Can Pressure Treated Wood Be Painted?

As a homeowner, you will, of course, feel delighted with the results of your newly installed gorgeous-looking decks and fences. I think it’s not a big surprise to become delighted, it’s natural. But if anyone asks you to share what makes your decks and fences gorgeous, then I think it’s a legal query. If I didn’t make any mistake, perhaps, the answer lies in the pressure-treated wood.

Nevertheless, left unattended, the weathering process and continued issues to the elements (extreme heat, icy snow, and stormy rain) can change these once beautiful extensions of a homeowner’s dreams into a gray and dreary nightmare. Remember, pressure treated wood should be painted as soon as the weathering process is over. But the question is Can pressure-treated wood be painted?

Yes, pressure-treated wood can be painted, but you need to evaluate your wood’s moisture amount for a smooth-looking and long-lasting finish. Next, you need to go through the process of cleaning, priming, and painting. The real game is to apply the right paint at the right time.

The entire process needs enough time and huge patience to get the best result.

What is pressure treated wood?

Typically, Pressure treated (PT) wood refers to processed wood. Throughout this process, wood has undergone chemicals that make it highly durable and less susceptible to the following issues such as,

  • Water damage
  • Mold problem and
  • Insect infestation

You will find different types of pressure treated woods that fit different wood projects.

According to the study, three types of PT woods are popular: noncombustible, borate, and alkaline copper quaternary.

Until 2004, the key reagent of PT woods was arsenic. Nowadays, the EPA banned it due to its hazardous health effects. Today, the main ingredient to treat wood is copper.

However, PT woods are familiar for certain uses. They are not suitable for all applications. If you want to paint such processed wood, you may need to undergo some major myths and calculations.

Want to know the myths? Let’s reveal the ins and outs of pressure treated lumber and its painting details.

Can pressure treated wood be painted?

Pressure treated wood is paintable like any other wood. But the process of PT wood painting isn’t the same as regular wood. You need to apply some additional steps to make it ready to paint.

According to Robert Moore (Former Paint Specialist at The Home Depot), you can paint or stain pressure treated wood like other woods but the science behind this fact is a delay of time and choosing the right materials.

Yes, to get better results, you need to ensure that you allow enough time for the wood to be dried. It is not a good practice to paint early before drying.

Note: The delay process allows chemicals from the PT wood to dissipate.

Here, the time delay is significant because PT wood remains wet when it comes first from the mill.

On the other hand, you should make sure that you choose the right materials for painting PT wood to protect your paint from peeling.

Joseph Conlon Baxter (Retired Chief Master-at-Arms at US Navy), PT wood can be painted after it has seasoned to a wet content of ~19%.

How long to dry pressure treated wood before painting?

Typically, it is tricky to answer exactly how long your pressure-treated wood will take to dry. Let’s try to reveal the possible answer.

Pressure treated wood dry time:

You may experience different results regarding this fact. But one thing is clear, the dry time of pressure treated wood will depend on some important reasons. Following are the reasons that change the dry time of your PT wood.

Top 5 reasons that can influence the dry time:

  • The time or season (sunny or rainy) when you leave the wood to dry
  • Location (Where you store this item) and the climate
  • The thickness of the wood piece
  • Types of woods
  • Whether the wood was kiln-dried.

Based on the points mentioned above, the overall scenario will be different.

A case study: dry pressure treated wood dry time

Under good weather conditions and direct sun heat, PT wood wouldn’t take more than two to three weeks to be dried.

If the thickness is less and the climate is dry, then the drying period will be less than 60 days.

The drying period will be one month for complete drying based on the prevailing situation.

On the other hand, if the wood is thick enough and the climate isn’t in good condition, then you may need to wait even six months to one year before painting or staining.

If the timbers are heavier, you need to wait at least one year to accept the paint well. 1-year of drying per inch of thickness is a good rule of thumb ~Tim Hofstetter (Software Engineer).

However, I found some people who suggest different opinions. According to their suggestion, before painting, you need to wait for 3 to 4 months or so to get the wood in dried form.

Most surprisingly, if the wood goes through a Kiln-dried process, you don’t need to wait more than 2-3 days to start painting.

Feeling confused, days, weeks, months, or years? No worries!!! It All Depends on the reasons that I mentioned above.

If every point is favorable, the PT wood will dry faster and if it dries fast, you can start painting earlier.

Note: PT wood will take a much longer time to dry if the area where you live features high humidity. On the other hand, Cities like Sacramento that feature an arid climate will speed up the drying process.

