Pressure treated wood is the best option for exterior projects because of its durability. It is used for building decks, fences, and even playsets. Since the wood is constantly exposed to the outdoor elements it is important that it weathers and ages well.
A variety of chemicals are used to treat the wood and make it more resistant to moisture and general wear and tear. However, the treatment process often leaves a green color that people do not like. Staining the wood will make it look more attractive and give you an added layer of protection so it lasts longer.
This article will tell you everything you need to know about staining pressure treated wood and help you find the perfect products to use.
Does Pressure Treated Wood Need Stain?
Pressure treated wood does not necessarily need to be stained, but you can stain it. But if you don’t like the way that it looks and you want to change the color, staining is a great option. It gives you a nice natural look, and it also adds another layer of protection. Staining your pressure treated wood can help prevent surface cracking and may keep moisture out for longer, depending on the product you use. So, even though it is not essential, it’s definitely worth your while.
How Long to Wait to Stain Pressure Treated Wood?
You should not stain pressure treated wood as soon as you buy it. In fact, it is often recommended to wait a few months before you apply any kind of wood sealer or stain.
The chemicals that are used to treat the wood leave moisture behind. If you stain the wood too quickly, you add even more moisture and you can lock moisture inside, so the wood is more likely to rot. It is important that you let the wood dry fully before you apply a stain.
This takes anywhere from a few weeks to a few months which is why most companies encourage waiting before staining. The treatment will offer good protection, so there is no rush to stain straight away and you can wait up to a year or more if you are not concerned about the color.
What is the Difference Between Wood Stain and Wood Protector?
The main difference between a stain and a protector is that stains do not always protect the wood from moisture. Some products will simply add color to the wood, but wood protectors are designed to prevent damage to the wood and block out moisture. There are wood protectors available that stain the wood at the same time, these are often called ‘stain and sealer products.’
When using pressure treated wood, finding a product that blocks out moisture is not essential because the chemicals used to treat the wood already offer protection. But if the wood has not been treated, you need to use a wood protector to prevent rot.
10 Best Stains for Pressure Treated Wood
Using the right products is crucial if you want your project to look good. These are the 10 best stains for pressure treated wood.
Thompsons Waterseal (solid) is an excellent product that not only stains the wood but protects it from moisture too. The durable coating also gives protection against mildew and UV rays, keeping your pressure treated wood in perfect condition for much longer. UV rays often cause fading and can leave the wood looking dull and grey, but Thompsons Waterseal will prevent this.
Thompsons have a reputation for quality wood protector products for a good reason. Staining pressure treated wood with this product will protect it for years to come. You get a lot of great color options too, including; Acorn Brown, Woodland Cedar, Harvest Gold, Maple Brown, and Sequoia Red.
This is a water-based product that is closer to latex paint than some other wood stains. It applies brilliantly and one or two coats will be more than enough to give you a great finish.
SEAL-ONCE is another water-based product that offers the same benefits as an oil-based stain without some of the downsides. It differs from other stains because it uses revolutionary nanotechnology to deal with moisture issues.
Most stains form a protective layer over the top of the wood that doesn’t let moisture in, but also doesn’t let moisture out. But SEAL-ONCE creates a breathable layer that doesn’t trap moisture inside, which reduces the chances of wood rot. The polyurethane coating is incredibly hard-wearing, so it’s great for high-traffic areas like decking, and you’ll get full protection from rain, UV rays, mold, and mildew.
The breathable coating also prevents cracking, so the protective layer does not need to be reapplied as often. In fact, it will last up to 6 years before you lose the protection.
The other great thing about this product is that it doesn’t contain the harsh chemicals that you often find in oil-based stains. It is low-VOC (volatile organic compounds) and perfectly safe to use around pets and children.
You can buy different colored tints to add to the stain and change the shade.
If you want to color and protect a pressure treated wooden fence, this #1 Deck Premium Wood Fence Stain and Sealer is a great product. It is a water-based stain that is simple to apply with a brush or a paint sprayer if you want to finish the job quickly and get a nice even coverage.
When applied properly, you will get 3 years of protection before the stain needs to be reapplied. It is quite thin compared with other stains, so take care if you are using a brush to apply it.
This stain is available in 5 different semi-transparent colors that stain the wood but also retain and accentuate the natural grain.
If you are using this product, bear in mind that it is designed specifically for fences and won’t work well on decking or other horizontal surfaces.
Ready Seal Natural Cedar Exterior Stain and Sealer is a great low-maintenance solution for protecting and coloring pressure treated wood. It is also available in a range of other natural wood colors, and it’s quick and easy to apply. You don’t need a primer and once you have applied it the first time, you don’t need to strip or sand it before reapplication, making it easy to top up from time to time.
It can be used with a paint sprayer for easy application but brushing is simple too. It is formulated to go onto the wood very well and won’t leave streaks and brush marks.
This is an oil-based product that gives great moisture protection, as well as making the wood look great. It does contain more volatile chemicals than many of the water-based products on the market, so be careful if using it around pets.
Teak oils can be a very high-maintenance option for staining exterior wood because a lot of them will fade after just a few months. However, if you use Star Brite Premium Golden Teak Oil, you won’t have that problem.
