Steps for How to Make Wood Look Distressed - a distressed wooden sign on a door

How to Make Wood Look Distressed: Step By Step

Old wood has a unique appeal that most materials do not. It gives the furniture a certain sense of nostalgia and life that you wouldn’t find in any other modern furnishings. This is why distressed wood can be a great addition to your design palette in case you plan to use it for a project in the future. There are a variety of techniques you can use, and several are explained in this guide for how to make wood look distressed.

The weathered look that distressed wood can provide gives an interior design model the classic field. You would feel as though you were transported in time if you decide to use distressed furniture. However, the only problem is that it can be expensive to buy reclaimed what because of the antique surface and texture of the product.

Fortunately, there are many ways for you to do it on your own. Yes. You can distress wood without having to spend too much money. You just have to follow a few simple steps to do this effectively. What are you waiting for? Go ahead and continue reading to learn more about how to distress wood as soon as possible.

Steps for How to Make Wood Look Distressed

Part 1: The Distressing Process

Step 1: Make Sure That It’s Beaten Up

One significant point that you need to know about distressed wood is that it looks like it’s been through a lot in life. You will not get that feeling with brand new wood. This is why you would have to make sure that you can texture your wooden piece thoroughly.

You can do this by making marks in the wood via hammers or any hard object you have around the house. You can also place some screws on different parts of the wood to create holes on its surface. It will make your wooden implement look used and abused.

Placing chains around the wood will give it divots that led well to the stress that you are trying to apply to the wooden surface. In short, the goal here is to make it look used. You can only do this by inflicting damage to the wooden surface.

Step 2: Use Wire Brushes

One of the most popular characteristics of barn wood is the fact that it has a deeply weathered texture because of being exposed to the elements for too long. You can also achieve this look without having to expose your wooden tool or implements to the outdoors. How can you do this? By using wire brushes that you can fit into a drill.

When you move the brush across the wood surface, especially if you’re using software, you will then see the difference for sure. Wire brushed wood tends to have these sharp lines and rough edges. These lines and edges will simulate natural exposure to the elements without even having to spend time outdoors.

Another advantage of using wire brushes is that you can apply it to varying degrees. The softer the brush strokes, the lighter the lines. If you want a more weathered look, I suggest you go deep into it.

Lastly, make sure that you wear the right protective gear because this step can be extremely messy. You wouldn’t want to get sawdust all over you for sure.

Step 3: Staining

Another procedure that you can do if you want to ensure wooden implements would be to stain it properly. If you want to achieve that dramatic effect, you have to make sure that you can steam it thoroughly. This thing will accumulate inside the divots that you have created earlier and give it a more pronounced texture.

It will also darken the wood, which will increase its aged appearance easily. You can also use acidic solutions to stain the wood even further. Some of these solutions include the following:

  • Vinegar
  • Tea
  • Iron Acetate from Steel Wool

To get the extracts from these solutions, you will have to soak the tea bag into the water at room temperature. In another container, place the steel wool along with vinegar. Leave the steel wool in the vinegar solution for about 10 hours.

After 10 hours, you can now see the steel wool oxidize and turn into iron acetate. As soon as this happens, you can now brush the wood with the tea mixture and let it sit for a while. After a few hours, you can start brushing the wood wave and additional coat of iron acetate to get that dark texture.

Important Reminders

When doing this procedure, make sure not to seal any of the containers. This is because the solution produces hydrogen gas, which can be poisonous when trapped in an airtight container. Also, try to store the containers in a room that’s well ventilated.

Another good thing about this particular procedure is that you can use substitutes if you don’t have any of the materials above. For example, if you don’t have white vinegar, you can easily use another type of vinegar. As long as it has acetic acid, you will be able to use it for staining.

Staining can also occur in the mostly wooden services. Make sure to be careful when sanding the product.

Step 4: Whitewashing

This procedure has some similarities to staining; only it does the opposite. When you whitewash something, you will turn it into a lighter shade than its original color. The same effect goes for wood. Aside from turning the wood light, and it will also let the natural grain show much more prominently.

This process can be repeated multiple times for added layers. You can also allow the pickling solution to sit on the wood for longer periods to enhance the whitening effect. The longer it sits, the more faint and faded the wood becomes.

Don’t worry because the pickling solution is available in any hardware store. You wouldn’t have to spend too much on it either. It is quite affordable both online and off.

