Can You Stain Pressure Treated Wood

Last Updated on November 25, 2020

Pressure-treating wood with insecticide protects against rot and decay making it ideal for outdoor projects such as a wood deck or a garden fence.

But over time your wood will be exposed to the sun and the elements so unstained pressure-treated wood will turn grey and lifeless. The surface of the wood may also crack and splinter.

So can you stain pressure treated lumber to get your deck, fence, or wendy house in the color you want and to give it some extra protection?

Let’s take a deeper look.

Can Pressure Treated Lumber Be Stained?

Yes, pressure-treated wood can be stained. Staining pressure treated wood will further protect the wood against sun damage and dirt.

Since the wood is treated against rot your deck or fence should last a long time. It’s going to be around for years.

If you stain your pressure treated wood deck it will look better for longer.

If you like the color you can choose a wood sealer rather than a wood stain. A transparent wood seal will protect the wood but allow the color of the pine to come through.

If you don’t like the color then go ahead and stain your pressure-treated structure to something closer to your preference.

With the right product, you can stain pressure-treated pine to look more like cedar, although you may need to apply a few coats over the years.

Craig is delighted with how his deck stain protected his deck:

Should You Stain Pressure Treated Wood

It’s a personal deciscion whether you SHOULD stain pressure treated lumber.

Some people like the grey color that aged pressure treated wood acquires.

If you are turned off by the yellow pine color understand that it won’t always look like that.

If you do decide to stain your project you may need to restain the wood every few years to keep it looking as beautiful and to maintain the protection.

Treated lumber can be stained, but it won’t stay looking brand new forever.

Sometimes it’s better to accept the process and age gracefully.

Can You Stain Pressure Treated Wood Right Away?

You can only stain a pressure-treated wood deck or fence once the wood has dried.

How soon you can stain pressure-treated wood depends on the climate and how wet the wood was at installation time.

There is no fixed time period that you need to wait before staining new pressure-treated wood. It could be a few weeks or it could be a few months.

There’s only one thing for it. You need to test the wood.

How To Test If Pressure Treated Wood Is Ready To Stain

The best way to test if pressure-treated wood is ready to stain is to sprinkle some water on it.

With wet pressure-treated wood, the water droplets will bead on the surface.

On the other hand, dry pressure treated wood will absorb the water beads within 10 minutes.

If the water is quickly absorbed into the pressure-treated lumber it means that the wood is dry and the next step is to stain it as soon as possible.

Alternatively, you could build your project with kiln-dried wood which will be ready to stain immediately as Austin found out:

Oil Stains vs Water Stains For Pressure Treated Wood

To apply an oil stain the pressure treated wood must be dry. Remember oil and water don’t mix. If you want your stain to be absorbed by the wood you’ll need the wood to be dry.

The great thing about an oil-based stain is that you can apply a new coat every few years to keep it looking beautiful.

With a water-based stain you’d need to remove the old coat before applying a new coat.

That sounds like too much work for me!

Jeff stained his wood retaining wall and it turned out great:

Can Pressure Treated Wood Be Sanded?

If your treated deck or fence has been installed for some time you might be wondering if you can sand it before staining.

You can sand treated wood lightly but keep in mind that the chemicals and preservatives that the wood has been treated with are toxic.

Philip felt he made his treated wood look like “real wood” by sanding, shellac, filling and priming:

A heavy sanding would take away the treatment making the wood susceptible to rot.

You must wear a respirator and use dust collection to make sure you don’t breathe in toxic wood dust.

A pressure washer is a good way to clean away any dirt, grime, and mildew before staining. Also just scrubbing the wood surface with a brush can help get it ready for staining.

Always make sure your pressure treated deck is free from moisture before staining it.

The Verdict

You can and probably should stain pressure treated wood. It looks great!

If you don’t want to change the color then use a transparent wood sealant.

If you do want to change the color then a transparent stain will allow the grain of the wood to come through while changing the color.

A semi-transparent stain will have more pigment but still allow some wood grain to show.

And a solid stain will behave almost like paint but be much more suitable than paint.

You have many options. You can get those deck boards the exact color you want and looking great for many years to come.

But remember, once you decide to stain your project you can’t go back.

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