The Consequences of Painting Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon: A Comprehensive Guide

Bob Thomas


Hey there, fellow DIY enthusiasts! I'm Bob Thomas, your friendly neighborhood painting and decorating expert.

Today, we're going to talk about a common mistake in the DIY world: painting pressure treated wood too soon.

Let's dive into the details, shall we?

Quick Summary

If you're in a hurry, here's the gist: Painting pressure treated wood too soon can lead to a 1) poor finish, peeling paint, and long-term damage to the wood. It's essential to let the wood 2) dry thoroughly before painting, typically for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the conditions. Proper  3) preparation and patience are key to a successful and long-lasting paint job.

Now, if you have more time, I'd suggest you stick around for the nitty-gritty details. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

Understanding Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure treated wood is a popular choice for many outdoor projects due to its durability and resistance to rot and insects.

However, this type of wood is often saturated with preservatives, leaving it damp.

So, what happens when you get a bit too eager and slap some paint on it before it's properly dried?

Let's explore.

The Consequences of Painting Too Soon

1. Poor Adhesion:

The most immediate issue you'll notice if you paint pressure treated wood too soon is poor adhesion.

The paint simply won't stick properly to the damp wood and will start to peel off, leaving your project looking less than stellar.

2. Bubbling and Blistering:

As the wood dries out, the moisture tries to escape. If there's a layer of paint in the way, the result is bubbles and blisters in your paint job.

3. Mold and Mildew:

Worse still, trapped moisture can lead to mold and mildew, which can damage the wood and pose a health risk.

Pro Tip: Always check the moisture content of your pressure treated wood before painting. Use a moisture meter for accurate results. It's a handy little device that will save you a world of trouble.

Proper Preparation for Painting Pressure Treated Wood

Tools and Materials
Recommended Product

Moisture meter

General Tools MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter


Gator Finishing 7800 Step-123 Micro Zip Sander Project Pack


KILZ Premium High-Hide Stain Blocking Interior/Exterior Latex Primer


BEHR Premium Plus Exterior Paint and Primer in One


Rust-Oleum Clear Topcoat

Steps for Painting Pressure Treated Wood

  1. Check the Moisture Content: Using a moisture meter, ensure that the wood's moisture content is below 15%. If it's higher, you'll need to wait for it to dry out.
  2. Prepare the Surface: Once the wood is dry, use a 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain for the best results.
  3. Apply Primer: Using a high-quality primer like KILZ Premium, coat the wood evenly. The primer seals the wood and provides a base for the paint to adhere to.
  4. Paint the Wood: After the primer has dried, apply your chosen paint. I recommend using BEHR Premium Plus for its excellent coverage and durability. Start from the top and work your way down, using even strokes.

Preventing Common Mistakes

Now that you know the consequences of painting pressure treated wood too soon, let's talk about how to avoid making this mistake in the first place.

Here are some tips:

  1. Patience: I can't stress this enough. Letting your wood dry thoroughly before you paint is crucial for a successful paint job.
  2. Check the Moisture: Remember to use a moisture meter to check the wood before you begin. This tool will help you avoid painting too soon.
  3. Right Tools and Materials: Always use the right tools and materials for your project. Using high-quality paint and primer can make a big difference in the outcome.
  4. Proper Technique: Follow the correct steps when painting: check moisture, prepare the surface, apply primer, paint, and finally, apply topcoat (if desired).
  5. Seek Advice: If you're unsure about something, don't hesitate to seek advice. There are plenty of resources online, and experienced DIYers or professionals are usually happy to help.

Safety, Risks and Considerations

As with any DIY project, safety should always be your first consideration.

Pressure treated wood and the products used to paint it can pose certain risks if not handled correctly.

Here are some crucial safety measures, potential risks, and considerations when painting pressure treated wood:

  1. Handling Pressure Treated Wood: Pressure treated wood contains chemicals to enhance its durability. While this is great for longevity, it does mean you should handle the wood with care. Always wear gloves when handling pressure treated wood, and consider a mask if you're sawing or sanding it to prevent inhaling dust particles.
  2. Use of Chemical Strippers or Solvents: If you're stripping old paint or applying solvents, ensure you're in a well-ventilated area. Many of these products contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful if inhaled or if they come into contact with your skin.
  3. Sandpaper and Dust: When you're sanding the wood, tiny particles become airborne and can easily be inhaled. Always wear a dust mask and eye protection to keep these particles out of your respiratory system and eyes.
  4. Paint and Primer Fumes: While painting, it's crucial to work in a well-ventilated area or outside to avoid inhaling too many paint fumes. Consider wearing a mask, especially if you're sensitive to these fumes.
  5. Proper Disposal: Pressure treated wood and any rags or brushes soaked in chemical strippers or solvents need to be disposed of properly. Check your local regulations to ensure you're compliant.
  6. Weather Considerations: Painting in extreme conditions can affect the outcome of your project. Too hot, and the paint can dry too quickly, leading to an uneven finish. Too cold, and the paint may not adhere properly or take longer to dry. Always check the paint manufacturer's recommended application temperatures.
  7. Allow Proper Drying Time: One of the biggest risks when painting pressure treated wood is not allowing enough drying time. As we've discussed, painting too soon can lead to a host of problems, including peeling, blistering, and potential mold growth.

