painting pressure treated boardsPressure-treated wood can be both painted and stained with fantastic results. However, there are a few complications and considerations when it comes to painting your pressure-treated deck boards. Overall, painting the wood can help the wood last longer outdoors and reduce VOCs. You will need some patience to paint treated wood, but we can walk you through the steps so you can enjoy the benefits and the color of your choice.

What is Pressure Treated Wood?

Pressure-treated wood is simply wood that has been put into a depressurized holding tank. The process takes out excess air and puts in a water and preservative solution to protect the wood from insects and rot. Most often, pressure-treated wood comes from southern yellow pine as it’s best suited to the treatment.

For the most part, pressure-treated wood works best outside as the preservative solution can release VOCs into the air. Many people want pressure-treated wood for decks because it’s easy to maintain and can last for decades without sides of decay or rot. However, the wood still needs a deck stain, paint, or sealer to prevent mildew and discoloration from the sun.

Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

You can treat pressure-treated wood, but the process can take weeks and even months for the wood to absorb all the water before you can paint. Pressure-treated wood also needs more time to dry than untreated wood. All the water on the surface needs to dry before you can paint it, and it needs to stay out of wet weather.

Painting treated wood too soon after purchase can mean the wood is not dry and not ready to paint. The preservatives added to the wood can take a long time to dry and often are not dry until weeks after purchase. If you paint while the preservatives are still wet in the wood, the chemicals may slowly bleed out of the lumber and cause problems.

How to Prep

The first step in painting pressure-treated wood is to allow the wood to dry completely. Next, you want to clean the wood and let it dry again completely. Sadly, this can take weeks or even months. Plan ahead and buy the wood a couple of months before you need it and store it in a warm, dry location. Damp and dark locations may allow the wood to stay wet for a longer time.

Test the wood before painting to ensure the wood is ready to paint. Place a few drops of water onto the treated wood to test. If the water soaks into the wood pores, it’s dry enough for paint. However, if the water beads on the surface, then you need to wait longer for the wood to dry. Additionally, dry lumber has a yellow-brown color, while wet wood looks dark and green.

Moreover, you will want to clean the wood before painting to ensure a fabulous finish. Dirt and debris can mess up the finish and leave you unhappy with the finish. Use a mild detergent and a stiff brush to remove dirt, and again, allow to dry completely before moving on to the next step. Do not use a pressure washer as it can gouge the wood and reduce the effectiveness of the wood to prevent rot and insect issues.

How to Paint

Before painting, it’s best to apply a primer to the pressure-treated wood. Use an exterior grade latex primer and paint. You can also use paint with primer if you want to cut out a step but make sure to use high-quality paint. Check the paint before use and make sure the manufacturer says it can be used on pressure-treated wood.

With pressure-treated wood, you use a brush, roller, or paint sprayer. The latter will apply the most even coat. Between layers with a brush or a roller, you may want to do a light sanding with 220 grit extra-fine sandpaper to even out the coat for the best finish. Also, this allows the next layer of paint to adhere better. Make sure to clean the boards after sanding for a smooth finish.

Also, wait for each coat to dry completely before painting the next layer. Do not use oil-based paint as pressure-treated wood accepts latex paint much better. When using the wood outside for a deck, apply the paint to vertical, not horizontal, boards for a better finish. Paint will need to be reapplied every two to three years.

Drying Time

Pay attention to the drying time of the wood and the paint. Again, do not paint pressure-treated wood until it’s completely dry and passes the water drop test before painting. Then, apply the primer and allow it to dry. Latex primer can dry in just a couple of hours, allowing you to get to the next layer started quickly. Additionally, latex paint will dry in about an hour, but you should wait at least four hours before painting the next layer.

When to Get Professional Help

Not all people are prepared to take all of these steps and may prefer to hire a professional. If you are not willing or do not have the time to do the work, get help, or you will have wasted a ton of money! Professionals can paint and set up the deck for you with a high-quality finish. However, not everyone can afford professionals, and that’s okay too.


Painting pressure-treated wood is a viable option and easy enough to do but takes a lot of time for drying. With proper care, you can get the benefits of pressure-treated wood with the paint color of your choice. If you do not feel up to the task, you can hire a professional to do the work instead. However, those with the ability to paint will have no long with the process of painting deck boards so long as they ensure the boards are fully dry between each layer. Go forth and get the deck of your dreams.