How to Add Color to Treated Wood

Decide if you'd prefer a solid color or semitransparent color.

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Adding a Colored Finish

If you want to apply a colored finish to new furniture, choose one that you can renew fairly easily, because no finish is likely to last more than three to five years. We recommend either a semi-transparent or a solid exterior stain. The solids will protect the wood longer than the semi-transparent stains.

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Use either an oil-based or water-based formula. Latex (water-based) is easier to clean up and will usually last longer. Oil-based stains typically penetrate deeper into the wood and require less prep work when re-coating.

Whichever you choose, expect to renew it every two to three years. And make sure the stain contains both a water repellent and a UV (ultraviolet) stabilizer. These additives will help your furniture withstand intense sunlight as well as weather fluctuations (from rain to sun, low to high temperatures and moist to dry air).

Keep in mind that the preservatives in pressure-treated wood only guard against insects, rot and decay. They don’t protect the wood from the effects of water and sunlight. If left unprotected, the wood will cup, crack, warp and turn gray. While a stain/sealer can’t stop gradual deterioration, it will substantially reduce it.

You’ll find exterior stains in several brands and dozens of colors (for $15 to $25 per gal.) at home centers, full-service hardware stores and paint retailers. Before you apply the stain, make sure the treated wood surface is clean and dry (the surface will no longer look wet) and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Also, be sure to check out these 101 Saturday morning projects to do once you are finished adding color to your treated wood piece of furniture.