My husband is installing a new deck with pressure-treated lumber at our home in Tennessee.

How long does he need to wait to paint, or should he stain the deck now?

9 Answers 9


I am a painter and I build also and I personally will not warranty the work unless it's after 6 months. Pressure treated (PT) lumber takes months to shrink and re-contract on and off so the paint will crack and not adhere correctly. Also, the PT you buy at Lowe's or Home Depot gets moved around a lot so you may have a load of wood with boards that are weeks apart from drying. Personally, and unfortunately, I would wait longer than a month. I live in Vermont and we're known for tearing our decks to hell due to the non-stop rain and snow, but that's what I've heard a lot: 6 months.

  • I build a fence last year and I can attest that Home Depot's lumber varies a LOT. My fence took 2 - 3 months to dry so to be sure just wait until next spring.
    – ventsyv
    Apr 10, 2016 at 0:26
  • 2
    How do you know it's dry? May 26, 2018 at 15:16
  • Spray a bit of water on it. If it soaks in instantly you should be in good shape. If it beads up or just runs off you might want to wait a little longer.
    – Citricguy
    Mar 20, 2019 at 9:53
  • I feel like the spray water and if it beads is a myth. I'm trying to find the answer as I have some new'ish 3/4" PT and some 1y4m 2x4 PT (stored in garage) and they both seem to bead water equally. Aug 3, 2019 at 14:03
  • Is your answer for paint only, or both paint and stain? Aug 22, 2020 at 17:13

I think I answered a question similar to this before but I actually contacted Universal Forest Products last fall about using pressure treated lumber in a basement. Tons of great stuff they sent me.

Some good points:

  • In a dry basement wait 2-3 weeks before installing drywall over (they want you to use PT for everything in the basement and they make good points)

  • outside you should wait 2-3 weeks before painting or staining in moderate temps with no to little rain. This is a little tricky because you want to install PT lumber right away since it will warp quick. You can't let it dry out before installing unless you can apply a serious amount of pressure on all sides of the wood.

  • they were very big on mention a million times (and rightly so) that they no longer use any harmful chemicals that could be emitted into a house like arsenic. It can be used for anything but food prep surfaces

For your question it depends on the climate/weather. If you have two weeks of dry 100F weather you will be fine. If it rains on the lumber a few times it gets tricky. Water isn't just soaking in the wood but it dramatically hinders the drying out process.


You should wait about 1 month for the wood to dry out. If you have a moisture meter test it in a few spots. You would like the reading to be below 13%. I would use an oil based stain instead of paint


When you're shopping for PT lumber, look for the lighter, dryer pieces when sifting thru stock, but be sure to pick the pieces that are uniform and straight. This will help you get a jump start on the drying process. I do a lot of stain work and I would wait three to four weeks if possible to stain after purchase. Keep in a dry, weather proof area if possible - a garage, shed or workshop. If you have to keep the lumber outside, elevate it on some 4 x 4 runners and expose it on clear days. Keep tarped during wet days.


I waited two years. The wood naturally aged, but still took stain just fine. I stained it two more times before I had to strip it and start over.


Here in Norway the local 'wisdom' is to install the pressure treated timber one season and stain it the next.

As a builder I agree with some of the above comments that the timber can take a considerable time to dry out. However, a few weeks of good weather should get it dry enough to take a finish, but I'd use a moisture metre and check the (finish) products specs to be sure. I've just waited 6 weeks for some balustrade tops and I'll chance a coat tomorrow weather permitting.

  • Same answer for both paint and stain? Aug 22, 2020 at 17:15
  • Anything which has the potential to seal in moisture, or rather to prevent the timber from drying out to the ambient humidity.
    – handyman
    Aug 23, 2020 at 19:59

A one month minimum dry time is recommended. That said, I'd wait as long as the painting season permits. If you have three months before it will get cold down there, then wait until then. It's important to have three good, consecutive dry days before applying the stain when ultimately decide to do it. And two-coat everything with a quality stain. Ask the paint store person about doing it and which product to use. Some stains are meant for walls and some for walking on.


Pt lumber is pressure treated, meaning the use 400 psi to make sure the chemical stays in the wood, most stains and paint won't stick until the pores of the wood come open which can take years .

  • That's a lot longer than I've heard elsewhere... Apr 10, 2016 at 3:40

You can always test it by see if the water beads up or soaks in. I'm in Arkansas. My deck and front porch were built in March. They both get good sun. I'm waiting until August to do mine. Plenty of good hot sun to dry them out. The pine lumber came from Lowe's.

  • One sentence in this answer pertains to the question asked. Apr 27, 2016 at 13:53

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