If you have any teak furniture or decking that has faded after years of wear and tear, a good quality teak oil will bring it back to life and this product will give you a finish that lasts much longer. It brings out the natural grain of the wood nicely and gives it a great color.
When you are applying teak oil, you need to sand the wood first to help the oil soak in properly. Make sure that you don’t use too much oil and, most importantly, wipe away all excess once it has started to soak into the wood.
Star Brite also sells a great cleaner and brightener that you can use on particularly faded or damaged teak to get it in good condition before you apply the oil.
For a darker, more interesting color, use Luminos Cold wood stain. It is available in a range of colors including black, tobacco, or ocean. It isn’t the best option if you want to bring out the grain of the wood and maintain a natural look, but it’s ideal if you want something more contemporary.
It’s a water-based stain that is simple to apply with a brush and doesn’t require sanding before recoating. It dries quickly too, so if you are looking for a quick deck stain solution, this is it.
The stain is incredibly durable and won’t fade, even after a few years outside. But when it eventually does fade, reapplying is quick and easy.
TWP Cedartone VOC Stain has a great penetrating formula that soaks deep into the wood rather than forming a film. This reduces issues with peeling and cracking, so you get a nice finish for longer. It is specifically formulated for use on cedar, and although it will still bond with other types of wood, it’s best to use something else if you are not working with cedar.
This is an oil-based product and it’s a little thicker than others when it goes on. Using a paint spray to apply isn’t the best idea as you will still have to brush it in afterward. For the best finish, apply using a good-quality brush instead.
The General Finishes Exterior 450 range is an excellent selection of water-based wood stains available in lots of different colors. They are best suited to smaller fixtures and won’t work as well on large areas like decking. However, you’ll get great UV protection and mildew protection for things like wooden furniture or fence posts, etc.
This water-based stain dries incredibly quickly, so it can take a bit of getting used to when applying. Try it out on a piece of scrap wood first so you can get a sense of the drying time and avoid dragging when you use it for real. Ideally, you will need 3 coats (with sanding in between), which is more than other stains require but it does give you a great natural finish that lasts a long time.
The DEFY wood stain is one of the best options for hardwoods. It is a semi-transparent stain, so it lets the natural grain of the wood come through very nicely, but also gives excellent protection at the same time. It soaks deep into the wood and gives you a durable protective layer with a nice matte finish that is perfect for decking and furniture. The stain is made using high-quality resins that don’t fade as fast as other products, so you don’t need to apply as often.
This stain is particularly effective on decking made from hardwoods like Ipe, but it can be used on sofer woods too. For the best results, use a stripper to remove any old stain on the wood first.
The Cabot Semi-Solid Deck and Siding Exterior Stain is perfect for decking as it is scuff resistant. Durability is always a priority when you are staining high-traffic areas like decking, and this is a great option. It’s easy to apply too as you only need one coat for complete protection. The stain soaks into the wood very effectively, so you’ll get full UV and moisture protection with a single application.
This is a new low-VOC formulation that has replaced older versions of this stain. It is far more environmentally friendly and safe for use around pets but still gives the same excellent results when staining pressure treated wood.
How to Stain Pressure Treated Wood?
Applying the stain properly will ensure better coverage and superior protection, and it will last longer. Follow these basic steps to stain pressure treated wood fixtures in your yard:
1. Pressure wash the wood to remove any excess dirt and let it dry completely for about 24 hours before you start staining. If there are stubborn stains or mold and mildew, you can use a good quality wood cleaning product to remove them first. If you have already stained the wood in the past, you may need to use a stripper to remove it if you are changing the color. However, when reapplying the same stain, you only need to sand it.
2. Consider sanding the wood to create a better surface for the stain to soak into. use 120 grit sandpaper, followed by 240 grit to get a nice finish. Read more about sanding pressure treated wood here.
3. Use a good quality brush to apply a thick coat of stain across the entire surface, and spread it evenly. Alternatively, if using a water-based product or a thin oil-based product, you can use a paint sprayer.
4. Allow the first coat of stain to dry entirely before applying a second coat, then let that dry for a full day as well. If you are working in direct sunlight or high heat, drying times may be reduced.
5. Apply a third coat if necessary, taking care to cover all areas completely. If you want a very deep color, you’ll probably need to apply several coats of stain.
6. In between layers of stain, enough time for drying to ensure that each layer is dry before applying another one.
7. When all your coats have been applied and allowed to dry, the stain should be durable and long-lasting.
This basic process works for most products. However, every wood stain is different, so make sure that you check the application guidelines on the tin before you get started.
Make sure you know what wood you are dealing with, read our guide on how to tell if wood is pressure treated here.
Staining pressure treated wood is an excellent way to make it look aesthetically pleasing and give it an added layer of protection. The best products are those that soak deep into the wood and do not require multiple coats for good coverage. Also, make sure to look for products that give good UV protection as this will stop the wood from fading and turning grey. Finally, never apply stain without first reading the manufacturer’s guidelines about how to apply it.
Read my related deck stain articles:
- Deck Stain vs Sealer | What’s the Difference?
- Is Wood Stain Flammable? (All You Need to Know)
- 10 Best Exterior Wood Stains for Outdoor Use
- 5 Best Stains for a Mahogany Deck
- How to Remove Black Stains from Your Wood Deck
- How Long Should Deck Stain Dry Before Putting Furniture On It?
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.