Tuesday, September 17, 2013

DIY Basics: How-to Stain + Distress Wood

Confession: I have had this new pinterest / diy / decor obsession lately. Once Fall comes around I go into this "nesting" phase - I don't have kids yet. Or a house. But, I spend all my free time cleaning, organizing, creating, decorating, or planning to do any of the above. I love the Fall season and have enjoyed getting out my fall colors and "Hot Buttered Rum" candle, but this year I threw a few diy projects into the mix, too. We are in a one-bedroom apartment so obviously the "scale" of the project is limited, but since we now know we'll be in this same space for over another year, I've put more time and energy into nesting making it our own.

I'm pretty sure P loves it because, for us, diy is more like dit - do-it-together. I'm quite certain that he loves staining, cutting, designing, and spending his free time helping me with my pinteresting, as he calls it. He hasn't actually told me he loves it, but I'm sure he does :) I can just tell. 

So I have some fabulous projects to share with you in the near future. I can't wait to post them & the first one is coming tomorrow! But a lot of them include some of the same "basics" so I'm going to share those crucial skills with you first:
  • Distressing wood to make it look unique
  • Staining wood to pull out the grain
  • Working with your husband so you don't kill each other while diy-ing

1. Distressing wood: 
In order to distress wood you need a few tools. Well, first you need the wood, which will be specific to the particular project you're working on. Then, you need the tools. Basically, picture Law & Order SVU and use any object that has shown up in the show: hammer, chain, rocks, paint scraper, sandpaper, screwdriver, sledgehammer, fabric, etc... I enlisted my mom for help but basically, you want to "damage" the wood in any way possible - although, you're not actually hurting it. You're adding character and uniqueness. When you are done distressing, it will not necessarily look like much happened. If you look closely you'll be able to see the engravings or dents but the real transformation will happen when you stain the wood.

2. Staining wood:
After distressing the wood you will apply your stain or coating of some sort. In each of my recent projects I used one coat of Varathane Premium Fast Dry Wood Stain in Ipswich Pine, because I wanted to add some color to the pine wood I was starting with, but not go too dark. You can choose whichever stain color fits the look you're going for and can apply more than one coat if necessary. Since my mom was helping me, she taught me the basics of staining (which you can also read on the can): apply the stain to your material, let the stain soak for 5-10 minutes, then wipe off excess with a cloth. I chose to only do one coat, but you can apply a second or third coat if desired, just give the material about an hour to rest between each coat. Following the stain, you want to apply a Polyeurothane. I have not read about this step on every space that talks about staining + diy but I highly recommend it. Not only will it protect the wood from scratches and sun damage, it will also add a nice, smooth, finished look to your material. Again, I highly recommend it. I noticed  huge difference in my projects from staining stage to post-polyeurothane.

3. Working with your husband:
Let's be honest. Two people can love each other more than anything in the world, but get extremely frustrated and snarky while diy-ing. My advice: be patient, be kind, don't get snotty, don't let him hold on to the drill for too long, and don't stand right next to him on a stool for more than 2 minutes. His advice: "Good luck. It wasn't that bad. You gotta be patient. Patience is a virtue. Is that good?" That's literally exactly what he said when I asked him what his advice would be. Like I said before, pretty sure he absolutely loved it all...

This was my first time doing any major diy project so these are the basics that I learned along the way. I would love to hear if you have any tips to add! My first project reveal is happening right here tomorrow so make sure you come take a looksie!


  1. I LOVED this! I shy away (or run away as fast as possible, whatever you prefer) from the idea of repurposing furniture and making it "my own" because I honestly have no idea how to do it. This tutorial was totally for me!!

  2. I tend to want to just get it done and work well into the point of exhaustion so breaking it up into stages is good. Tired = bratty for me. So know when to stop and come back another day! ;)

  3. can't wait to see your posts! i want to paint this rocking chair we got and I want to make a wooden/pallet sign but have no idea how! i'll have to use your tips!


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