February 24, 2023

Should Pressure-Treated Wood Be Painted

Yes, but pressure-treated wood needs time to dry before painting. Expect 3-4 months before the moisture levels go down. Painting pressure-treated wood with the wrong materials gives you a peeling paint disaster under the best circumstances. Understand the properties and treatments of pressure-treated wood to make an informed decision. This article will take you through the process.

What is pressure-treated wood?

Pressure-treated lumber is a process that uses high pressure to inject a preservative into the wood. The treatment process extends the longevity of the wood, adding more life to the material. The chemical preservative used in the process makes the wood resistant to insects and moisture. 

It can even protect the wood in severe weather climates. There are 12 different levels of wood treatment based on the three locations you intend to use the lumber. These locations include ground contact, above-ground use, or marine use. Use the chart of use categories on the American Wood Preservers Association (AWPA) site.

The AWPA tells you how you use your wood to determine the treatment that it needs. Take extra steps to finish pressure-treated wood in indoor applications or outdoor projects where humans or pets might get in contact.

The chemicals in pressure-treated lumber are pesticides, meaning you should take precautions when dealing with the hazardous material. Use protective clothing such as gloves and face protection when working with pressure-treated lumber since the sawdust from cutting the wood can be an irritant. 

Advantages and disadvantages of pressure-treated wood



Pressure-treated wood is more affordable than cedar, redwood, and other types of wood. Due to its durability, you are less likely to experience costly repairs in the future. It is ideal for those operating on a smaller budget.


Pressure-treated wood is easy to work with and can be stained or painted in any color. If you are trying to match the color of an existing feature of your house, such as an interior hardwood, Pressure-treated wood allows you to. Paint or stain only when the wood is completely dry.


Pressure-treated wood is more durable than many other wood types since it is resistant to dents, scratches, and wear. It has extra strength for a long lifespan. It will last for decades to come with proper care.

Ease of repair

In case of an accident, pressure-treated wood is easy and affordable to repair. Pressure-treated lumber can easily be cut to size using a saw. Fasteners like nails will penetrate it easily. Drills can be used to bore holes through the wood easily and routers.

It is lightweight and can easily manoeuvre. No special techniques like welding to complete projects are required. With pressure-treated lumber, items can be built quickly and easily with little or no experience.

Insect repellency

The chemicals used in treating this type of wood repel bugs and insects, keeping them away from insect damage. That will save you more money over time than for insect-proofing solutions.


This type of building material is natural wood. The most commonly treated wood is pine, an environmentally-friendly choice because of its fast growth.

Moisture resistance

Natural wood left in moist or wet environments will soften quickly, allowing fungus, bacteria, and other microorganisms to take root, slowly decomposing the wood, unlike pressure-treated lumber, which uses chemical compounds based on copper. These compounds protect it from fungus and other microorganisms that cause wood to decay in moist environments (Epa.gov).

After treatment, it becomes ideal for decks exposed to moist environments. It even supports posts for docks and piers, where the lumber will be immersed.

Fungal resistance

Any amount of moisture and different types of fungus cannot get to the root structure of the pressure-treated wood. When wood is decomposed by moisture, it weakens. Pressure-treated lumber uses copper-based compounds, such as alkaline copper quaternary or copper azole, to prevent fungal growth. These combine with other copper compounds for insect resistance. The chemicals allow pressure-treated lumber works in applications that will be consistently moist, such as basements.

Insect resistance

Insects like termites and carpenter ants threaten any structure built with wood. They weaken it and cause dangerous structural problems, especially when the wood is exposed and moist. The copper compounds in pressure-treated lumber protect from insect damage.

Pressure-treated lumber provides a barrier that protects the structure from insect damage and other nuisance insects, such as cockroaches and spiders.

Fire resistance

The pressure-treating process injects insecticides and fungicides into the wood grain and fire-retardant chemicals to create pressure-treated lumber resistant to fire damage. Flame retardant lumber works in applications where the risk of fire increases, such as lifting-prone locations or near fireplaces.

Multiple sizes

Pressure-treated lumber is available in a range of sizes for different applications. These sizes are ideal for building purposes, posts, decks, docks, or piers. It also comes in multiple styles for more unique applications.


Pressure-treated wood is typically less expensive to purchase and install due to its ease of installation and use. Pressure-treated lumber works indoors and outdoors, where materials like steel would quickly corrode without a proper coating.


Splinters and checking

This decking material is made from natural wood. It will splinter with time. After being outdoors for months, treated decks may also experience checking. The wood begins to dry out and split apart due to exposure to alternate wetting and drying.


Colour fading is likely to occur as the wood is exposed to ultraviolet rays from the sun over time.


To protect your deck from splintering, checking, fading, or becoming porous and soft, stain and apply a penetrating sealer to the wood annually. Proper care prolongs its longevity.

Chemical risks

This type of decking is treated with chemicals for protection and can be hazardous when not handled well. If the wood is burned, trimmed, or cut, it can release harmful toxins into the air. Pressure-treated wood should not be used for gardens or in frequent contact with food and water. Small amounts of the chemicals can slowly leach out of the wood. 

Factors to consider when deciding whether to paint pressure-treated wood

When deciding whether to paint pressure-treated wood, consider the intended use of the wood, the desired appearance, and the need for additional protection. The wood might not adhere to paint; it may be durable enough not to require painting. Your final appearance determines the type of paint you need. For a natural finish, you may not need paint.

Steps for painting pressure-treated wood

  1. Clean your wood surface.
  2. Patch wood
  3. Test moisture content. Allow the wood to dry and weather for some time before painting.
  4. Brush primer on the wood. Use a primer and paint that is suitable for pressure-treated wood.
  5. Roll primer on wood. 
  6. Brush paint on the wood. 
  7. Roll paint on wood.


In conclusion, you can paint pressure-treated wood as long as it is dry enough. Painting pressure treated wood comes with more benefits than disadvantages. Follow proper techniques and precautions when painting for better results.

David D. Hughes

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