Can You Paint Pressure-Treated Wood? – Methods for Protecting Wood
This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn a small commission from purchases made through them, at no additional cost to you.
If you’re wondering whether or not you can spice up your pressure-treated wood with some paint, or keep it looking pristine with varnish, the short answer is yes. However, there’s so much more to know about the concept and processes associated with this fulfilling DIY project. Pressure-treated wood can retain moisture from its chemical infusion much longer than expected. Painting it before it is ready will have poor results. As will using the wrong methods and products. Knowing as much as possible about the topic, including the different dos and don’ts, will make sure you don’t run into any mishaps during the process.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Pressure-Treated Wood?
- 2 How Does the Pressure-Treating Process Work?
- 3 How to Paint Pressure-Treated Wood
- 4 Alternative Methods for Protecting Wood
- 5 Frequently Asked Questions
- 5.1 Can All Pressure-Treated Wood Be Painted?
- 5.2 When Is My Pressure-Treated Wood Ready for Painting?
- 5.3 Which Paint Is Best for Pressure-Treated Wood?
- 5.4 What Finish Can Be Used on Flame-Treated Wood?
- 5.5 Can Pressure-Treated Wood Also Be Stained?
- 5.6 Can You Paint Pressure-Treated Wood Right Away?
- 5.7 What Happens if You Paint Pressure-Treated Wood Too Soon?
What Is Pressure-Treated Wood?
Before we get to all of the nitty-gritty details and detailed method procedures on painting pressure-treated wood, let’s first get into exactly what pressure-treated wood is. Pressure-treated wood is a method developed to preserve and protect wood from insect, mold, and moisture damage by means of infusing the fibers of the wood under intense pressure with a mixture of chemicals.
Chemicals used for pressure-treating wood include Copper Azole and Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) and provide long-lasting protection against fungi, termites and other insects.
As an organic material, wood can easily disintegrate over time. That means that you should ideally apply some form of protection such as varnish or paint for extra longevity. Methods for enhancing the durability of wood, such as saturating wood with protective chemicals under pressure, or scorching the surface of the wood to create a natural barrier have also been developed and used successfully for years. Pressure-treated wood can easily be identified by the color of the chemicals that stain the wood (green where CCA has been used). This wood can be painted, but certain procedures need to be followed to do so successfully.
Using both wood primer and paint on pressure-treated wood creates an excellent barrier against any external factors that cause your precious wood to deteriorate, including extreme temperatures and harsh direct sunlight.
How Does the Pressure-Treating Process Work?
To answer the question of “can you paint pressure-treated wood?” and defining what exactly pressure-treated wood is, it’s always good to know exactly how the process works. For maximum convenience and proven durability you can buy commercially pressure-treated wood directly from a supplier. This will ensure that your wood will be thoroughly protected from within using a process that would be very difficult to achieve at home.
A manufacturing company will check their recently-arrived order of wood for any moisture, just as you would do at home if you were to do the process of sealing wood yourself. Forklifts will proceed to lift the wood onto a tram which places the wood into a cylinder-type structure (as this process is done in bulk). The vacuum pressure vessel closes once all the wood has been loaded safely into it to begin the process. Air is sucked out of the cylinder and the chemical preservative is injected into the mechanism; placing pressure onto the wood to ensure it penetrates the wood adequately.
The pressure treatment process is done over various cycles that are customized according to what type of wood is being used. Once done, the preserving solution is drained from the chamber with a vacuum-type mechanism used to ensure all excess product has been removed from the wood. This removal process may be repeated to ensure that no superficial residual preservatives remain.
The wood is removed from the cylinder and placed out onto a form of a drying rack or drip pad to fully dry out. The drying out process can take anywhere from one to two days. The extent of the chemical infusion is usually indicated on the product before it is sent off to its final destination.
How to Paint Pressure-Treated Wood
If you have completed your construction project using pressure-treated wood and have waited for it to dry out completely, you can now begin the process of painting it. While this process can be quite simple, it is important to follow the steps correctly to ensure the best results.
The Products You’ll Need
- A bowl
- A hard bristle brush
- A soft brush
- Wood primer
- Latex-based paint
- Wood primer (water or latex-based)
Your wood needs to be cleaned before any painting can begin. To do this, create soapy water and grab your bristle brush. Thoroughly clean the wood with the soapy brush and then rinse it off with clean water to get rid of any leftover residue. Let it dry out to prepare the wood for the next step.
Once you’re confident that the wood is completely dry, it’s time to prep your wood with some wood primer. Make sure the primer you use is suitable for pressure-treated wood. Apply the primer along the grain to produce an even coating and wait a full 24 hours for it to dry. After a full 24 hours, you can finally paint over your wood with your chosen paint. Grab a soft brush and go over the now-primed wood, giving it at least two coats for the desired look.
When choosing paint for your pressure-treated wood, it is advised that you steer clear from oil-based paints, as there is the potential for unwanted adverse chemical reaction with the chemicals preservatives in the wood.
Allow the paint cure over a day or two and then you have striking pieces of durable wood that are ready to be used in your next DIY project, armed with both visual appeal and protection against the elements.
Alternative Methods for Protecting Wood
If you’ve got extra time on your hands and want to do try your hand at treating/sealing wood yourself, there’s a fairly simple way to achieve it without the use of any fancy products or machinery. The simplest method is to apply a good quality wood varnish or sealer to your wood.
As these products are not infused into the fibers of the wood, as happens in pressure treatment, the wood will be less resistant to mold and insect damage. The upside is that you will not have to wait weeks for your wood to dry out and you will not have to worry about having chemicals in your woodwork.