How Do You Know the Pressure Treated Wood is Ready to Paint?

Following are the possible tricks that can help you to understand whether the treated timber is Ready to Paint or not.

Tips to understand whether PT wood is ready for painting or not:

You may have heard about the trick to judge whether the PT lumber is ready for painting or not.

  • Take some water and add it to the wood surface. 
  • If the water drop is absorbed, it is ready for painting.

On the other hand, if the water drop remains on the surface, it means the treat timer isn’t ready for painting.

Besides, the color difference between wet vs dry pressure-treated lumber informs you whether it is ready to paint or not. 

  • Dry pressure-treated lumber= faint yellow-brown look
  • Wet pressure-treated lumber= Green color appearance

How soon can you paint treated wood?

The treated wood could be ready within a couple of weeks. If you are dealing with normal pressure-treated wood, you may need to wait 2 to 3 days to start painting. It would be best to allow the treated wood the required time to be dried or seasoned.

In this regard, how soon you can paint the treated wood also depends on different variables like wood types, sizes, widths, climate conditions, etc that we mentioned and discussed earlier. But painting treated wood earlier does not bring a suitable result.

What happens if you paint treated wood too soon?

Don’t care about the quality finish? You can paint treated wood too soon. Yes, painting treated wood too soon is enough to damage your project.

Below, I will explain some significant issues if you paint treated wood too soon.

1. Peeling and chipping of the paint: 

Painting wet-treated wood means your paint will not stick well to the lumber fibers and start to peel off.

The piece of wood will naturally become smaller in size when it dries. This little shrinking will speed up the peeling and chipping of the paint.

2. Paint Won’t Dry:

Painting treated wood too soon means the remaining moisture is locked into the wood. As the wood is still wet, the moisture will absorb the paint and stop it from drying.

Also, painting earlier could be a barrier to getting the exact color you demand. If you paint the damp wood, then it will hold dents and scuffs.

3. Warp wood board:

Earlier mentioned that the board will slightly shrink because the treated wood will dry naturally. If one side of the lumber shrinks quicker than another side, the piece of lumber will haul towards the shrinking area. Also, when one side dries earlier than the opposite side, then the board will warp.

4. Poor paint coverage:

If you paint the timber surface in a wet condition, then you can’t get enough paint coverage. Undoubtedly, it would be poor paint coverage.

5. Cost you more:

Financially speaking, you need to spend much to cover your project if the PT lumber remains in dump condition. The painting coat will peel too often when the timber dries, influencing you to paint again.

How to paint pressure-treated wood?

If you plan to give a smooth finish to your outdoor PT wooden structures, it would possibly be painting. Following are the step-by-step processes of how to paint pressure-treated wood.

1. Collect all the necessary things for painting:

Firstly, you need to ensure that you have all the necessary things for painting PT timber.

A chart of tools and materials for painting pressure treated wood

Paint BrushExterior primer
Paint roller Exterior paint
Roller cover with a nap (3/8”)Epoxy wood consolidant (Two-part)
Roller screenMoldable epoxy resin kit (Two-part)  
5-gallon bucket 
Putty Knife 
Brush with bristles 
Moisture meter 

2. clean and wash away any dirt from the wood surface:

Commonly, the treated wood may get dirt while being carried from one place to another. It is recommended to clean any dirt, mold, or mildew from the wood board by using a bristle brush and soapy water or oxygenated cleanser.

Also, using quality wooden surface wipes can bring long-lasting results. Don’t forget to follow the instructions when brushing; otherwise, the wooden surface may be damaged.

Note: The wood side facing away from the sun is more liable for mold growing.

Now you need to clean the surface with fresh water, especially when dealing with a small project. But for a larger project, I recommend you use a pressure washer.

Tip: Ensure you keep the pipe 6” away from the wood surface as its fiber remains safe.

3. Thoroughly Dry the wood surface and Patch the Wood:

The main thing you need to ensure is that you allow enough time to dry out the PT lumber surface due to the following 2 reasons:

  • Chemicals used for treating wood
  • Water is used for cleaning the wood surface 

The drying process may take several weeks to a couple of months or even a year. If you are in a hurry, I recommend you go through a kiln-dried process to get a faster result.

Kiln-dried wood is best for those who have the urgency to hand over the project.

Later it is recommended to use epoxy resin if there’s any crack on the wood surface. Before ensuring that you will use epoxy resin, use double-part epoxy wood consolidant.

