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DIY Reclaimed Wood Furniture - Easy Faux Finishes for Beginners!

Updated on May 7, 2014
I make my own "reclaimed wood"!
I make my own "reclaimed wood"! | Source

Reclaimed Wood Furniture

I don’t know what types of furniture and décor are trending in your area, but around here, reclaimed wood furniture and other décor items made from old wood are hot. Most of the pieces are made using old barnwood, including dining tables, headboards, coffee tables, picture frames, shelves, and more. Of course, the problem here is that not everyone has access to old barn wood. If you do, thank your lucky stars. If you don’t, you can often find old barn wood planks for sale online, but they’re not cheap. And when you figure in the cost of shipping, you’re looking at a pretty substantial investment. The good thing here is that you can create a very similar look yourself, whether you want barn wood, crackled paint, whitewashed wood, wood that looks like it has peeling paint, or wood that looks like it came from old beach signs. How do you achieve these looks? You do it with faux finishes! I’m going to share some tips and techniques with you so that you can create the faux finishes all by yourself.

Board painted white.
Board painted white. | Source
I painted the board brown.
I painted the board brown. | Source
I blended some white into the wet paint.
I blended some white into the wet paint. | Source
I blended in more shades and colors.
I blended in more shades and colors. | Source
Use a straightedge to create the illusion of two planks from one board.
Use a straightedge to create the illusion of two planks from one board. | Source
Paint the line black.
Paint the line black. | Source
Use different shades and colors on one side of the dividing line, and work the colors into the black line.
Use different shades and colors on one side of the dividing line, and work the colors into the black line. | Source
Make faux nails, if you wish!
Make faux nails, if you wish! | Source
More faux barnwood.
More faux barnwood. | Source

How to Make Barnwood Planks

Many people love the look of old barn wood. The weathered planks have a worn look that’s reminiscent of days gone by, when barns and houses weren’t painted. Over the years of rain, sun, and wind, the wood achieves a beautiful patina. With a little practice and skill, you can get a similar look with new wood, stained wood, or wood that’s already been painted.

First, make sure your wood is clean and dry. Next, apply a coat of brown, black, or dark gray paint. As you can see from the photos, I used brown paint on this shelving board that had already been painted white years ago. While the paint is still wet, use a wide artist’s brush to add in more shades or colors of paint. On this board, I used white, brown, black, and sage green. I mixed the colors with varying amounts of white. Use long strokes, painting with the direction of the grain. Use several different shades. Do some blending, but not too much! The different lines you leave behind will create a wood-grain look.

Would you like to make a single board look like two separate planks? If you do, use a straight edge to make the separating line. Paint a strip of black into the wet paint, about ½ inch wide. Add more colors or shades to one of the planks so that it will appear to be a different board. Work the wet paint into the black paint you used for the dividing line.

You might also want to add a few fake nails to your fake barnwood. I did on the board in the above pictures. I used a small circle stencil to make black circles. I then went over the black paint with burnt sienna, sort of mottling it in to look like rust. I'm not sure if you can see the details in the photo.

I distressed the wood planks on this side table.
I distressed the wood planks on this side table. | Source

Another Way to Age Wood Planks

There are several different directions to go with the faux aged look. Just how beat up and worn do you want your wood to look? Farmhouse kitchen tables and dining tables are super popular now, and their tops look as if they’ve been severely abused for decades.

Hubby made me a sideboard for our breakfast room. It’s long, tall, and narrow and is perfect for serving buffet foods when we entertain guests and have family gatherings. I painted the legs and apron with flat white paint and distressed them, but I wanted a natural wood finish for the planks we used on the top. I would have loved a barn wood top, but we didn’t have any barnwood, so I had to use new lumber. I made it look old, though.

I selected the boards I wanted to use for the table top, and then I got busy beating them up! I hit them with a hammer, a chisel, and chains. I made a few holes. I also gouged out a few spots on the boards. In the holes and deeper depressions I made, I used black paint to make them appear older.

Next, I used an electric sander to make the table top smooth. I also rounded out the ends of the boards with the sander. I added a few almost-black streaks in the wood with a large artist’s brush. Last, I used Minwax water-base stain with built-in polyurethane.

The above photograph is of the side table I just described. I love it! We’ve had tons of compliments on it. We’re going to make a couple to sell.

