Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood?

There is no shortage of old wives’ tales in the field of home improvement.

As in many other aspects of life, there is guidance and methods of suggested approach regarding different aspects of enhancing your home that not only couldn’t be further from correct, but also may unintentionally cause pain in the long run when they are followed.

Similar to how it does NOT actually take 7 years for a piece of swallowed gum to digest in your stomach (as within a week the indigestible synthetic portion of the gum should be passed through your system), pressure treated wood CAN be painted…but not necessarily in-line with the recommended methodologies that are out there.

Often, I hear clients relay that they recently had a pressure deck built and that the folks that built it said that they should wait 6 months to a year for it to weather before staining or painting it.

While I appreciate the thought process, this is certainly not true, particularly if you would like a fighting chance of having the coating applied last for any decent length of time (vs. peeling dramatically a short period of time after it is completed).

Simply letting pressure treated wood “weather” for 6-12 months will not allow the pores of the wood to “open” themselves to the point where they will allow stain or paint coatings to come anywhere near adequately penetrating.

Pressure treated wood really does not need to be “treated” – period.

The whole reason why it is manufactured the way it is, is to have wood that will last without having to treat it after it is installed.

In other words, staining or painting it at any point (although possible) is counterintuitive to the intent behind the process that makes pressure treated wood the product that it is in the first place.

Uncoated, pressure treated wood can last for decades without beginning to rot.

However, some people enjoy the idea of a stained or painted deck and would really like to coat the pressure treated wood if possible.

Although this can be done, letting it weather for 6-12 months after it is installed is not enough to in good conscience give the coatings that are applied any shot at lasting any reasonable amount of time.

The only REAL way to prepare pressure treated wood (no matter the length of time that is waited in between the time it is installed and the time someone would want to coat it) is to properly “etch” it through a process such as media blasting (NOT traditional “sanding”, sanding alone will not suffice in the context of this conversation).

Etching, via a method like media blasting, pressure treated wood is similar to processes used in etching concrete garage floors prior to applying epoxy systems to them.

Once the pressure treated wood is “etched” by the media blasting or like process, the pores of the pressure treated wood will be “opened up” to a point where they are able to most comfortably accept the proper coating system (solid stain, porch & floor enamel, etc.) that one would like to see in place.

Please keep in mind that any time a horizontal surface (think: deck floor, deck stairs, top of deck hand rail system) is coated, it is not a coating that should be guaranteed for any length of time due to a number of variables (snow/moisture resting directly on it for long periods of time, furniture being moved across the surface in many cases, people walking on them).

This being said, by correctly etching the pressure treated wood, a chance is at least provided so that the product being applied has as great a chance as possible for soaking into the wood.

So, can you paint pressure treated wood?

The short answer is “Yes”, if approaching the preparation of its surfaces quite thoroughly.

Should you paint pressure treated wood?

That is a whole different answer…from a structural standpoint, it is not really necessary to do so, but from a cosmetic standpoint, the inner designer in you may believe it is important and, in those situations, hopefully there is some comfort in knowing that it can be done, though perhaps not necessarily with the approach that is most commonly thought about.

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