By keeping these safety precautions, risks, and considerations in mind, you'll be well on your way to completing a successful and safe DIY project with pressure treated wood.

Remember, safety first!

Frequently Asked Questions Section (FAQs)

Q. I painted my pressure treated wood too soon, and now the paint is peeling. Can I fix it?

  A: Yes, it can be fixed, but it will take some work. You'll need to remove the peeling paint, possibly with a paint stripper, and then sand the surface smooth.

Once the wood is bare again, check the moisture content. If it's below 15%, you can then prime and repaint.

If not, you'll need to wait until it dries sufficiently.

Q. Is it the same to paint or stain pressure treated wood too soon?

  A: Yes, the same principles apply whether you're using paint or stain. Both need a dry surface to adhere properly and will face similar problems if applied too soon, such as peeling or blistering.

Q. Can I speed up the drying process of pressure treated wood?

  A: While you can't control the weather, placing the wood in a dry, sunny, well-ventilated area can help it dry out faster.

However, don't try to artificially speed up the process with heat sources like heaters or blow dryers, as this can cause uneven drying and potential warping of the wood.

Q. Can I use a sealant instead of paint on pressure treated wood?

  A: Yes, you can use a sealant, but the wood still needs to be dry before application. A sealant can provide a protective layer against weather and wear, but it won't adhere properly to damp wood.

Q. I painted pressure treated wood too soon, and now I see mold. What should I do?

  A: If you spot mold or mildew, you'll need to address this immediately.

Remove the paint from the affected area, treat the mold with a suitable mold killer, then allow the wood to dry completely.

Once it's dry, you can repaint the wood. Always wear protective gear when dealing with mold.

Q. How can I tell if the wood is dry enough to paint?

  A: A moisture meter is the most accurate way to check.

The moisture content should be below 15%. If you don't have a moisture meter, another test is to sprinkle some water on the wood.

If the water beads up, the wood is likely still too wet. If it soaks in, it might be dry enough.

Q. Can I use any type of paint on pressure treated wood?

  A: Exterior paints are typically the best for pressure treated wood because they're designed to withstand the elements.

It's also recommended to use a primer before painting to improve adhesion.


Painting pressure treated wood requires a bit of patience and preparation, but the results are worth it.

By waiting for the wood to dry properly before painting, you can ensure a beautiful, durable finish that will last for years to come.

Always remember: patience and preparation are the keys to a successful DIY project. Until next time, happy DIY-ing!

Suggested Products:

Wagner Spraytech 0518080 Control Spray Max HVLP Sprayer: This is a top-notch sprayer that's perfect for applying primer and paint to pressure treated wood. It offers maximum control over the paint flow and pattern, which is essential for achieving a uniform, professional-looking finish.

Wagner Spraytech 0282014 915 On-demand Steam Cleaner: This steam cleaner is excellent for removing old paint, speeding up the drying process of the wood, and even treating areas affected by mold or mildew. It's a versatile tool that can make the preparation process much more manageable.

Dr.meter Intelligent Moisture Meter: Accurate and easy to use, this moisture meter is ideal for checking the moisture content of your pressure treated wood. It's a crucial tool to prevent painting the wood too soon.

DEWALT Random Orbit Sander, 5-Inch (DWE6421K): Sanding is an essential step in preparing pressure treated wood for painting. This DEWALT sander is durable, powerful, and designed for comfortable, long-term use, making it an excellent choice for smoothing the wood surface.

INSL-X AQ040009A-01 Aqua Lock Plus 100% Acrylic Water-Based Sealer and Primer: This primer is excellent for sealing pressure treated wood and providing a good base for paint. It's water-based, which makes cleanup easier, and it's designed to adhere well to a variety of surfaces.

Valspar Duramax Flat Exterior Paint and Primer: This paint and primer combination is known for its excellent coverage and durability, making it a fantastic choice for pressure treated wood. It's also resistant to mold, mildew, and algae, offering additional protection for your outdoor projects.

Minwax 630500444 Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane: For a topcoat, this product from Minwax is a top choice. It's a water-based protective clear finish for exterior or interior wood that's exposed to sunlight, water, or temperature changes. It'll add a protective layer to your painted surface, ensuring the longevity of your project.

About the author 

Bob Thomas

A fully certified interior decorator and house painter , Bob Thomas brings immense expertise and knowledge amassed from many years of hands-on experience with residential, commercial and specialty painting and decorating projects of all sizes and scopes.

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