When to Seal or Stain Pressure-Treated Wood

water on wood deck
When water soaks into the wood instead of beading up, it’s time to seal or stain it.

It’s important to finish typical pressure-treated wood as soon as possible after completion of a deck in order to protect it.

Splash some water on the deck boards. If it beads up, the wood isn’t quite ready to be sealed. Wait several days and test it again. When the water absorbs into the wood, it’s ready to seal or stain.

People who are building pressure treated wood decks for their outdoor living space often want to know how long they have to wait before they seal or stain them. It’s important to finish typical pressure treated wood as soon as possible after completion of a deck in order to protect it.

In the past, people waited up to 6 months before finishing projects but that’s no longer necessary with newer treatments like micronized copper. The new rule of thumb is 30 days, but your project could be ready in less time depending on factors like weather conditions and how long the material was in the lumber yard before you purchased it.

The best course of action is to test the surface yourself. Splash some water on the deck boards. If it beads up, the wood isn’t quite ready to be sealed. Wait several days and test it again. When the water absorbs into the wood, it’s ready to seal or stain.


  1. I have oak hard wood floors. In the seem between my eating area and desk area are boards that do not fill the space allotted properly. I have applied wood filler before but that has crack and fallen away. Is there a simple cost effective way to repair this area. My husband is out of work and we are trying to get the house ready to put on the market.
    Thank you.

  2. I just had my front door reframe now it’s time
    Seal it stain it
    Which do I first
    Please let me know as soon as you can
    Thank you for your help

  3. How and when do i stain pressure treated plywood floors in a metal shed for kennel use? I have kennel seal but want to stain floor first. Bought Evo stain from Home Depot but it has a pic on box of before & after pic 1 being oak colored and the other walnut but then in small print says if you want it to be colored you have to put 5oz of tint into mix..But LOL home Depot refused to do so. So if I decide to just tile over treated wood floor should I still use kennel seal? Or will the tile and all block the voc’s?

  4. Hi thanks for this information! I’ve been reading conflicting things. What would you recommend as far as product type or brand to put on a new pressure treated deck? would you sand first?

    • Hi, Cara,
      It certainly depends on the quality of wood but generally, it’s better to install the wood first, and then if you’re concerned with its smoothness, the easiest thing is to use a pole sander. That would be a sanding pad attached to a pole, which will make it very easy to run over the surface of the deck. We suggest using 80-grit sandpaper.
      Good luck!

    • Hi, Willis!
      Whether you stain or seal your deck, either option will protect your home’s addition. That’s the good news! So we don’t have a preference when it comes to sealing or staining the deck; it really is a matter of personal preference since the most important thing is protecting your investment.
      Staining and sealing each has its benefits. For instance, you will need to reseal your deck once each year but may just have to re-stain the deck every three years (depending on how much use and wear and tear it gets).
      Good luck with your project!

  5. I bought 4 years treated Deck lumber from Home Depot and it was told to me to wait 1 year for the lumber to climatic. Bear paint company told me no prime paint is necessarily. I have painted the deck now 3 times and every year the deck is cracking and the and the paint is peeling .
    So whats the problem here. Please whats needs to be done.

    • Hi, Gerhard,
      Was it cleaned (pressure washed) before the first paint job? That could explain some of it.
      For a deck, we would use primer first, even if using a paint/primer-in-one product. At this point, we would pressure wash, then sand/scrape the peeling areas, and then spot-prime those places with an exterior bonding primer. Then re-paint.
      Good luck!

  6. We built a deck around half of our pool last summer – We used it all summer. so lots of water was on this deck . we were told we didnt need to stain it and it should be left for about a year so it can weatherize and breath. This will be our second summer with water on it so will it need stained before we use it again? It is discoloring and a few cracks looking like it is drying up. Should it be stained? and if so what type of stain? Thank you . please email me at azlkress@aol.com

  7. I installed numerous boards of pressure-treated wood on my outdoor deck three days after installation the boards are splitting and cracking,. I poured water on the boards in the water still beats up from everything I’ve heard it is not time to seal the boards yet or stain. What can I do to stop the cracks and go forward with the stain.

    I need some help with this problem James

    • Hi, James,
      It’s good that you tested the wood and made sure water beads up on the deck board.
      You’ve done your homework, but this concern sounds more complicated.
      We recommend submitting it to the Today’s Homeowner Radio Show for an in-depth answer.
      Please use this form to contact Danny Lipford, America’s Home Expert, directly: https://www.todayshomeowner.com/radio/ask-questions/
      Take care!

  8. Hi,
    I have a 3 year old screened-in deck plus an additional deck that’s not screened. The one that’s been not screened-in is not looking good. I was wanting to re-stain them but I was told I needed a wood cleaner first. The one with the screen looks like it’s still in good shape when I poured water on it, It beaded. My question is can I still use just the cleaner for both decks in order to stain it? Or does the one that the water still beads need a different cleaner in order to stain it like the other deck that’s not screened in. They are connected.

  9. I have an outdoor screened in decatttached to the house. The flooring is 3/4 inch treated plywood covered with out door carpeting
    Some rain water and snow does come in around the sides, but not too much because of the roof overhang
    Question: If I emplace sliding windows over the screens I will have the option of opening the windows and have half of the screens open so i still will have the air flow in the summer months or Ican close all the windows and have a fully enclosed deck
    There is no air or heating installed in the deck but there is a sliding door from the deck to the house and if the door is open there maybe times we may be on the deck with the windows closed and the sliding door open. We live in western pennsyl vania and one contractor said we should replace the treated plywood and another contractor said it should not be a problem. WHAT IS YOU ADVISE?

  10. I replaced some boards in my deck. Waited 30+ days before I painted it. Deck paint. 30 days so went by and I noticed sap coming up though my painted areas. How come and what would cause that. ?

  11. We used pressure treated wood to build our deck. After about a week, we noticed that the gaps were more than 1/2″ to 3/4″. Whats the best product to use for caulking between the boards?

    • Hi, Evelyn,
      Need more information about this topic? Connect one-on-one with a home improvement pro immediately through JustAnswer, a Today’s Homeowner partner: http://justanswer.9pctbx.net/c/2342074/565926/9320
      Good luck with that deck! 🙂 


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