Looking for a super simple tutorial on how to distress wood? I’ve tried them all and this is one of the easiest and simplest ways to make wood look distressed.
We are ALMOST done with our Makeover in a Month series.
You know. The one where I’m joining my friends Leslie and Marian and Melissa to makeover a room in 30 days. I’ve already shared this amazing french door update and this $40 table makeover. I’m going to be sharing the finished room on Tuesday, but today I wanted to talk about the coffee table makeover for the room.
I almost didn’t share this with you.
It’s such a simple process.
I mean, everyone knows how to distress wood? Right?
But then I was worried someone might not know.
And I had this SUPER SIMPLE method that takes a hot minute and I’ve done for years and years and years.
So I couldn’t let the weekend start without a little furniture makeover.
Here’s how to distress wood in under five minutes.
how to distress wood
Before we get started I wanted to mention a couple of quick housekeeping notes and opinions and a little bit of encouragement.
- DO NOT OVERTHINK THIS PROCESS. Part of the joy of the distressing process is being messy and uneven and a little random. There is an amazing life lesson in there that I will save for another post.
- There are a zillion ways to distress wood. I’m sure you have read many different tutorials. Let me state before we get started. I have tried almost every single one that you have read. And at the end of the day? This is the easiest (and fastest way) I’ve found to distress wood.
- Add a base coat to the piece of furniture before you get started. Don’t worry about the paint covering perfectly. I typically add one coat of paint. You can see that the table needs another coat if we wanted it to be perfect. We don’t. We want to be as far from perfection as possible.
- You. Can. Do. This.
- End of story.
How to Distress Wood step 1: start with a sander
I use a typical hand sander.
One you can get at the home improvement store. I really like this version of the sander because it catches all the bits of dust. See that contraption in the back? It saves you so much clean-up.
You don’t need an expensive sander for this.
Step 2: Add sandpaper
You want to get a pack of sandpaper with different types of sandpaper in it—ranging from 100 grit to 220 grit like this.
Start with the 100 grit sandpaper first.
Cut a piece and add it to the sander.
Pretend you are an artist and start sanding.
Step 3: Sand the edges
Remember the part where we weren’t overthinking this?
This is where it comes in.
The key is finding the raised parts of the piece of furniture and sanding those. With this table, there are the edges of the tabletop and the curves of the legs and the sides of the legs and the molding just under the tabletop.
Take your sander and lightly sand along the edges.
You can go slowly at first if it makes you nervous. Me? I literally GO TO TOWN.
It brings me such joy.
The best part is you can sand as much or as little as you want.
The key is to NOT sand it evenly.
Again. Think of yourself as a sanding artist.
Sand a little here and a little there until you get the exact look that you want. Start with your 100 grit sandpaper (which is the roughest sandpaper—the higher the sandpaper number the less rough it is). You can do a sanding pass with the 100 grit and then another pass with the 150 grit and finally, one last lightly sanded pass to smooth out your edges with the 220 grit.
quick tip: if you sand too much? You can always go back and paint over where you sanded to reduce the amount of distressing.
How to distress wood step 4: take it to the next level
If you want to go all next level with your distressing?
Paint two coats of paint in different colors.
This table was gray.
It was painted white. This does take an extra step, but you can see the results here.
When I started sanding, the white paint was sanded away in parts, revealing the gray paint underneath.
Step 5: Wipe off with a tack cloth
Before you go to the next step, you want to make sure to wipe down your table with a tack cloth.
The table is full of little sanded bits.
We don’t want to seal those into our finish forever.
Wipe down the legs and sides of the table with a cloth. I like to slightly (very slightly) dampen my cloth to make sure it gets all the sanded pieces.
Step 6: Seal or stain
You can stop here.
Depending on the look of your room and what your style is like, you can stop the process here.
If you decided to press pause and that your table looks perfect, you want to make sure to seal your masterpiece.
Use a water-based sealer to seal the table.
You might need to add another coat of sealer to ensure all the distressing stays exactly where you distressed it.
Step 7: Add a layer of stain
If you want to add another layer of depth to your furniture piece, you might consider layering in a stain.
This is my favorite color.
Provincial by Minwax.
The color is perfect for adding depth to distressed wood.
Again, on repeat.
DO NOT OVERTHINK THIS.
It will look so dark when you first put it on.
Lightly dab it on the table and then wipe it off immediately and you’ll get this soft, creamy, finish with so much depth. I use a sock to do this. I put on a plastic glove and then put the sock on and dip it into the stain and just wipe.
Just lightly wipe the sock with a little bit of stain over the entire piece of furniture, making sure you get the stain on the exposed wood on the corners.
Then use a water-based sealer to seal the table.
You might need to add another coat of sealer to ensure all the stain and distressing stays exactly where you distressed it.
Here’s the finished table in the room.
In super sad news, I can’t show you the entire table just yet.
That has to wait until Tuesday.
But can we press pause for a moment and appreciate the layering in the room? It is all coming together and I’m SO HAPPY with the space. It’s the perfect room for all the cozy and all the fall and all the amazing that we have coming up.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial.
It really is as easy as it looks.
Just enjoy yourself. Have fun distressing and making the table delightfully imperfect.
And all together now….
…DO NOT OVERTHINK IT. 🙂
disclosure: please note that affiliate links are used in this post.