Step 5: Sanding and Painting

You can also distress wood by using sandpaper and painting it a darker color. This usually works if you already have salvaged wood around the house. If not, do this after the previous steps above.

As an additional reminder, try not to spend too much time on one spot when sanding wood. Wouldn’t you want an uneven feel for the surface of your wooden implement now with you? It will happen if you focus too much on one side of your wooden surface.

Also, 80-grit sandpaper will give you the rough texture you need to achieve the weathered look for your work even further. You just have to spend more time sanding it than ever before.

Step 6: Scraping

Scraping is another way for you to age wood properly. Scrapers of different shapes and sizes give wood that faded look that most antique collectors look for in wooden furnishings. You will never go wrong if you decide to use this particular texture as part of your distressing project down the line.

Normally, scrapers work in such a way that smooths out the surface of any type of wood. In terms of distressing though, it helps remove paint so that it looks worn out. You wouldn’t have to wait for the painting to peel off over time naturally.

The different shapes will give it a variety when it comes to the overall look of the project. It will be perfectly imperfect after the process.

Additional Points to Remember

While it is always good to follow each of the previous steps, there is one little detail that you should always keep in mind when aging wood. You have to repeat the steps above over and over again. The more layers of weathering procedures you do, the more aged the wood will be.

In addition to this, you have to make sure that you reclaim wood as much as possible. This will be easier to distress than brand new wooden implements.

Here are some common types of wood that you can try to use for your distressing project aside from barn wood.

  • Mahogany
  • Plywood
  • Driftwood
  • Oak

Why do we recommend these types of wood? They already have an aged look working for them. You will not have to work on the wooden implements for too long if you use these particular types of materials.

Steps for How to Make Wood Look Distressed

More Money-Saving Tips When Distressing Wood

The good thing about using distressed wood is that you don’t have to spend too much money to get expensive types of wooden material. This particular project entails a damaged feel to the wood itself. You will only achieve this if you get weathered wooden materials, those that have aged over time. The imperfections will add character to the wooden implement itself and give credence to the nostalgic look that you want.

If you can do this, you are well on your way to getting that antique look you are going for. All you have to do now is to add a little bit of paint, and everything else will fall into place.

Also, do not be afraid to look for bargains. Many secondhand shops provide the supplies that you need for your distressing project. The good thing about this is you won’t have to spend too much money just to get reclaimed wood. You will be able to get the material at very affordable prices for sure.

You can use substitutes for any materials or mixed solutions that you might want to use for distressing. For example, in place of tea, you can use any caffeinated drink. You can also chop the wood up to give it a jagged look. It will end up with a weathered appearance that you are going for in the end.

Part 2: Safety Protocols to Follow When Distressing

In every home improvement project, always observe safety protocols, especially with woodwork or carpentry. These rules will help protect not only yourself but the people around you as well. It will allow you to work knowing that you are safe from any health hazards that might endanger your own safety in the coming days. Here are some of those safety protocols as follows:

Use the Proper Woodworking Gear

Make sure that you wear proper gear when working on any kind of carpentry project. This will protect you from any health issues that might be caused by exposure to sawdust or various chemical solutions you might need to use to distress the wood. Some of the gear you would need are as follows:

Safety Goggles/Glasses

This is one of the most important pieces of safety equipment that you can have. It protects your eyes from sawdust and any other particulates that might become airborne as you work on your wood project.

Hearing Protection/Earplugs

This is another tool that you can use to keep your ears safe from damage particularly when using power tools such as drills or routers.

Face Shield or Mask

Yes. There was a time when people only used these particular tools for woodworking or similar activities. It will help protect your face and nose from heavy dust particles that might cause respiratory problems down the line.

The Proper Attire

Try to don proper clothing when doing woodworking projects. What type of clothes can you wear, you ask? Loosely fitting clothes can work well for carpentry projects. This way, you can easily move around your workshop without having to worry about tripping over yourself.

In addition to this, wear long sleeves with matching pants and steel-toed work boots for added protection. For experienced woodworkers, overalls and suspenders can work wonders in terms of attire. Will he be comfortable in terms of ventilation while keeping you say from unwanted particles.

Get a Separate Workstation

It would also help you to have a separate workstation for distressing. This way, the fumes will not waft into your home unnecessarily. Otherwise, the fumes might endanger other occupants or future guests in your house.


With these pointers, you will certainly be able to distress wood without spending too much money. It is important to have patience when it comes to the steps of projects. You would have to be very thorough because you wouldn’t want to end up having a sloppy finished product as your final output.