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Can You Stain Treated Landscape Timbers?

Can You Stain Treated Landscape Timbers?

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

If you are thinking of building a deck, addition to your garden, or another outdoor project, you will probably use treated timbers. It is excellent at resisting the impact of weathering but tends to look unpleasant and can still degrade over time. Staining is a good way to improve and protect timber, but is it suitable for treated wood?

You can stain treated landscape timbers, and it is recommended you do so to reduce weathering of this type of timber further. Treated wood must be completely dry before it is stained, and many experts recommend using an oil-based stain.

In this article, we will look in more detail at why you should stain your treated timber, what kind of stain you should use, and how to apply a coat of stain to your treated wood.

What Is Treated Timber?

Treated timber is wood that includes a course of preservatives, making it last longer when used outdoors. We primarily use it in projects such as decking, fencing, or other garden construction.

The treatment process involves injecting water and chemicals into the wood’s grain, preventing the wood from degrading. The treatment slows down aging and damage to the grain that generally occurs when it is left outdoors.

You can buy several kinds of treated lumber depending on the treatment method and the time it has been drying. The timber you buy will affect the type of stain you need to use (source).

There are many types of timber treatments, including the following:

  • Wet-treated timber: This type is still wet when purchased. It will always need to be left to dry before a stain is applied, as damp wood will reject the treatment.
  • Water repellent-treated timber: This type has water repellent chemicals, reducing the need for drying and further extending its lifespan.
  • Dried timber: This type is ready-dried, meaning it is ready to stain immediately without waiting for moisture to evaporate. This process will be more expensive and marked as either air-dried or kiln-dried.

Overall, treated timber has many benefits over untreated timber, and next, we will see how we can improve these benefits further with staining.

See our guide on the 7 Best Wood Options For Raised Gardens (And 3 To Avoid).

Staining Treated Landscape Timbers

Although treating wood improves its durability, it can still be vulnerable to damage from sunlight and weathering, which will not rot completely but can affect the surface and finish of the wood (source).

Staining your timber will add extra protection to keep your outdoor wood looking and remaining in good quality for many years without pieces flaking off or warping.

In addition, ready-treated timber is often aesthetically unappealing. We tend not to like it as much because treating and drying out the wood removes the natural wood appearance. Adding a layer of stain will give the wood a more natural color that looks great.

Using the Right Type of Stain for Your Wood

As mentioned, the type of stain you use will depend on the treatment used on your timber, so the first thing to do is check this. The information should be available from the merchant when you buy the timber.

There are two types of stain, oil-based or water-based. As water repellant timber will reject water-based stain, you should use oil-based stain on this type of timber. You can use both water-based and oil-based stains on wet, treated, and dried timber.

If you are uncertain what treatment your timber received, you should use an oil-based stain to be safe, as you can apply this to all treated woods.

Oil-based stain is also generally recommended as it has a greater absorption level and gets deeper into the wood grain. Water-based stain dries quicker; therefore, the wood will absorb less of this stain.

When Is the Right Time To Apply Stain to Treated Timber?

The right time to apply stain to treated timber is after it has dried. You should not use any stain on timber that is still wet as the wood will reject it. Only wet-treated wood must be left to dry before staining, as other types are pre-dried or water repellant.

You should leave your wet-treated timber to dry for at least a few weeks, but this could extend to six months depending on how wet the timber is and what the climate is like where you are. If you are likely to experience a cold, damp winter, you may want to wait until summer before letting your wood dry outside.

In addition, as the stain needs dry weather to dry into the wood grain properly, wait until you have around 48 hours of dry weather before applying your stain.

If you are uncertain if your timber is dry enough to be stained, you can test this with a simple method. Simply sprinkle a small amount of water on the timber and wait a few minutes to see what happens to the beads of liquid.

If the water beads on the surface and does not go away quickly, the wood grain is still saturated and is not ready to be stained.

You’ll need to let the wood dry for longer until you can perform the test again and get different results.

Applying Stain to Your Treated Timber

After drying your wood, ensure it is clean and clear of large pieces of dirt before applying the stain. You need to have the correct type of stain that is suitable for exterior use. Mix or shake well before use according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Then, apply the stain to the timber with a roller or brush. Test the stain one small part or corner of the timber first to ensure you are happy with the color and texture, then expand with at least one full coat over the whole surface area (source).

After it has dried, step back and enjoy the color and finish of your newly stained timber.


Treated landscape timber is excellent for outdoor wood construction due to its longevity, but it may still suffer from signs of aging and weathering. Staining your timber is a great way to minimize the effects of aging on your timber and make sure it is durable for years to come.

Remember to check the wood’s treatment and ensure it is completely dry before applying your stain. If in doubt, an oil-based stain is the best choice for absorption and suitability for all types of treated timber.

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