Board with light stain.
Board with light stain. | Source
Whitewashed board.
Whitewashed board. | Source

How to Whitewash Wood

If you like the whitewash look, you can create that, too. You can buy special whitewash stains, but it’s easy to make at home on your own. All you need to do is to thin some water-base white paint with some plain water. The ratio you use is up to you. Some people like to start out with a half-and-half ratio, so you might want to try that first. If it’s too thin for your purpose, just add more paint. If it’s too thick, just stir in some more water. And speaking of stirring, make sure your whitewash is well blended before you start using it on your wood.

You can brush on the whitewash with a paintbrush, or you can wipe it on with a rag. I usually prefer wiping it on with a cloth. In the photo above, I started with a board that had been stained with a light stain. I then added the whitewash. You can see how the whitewash added a little white but didn’t cover up the grain of the wood.

Faux Reclaimed Wood - Looks like an old beach sign!
Faux Reclaimed Wood - Looks like an old beach sign! | Source
More Faux Reclaimed Wood
More Faux Reclaimed Wood | Source

How to Make Beach Wood

I love furniture that looks like it was made from old beach signs! The first piece I did with this method turned out great, and it sold even before it was completed. The photograph above is the piece I’m referring to. It was just an ordinary end table I bought at a thrift store for $10. We had some boards just lying around, leftovers from some of hubby’s projects, and I used them to make planks for the table top. Some of the boards were stained, and some were unfinished, or “raw.”

I thought about signs you might see on or near the beach. These were my inspirations for the wood planks. I used stencils to create my sign boards. I start with boards that have been whitewashed or made to look like weathered barn wood. Once I’ve completed those, I paint on my lettering and images.

Remember – you want the wood to look like it came from old signs, so don’t be too perfect when stenciling. Don’t fill in the stencils completely, and make some letters and/or images disappear. In other words, cut some of them off, so the entire words, phrases, symbols, or images aren’t visible.

Create a peeling paint finish!
Create a peeling paint finish! | Source

How to Make a Peeling Paint Finish

Nothing says old painted wood like peeling paint! A peeling paint faux finish is fairly easy to get, although it might take a little practice to get just the look you’re shooting for. To create faux peeling paint, you’ll need flat latex paint, crackle medium, a rag, and a paint scraper. If you don’t have a paint scraper, you can use a knife, a metal spatula, scissor blades, or a spoon.

The first thing you need to do is to completely paint the wood with the paint color of your choice. The surface needs to be completely sealed. You’ll need a good covering of paint, so you might need to use two coats. When the paint is completely dry, brush on the crackle medium. Wait for the crackle glaze to dry some. You want it to still be tacky, but not completely dry. Next, paint over the crackle medium with a different color of paint. Wait for it to get almost dry. You’ll see the crackle finish starting to form. Look for spots with wide breaks, and start the scraping process in those places. If you’ve timed your work properly, the paint will come off with just a bump from your scraper. If you’ve waited too long, and if the paint isn’t peeling easily, wipe a wet rag over the surface and wait a minute or two before attempting to remove the paint.

Create the look of lots of different paint layers.
Create the look of lots of different paint layers. | Source

The Layered Paint Look

Do you want your wood to look like it’s been painted over and over through the years? You can do that, too! First, get a good coat of paint on the boards. If the boards have been stained, you can skip this step, provided you want some of the stained wood to peak through once you’ve completed your project. Once the boards have been completely sealed with stain or a base coat of paint, choose the colors you want to add. I do this more or less in “splotches.”

Once that step is complete, wait for the paint to get dry. When it’s dry, cover the entire surface with crackle medium. When the crackle medium is tacky, paint the entire surface with a top coat of flat latex paint. As I instructed in the above section, you’ll want to work pretty quickly. How long you wait between the crackle step and the scraping step depends on the brand of crackle medium you use, the weather, and the paint. I like to use Sherwin Williams Illusions water-based faux crackle finish, and I usually wait about 45 minutes before I begin scraping.

Once you’re ready, start removing paint in strategic areas. You’ll want to reveal small spots of all the different paint colors you’ve used. Try not to make the peeling paint look uniform. Make the spots different shapes and different sizes.

Faux finishes are fun and easy to do!
Faux finishes are fun and easy to do! | Source

Reclaimed Wood - You Can DIY!

Creating your own reclaimed wood looks is easy, and it’s totally fun! Don’t worry about making mistakes – you can always paint over them and start over. If you don’t feel confident enough to begin on an actual project, play around with some scrap wood first. You might like the results so much that you decide to use the scrap wood on a piece of furniture! By sing different shades and colors and different painting strokes, you’ll find out which ones work best for you and which ones you like the best.


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