how to tell if lumber is treated

How to Tell If Wood is Pressure Treated: 7 Simple Techniques

Pressure-treated wood is widely used in many projects, but can you differentiate pressure treated wood from regular lumber?

There are a couple of ways to do that, but why is it so important to know?

Perhaps you want to work on a project, but you don’t want to use pressure-treated wood. Or, you simply want to avoid any kind of poison that pressure-treated lumber could have.

Here, you will learn how to tell if the wood is pressure treated as well as a few ways to help you choose the best pressure-treated lumber available.

How to Tell If Wood Is Treated: 7 Techniques

what does pressure treated wood look like

If you’re new to woodworking and you’re trying to get your feet wet, then you need to learn how to tell pressure-treated wood from regular lumber.

This will come in handy in the long run as you may have to work on bigger projects where you will need to use pressure-treated wood over regular wood.

1. Look at the Tag

If you’re about to buy pressure-treated wood, look at the tag on the end of the wood to find out whether it is pressure-treated wood or not.

The chemicals used in pressure-treated wood are usually Copper and Tebuconazole. Copper is a chemical used to protect the wood against fungi and bacteria, which increases the lifespan of your wood.

Tebuconazole, on the other hand, is a fungicide used in wheat protection. So, if the tag mentions any of those chemicals, then it is pressure-treated wood.

2. Get a Fact Sheet

If the lumber you’re about to buy doesn’t have a tag, then you should ask for a fact sheet from the seller before you make a purchase.

The fact sheet should specify what chemicals were used in the lumber. If the lumber has both Copper and Tebuconazole, then you know for sure it is pressure-treated wood.

3. Telling by Eye

How to tell if lumber is pressure treated? Telling it apart by eye from other types of lumber is a little bit harder than other methods. Especially first time can be a bit tricky but you can still give it a try.

When wood ages, it turns into a gray color since the wood is being eaten by fungus and insects. You could try to cut into the middle to see whether it’s grey or white. If the wood turns yellow or white, then it means no treatment has been applied.

4. Smell the Wood

As weird as it may sound, smelling the wood is a good idea. Treated wood can smell oily and doesn’t have a pleasant and natural smell as regular lumber. The scent of pressure-treated lumber is not pleasant at all.

The toxic chemicals used in this type of wood make this wood smell terrible. So, even if you have never smelled pressure-treated wood with the scent then you should easily give it away.

5. Measure the Width

If you can’t seem to find any markings on it, and the color doesn’t help at all, then you could measure the width. Pressure-treated wood is usually a little bit wider and thicker than regular wood.

6. Stamping

Generally, pressure-treated wood contains preservative chemicals that make it more durable. These chemicals are known for being toxic. If you want to avoid this type of wood, then you need to find the AWPA code on the wood.

This code explains what category the wood belongs to, and what it is used for. So, always pay attention to it when buying wood.

7. Find the Retention Level

The retention level is the amount of preservative on the wood after the treating process is done. And, it usually tells you where it’s best used, so make sure to read the tag to identify pressure-treated wood.

What Is Pressure Treated Wood Used For?

So, you now know what to keep in mind when buying pressure-treated wood, but what is its end-use? Pressure-treated wood is infused with chemicals to preserve and protect the wood from rot and bugs.

You often see pressure-treated wood used for decks, picnic tables, and light posts. Some people always prefer to use pressure-treated lumber over regular timber as it’s a lot cheaper, and it’s usually more durable. So, you are less likely to spend money on repairs in the future.

Advantages of Pressure-Treated Wood Over Regular Lumber

Advantages of Pressure-treated Wood Over Regular Lumber

There is a reason why pressure-treated wood is often the go-to wood when thinking about working on a project. So, let’s go over the advantages that make this type of wood so good.


This is probably the main reason why pressure-treated wood is so popular. On top of that, its durability and price make this type of wood a great choice.

Easy to Repair

Even if you somehow manage to ruin your wood, it can still be fixed, and it’s reasonably cheap to do so. So, you don’t have to worry about spending mad money, just fix your wood.

Moisture Resistance

Pressure-treated wood is moisture resistance, which helps prevent cracking, decay, and warping. However, it still needs to be checked for warping and also cracking.

Safety Recommendations While Checking Pressure-Treated Wood

When you identify pressure treated wood, there are few factors that you need to know when working with pressure-treated lumber to stay safe around it.

As good as pressure-treated wood could be, there’s no denying that the preservative chemicals used are quite toxic to both the environment and human beings.

The preservative of pressure-treated wood is designed to stick to the wood. However, the preservative chemicals can filtrate overtime. So, here are some of the best tips to keep in mind when you’re dealing with pressure-treated wood.

Wear Protective Gear

You should always wear gloves and long sleeves when dealing with pressure-treated wood, and a dust mask when sanding or drilling. Doing so will protect your skin as they prevent exposure to the chemicals.

Wash Your Hands

When you’re done working with pressure-treated wood, you must wash your hands right away. You don't want to eat food with unwashed hands after working with pressure-treated wood.


Be careful when using bleaching products. They can cause the wood to release toxic chemicals that are harmful when inhaled.

Cut Wood Outdoors

You should never cut pressure-treated wood in an enclosed place. Always cut pressure-treated wood outside of your house or somewhere windy.

Burning Treated Wood

Burning Treated Wood

Never set your pressure-treated wood on fire. Burning pressure-treated wood releases toxic chemicals that can be harmful when inhaled.

Allow It to Dry

When working with pressure-treated wood, you should always allow the treated wood to dry thoroughly before staining or painting.

You can also check: How experts paint pressure treated woods?

Final Words

As you can tell by now, how to tell if wood is pressure treated is not nearly as hard as it may sound. While it is true that experience will help a lot, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to tell it apart from regular lumber if you are a beginner.

Most of the time, reading the tag at the end of the wood should be enough to find out whether it is pressure-treated wood or not. Sometimes, you may need to ask for a fact sheet from the seller so you can read the chemicals that are used.

But overall, the process is pretty simple and straightforward.


2 thoughts on “How to Tell If Wood is Pressure Treated: 7 Simple Techniques”

  1. Vanessa Vergara

    There are three raised beds in the garden of the house I recently purchased. I am trying to find a way to figure out if they were made with treated lumber. The previous owner did some daring DYI works in the house (by daring I mean out of code) and so I am not confident he used adequate material for these beds.
    Is there a test I can use to definitely learn if these raised beds are made with treated lumber? I cannot find tags or stamps on them. Thanks!

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