4. Check the Moisture presence:

Once you get a dried wood surface from cleaning, you can try the moisture meter to check the ultimate internal dryness of PT lumbers.

You can manually check the external dryness that we mentioned above.

5. Apply Primer on Wood:

Take a 5-gallon bucket and add primer to it. Now use a roller screen inside of the bucket. If there are any recessed, narrow, or high areas where the roller can’t reach, then use the brush to prime those spots.

6. Roll Primer on Wood:

Using a roller could be the best solution, especially for large and flat areas.

  • Firstly, soak the roller in the primer
  • Then on the roller screen, roll it out
  • Apply the roller to the PT lumber. Roll in 4×4 feet areas.
  • Complete the priming procedure with a roller slowly and patiently 

7. Paint the Wood through Brush where the roller can’t reach:

Now allow the primer to dry for 30-60 minutes. Ensure the roller screen and paint bucket are clean enough. Stir carefully after pouring the paint into the bucket. Mark the spots where the roller can’t reach and use the brush to paint them accordingly.


According to expert artists, box paint is best to get better color consistency. Take a large vessel, add the same color paint (several gallons), and then mix them well.

Step 8: Paint the treated Wood with the paint roller

When it comes to painting the wood, I recommend using a paint roller with a clean roller cover.

Allow the wood surface to dry after applying the first paint coat. If it is flat paint, wait at least 30 minutes to start the paint recoat.

You can wait 3 hours or more to get glossy paint; go for the second coat when dry.

Note: Don’t try to use oil-based paints. Using latex paint could be better because it sticks much better than oil-based paint. It may take a bit of time, but it can protect the coat from sunburn.

Does pressure-treated wood need a primer before painting?

Yes, of course, you need to apply primer before painting a pressure-treated wood. This science is because the pressure treatment makes lumber boards resistant to paint. If you use primer, then it makes the surface ready to catch the paint strongly.

However, choosing the right primer is significant to get the desired result. So make sure you have chosen the primer designed for external use.

Note: Apply the primer according to the instruction guide. don’t try a thick primer coat. Ensure you use a thin coat. A thin coat of primer dries fast and shows much more effective than a thick coating.

What Kind of Primer do You Need for pressure-treated wood?

Type of Primer Do You Need:

The best Primer for pressure-treated wood painting is Latex or water-based primer. But why Latex Primer? What makes it best for painting pressure-treated wood?

According to a study, Latex primer is best for painting PT lumber for the following reasons:

  • Waterbase
  • Fast drying
  • very mild odor
  • sealing properties
  • Mildew-resistant coating and
  • Multi-surface primer-sealer stain blocker with superior adhesion

The best primer for pressure-treated wood:

KILZ Adhesion Primer is known as one of the best coats for painting PT timber. This 1-gallon primer is ideal for small-sized interior/exterior projects.

On the other hand, if you want to deal with large projects, then it is recommended to choose KILZ Premium Latex Primer and Sealer, 5 gallons. Kilz primer for pressure-treated wood is specially formulated to accelerate the drying process.

What kind of paint do you use on pressure-treated wood?

Paint you need to use on pressure-treated wood:

The straightforward answer is exterior latex paint, the best paint for treated wood. But why latex paint? What makes it best for pressure-treated wood?

Latex paint is a water-based paint that shows superior adhesion and better flexibility than oil-based paint to PT timber. It is fast-drying and resistant to color fade. Besides, low levels of VOCs, Easy cleanup, and fewer odor features make it a favorite for many to paint PT lumber.

Some good paint for treated wood:

Rust-Oleum 1990502 Painter’s Touch Latex Paint is one of the popular packs for indoor and outdoor project surfaces, including PT wood. Also, you can choose the Diamond Brite Paint 11200 1-Gallon Latex Paint as an Off-White color exterior paint for pressure-treated wood.


The pressure-treated wood can be stained or painted, but you need to allow the treated wood to be dried ~ Tobias Dean, professional woodworker, and furniture maker for 35+ years.

Of course, you need to be careful about climate change and avoid heavy rain. Furthermore, if you can choose good quality exterior paint, then the rest of the task is done. Paint your pressure-treated wood and enjoy its glossiness. Best of luck!

About Adam Larry

Hello everyone! I’m Adam Larry, a pro woodworker, an expert project planner, and woodworking tools expert also owner of this website. From hand tools to power tools, I have extensive knowledge of all aspects of woodworking and take pride in creating beautiful and functional pieces for clients. I feel glad to share my woodworking experience with you with enormous excitement and enthusiasm.

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