What Happens If You Paint Treated Wood Too Soon? (Fix It Now!)

Ryan Womeldorf
by Ryan Womeldorf

Wood that is pressure-treated has certain chemicals in it that help to protect it. That pressure treatment keeps it protected from termites, which can be potentially destructive. Since it doesn’t protect against the weather, that requires staining or an extra coat of paint.

If you paint treated wood too soon the paint will not be able to properly adhere to the surface of the wood. This means the wood may not get the proper coverage. Moreover, you will have to repaint the wood at some point, resulting in far more work to be done.

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Painting vs. Staining

It is important to note that there is a difference between staining and painting. Painting can be done with two things in mind. The first is the overall aesthetic. Being able to change the aesthetic is important as it can tie together the entire look that you are going for.

The second reason for painting is that, depending on the kind you choose, there may be protective qualities built-in. Some paints offer extra protection against things like water and sun damage. Don’t just look for a color that you want, look to see if the paint offers any additional protection as well.

Staining. Staining is quite the same but slightly different. The stain will keep that wood look, staining it a different color (hence the name). The main difference is that stains are meant to provide those protective qualities.

Stains can protect against insects like termites, moisture, and the sun. All of those things can be individually tough on wood, let alone the impact they have when coming together.

How to Stain Pressure Treated Wood

While it may seem simple enough to stain wood, there is more to it than you may realize. Follow these steps to ensure the job gets done properly.

  • Wait. Give the pressured-treated wood ample time to dry. Wait about 30 or so days before you consider staining it.
  • Clean. When the time comes to stain, make sure the wood is clean. Remove any mildew or mold as well as old stain that may be on the surface of the wood. Use a pressure washer or some kind of specified cleaning liquid. If you go with the former, check the PSI limits to ensure that you don’t do damage to the wood.
  • Dry. The important thing when staining is that the wood is dry. Since you have just cleaned the wood, it has to dry again. Give it another 3 to 5 days before moving forward to ensure that it has thoroughly dried.
  • Apply. You can use a paint brush or roller to do the job, just make sure that the stain is applied evenly. Do the ends as well since it will help keep moisture from entering through the ends of the wood.
  • Multiple coats. Check the directions on your particular stain or paint. Depending on which kind you went with, you may have to apply a second coat. And in some cases, a third coat may be required after 6-10 months.

Don’t Forget to Sand

One of the most important traits, whether painting or staining, is to sand the wood. The only instance in which you would not want to sand is if you are dealing with composite decking. Otherwise, sanding helps the paint or stain to adhere properly to the surface of the wood.

Don’t go overboard and sand too aggressively. For one, it isn’t necessary, and for two, you could create unevenness in the surface. Sand lightly so that the paint or stain adheres, and you will be good to go.

How Do You Know if Pressure Treated Wood is Dry Enough?

While it may seem like a simple proposition to ensure that pressure-treated wood is dry enough, that can be an easy misconception. Thankfully, there is a simple method that can be used to tell when the pressure treated wood is dry enough.

The sprinkle test. The sprinkle test is where you sprinkle a little bit of water over the surface of the wood. Should the water get absorbed into the wood in 10 minutes or less, the wood is ready to be stained or painted.

Should the water end up pooling or beading on the surface of the wood, that means the interior is not properly dried. In this instance, give it more time to dry before applying the paint or stain.

Which is Better: Painting or Staining?

If you aren’t sure which one is best for your situation, it is important to know the primary differences between the two. Though they are sometimes considered to be the same thing, that is far from the truth.

When compared to paint, stain is generally not quite as slippery. Staining means having a more secure footing on the surface that you stain. Stain also tends to adhere to the wood more securely than paint, particularly over a long period of time.

Remember, there are chemicals on the surface of the treated wood. Those chemicals are meant to protect the wood. They can also chip and peel paint should you go that route. Because of slippage and durability, stain is generally the much better option.

More Benefits of Staining

When compared to paint, staining is definitely the superior option. It is more durable and far less slippery. There are even more benefits to be hand from staining. Remember, the ultimate goal is keeping your wood secure.

So, what are the additional benefits to using stain on your wood instead of paint? Here are just a few of them.

Rot Prevention

One of the biggest dangers to wood that remains primarily outdoors is rot. When you use wood outside without staining it, moisture can seep into the body of the wood and rot it.

Rot has a few different impacts on the wood. For one, the surface will look less appealing than it did previously. Appeal is a large part of the process for wood. When that is compromised, it can ruin the overall aesthetic.

More importantly, the structural integrity of the wood can come into question. If rot gets to be severe enough, there is the risk of collapse. Wood that becomes overly saturated runs the risk of mildew and mold infestation as well.

Staining the wood right after installation means protecting the wood from additional moisture, one of the primary sources of rot.

Protection from the Sun

While moisture is a major factor in the degradation of wood, the sun is not far behind. And one thing to remember is that the sun is there far more consistently than rain and snow. The UV rays from the sun can cause discoloration on the surface of the wood.

Over time, the sun can fade and wear sections of the wood, creating an uneven appearance. Staining your wood can help to protect against the damage caused by those UV rays.

Preserve the Natural Beauty of the Wood

Part of the aesthetic of the wood is its natural beauty. That is one of the main reasons to go with a stain over paint: it preserves the patterns and natural look of the wood. That natural beauty of the wood needs protection so that it can remain that way for a long time to come.

There are stains that are semi-transparent. Those stains provide all of the qualities that a stain has without hiding the aesthetic of the wood. What better way to preserve the aesthetic of the wood while also providing the protective qualities that it needs?

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Getting Rid of Pressure Treated Wood

If you are looking to replace your current pressure treated setup, it is important that you simply do not throw them in the trash. Those chemicals are harmful and can be dangerous if not disposed of properly.

  • Give it away. You can always try giving the wood away. Do-it-yourself types will gladly take free pressure treated wood even if it isn’t 100% new.
  • Landfill. Landfills or dumps are a great way to dispose of pressure-treated wood that you don’t want anymore. If you can’t find one close to you, call the local environmental agency in order to locate one.
Ryan Womeldorf
Ryan Womeldorf

Ryan Womeldorf has more than a decade of experience writing. He loves to blog about construction, plumbing, and other home topics. Ryan also loves hockey and a lifelong Buffalo sports fan.

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