How To Paint Pressure Treated Wood

If you’ve got a deck or use wooden outdoor furniture like rocking chairs and tables. But, while pressure-treated wood provides great protection from the elements, it may not always fit your aesthetic taste. So, a lot of folks ask if it’s possible to pain pressure-treated wood?

The short answer is yes. You can absolutely paint anything made with pressure-treated wood. However, there are a few things you need to know before getting started. Below, we’ll go over information such as what pressure-treated wood is, the materials you’ll need to paint, how to paint pressure-treated wood and handy maintenance tips.

how to paint pressure treated wood
Building decks pergola and handicap ramp trek decking beams and pressure treated

What is Pressure Treated Wood?

Pressure-treated wood is a kind of lumber that undergoes a unique process that makes it much more durable and less likely to fall victim to mold, insect infestation, and decay.

These treatments may even make it fire-retardant.

Here are a few of the different types of pressure-treated wood.

  1. Ethanaly coated pressure-treated (EP) wood board made from recycled materials like plastics.
  2. Paint that’s over a top urethane layer. This creates a protective coating. However, this type of wood requires a bit more maintenance. But, this method also provides the wood with long-lasting water protection.
  3. An oil finish that’s made using chemicals such as copper azole (CA) or copper quaternary (ACQ).
  4. CCA or Chromated Copper Arsenate is a preservative responsible for giving treated wood its greenish color. This preservative protects wood from rot, decay, and termites. However, many environmentalists are against its use since it contains a toxic arsenic chemical. However, a study conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency shows that the chemical does not leach into the environment and is harmless to humans.

There are a few determining factors to look for if you’re uncertain whether or not wood is pressure treated. This helpful guide will show you some of the best ways to tell if your wood is pressure-treated.

Why Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

Folks often ask if it’s better to paint or stain pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood can seem rather plain, dull, and uninviting to the eye.

This is because the treatment process often leaves the wood with a tan, green, dark, brown, and natural wood color. Pressure-treated wood is more common to take on a greenish color, so many would rather paint or stain it.

Paint gives the wood a pop of color and provides an extra protective layer from the elements. Also, the odor from the paint can repel insects. And paint can further protect pressure-treated wood from moisture and dust.

Now, in some cases, websites might advise against painting in favor of staining pressure-treated wood. That’ is due to the poor results when multi-coat paint or varnish is used.

If you’re staining, you want to ensure you get the best semi-transparent deck stain designed specifically for pressure-treated wood so you can avoid completely ruining your deck.

However, if you choose to paint instead of stain, below, we’ll show you just what you need to get started.

Materials You’ll Need

Here’s a list of the things you’ll need to paint pressure-treated wood.

  1. A brush for cleaning your wood
  2. Mild detergent
  3. A paintbrush
  4. Primer
  5. Latex paint (enough for two coats)

Steps to Paint Pressure Treated Wood

Okay, now that you’ve got all your materials, let’s get started!

Step 1: Ensure it’s dry.

The first thing you need to do is to ensure your pressure-treated wood is completely dry. This is very important, especially if you’re painting in the morning or after it’s rained. An easy way to tell if the wood’s dry enough is by conducting a water test. All this entails is spilling a bit of water over the surface of the wood. If the water begins to bead up on the surface, this means the wood still needs more time to dry.

There are a lot of factors that dictate how slowly or quickly treated wood will dry. Moving your treated wood to a sunny area can help it dry faster, but it can also warp the wood. But, keeping the wood in damp and dark conditions can also hinder the drying process.

The truth is that for pressure-treated wood to dry naturally, it may take a few months, and sometimes it may take longer if you live in cool and damp conditions.

A moisture meter is one tool you can use to be absolutely sure the wood is dry enough. You’re good to go once the meter shows moisture below 14 percent.

Step 2: Begin with washing

Okay, this may sound a bit silly, but once you’ve ensured your wood is dry enough, you have to wash it. As you can probably tell by now, working with pressure-treated wood requires a bit more patience.

Start with some soapy water and a hard brush that will scrub away grime and dirt that accumulated on the surface. The brush and soapy water can also remove chemicals that will allow for your primer and paint to adhere properly.

However, I would not recommend using a strong pressure washer, as it can easily destroy the wood and force water deeper into its fibers (defeating the purpose of drying it).

Also note, if your project has a deadline, such as painting a backyard deck, you might want to use pressure-treated wood that’s been Kiln-dried. This type will significantly decrease your work time since it eliminates the need for long-term drying.

Step 3: It’s Prime time

Before we paint, we need to prime. Unfinished wood requires a primer before applying stain or paint. Due to the high content of solids, a quality primer will create a surface smooth enough for the paint to glide on easily. And it forms a protective layer. Since woods often soak up a lot of paint, this can cost more in expense and work that could have been saved by using a primer in the first place.

You want to ensure your primer matches the paint you use. Latex will need an oil-based primer or stain-block latex, while if you use oil-based paint, it needs a stain-blocking primer that’s oil-based.

Step 4: Painting time

Once your primer’s completely dry, you can start applying your paint. It’s best practice to apply two coats of the best quality paint you can buy. It’s also important not to forget to allow your paint to cure completely between coats. Re-coating before the first coat has a chance to dry will likely cause adhesion issues.

If you’re painting a deck, you may want to look into using a high-quality deck stain instead of painting. Even if you wish for a certain color, several opaque stains perform very well on horizontal surfaces.

How to Paint Pressure Treated Wood: Conclusion

As you can see, painting pressure-treated wood isn’t that difficult. The main thing to check is if your wood is dry enough before starting.

Priming and painting wood that’s not dry enough will eventually lead to problems down the road, such as peeling. It may take a little patience, but once the wood has a moisture level below 14 percent, you should be in the clear.

After that, the only thing left is using the right high-quality primer and paint that is formulated to work well together. And remember, allowing your primer and first coat to dry completely is vital to your success.