If you want a very eye-catching finish that really enhances the grain of your wood while also giving it a deep rich color, then you can use a flame-treatment method where the surface of the wood is scorched to create a protective barrier against the elements. Know as Shou Sugi Ban, this method works better on some wood types than others, and may take some practice to perfect.
The Products You’ll Need to Varnish Wood
- Both a wet and dry towel
- A paintbrush
- Wood varnish or sealant
How It Works
Once you’ve got all the necessary products to process and seal your wood, you’re ready to get down to business. First, you need to check every part of the wood to ensure that there is no presence of mold or rot, as this can have devastating consequences on your finished product in the future. Having checked your wood, wipe it down with a dampened cloth. Follow this action by wiping down the wood with a dry cloth to fully rid the wood of any water residue that may have been left behind.
Now that you’re confident in your wood being clean, leave it dry completely. The best process for this is to place it in an area where there is adequate ventilation, and where the wood can be protected by the elements too. Don’t use any technology to accelerate the process or it can interfere with the quality of the process. The drying process can be expected to take a couple of days.
Finally, after a minimum of three days, you can begin the wood treating process. Grab your paintbrush and apply one layer of varnish or wood sealant over your now-dried wood. Long, consistent strokes are advised for a smooth texture. Once the first coat has dried fully, you should apply another coat for the best results.
The Products You’ll Need to Fire-Treat Wood
- A blowtorch
- Wood varnish or sealant
- Sandpaper or a wire brush
- Wood sealer/linseed oil if preferred
How It Works
If you’re in the mood for a bigger challenge than simply treating your wood with a stain or sealer, there is a different approach you can take. This approach is ideal for those looking to preserve their wood with a unique grain-enhancing finish. This classic form of preserving wood by charring the surface with a flame is said to have become popular in 18th century Japan and is referred to as Shou Sugi Ban. This particular process results in wood with a unique darkened grain finish and can survive the test of time.
The kind of wood you should use depends on where you live and what type of woods you have access to, but generally, cedar, pine, and spruce wood are best suited for this method. Once you have your suitable wood, use your blowtorch to gently char the surface of the wood. Be careful not to use it for too long in one area.
Once that’s done, grab your wire brush or sandpaper (whichever you prefer) and remove the top burnt layer of wood, but don’t smooth the wood too much as it may lose its appealing textured finish. The final stage sees you making use of your preferred varnish to coat, seal, and finish off the look. This aesthetic is becoming a widely-loved choice, especially in home decoration and renovation. Thanks to this method, you don’t need to paint treated wood to give it a visually appealing finish.
A Basic Safety Guide
Onto the safety aspect of the entire process. Here are some basic safety tips that should keep in mind when pressure-treating wood with fire to avoid any mishaps. These simple steps will help you ensure a smooth Shou Sugi Ban process:
- Ensure you do this process in a space without any flammables nearby, and ensure your sealant is not nearby during the burning process.
- Always use the relevant safety gear such as protective gloves, goggles, and overalls to avoid any exposure of toxins or fire to your skin.
- The process is also considered to be rather messy as the charred flakes can easily come off on other items. Keep all valuables far away during the process.
You can go and try any of these above-mentioned methods to effectively seal your wood. The best choice for you will depend on how challenging you wish for the process to be and what your desired outcome is in terms of its finish. If you’re still left with some questions on how to finish pressure-treated wood, our frequently asked questions section may have some other questions that may only pop up during the process and need clarity.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can All Pressure-Treated Wood Be Painted?
Luckily, the process of painting treated wood can be done to any kind of pressure-treated wood; leaving you with a myriad of options to choose from when it comes to your preferred choice of wood. The key is to ensure that your wood is completely dry before applying any type of finish.
When Is My Pressure-Treated Wood Ready for Painting?
If you treat painted wood too soon your project will end in disappointment, both in regards to the finished look and the quality of the wood. Pressure-treated wood may take a surprisingly long time to dry, anywhere from a few weeks, to even a couple of months! The best way to know whether or not your pressure-treated wood is fully dry is to be patient and wait a few months (around four months maximum will ensure completely dry wood) before applying any paint to it.
Which Paint Is Best for Pressure-Treated Wood?
There’s a significant reason why oil-based paints should preferably not be used to paint pressure-treated wood, as their carriers and base products can significantly impact the outcome of the project. Water and latex-based paint is advised by the experts thanks to their quick drying nature and durability.
What Finish Can Be Used on Flame-Treated Wood?
When it comes to the Shou Sugi Ban process, it’s advised you simply seal it with a wood finish or linseed oil, as the required protection is already provided by the flame-treatment.
Can Pressure-Treated Wood Also Be Stained?
Pressure-treated wood doesn’t necessarily need to be painted to look visually appealing. Many individuals enjoy the stained look, and some prefer staining the pressure-treated wood for DIY projects as opposed to painting over it. Many prefer the finish of stained wood to paint. Just keep in mind that if your wood has been treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) it will have a green tint which may affect the color of the stain, so be sure to test it on a small area first.
Can You Paint Pressure-Treated Wood Right Away?
Even if you bought your wood from a place that sourced it from a manufacturer, it may still not be fully dry and ready for the painting process. You should wait at minimum a few weeks before you begin your DIY job, but if you want to be confident that the wood is ready, it’s advised you wait around four full months. This truly is a passion job that’s worth the wait!
What Happens if You Paint Pressure-Treated Wood Too Soon?
Pressure-treated wood that is painted too soon doesn’t provide a smooth finish and may result in a DIY project that looks shoddy and uneven. Not to mention, any work that is done when the wood is not ready will need to be redone at some point, as the paint peels away quicker. Repeating the process creates extra work which may have easily been avoided in the first place, had it been done at the right time.