Painting Pressure Treated Wood For A Mellow Exterior

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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You may be having green and brown wood structures that can look better with brighter colors, but you don’t know if you can paint them. Moreover, you might be wondering if the paint will nullify the purpose of the wood treatment. In brief, you can paint pressure-treated wood.

We have, therefore, compiled information on what you need to know about pressure-treated wood before choosing to paint over stain pressure-treated wood. Ultimately, you will understand the importance of all steps you will take in painting pressure-treated wood.

What is Pressure Treated Wood?

Pressure-treated wood refers to lumber that has been treated for resistance against fungus or insect attacks and degrading. Subsequently, the pressure-treatment process involves submerging wood in a mixture of chemicals and then exerting it to high pressure to penetrate the chemicals deep into the wood grains. This process is then followed by drying the wood before selling.

Some commonly used chemicals for treatment include alkaline copper quaternary (ACQ) and chromated copper arsenate (CCA). Both compounds contain copper, which in turn is responsible for the green tint in treated wood. However, the use of ACQ in wood treatment provides a brown shade on the treated wood. Both colors are okay with chemicals made to repel insects and preservatives that prevent organic matter in wood from breaking down.

Consequently, pressure-treated wood has a longer life than untreated wood, making it suitable for outdoor applications such as fences and decks. Even with the exposure to varied weather conditions, it is bound to withstand such strains. One way to determine wood is properly processed is to check for miniature indentations and spaces on the surface. Suitably, these spaces occur because they help chemicals penetrate better into the wood grain.

In addition to understanding the pressure-treatment process, always remember that the chemicals used are not fit for human ingestion or inhalation. Therefore, you should always take precautions when handling this wood, such as wearing gloves when handling and dust masks when cutting or making holes. In this case of painting the pressure-treated wood, always ensure that you handle using gloves and thoroughly wash your hands after working on this product.

Types of Pressure-Treated Wood

1. Above-ground Pressure-Treated Wood

This type of treated wood is specifically good to use in well-ventilated spaces where it can drain when it becomes wet. Additionally, you should use this type of wood where you can easily access and maintain it. Preferably, you should place these wood at a minimum of 6 inches above the ground surface, such as on deck boards and deck rails where you can easily replace them.

2. Ground-Contact Pressure-Treated Wood

On the other hand, there is the ground-contact pressure-treated wood which has higher chemical retention. This type of processed wood is suitable for use in sections where it is difficult to replace and maintain wood. Therefore, this wood type can be used in contact with the ground because it has more resistance to rot. An example application of ground-contact wood is as a fence post that is anchored in the soil.

Paint or Stain Pressure Treated Wood

While applying pressure-treated wood for your outdoor projects, you will want to give a better appearance other than its brown or green post-treatment color. Consequently, you can either paint or stain. However, the very advantage of processed wood risks undoing your hard work when not done properly. Therefore, you should be careful when either choosing stain or paint options.

Accordingly, Pressure-treated wood experts recommend the stain pressure treated wood option over the painting alternative. Primarily, this is because the paint has low adherence to pressure-processed decks or wood due to the procedure and chemicals used during treatment. Apart from the poor adherence when you paint pressure-treated wood, painting requires more preparation than staining.

Also, if you use pressure-treated wood dries before it dries, there is a higher likelihood that you will fail in either stain or paint jobs. Therefore, you should use dry wood to either paint pressure-treated wood or stain pressure-treated wood.

In case you prefer painting your pressure-treated wood, don’t worry! We will provide you with proper steps to follow without your work coming undone. The main secret is understanding what goes on in making the pressure-treated wood and making it suitable to bond with your paint. Below is a section with steps to follow for you to paint pressure-treated wood successfully.

Steps to Paint your Pressure-Treated Wood

1. Dry the Lumber

Before painting pressure-treated wood, it is important to prepare, and the first prepping step is drying wood. Pressure-treated wood often takes time to completely dry after being subjected to treatment chemicals. Therefore, you might have to await between three to four months before new pressure-treated dries before applying paint. The other alternative to drying pressure-treated wood is buying kiln-dried pressure-treated lumber or Kiln-Dried After Treatment.

The latter drying process works by stacking treated wood in containment and subsequently apply heat for faster drying. As a result, this wood does not bend easily as lumber with moisture content due to the heat drying. Therefore, with Kiln-Dried After Treatment, you won’t have to wait long before painting it.

Conversely, if you don’t allow your new pressure-treated wood enough time to dry, it can bend and warp during handling. Therefore, it is always recommended that you build with your new pressure-processed timber right away if it is dry. Otherwise, you can flatly stack it in a dry area and await between three to four months for the wood to dry enough before painting. In the end, if you spend more for the Kiln-dried or wait out the drying process, you will be guaranteed an excellent paint job.

