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How Long to Wait Before Staining a Pressure Treated Wood Fence

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Are you ready to stain your pressure treated wood fence, but wondering how long you should wait?

Most fences are built with pressure treated wood. You have posts for the frame, 4x4s and 2x4s and 1x4s or 1x6s for the pickets.

On average, you’ll want to wait 4 weeks to 6 months before staining the wood. This is largely dependent on how humid your area is and how your wood was treated.

We know the feeling when you just built your own fence or hired a contractor to build it. It looks great, but you’re ready to cover those ugly green tinted posts. You’re also aware that staining/sealing your fence will help your wooden fence last longer than without a protective coating.

If you’re wondering is it better to stain or paint pressure treated wood, read our article detailing the difference.

If you’re unfamiliar with pressure treated lumber here’s some information that will help determine how long it will take it to dry so you can stain your new fence.

Different types of pressure treated wood

There are a couple of different types of pressure treated wood that you can get. Based on which one you get will determine how long to wait before staining the wood.

There’s also a price difference between the two that we’ll cover below.

Wet Pressure Treated wood

With wet pressure treated wood, preservatives are impregnated into the lumber via high pressure to protect deep inside the piece of lumber. Since this process involved chemicals, burning pressure treated wood is prohibited.

It’s still wet when it’s sold at the lumber stores. This is the greenish lumber that you see at the store and is still damp to touch when you pick it up.

If you get the wet pressure treated wood and live in a low humidity area, then you can probably wait 2-3 weeks and then stain your wooden fence. We showcase which stains are best for pressure treated wood.

If you’re like us and live in a high humidity location, then you might have to wait 3-6 months for your larger lumber to dry.

We live in Florida where our pressure treated wood is really wet when it’s bought from the lumber stores.

Due to how wet it is, it takes almost 6 months to completely dry, especially the 4x4s that have moisture deep inside.

Kiln dried pressure treated lumber

Kiln dried pressure treated lumber is treated the same but then kiln dried afterwards.

The kiln dried process helps with the checking and warping that happens with wet pressure treated wood.

Kiln dried is more stable since it’s already dry and ready to stain right away.

It’s usually more expensive than wet pressure treated wood and it’s not regularly stocked in most local lumber stores.

How to Tell When the Pressure Treated Fence is Dry

Best way to tell if the pressure treated lumber is dry is to test the dryness by sprinkling the wood’s surface with water.

If the water beads up, the wood is too wet and you need to wait before applying a finish. If the water soaks into the wood, then it’s dry and ready for stain or paint.

The larger, thicker wood 4×4 posts will take longer to dry than the wood pickets. Also did you know that pressure treated wood can last for many years?

What Happens if You Stain Too Early?

If you try to put stain on wood that is already wet, the stain won’t take and then you’ll have to do it again. Stain has to penetrate into the wood to be effective which is why dry wood is essential for that penetration.

Stain isn’t cheap, especially a good stain, so you should make sure the wood is dry. I would test a small section in an inconspicuous area in case the wood is still wet.

Does Staining My Fence Protect It?

Most people confuse stain with a wood sealer. Stain simply colors wood while a top coat finish or sealer protects the wood against UV damage moisture and/or mold and mildew.

Most newer products provide a stain and sealer in one product. You can buy each separately but do realize if you just put stain on your fence without a top coat sealer it will fade and not protect the wood from the elements. There are quite a few good products out there and that will be a separate article.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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  1. My treated deck boards have been installed a year now. I’m ready to stain. What should I use as a top coat over the stain or is there a stain sealer out there that does both?

    1. I would use a stain and sealer all in one product. Depending on if you want a solid stain and sealer (little to no wood grain showing) or a semi-transparent stain and sealer (wood grain showing through). Consumer reports rated these two products highly. Olympic Elite Advanced Stain + Sealant In One Solid and Behr Premium Semi-Transparent Waterproofing Stain & Sealer. (aff) Just know that you will need to reseal your deck more often than any product claims. Good luck with the project.

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