Abstract The Canadian wood products industry is going through hard times. To face up to competition from emerging economies and substitution products, it needs to be innovative and develop the next generation of wood products. Plasma technology could be used to improve wood surface properties, making them less sensitive to environmental conditions (moisture, water, temperature, UV light). Thus, wood properties could be significantly different between species or even amongst different samples of the same species. Over the last few years, plastic and textile industries have begun experimenting with plasma technology to activate surfaces, mainly to improve coating/substrate adhesion. The literature on potential applications of plasma treatment to wood surfaces is very limited, however. This report describes the results of an exploratory study on the effect of plasma treatments on sugar maple wood board surfaces using different gases and mixtures (N2, H2, O2 and Ar) at different pressures (13.3-665 Pa). Water wettability of the wood and adhesion between waterborne polyurethane coatings and wood were also studied. The results show that it was possible, under certain conditions, to significantly increase coating/wood adhesion (by 30-50%). This improvement was correlated to the wood surface energy increase. The processes used were not directly transferable to industry (treatment time, vacuum process), but they can easily be adapted at reasonable costs.