Additionally, it is important to ensure that your wood is not wet from snow or rain. As you stack them and await for your wood to dry, you can also use thin wood pieces that are wider than your pressure-treated wood (stickers). You should place the stickers below, and in between the treated planks, you should stack at a spacing of four feet. The spacing and placement of the stickers allow air between your stored wood for drying and align the wood straight until when you use the treated wood.

You will know if your lumber still has moisture, resin, and pitch if you handle your new boards without remaining with chemical residues on the gloves. Another trick you can use to tell if your wood is fully dried is by pouring some water onto the deck and observing what happens. If the water appears to be absorbed, it is a sign that the wood is ready. On the contrary, if the water beads on the board’s surface, the wood is not fully dry.

2. Clean the Deck

After you dry your pressure-treated lumber, it is also important to remove dirt before painting. This second step is crucial in preparing your pressure-treated lumber for a dirt-free final job. Also, it is important to clean the wood to remove the treatment chemicals on the lumber surface. Considering that will use water to wash your boards, it is important to follow a specific procedure to avoid adding moisture to the wood.

In practice, cleaning is simple because all you need is water with mild detergent, a spray nozzle, a detergent, and a scrubbing brush. You then begin with wetting your wood and scrubbing with soapy water to remove dirt. Then, rinse off the soapy water by spraying water. While spray cleaning your boards, make sure to avoid using a pressure washer because it can counter the potency of the treated wood pressure in preventing insect damage and rot.

3. Apply Primer

The third and last preparation step is to prime your pressure-treated wood. Specifically, you should apply a quality latex primer that is suitable for outdoor utility. On the part of a quality primer, be sure to apply a latex primer. Accordingly, applying a primer helps prevent peeling of the final coats of paint by optimizing the paint adherence to the treated-wood surface.

When applying your primer, you can paintbrush or roll every deck surface you intend to paint and allow the wood to dry for at least a day. Alternatively, you can spray your primer on your wood surface. The latter application method of spraying is best for its ability to paint into any crevices on your pressure-treated wood. However, the curing time for the primer varies across different brands, so you should read your product’s instructions for adequate time to dry.

4. Paint

After the prime has cured, you can now proceed and paint your pressure-treated wood with quality latex paint, suitable for exterior projects. Before painting, consider paint colors that will easily conceal the brown and green color of the treatment chemicals. However, you can still use light colors but expect to use more color coats to conceal the post-treatment colors.

Furthermore, you should apply at least two coats of latex paint of any color over the already applied primer. Latex paint refers to water-based paint, which is expert-recommended over oil-based paint. Subsequently, it would help if you waited at least a day after the first coat to dry your paint thoroughly. However, most manufacturers make sure they indicate the appropriate amount of time to wait in-between the application of each coat of paint.

Another important aspect to consider when painting pressure-treated wood is to match your select two coats of paint with the primer used in the previous step. Thus, latex paint should be matched with an oil-based primer or a water-based stain-block, while an oil-based paint specifically requires an oil-based stain-blocking latex. Bear in mind that either combination is possible for a primed deck.

In comparison to untreated lumber, it might require more patience to prep and paint a pressure-treated deck. However, despite the caution required for this job, you can be sure to complete a neat job that will last longer if you follow the stipulated steps.

Doing it Yourself vs. Hiring Professionals

Based on the detailed process of painting pressure-treated wood, it is an easy task that you can do by yourself. Additionally, primers and paints often come with instructions on how to use them, adding to the ease of painting. Therefore, with dry wood, primer, paint, and a brush or spray, you can save the cost of hiring a professional.

Alternatively, it is also fine to hire professionals to paint pressure-treated wood for you. The first major benefit of hiring professionals is that you’ll be able to save time and energy that you can otherwise spend elsewhere, either for leisure or work. Secondly, professional painters have a better knowledge of which materials are best for quality and long-lasting results. Ultimately, either decision will be fine if the final paint job is neat and will last a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions about Painting Pressure Treated Wood

1. Can you paint over pressure-treated wood?

Yes, it is possible to paint pressure-treated wood by carefully preparing your wood for maximum bonding with paint. Preparing your processed wood means ensuring it is dry and remove dirt before applying a primer and paint thereafter. Additionally, you should use the correct primer and paint as directed by the individual manufacturers. When you apply these precautions, painting pressure-treated wood should be easy with long-lasting effects.

2. How long do you have to wait to paint pressure-treated wood?

If you buy pressurized wood that is already dry, you can go ahead and paint it right away to avoid it soaking moisture while in storage. Conversely, if your processed wood is not thoroughly dry, you need to wait for it dry for best results. Newly pressure-processed wood can take between three to four months to completely dry. You can easily tell your processed wood is dry if it absorbs water and if your gloves are left with color residues after handling.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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