Painting Pressure Treated Wood

22 Replies

One of my properties has a brick patio with treated wood guard rails.  The red brick color and the treated wood don't make a really nice color combination, and I'm thinking about painting the wood.  Now, I have certainly heard that painting treated wood is not ideal.  How absolute a statement is this?  Will the paint fail to adhere completely, or is it more an issue of the treatment chemicals bleeding back into the paint, or something else?  Can it be remedied by choosing certain quality paint or certain (I suspect dark) colors?  This is only rails, so there would be no foot traffic, etc on the painted lumber.


Shouldn't matter much whether it's treated. Prime first then paint with exterior paint. Oil-based paint typically holds up better. 

Jassem is about right.  The big thing is, it can be hard to get treated wood dry enough to hold paint -- especially when it's only a few months old.  If it's been there a while, you'll probably have good luck.

I painted some that was well-dried...used white...couple years later it looks good.

Plus, despite some potential challenges, the alternative is ugly grey wood!

Have you thought about using a solid color stain instead of paint?

I just had new railings and spindles added to a porch and the wood is pressure treated. The Sherwin Williams latex paint took to the new, and existing, wood really well. Thanks to the painter I am using I learned that the quality of the paint really makes a difference - you get what you pay for. I think he said my paint was about $30 per gallon with his discount. I can tell you that it was totally worth it. 

Thanks for all responses!  Much appreciate.  @Doug W.  

 Did he still use a primer?  If so, what brand

Originally posted by @Andrew S.:

Thanks for all responses!  Much appreciate.  @Doug W.  

 Did he still use a primer?  If so, what brand

Any time you're dealing with new wood you can tell if paint/stain will adhere by performing water test.  Sprinkle water on the wood and make sure the water soaks in, if the water beads up than the wood will need to weather longer.  You have a number of options but I prefer using a stain used for decks or porch enamel because it eliminates the need to use a primer.  If wood is in good condition than a stain will resist peeling better than latex paints/enamels.

You should not paint pressure treated wood, when you do, it seals it up and then rots from the inside out.  We all have stepped on decks / stairs etc that looked in good shape on top and snap in half showing the center all rotten.

You use exterior STAIN, your choice is then, semi transparent which shows the wood grain like regular stains or solid which looks just like a paint but allows the wood to breathe properly. 

@David Niles 

Stain is fine as well, but you're essentially saying that wood can't be painted because it can't "breathe", which, isn't true for treated or non-treated wood.  Many major paint manufacturer's not only warranty treated wood applications if you follow the drying period mentioned above, but, if you're interested,  they often have how-to videos for painting treated wood. 

@Kurt F.  Thats not essentially or otherwise what I said at all.  Regular framing and building wood is kiln dried down to a low level of moisture, regular paint is designed for this.  

Pressure treated on the other hand is injected with preservatives and chemicals at high pressure driving the moisture in.  You can paint it and it will probably look fine, I can also say with certainty from years of seeing it first hand that it will shorten the lifespan of the PT.

David, you might've missed my point.  Kiln dried or not, pressure treated or not, wood eventually takes on the moisture content of its surroundings.  Your argument of trapped moisture rotting the wood from the inside out should then be applicable to both, but it isn't for either case.  

You said that treated should not be painted -- manufacturers in fact allow painting  if procedures are followed, including adequate drying time.    

As far as shortened lifespan goes, you may be observing a particular instance, but I'm not sure you can generalize -- treated wood has been used and recommended for small boat docks where it's constantly wet -- like standing in water -- and often for years. 

In any case, with the treated wood, trapped moisture will simply make the paint peel back off long before any internal rot occurs due to the paint.

I suggest you stain it a color called weathered wood, because when you get tired of re-staining it that's the color it will be :)

Very good Kurt, by this point I believe Andrew has enough information to make his own informed decision.  Everyone has an opinion and way to do things and each is absolutely positive theirs is the proper and only way.  

Thanks again, everybody!  Good information for sure!

Funny, @Steve Babiak  

 - true though...

Thinly-veiled dig there, David.  I enjoy those.  Still, and very nice try, but you're not the voice of objectivity on this one.  You're the one that said definitively: "you should not paint pressure treated wood".  Which, is false.      

Here is a photo of what I'm working with. The vertical 6x6 posts were already there, as was the ceiling. Those were repainted. All of the railings and spindles are brand new (i.e. were unpainted pressure treated). I am out of town this weekend so I cannot say exactly what the paint was, other than it is Sherwin Williams, but I can post here again on Monday with the exact type. It is a paint + primer mix.

Looks like my posts with photos which I tried to upload while on a hotel wifi connection didn't work. Here is the photo I was trying to embed in my message on 9/6 to @Andrew S.   Of course I forgot to confirm that exact type of SW paint was used. 

FWIW, the builder who put in the new wood came by today and commented on how good he thought the paint looked. I didn't ask him specifically about it but he clearly had zero concern about what painting the pressure treated would do to it long term. 

In case anyone wants to know, the grey on the floor is Glidden Porch and Floor Steel Grey -- straight off the shelf at Home Depot.

Thanks @Doug W.  

 - and nice looking porch there!

Im a bit late to this party, but will add my two cents anyway.

Kurt F, im more with David Niles on this one. Common sense and experience trumps the recommendations of those in the business of selling you products. It is true, that if you allow enough dry time, and properly prep pressure treated lumber, it will hold paint... For a time. Let me ask you this... Would you rather scrape peeling paint, sand, spot prime, and repaint in say 5 years, or pressure wash and restain? As mentioned above, a solid stain looks like paint but stands up better to the expansion and contraction of the wood caused by temp and humidity changes. 

As far as manufacturer warranties... Pretty much worthless. They MAY give you more product, but chances of covering labor is slim to none. And failure most often happens outside of the warranty period. And they understand only a small percentage will even make a claim. Warranties, for the most part, only mean something to tradesmen. If they DO NOT follow manufacturer recommendations and product fails, its on them. 

@Randy F.  

I don't disagree with the bulk of your post, and none of it is news to me since I deal with projects every day.  I have nothing against stain -- and I use it a lot -- but the OP wanted to know if he could paint treated wood railings.  Which, of course you can.

My disagreement with David Niles stemmed from some misinformation on his part.    

@Kurt F.  There was no misinformation, just facts I see daily and over many years.  You can do many things, doesnt always mean you should. Manufacturers tell consumers daily things are fine, they want to sell you their product. As Randy said, their "warranty" will cover product but not the labor to redo it.  I'm sorry if giving professional advice from experience upset you Kurt but honestly get over it brother.  Paint anything you like and enjoy. 

@David Niles 

Fact like: "You should not paint pressure treated wood, when you do, it seals it up and then rots from the inside out."

And you see this happening "daily and over many years"?

Sorry, but no.

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