How Do You Distress Wood Furniture?

You can distress wooden furniture in one of two ways: either sand the areas you want to appear distressed, or use two layers of paint or paint and stain, coating the bottom layer with candle wax in the places where you want the undercoat to show through. At minimum, you will need paint, sandpaper, tack cloth and painting supplies.

  1. Gather your materials

    For a bare wood distressed look, you will need satin finish latex paint, sandpaper, a tack cloth, painting supplies and an optional polyurethane finish. For a colored distressed look, you will need either two colors of paint or paint plus latex stain, sandpaper, a candle, painting supplies and medium-grade steel wool.

  2. Sand the piece

    If the piece is unfinished, sand it lightly. If, however, it had a previous finish, thoroughly sand all surfaces. When you are finished sanding, wipe it down with the tack cloth.

  3. Apply the base coat

    Apply your base coat to the entire piece of furniture. Allow the coat to dry.

  4. Sand the areas that would show distress for a bare wood look

    To create a bare wood distressed effect, sand the parts of the furniture that would normally be distressed, such as corners and handles. Make sure to stop and evaluate your work regularly so that you don't sand it too far down. When done, wipe it down with tack cloth. Apply a polyurethane finish if desired.

  5. Use a second paint or stain for a colored distressed look

    For a colored distressed effect, rub the candle over the areas where you want the base color to show through. Apply the top color over the base coat, including the waxed areas. Using steel wool, rub the areas that you waxed. Wipe the entire piece with tack cloth. Apply a polyurethane finish if desired.