals is injected deep into the wood grain with a tremendous amount of pressure. This treatment is intended to prevent decay and increase the life of the wood. This makes pressure-treated timber ideal for outdoor applications such as decks and fences, where it would be exposed to the elements on a frequent basis and would otherwise rot. 

However, it is because of this pressure-treatment that a stain or paint job may often fail. Pressure-treated wood is always damp shortly after treatment, and it stays damp for weeks in most situations. Because a stain must absorb water to be effective, the wood must be completely dry before staining. We go through how long you should wait before staining a pressure treated wood fence in this post.

Wet timber may make it difficult for paint to stick to the wood for identical reasons, but the preservatives in pressure-treated wood make it much more difficult; this is why it’s preferable to stain rather than paint pressure-treated wood, since painting takes more preparation.

What Are the Different Types of Pressure-Treated Wood?

Above-ground and ground-contact pressure-treated wood are the two types of pressure-treated wood. The color difference between the two kinds of pressure treated wood is seen in the image below. The ways and locations these various kinds of pressure-treated wood are utilized varies, but the processes to prepare them for staining or painting are the same.


1647336478_493_37-Cheap-Landscaping-Ideas-for-Your-Perfect-BackyardAbove-ground fence slats with ground contact posts

Wood that has been pressure treated above ground

Above-ground wood is designed to be utilized in situations where it is readily accessible and can be simply replenished or maintained. This sort of wood is used in construction when it will be at least 6 inches above ground level. Also, when the wood becomes wet, it should be adequately aired and allowed to drain. If it’s simple to access or repair, above-ground wood may be utilized as deck rails or deck planks. All of the fence slats, as well as the top beams, rafter, and arch of the pergola gate, are visible above ground in this photo.

Pressure-Treated Wood in Direct Contact with the Ground

Ground-contact wood has been treated to retain a higher level of preservative than wood that is above ground. As a result, it’s best used above ground or in circumstances where it’ll come into touch with the earth. Fencing using in-ground fence posts, such as the posts in the pergola gate above, is an example of ground-contact wood utilization.

Use ground-contact wood when your project includes wood that is less than 6 inches from the ground, or where it may be poorly ventilated and difficult to maintain or replace.

Pressure-Treated Wood Staining

Pressure-treated wood is quite simple to stain. However, you must be careful while staining the wood, since doing so too soon may lead your stain to be “rejected,” resulting in the loss of your time (and money). To guarantee that your efforts are effective, follow the instructions below.

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To check whether the wood is ready, put it to the test.

When you initially acquire pressure-treated timber, it’s typically damp, and if it is, you won’t be able to stain it right away. The stain cannot be adequately absorbed by wet wood. If you have kiln-dried wood, you may dye it right away. 

Check for a “ADAT” (air-dried after treatment) or “KDAT” stamp or tag on the board (kiln-dried after treatment). This sort of wood can be dyed right away (as long as it hasn’t been wet since you bought it, such from being outside in the rain). 


Use the “sprinkle” technique to see whether the wood is ready to be stained. Pour some water on the wood and see how long it takes to absorb it. You’re ready to stain after the water has been totally absorbed. Water will pool or bead on the surface of unprepared wood, indicating that it still has too much moisture.

To remove dirt and debris from the wood, wash it.

You don’t need to worry about this step if the wood is spanking new, but a wash won’t hinder your efforts. If you’re staining wood that’s been sitting around for a while, you’ll want to clean it first to remove any dirt or debris that can interfere with the stain. 

Applying a cleaning solution to the wood to loosen the stuff you wish to wash away is a smart idea. Allow at least 10 minutes for this solution to soak in, but follow the guidelines on the package. Using several approaches, we demonstrated how to clean a wood fence without using pressure washers.

After that, use a garden hose or a power washer to rinse the solution away (especially if there are tough stains). After that, let the wood dry for at least 24 hours (and since the last rain) before applying the stain.

One final time, prepare the wood.

Use painter’s tape or a tarp to protect the area you’re working in so you don’t get stain where you don’t want it (such as patios, furniture, or house siding). Sweep the wood with a brush to remove any leaves or debris that have accumulated throughout the drying process.

Stain the wood with the stain.

After opening the stain bottle, swirl it well to achieve uniform color distribution and pour some onto a paint tray. Begin by applying a little quantity of stain to a small spot of wood and ensuring that you are satisfied with the results. 

Don’t hurry since this is your final opportunity to alter your mind. Start staining the wood whenever you’re ready to commit. Allow for at least 24 hours for the stain to cure before stepping on it.

A paint pad applicator is the best instrument for applying stain. Without having to lean over, you can connect it to a pole for easier application. If you’re staining a deck, you could use a brush, but in large sections, this would be sluggish and unpleasant since you’ll be on your knees for the most of the time. Instead, stain between cracks and difficult-to-reach regions with a brush.

Pressure-Treated Wood: How to Paint It

As previously stated, it is preferable to stain rather than paint pressure-treated wood. Painting, on the other hand, may provide fantastic results if you follow a few simple steps:

  1. Before you paint, make sure the wood is totally dry, and then prepare it as stated in the staining preparation stages above. 
  2. After that, apply a coat of primer to the wood using a bristle brush. This primer should be made specifically for pressure-treated wood. 
  3. After the primer has set, paint the wood with two coats of latex paint. To get the greatest effects, you may require a second or third coat of paint.

Whether you’re wondering if you can apply interior paint outside, read this article to learn why you shouldn’t.

Last Thoughts 

When designing a new project or restoring old wood, pressure-treated wood needs some thought, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult process to stain or paint. You should be able to get a great-looking product that will endure for years if you follow the instructions for preparing and applying stain or paint.


Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth staining pressure treated wood?

A: I am not a lumber specialist, so I cannot answer this with certainty. However, there are several factors to consider before staining pressure treated wood and the general consensus is that its not worth the hassle.

What kind of stain should I use on pressure treated wood?

A: You should use an oil-based stain.

How long does paint last on pressure treated wood?

A: Paint usually lasts as long as it is not exposed to extreme temperatures, such as heat and boiling water.

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