How To Distress Furniture

Chair repair
Distressing furniture gives it an old look with rustic charm. It's something you can easily do as a weekend project  at a fraction of the cost of buying it already distressed. Follow these steps to distress furniture.

Step 1

Start with a clean slate. The best canvas to start with is a blank one. When you distress furniture, it's best to start with clean, unstained wood. You will need to sand the piece down to the wood grain. If there are any large gashes or holes that you don't like, you can fill these in with wood filler. Give the wood filler ample time to dry and then sand the piece once again, moving in the direction of the grain. Medium-grit sandpaper is fine for this initial sanding. Prepare the wood for paint for removing any dust with a vacuum and wet cloth. Your work area and your furniture should be free from any dust or dirt that might become a nuisance during the painting process.

Step 2

Apply primer. Any finishing project includes a coat of primer. It acts as a great base and helps the paint to adhere evenly to your piece. Apply the primer in the direction of the grain, allow it to dry, and then lightly sand any bumpy areas with fine-grit sandpaper. You don't want to remove the primer. You just want to sand down any bumps so that the surface is smooth.  Again, wipe down and vacuum the whole piece.

Step 3

Apply paint. Once the primer is dry, you can apply your coat of paint. This paint is the key element in the process of distressing furniture. Make sure the paint is water-based (like the primer). Now it's time to distress your furniture.

Step 4

Distress. When you distress furniture, you're basically making it look old and loved. In order to do this, you will need to go against everything your mother taught you and set about damaging your furniture! Start by sanding the edges of the pieces to remove some of the paint color. It's okay to make rounded edges flat, or make dings and notches in your furniture. That's all part of the process. Sharp corners need to be sanded, as do any flat surfaces. Use an ice pick or a round tool to simulate holes in the wood. And take a hammer to flat surfaces to indicate wear and tear. If you are really looking for a worn-out look, you might even consider dragging your furniture across some gravel. The amount of distressing you do really depends on how distressed you want your piece to look. There's really no wrong approach to distressing furniture.


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