How to Make Wood Look Old - exterior of a wooden house

How to Make Wood Look Old?

We all have our own taste when it comes to home decor. Some may prefer that modern look, but others find elegance in a material that looks old, especially if made from wood. If that’s you and you’re searching for how to make wood look old, you’re in luck. Here is just the guide you need.

Wood has been man’s friend since the beginning of time. It has been apart of our survival from hunting to building shelter. It has become the language of our survival, and history has not forgotten it.

As a material for furniture, wood becomes classier if it comes with a vintage appearance while being displayed in our modern homes. This article will present you with numerous practical ways to create that old world look in your wood.

There are ways to create an aged look on wood, and we discuss three of them. But during the process, you need to make sure that the quality of the wood is not compromised and that whatever method you use is without any side effects on the wood. We will discuss many safe methods in this article. Read the content thoroughly, and you will surely grasp ideas that are easy to apply.

How to Make a Wood Look Old

Vinegar/Tea Method

First, you will need these materials for the process:

  • Vinegar/Tea Method
  • White vinegar
  • Steel wool
  • Glass jars
  • Paintbrush
  • Black tea
  • Hot or room-temperature water
  • Sandpaper
  • Paste wax or polyurethane
  • Plastic gloves
  • Rags

Make the Vinegar Solution

If you want to make wood look aged, you can find all you need right at home. By just using what you have in your kitchen, you can realize your vision of vintage-looking furniture.

First, shred the steel wool into pieces and put it on the jar. Afterward, pour the vinegar onto the jar with the shredded steel wool inside and leave it uncovered for at least 24 hours. (Take note that it that the longer the duration of the time, the darker it will appear, just be aware of rust formation, otherwise it will yield an orange stain.)

The vinegar will be responsible for the dissolving of the steel wool.

Mix the Tea

Once the solution has been set, add hot water and tea in another glass jar. The steel wool and vinegar solution will react on the tannins in the tea creating a darker finish.

Sand the Wood

Sanding the wood should be done when the piece is already painted or finished. This is to ensure that the wood will adhere to the solution. This is also to not waste the effort that has been made.

Paint on the Tea

Now spilling the tea is the next step. But you don’t do it the messy way. You will be needing a paintbrush to apply the tea to the wood. Next, allow the tea to dry and apply the solution to the wood. The aging process will continue as it dries, so it will be convenient to wait before doing a second coat of the solution.

Protect the Finish

Of course, there is a need to highlight maintenance of the newly aged wood by protecting the finish with a paste wax or polyurethane.

Pros And Cons Of The Vinegar Method

It is important that when one seeks to use the vinegar method, they understand the limits of the process and its benefits. Below are its pros and cons:


  • The materials are cheap and are accessible in the market.
  • It is manageable and controllable as it gives the doer a sense of control on the amount needed for the procedure.


  • It may yield a bad odor to the material.
  • It consumes a lot of time and it is not advisable to those who would want to see results immediately.


Do not seal containers and keep in a ventilated area when making iron acetate produces hydrogen gas.

Be careful if you need to sand afterward as staining will occur mostly on the wood surface.

Commercial Stain Method

This method applies solution that is readily available in the market. As compared to the first method mentioned, this is quite easier and requires limited time to get the wood an aged look. This is convenient for those who would like to see results right away.

How to Make a Wood Look Old

You will need the following materials:

  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrush
  • Hot or room-temperature water
  • Paste wax or polyurethane
  • Plastic gloves
  • Wood stain
  • Rags

Sand the Wood

To ensure the wood has a smooth surface and for the easy absorption of the chosen solution, sand the wood first. If you are using a stain designed for creating a weathered look, be mindful of the manufacturer’s instruction for application.

Pros and Cons

It is important to take note of the positive and not-so-good aspect of the process. Below are the pros and cons for your further reference:

Pros of Sanding

  • It is quite manageable and easy to handle for those who do not have much expertise.
  • The materials used are cheap and easily found in stores. The materials that are readily available on the market are inexpensive.
  • It is the fastest way of making the wood smooth, ready for the staining procedure.

Cons of Sanding

  • It might consume a bit of time if the user uses a manual sander.
  • It may open the way to a dusty work atmosphere.
  • It is a useless effort if it the wood is not subjected to repainting or remaking.

