Wondering how to whitewash wood? Read on for a simple tutorial for whitewashed wood planks for walls or ceilings.
If you follow me on instagram, you’ve seen a lot of updates on our attic space renovation. And oh boy, do I have a lot to share! But I wanted to start simple. Today, I have tutorial for you on whitewashing wood.
We wanted something light and bright for our attic space. We only put one skylight in the space (mostly because it’s going to be a beast to keep it cool during Texas summers!), and with the low ceiling, we knew we wanted white.
But our attic already had some of this fabulous, aged cedar planking… How could we resist capitalizing on that with wood walls?
And how could we cover up all that beautiful woodgrain and texture with solid white paint? We couldn’t…
And so the whitewashed ceiling and walls plan was born.
Making Wood Planks look old
We ran into a problem at the very beginning, though (welcome to DIY, right?!?!): our gorgeous aged planks were a totally different color than the fresh, new natural wood planks we had to buy to complete the space.
While we could mix them up some, we knew we needed to try to match the new and old boards first, so we started by staining all the new boards to a color similar to dark wood of the aged ones. The match was far from perfect, but knowing that we were planning to whitewash anyway meant that they didn’t need to match exactly.
If you are considering whitewashing newer planking, I would recommend staining it a bit darker first. This brings out the knots and textures in the wood grain more clearly. Then, when you whitewash, you can keep more of the wood grain showing through.
Ok, on to the tutorial:
How to whitewash wood ceilings and walls
- (optional) Stain your wood a medium brown to bring out the grain and knots (we used Wheat by Rustoleum with just a touch of Kona to make it a bit darker).
- Mix up 1 part water to 2 parts paint: flat white latex paint is best (we used budget ceiling paint from our local hardware store).
- Brush (don’t roll) the white paint with water on in the direction of the wood grain.
- Wipe off with a paper towel or rag in the direction of the wood grain.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 if desired.
Now that doesn’t sound too hard, does it?
And it wasn’t… but it wasn’t really easy either. Like a lot of painting projects, it’s more an art form than a science. You have to keep going until you love it…
Tips for Whitewashing wood
To help you reach the “love it” stage, here are some tips I found that helped. Each plank has its own identity, and each plank will take a certain finesse, but the overall result is wonderful… isn’t it?
Tip 1: The brush strokes in the direction of the wood grain are important, especially if you’re working with faux aged (i.e. stained new wood) rather than authentically aged planks. Some of your texture comes from those brush strokes, and you want them to work with your grain, rather than against it.
Tip 2: Have a spray bottle with water in it on hand. If you ever feel your paint is getting too thick, just squirt a little extra water in. The 1:2 water to paint ratio is a guideline.
Tip 3: Be careful at the ends of boards. The paint tends to glob up there a bit and show the wiping marks if you don’t rub it in well.
Tip 4: Don’t wipe too vigorously or you’ll have to put on a million coats.
Tip 5: Even though you’re working with watered down paint, sometimes a “dry brush” technique is the best approach. In other words, squeeze your brush out on a paper towel, get just a little watered down paint, and then brush it onto the surface of the board. “Dry brushing” watered-down paint seems counter-intuitive, but trust me; sometimes it’s the easiest way to create the desired texture.
Tip 6: If you ever do end up with ugly brush strokes or too much paint, use a wet rag and rub vigorously… As long as the paint hasn’t fully dried, you can wipe most of it off.
Tip 7: If you are layering any pieces a different direction (like our faux beams below), try to whitewash them before you install them so you don’t mess up your brush strokes.
Though we stained and painted the entire accent wall and ceiling in the space (because we wanted the stain and paint to settle in the nooks and crannies authentically), I did whitewash the faux beams (which were used to cover the seams in the planks) on saw horses before installing them.
We loved the effect so much that we even whitewashed the closet door. I promise a tutorial on that soon…
As a side note, I LOVE living in a home where we can find treasures like this old cedar door (which we sized down for the closet and whitewashed) in the attic. Just look at the gorgeous patina and crystal on that door knob!
And I LOVE the whitewashed planks… Do you? This same technique could be used on so many things… What are you itching to white wash? 😉