How to Distress Painted Wood

Are you in love with the look of furniture with history and patina? Naturally, you may need to wait years, even decades for wood furniture to look this aged. But with the latest techniques, you can distress wood in a matter of days using a few simple techniques. Find out why with this guide.

Distressing painted wood

This guide will help you create lovely distressed furniture in just a few days. Your furniture will look like they’ve been passed down from generations when you are done. You don’t need expensive tools and power tools to distress wood at all. In fact, all you need is some paint, some fins sandpaper and a lot of free time to work with your project. The following are easy ways to make over your furniture.

What you’ll need

  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes or rollers
  • Polyurethane
  • Candle
  • Steel wool
  • Stain
  • Drop Cloths
  • Rags or tack cloths

Steps on how to distress painted wood furniture

1) Prepare your space


Place drop cloths to secure the area where you will distress your wooden furniture. Remove any metal hardware or knobs from the furniture and store them somewhere safe and out of the way. Remove drawers, doors or legs, any piece that you will not distress.

2) Clean the piece you will work on


Use sandpaper to clean the surface of the piece. If the furniture is unfinished light sanding will do. Pieces which have been previously painted or treated with should be deeply and thoroughly sanded. Use a larger grit of sandpaper on this kind of wood. Soften edges or corners that look sharp first and when you are done sanding, wipe the piece with a rag or tack cloth to get rid of dust and dirt.

3) Paint the piece


Use two colors of paint. The base color will need to show through when the top of the main color is distressed. If you want the wood to peek through, only one color of paint should be used. You must paint all the surfaces of the furniture. You can apply a second coat of the same color if you want. Let the paint dry completely before applying wax.

4) Apply wax and the top layer of paint


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For a second color to show through the paint, rub all the areas with a candle. This includes spots and edges as well as the legs and corners of your furniture. The second coat of paint will not stick to the wax to make it easier to remove using sandpaper. Paint over the entire piece as well as the waxed areas, including the waxed areas using the second paint.

5) Distress the wood


Once the piece is a dry start to distress the piece by removing the paint with steel wool and sandpaper. If you painted two coats of paint, use a steel wool to work on the waxed areas and let the first color peek through.

Use the sandpaper to roughen up the surface some more. For furniture surfaces with just one color, use a steel wool and sandpaper to remove the paint show the lovely natural wood beneath. Take care to distress the edges and corners of the wood to gradually age the piece. You can add more damage until you are completely happy with the result. Remove any paint, dust or chips with a tack cloth before you coat the surface with the finish.

6) Apply stain


To achieve an antiqued look, apply a stain to the piece. Use one coat of the stain and use a rag to wipe off the excess stain. Wipe using a straight motion than rubbing in a circle. Let the stain dry completely before using the furniture. Protect the finished piece with polyurethane. Apply a clear polyurethane to seal the piece and protect the design. Reinstall any hardware and knobs.


Distressing wood is easy when you have the right tools and understand the basic distressing techniques. You can turn a new table to a lovely, dramatic distressed piece in just a few days; no need to wait for decades to enjoy aged furniture.

  • January 5, 2019
  • DIY