How to Paint Pressure-Treated Wood Like a Pro

Pressure-treated wood is an excellent choice for decks and other outside features because it resists insects and rot. Yet over time, it can start to look rather ugly. A homeowner may want to refresh pressure-treated wood with a coat of paint. Is that possible? Yes. But you need to know what you’re doing in order to avoid a wasted effort.

According to the owners of Dallas Paints, a family owned and operated company in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the very properties that allow pressure-treated wood to resist insects and rot also make it extremely difficult to paint.

Pressure-treated lumber is treated with a variety of chemicals in the factory. Those chemicals act as preservatives. Strangely enough, they also lock in moisture. It is this that makes painting pressure-treated wood so problematic. If the wood is wet, the paint will not adhere; it will eventually peel away.

Start with a Thorough Cleaning

Successfully painting pressure-treated wood begins with a thorough cleaning. Dallas Paints recommends using warm, soapy water and a stiff brush. You scrub the wood as thoroughly as possible in order to remove all dirt and debris. After cleaning, rinse down the wood with a garden hose.

Let the Wood Thoroughly Dry

After cleaning, it is important to let the wood thoroughly dry. How long does it take? That depends on the natural environment, the weather, and the wood itself. Kiln-dried lumber will dry out faster than standard pressure-treated wood, but you still might have to wait a while.

Remember that pressure-treated wood naturally retains moisture. Provided you live in a fairly dry environment and you’re rain-free for a few days, the wood may dry out in that time. But be prepared to wait for a few weeks if necessary. It might even take a few months.

Knowing for sure that the wood is dry enough to paint involves a simple test. Use your hands to sprinkle a few drops of water on the wood. It is ready to be painted if it soaks the water up. If the water beads instead, it is still too wet to paint.

Prime and Paint the Wood

Once the wood is dry enough to paint, apply a coat of primer. Be sure to choose a primer appropriate for pressure-treated lumber. Your standard run-of-the-mill interior primer will not get the job done. You will need to find one that will both soak into the wood and stand up to the elements.

Follow the directions on the can of primer to the letter. Pay attention to temperature and drying time. In other words, you do not want to rush this. Take your time and do the prime coat right.

After priming, you will apply two coats of paint. Wait until your primer is completely dry before applying the first coat. Directions on the can will tell you how long you need to wait before applying the topcoat. Don’t rush this, either.

A Whole New Look

Provided you’ve done everything correctly, you’ll have a whole new look after your topcoat dries. Dry wood that has soaked up the primer shouldn’t cause any issues for your paint moving forward. Furthermore, a good paint should cause water to bead up and flow away every time it rains. You will know you’ve done a good job if that happens.

In closing, the most important factor in successfully painting pressure-treated wood is time. Only time can overcome the chemicals that preserve pressure-treated wood. Go slowly, give the wood time to dry out thoroughly, and use a quality primer and paint. You should end up with a finished job you can be proud of.

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