When Can We Paint Treated Lumber?

The quick answer is – It depends. It depends on how dry the wood is when it is installed. Though this might seem obvious, and is certainly true, there are factors at work that might not be so obvious.

Here are a few of the factors that will determine how dry the lumber is and how soon it can be painted (or better- stained):

  • Has the material been stored indoors or outdoors at the lumber yard? (since this is material that will laugh at rain it is often stored outside in the elements)
  • How long has the lumber had to dry after it was treated (a wet process)?
  • How much sun does the lumber get where it is currently installed?
  • How has the weather been since installing the treated lumber? (Windy, dry weather is the best)
  • What region of the world do you live in? Consider the above criteria – (Hot, dry climate vs Muggy, cloudy environment)

Here is a way to test the wood to see if it is ready for staining:

Throw a small amount of water on a sampling of boards Рwatch to see if the water beads up (not ready to accept liquid Рnot ready to stain) or if it soaks in to the wood (ready to accept liquid and ready to stain) [this is sometimes called a “sprinkle test] repeat this test as needed

The wood could be ready in a couple of weeks to stain, though the general suggestion is to wait a month if you can – but be aware of the possibility that the wood is very wet and might have to wait a couple of months, depending on the drying conditions..

The same stains can generally be used for the varied materials though you may want to specifically use decking stains in the appropriate location, etc.

Can I leave the treated lumber unfinished?
Yes – you can leave anything unfinished, but it will be just that- unfinished. Even the treated lumber will deteriorate and decay with time (though you could be looking at decades of use still)- and it will happen much faster if it is not sealed with a finisher like stain or paint or water repellant.

And if the lumber is stained too soon?
If the lumber is sealed when it is wet, problems can occur.

-Water can be sealed in causing problems with the finish

-Sealed-in moisture can promote mold or rot and the wood itself can be damaged

Types of stain:
Stain has the advantage over paint for these sheds in that it is designed to penetrate the wood rather than surface-coat it. This should do a good job of protecting the wood and make any pretreatment in the future far easier than having to scrape the wood surface of old paint if that is what has been used.

Stain comes in a selection of transparencies, associated with pigment and protective content. The higher the pigment content the better the protection from UV rays from the sun. The higher the transparency (lower pigment) the better the penetration for the stain might be. Choose the balance you desire.

Sample categories:

Solid Stain- the highest level of pigment & the least transparency



Transparent- the highest level of transparency & the least pigment

There are also products on the market with basically no pigment- which can protect from water weathering but not from UV rays

Keep Warm, Glenn

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