Should a Deck Be Primed Before Painting It?

As the season begins to wind down into a new one, house prep for the weather is on our minds. One of those things could be repainting your deck in order to protect the wood from the elements that are on their way. 

It is very important to prime the surface before you paint because the boards are constantly exposed to various temperatures, moisture, and wear and tear. Wood is very porous, so it will absorb the paint unevenly in some areas and not look good. Primer prevents this from happening.

You’re ready to start putting on your primer but what about if the wood on your deck is pressure treated? Does it need to be primed as well? Keep reading to find out all you need to know before building your own deck and keeping it looking great for tens of years to come.

Do I Need to Prime Pressure Treated Wood Before Painting?

You need to use a primer before painting because pressure-treated wood can be difficult about holding onto the paint. Follow the directions on the can and remember to apply in thin coats. This will dry more evenly and quickly. 

With this in mind, what kind of primers are out there and what are the perks of each?

Wood Primers

There are two basic types of wood primer— oil based and latex. A slow-drying oil-based primer is best on bare wood as it takes a long time to dry, and sticks better than any other type of primer. This usually takes at least 24 hours to dry. 

If you don’t mind waiting then an oil-based wood primer is still best, but if not, then a quality latex primer will still work. There has been a new, faster-drying primer developed for oil and latex products. This dries quickly and still helps your topcoat to stick properly. 

So what is the best primer to use on a deck? 

What Is the Best Primer to Use On a Deck?

Wondering which primers are the best? That depends on your particular specifications and the size you are wanting to cover. 

Here is a list of the best primers out there and their general coverage area per container so you can decide which one is best for your project.:

Wood Primer NameCoverage
Kilz Premium75 – 100 sq ft
Zinsser B-I-NUp to 100 sq ft
Kilz Max75 – 100 sq ft
Rust-Oleum Painter’s TouchUp to 120 sq ft

Now, let’s take a look at which primer brand is better.

Is Kilz or Zinsser Primer Better?

The top two primers listed in the chart above are Kilz and Zinsser. So which one is actually better? 

With two coats of each, it was found that the Kilz allowed more bleed-through, especially if you are changing from a dark color to a lighter color. The Zinsser was found to cover better with little to no bleeding through. 

Now that you’ve decided what type of primer to use, how do you go about preparing and applying it to your deck? 

Steps to Painting a Deck Successfully

There are a few steps that would need to be followed to get good results from painting your deck:

  • Step 1: Inspect your deck for any places where the paint may be chipping or peeling. 
  • Step 2: If there aren’t any areas like that then you don’t need to strip the paint first. If there are then you will need to remove all of the peeling paint down to the bare wood. You can do this with a scraper and/or sandpaper.  
  • Step 3: You’ll want to rinse the wood off with your garden hose and let it dry for a few days. 
  • Step 4: Once dry you can apply two coats of primer and let dry for a few more days. 
  •  You would want to use paints that are specifically for decks or fences. 

Taking care to handle the prep well before painting will make your efforts last longer and look better. It will definitely be worth the time spent on it. 

Equipment Needed for Painting a Deck

There are a few items you would need to have in order to remain safe while preparing and applying your primer and paint. I have listed several of those items below:

  • Safety goggles–these are very important as sanding and scraping can cause particles to go into the air and can be very painful if gotten in your eyes. 
  • Gloves–to protect your hands not only from possible splinters but staining from the paints and primers.
  • Footwear–your feet are always better protected from things like dropped tools, splinters, and splashed paint if you have on close-toed work boots or tennis shoes. 
  • Clothing–you’ll want stuff that isn’t too loose and flowy so you don’t get it into the paint but also something somewhat cool for ease of work and old in case you do get paint on it. I also like clothes that are okay if they get paint on them. 
  • Noise protection–this would generally be if you were using an electric sander or other power tools.

Keeping your self and clothing safe is an important component to priming your deck. 


To sum it up, your deck does need to be primed before painting to ensure that the paint not only sticks to the wood but isn’t absorbed by it, even if the wood is pressure treated. Primer will allow your paint to last longer and protect your wood from the weather elements and wear and tear. 

Protecting yourself and your clothing can prevent damage. And remember to use a primer specified for decks and fencing. Keep all of these things in mind and you will enjoy a beautiful deck for many seasons to come. 

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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