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Can A Pressure-Treated Deck Be Stained?

Updated: Feb 19

Common knowledge states that treated wood should not be stained or painted unless it has had anywhere from 90 days to one year to be exposed to the outside elements. At EcoWash, we disagree. Pressure-treated lumber can be stained as soon as the boards on the deck will absorb water. In this article we will cover the advantages of treated lumber, the water testing method, why to stain a pressure-treated deck sooner rather than later, and what to do about replaced boards on an older deck.

The advantages of treated lumber

The largest advantage of pressure-treated lumber is that it will not rot nearly as quickly as the exact same type of wood would if it was not treated. Generally, pressure-treated lumber is made from pine due to its availability in the US and how cheap, strong, and lightweight it is.

A normal pine board left on its own with no stain, paint, sealer, or treatment, will begin to rot in as little as a year or two. In particularly moist environments like the Pacific Northwest, this rotting can begin in as little as six months. A pressure-treated pine board with no other protective coatings can last in the outside elements for as long as ten years. A pressure-treated board that has been stained can last well over 30 years if well taken care of.

Ten years is certainly a long time, but a deck is a significant investment. To further protect your investment, regular painting or staining should be a part of your maintenance schedule.

pressure treated lumber replacement on old deck
Pressure Treated Lumber next to Old Wood in Middleton, WI

The water testing method

To accurately assess if your pressure-treated deck is ready to accept stain, just simply pour some water on it. If it absorbs the water, it can absorb stain. If it beads water on the surface, wait another week and test again. As soon as the deck absorbs water, schedule a quote with EcoWash to get your deck stained.

Water-based deck stains are incredibly common and are generally what EcoWash will use on your deck staining project. If a board accepts normal tap water, it will absorb water-based stain. To learn more about how deck staining works, read our article on it here.

“As long as the wood has had sufficient time to dry out, and is cleaned, you will have no problems staining it” - Nicholas Flemion, Central Virginia Power Wash

Why stain your pressure-treated deck now

As stated above, a deck is a significant investment. With an average deck going for $15,000 to $45,000, homeowners should protect that investment to avoid replacement. Fortunately, maintenance is a cheap option. If your pressure-treated deck has not been stained, get in touch with us for a quote on your deck.

What to do about replaced boards on an older deck

Replacing boards is a standard process on older decks. Over time, some boards will rot quicker than others and irregular maintenance will expedite that. When EcoWash does a combination carpentry/staining project, our carpenters will select boards that pass the water test to use on your deck. Then, when the staining crew arrives, they will be able to get right to staining the deck as if nothing had changed. This will ensure your deck has great structural integrity and a beautiful and long-lasting finish over time. 

No need to be concerned about the replacement pressure-treated lumber on your deck floor peeling first, in fact, we generally see the exact opposite on project inspections years after the project is completed. 

"I used to think pressure-treated lumber wouldn't hold stain very well as older lumber unless it sat for a full year. After inspecting dozens of projects years after they were stained, I am confident in staining a pressure-treated deck if it can pass the water test." - Andrew Pfaff, Head Carpenter and CEO, EcoWash

EcoWash Carpentry
EcoWash Carpentry Project in Mequon, WI

All in all, pressure-treated lumber can be stained whenever it is ready. Do not be concerned by any hard rules that you see online- if the lumber accepts water it will accept stain.


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