Paint Treated Wood

How Long to Wait Before You Paint Treated Wood


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Lumber and wood are difficult subjects to understand. Since the moisture content in lumber plays a large role in its appearance, use, and care, it can make matters difficult when you work with it.

One of the common questions in regards to lumber is “how long before you can paint treated wood?”

The simple answer to this question is that it depends. The answer lies in the moisture content. The wood needs to be dry for you to work with.

Multiple factors will make this decision easy for you. Let’s get into those first.

How do you know your treated lumber is ready can be painted over?

The state of treated lumber will depend on the following things:

  • First, you need to consider where it has been stored. Outdoor and indoor storage plays a role in the moisture content of the lumber. Lumber stored in outdoor conditions will have more moisture in them.
  • Consider the amount of sunlight it gets after it has been installed. Sunlight plays a large role in the drying process.
  • The surrounding climatic conditions need to be considered as well. Take note of the type of climate you have to be in, whether it is dry, hot, or cloudy.

These factors will help you gauge if the treated wood is ready to be painted over.

How to tell if treated lumber is ready to be painted over?

If you’re looking for an answer to how long before you can paint treated wood? You need to consider testing the wood first.

A test, dubbed as “sprinkle test,” will be required to see if you can stain or paint the lumber. This is how it works:

  • All you have to do is drop a small amount of water on the lumber.
  • If the water beads up on the surface, then it is not ready to be painted over. When water beads up, it means that the lumber has enough water inside. In other words, the moisture content in the wood will prevent the paint from setting in.
  • If the water gets absorbed in the surface, then it is ready to be painted over. When water gets absorbed in the wood, it signifies that the wood is ready to absorb exterior content. In other words, it means that the moisture content of the lumber is low enough to accept it.

The test above will help you determine how long before you can paint treated wood.

Steps to paint treated wood

After you have the answer to how long before you can paint treated wood, you will need to understand how to paint over the wood.

Here is what you will need:

  • Clean rag.
  • Degreaser.
  • Paint or stain.
  • Primer.
  • Paintbrush.

Step 1: Clean the surface

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Treated wood does not require you to sand the surface. The surface is already smooth enough for you to work with.

All you need to do is clean the surface to make sure dirt and other foreign particles cannot get stuck on the surface of the paint.

Use a degreaser if you have to.

Step 2: Let the wood dry

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Once you clean the surface, wait for the surface to dry.

Using stain or paint on a wet surface is not recommended. If you use the paint over a wet surface, it will not get a grip on the surface. Instead, it will spread unevenly to other areas.

What’s more, is that you could also see bubbles of the paint form on the surface when the water begins to evaporate.

Step 3: Apply primer

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The next step is to apply wood primer on the surface. Primer helps you season the surface for better adhesion to paint.

Also, using primer on wood helps you create a barrier for stain or paint. It helps in keeping excess stain or paint from getting into the wood.

Lastly, using primer also extends the life of the paint. All of these factors help you find a better finish in the end.

Step 4: Applying paint

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The last step in painting treated wood is to apply stain or paint. Make sure that the primer has dried.

Dip a paintbrush in the paint and even paint over the surface. If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to paint it evenly, you can make use of a sponge. Sponges help you ensure that the paint is even. Also, it gives a decent finish.

Next, you wait for the paint to dry.

Once the paint has dried, you will have to apply another coat to the paint. This will ensure that the paint coats are even and have a better finish.

What more to know about painting over treated wood?

  • You will need to understand the answer to how long before you can paint treated wood carefully. If you paint over wood before it has completely dried off, it will cause problems. Moisture content in the lumber will evaporate at some point, then it will get stuck between the wood and the layer of paint. This will leave an ugly mark on the structure.
  • Although paint and stain are good options to color your lumber, a stain is better. The reason is simple, stains are specifically designed for wooden objects. Stain penetrates the wood and gives you a better look. Stain is more of a pigment, which makes sense for wood. On the other hand, paint does not get absorbed easily into the wood.
  • When it comes to choosing the right type of stain, you need should go for stains with a higher pigment and protective content. But this is only true for those who are looking for stains for outdoor structures. If you want a stain for indoor structures, you can choose whichever you like.


With treated lumber, you just need to understand when to paint it over. You can make use of the test we mentioned. Or better yet, you can find a moisture gauge to measure the level of moisture content in the lumber. This will help you to decide if it is ready to be painted over or not.