Brush with Water

Water will play an important role on this procedure as it the allows less of the stain to be absorbed by the wood. This is helpful to those who are using regular wood stain to DIY the look.

Add the Stain

Once the initial procedures are followed, let the wood dry for a few seconds, and then apply the stain using a brush. Allow the wood to dry and repeat the step if necessary. Finish with paste wax or polyurethane to amplify the aged look that you desire.

Mechanical Techniques

This technique will require a physical effort in order to be materialized. Unlike the first two procedures mentioned, this one will be quite laborious but it is quite convenient to those who would like to integrate shapes to the wood. It is like waiting for the wood to look aged while it emphasizes the desired shape and design.

This procedure will need the following:

  • Hammer
  • Metal chain
  • Nails
  • Awl
  • Drill
  • Wire brush drill attachment
  • Sandpaper

Attack the Wood

This process is like literally attacking the wood with a hammer. You exert that physical strength to distress the wood using a hammer, mallet, or metal chain in order to create small divots. If you desire to create a long scratch, you can press the side of a large screw into the wood or hammer the side of an awl. An irregular pattern can be made from a sock or cloth bag filled with nails.

Since this method may ruin the furniture once taken carelessly, it is advisable that employ the procedure first using a scrap wood before beating up the furniture— you can always add more damage, but once started, it will be difficult to subtract dents.

Create Texture With a Drill

To remove areas of the wood and allow the grain to shine, you will have to add a wire brush attachment. Be sure to fit the attachment into the drill and run the brush back and forth over the wood, going with the grain. Repeat the process until the wood is textured. Finish by softly sanding the surface.

Add Insect Damage

The elegance of wood comes with its variety of wormholes, such is the trademark of reclaimed wood. To achieve this look, you won’t need any bugs. Just drive an awl into the wood, yielding a random pattern. You can also create small holes in your piece by drilling screws through with a two-by-four.

Reasons Why People Prefer Old Style Wood

People are getting obsessed with the vintage look of wood because it reflects their love of the arts. In fact has listed why people should haved aged wood displayed in their house over new. They are as follows:

It Highlights Love Of the Environment

The use of old wood can be a friendly approach to the environment as it decreases the demand for cutting young trees. Thus, the demand for reclaimed wood is an essential mindset towards achieving the goal of a sustainable environment.

It Shows Love In Giving Old Wood Life

According to report of the USDA, there are about one billion feet of usable lumber produced when demolishing buildings. This means that there is wasted woods, which can be reused for aesthetic purposes. If people learn how to reuse these wasted woods for recycling purposes, then there will be no need to throw it away. Thus, minimizing the possibility of environmental denudation.

It sets a Passion to Preserve History

History is often spoken by the materials we see around. Thus, making a wood look old is equivalent to preserving the language of the past. It creates an impact on the eye that it opens an idea of thinking about the past. There are instances that material we see around will remind us of how rich our history is.

It makes the lumber strong and durable

We all want to have furniture that withstands the test of time, and by choosing old wood, you realize this desire. People will always want a strong and durable wood, for it can mean minimal expenses. All that translates to savings in your pocket.

It Speaks Originality

It is quite hard nowadays to magnify your own style as we are being invaded by influencers who are excellent on their chosen craft. Thus, it is quite hard for one to stay exceptional in a world full of imitations. However, in the aspect of furniture, it is a bold and daring move to opt for the old look of a wood. This is because some will not buy the idea of having a vintage look wood because it means a laborious task. In this modern world, where everything is manipulated by technology, it is commendable if one will keep the language of the past through resorting to old styles.


The procedures mentioned above tell of three ways to distress wood. One is the vinegar method which denotes an accessible way of making wood look old since materials are highly available on the kitchen.

The next one is the commercial method. This means that those who will resort to using this method will not have to wait for so long for them to see the result. This is a method that will not consume a lot of time. Although, it might make a huge dent in the pocketbook.

The third one is the mechanical method, which amplifies the need to exert physical effort through the use of a hammer. In here, you build your own desire.

These methods may have their own process, but they all share a common denominator: there will always be elegance in an old look. This is also sending an implied message that nothing is weird when someone will opt to make a wood old as it is an embodiment of an art that can transcend the power of time. Hopefully this guide on how to make wood look old has been useful to you!