A Quick Guide To Painting Landscape Timbers (+ 3 Easy Time Saving Tips!)

You’ve got the perfect landscape planned out. But, those green treated timbers don’t quite match your ideas for your dream garden.

So, what do you decide to do? You’re going to give those wooden logs a coat of paint, of course. Should be easy enough, right?

Well, in this post, you will discover why freshly treated wood rarely takes on a coat of paint. You will also find out why the moisture content of treated wood matters (when it comes to paint).

And we reveal a quick and simple way to test if your landscape timbers are dry enough for a fresh coat of color.

painting landscape timbers

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What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Pressure Treated Landscape Timber?

The best type of paint for pressure treated wood is an exterior graded latex paint product. These particular types of paints are not only water-resistant, they also form a flexible coat on the surface.

This is important if you want to prevent paint from flaking off due to weathering. But, more than that, it makes this paint much better suited at handling all-year round weather conditions.

Great! And Can You Paint Pressure Treated Wood Right Away?

The answer to this question depends on how dry the pressure treated wood is.

You see, pressure treated wood has been put through a treatment that infuses it with wood preservatives. These water-soluble wood preservatives add a lot of moisture to wood in the process.

So, treated timber needs to dry out a fair bit before it’s ready to be painted. That’s because the moisture content of treated wood is a touch too high for paint to stay on it.

Paint, even water-resistant paint, initially needs to be applied to a clean dry surface. Otherwise, it won’t adhere to wood.

What Do You Mean By Moisture Content?

When we first cut lumber from a tree, that freshly sawed timber has a moisture content of 100%. Moisture content refers to the amount of water still sloshing around in that timber. Over time, through a process called ‘seasoning’, we steadily dry out wood, bringing its moisture content down to below 20%.

So, Why Does The Moisture Content Matter For Painting?

Pressure treated wood, after its been kiln dried, has a moisture content of around 19% or less. But, wood needs it’s moisture content to be down to around 12% to 17%, before you can paint it.

That’s why treated wood needs 3 to 6 months to dry out, before you can add that top coat.

What Happens If You Paint Pressure Treated Wood Too Soon?

That coat of paint won’t stay on. That’s because the moisture in wood will still be in the process of evaporating. And as water vapor rises, the pressure build-up will push up against paint, causing it to peel off.

And that’s all provided the paint even adheres to that wet surface in the first place.

Related Post: Should You Use Nails Or Screws For Pressure Treated Wood?

And What Can I Do To Get Paint To Stay On Landscape Timber?

Well, you can simply follow our top 3 tips below:

TIP 1). Run A Quick Test To See If That Timber Is Already Dry

How Can You Tell If Pressure Treated Wood Is Dry Enough for Paint?

You can check if treated timbers are dry by doing a quick spritz test.

Wood is a super-absorbent material. So, if it is dry it will soak up water droplets fairly quickly.

Simply fill a spray bottle with water, and then spritz it onto a section of treated lumber. If the water gets absorbed by the wood in under 10 minutes, then it’s dry enough to paint.

But, if it takes longer than 10 minutes, then that treated wood still has too much moisture in it.

TIP 2). Purchase Shop Dry Treated Wood (And Save Yourself Months Of Waiting)

Do I Have To Sit Around Waiting For Landscape Timbers To Dry First?

Not always. It very much depends on how dry they were when you got them.

Freshly treated wood is too wet to paint straight away. However, shop-dry treated lumber can be painted almost immediately.

You see, the term ‘shop dry’ means that a piece of treated wood has been sat around in the lumber yard for a while. It’s already dry, because it has done all of its seasoning at the shop.

You will need to ask your landscape timber supplier if they have any shop dry treated wood. And also ask how long they’ve had it in their store for.

TIP 3). Speed Up The Drying Process By Checking Out Our Guide…

But I’ve Already Purchased My Landscape Timber? Is There Anything I Can Do?

Absolutely. If you want to dry out treated wood, then we’ve written a guide just for you.

Check out our post ‘How to Dry Pressure Treated Wood (Quickly And Without Warping)’ right here on The Woodwork Place. In it, we detail all of the things you can do to speed things up.

To Wrap Up, Here Are The 3 Key Takeaways From This Post…

  • 1). Only use an exterior graded paint if you want to give treated landscaping timber a coat of color.
  • 2). Always wait for treated wood to dry first, before painting it. If that wooden surface takes more than 10 minutes to absorb water droplets, it is not dry enough for painting.
  • 3). It can take 3 to 6 months for pressure treated wood to sufficiently dry. And even shop-dry treated wood will need 2-3 days to dry after you’ve purchased it.


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