Tutorial: Let's Talk Distressing!

Last week I showed you my refinished dining room set that I bought on Craigslist.  I had planned on showing you a tutorial on how I completed this project and last week one of our readers had asked about how I did the distressing so I will be sure to include that for everyone to see.

I had no idea what I was doing going into this until Shanna had pointed out that Young House Love has painted almost everything under the sun so I hopped over there for a little lesson.  You can see their tutorial here and for total disclosure you will see my process pretty much mirrors what they recommend.  I mean why reinvent the wheel?  If they have done this and have had success you can bet I am going to follow their instructions!

So again, here is a before of the table:

And this is how I did it:

1.  This was going to be messy so I bought a plastic drop cloth at Lowes for $2.00 along with a couple paint brushes that I was OK with throwing away.  The rest of my supplies included oil based primer (make sure it is just primer and not paint or you will have big issues), your color of choice (I used Sherwin Williams Dover White latex paint after the primer), and polycrilic for extra durability as a topcoat.

2.  Once the furniture was in the basement I took everything apart including taking the seat cushions off.  Even though I was recovering them it was mich easier not to have them in my way and I did not want to come close to painting them to the actual chair.

3.  My table had already had some sort of polycrilic topcoat on it so I had to sand it a bit just to rough up the finish.  This will make the primer stick to the surface much better.  The oil based primer was really thick and felt strange to work with but I know from what I have read that it covers any marks you may have better than anythigng else out there (my table had crayon all over it).

4.  First coat, oil based primer.  I only needed one coat of this on everything.  If you have a darker piece of furniture, you may want to consider a second coat.  Oh and as a side note, this stuff has an incredibly pungent smell, I had to do this part with lots of clothes on and my bilco doors open to keep the basement well ventilated.  Next time, I will wait for the warmer weather and just do this outside, lesson learned!

5.  Next, two coats of Dover White.  This part was really tedious but I kept reminding myself of the end product.  Make sure each coat is very thin to avoid any drips.  With work and life this part took me a few weeks to complete.  All of the paint seemed to dry very quickly though so if you have an entire weekend to devote to this you could probably get this project done. 

6.  This is where the distressing comes in.  I was really nervous to take sandpaper to all of my hard work for fear that a few swipes would ruin all the work I had put into this project.  I was very wrong.  This was so easy!  I took a sandpaper block and ran it across the edges that stick out and some of the round spindle parts of the tables and chairs.  It took the paint off very quickly and did not create any peeling on the paint that was stripped away.  Score!

7.  I have seen some people add stain to the sections they sanded to make the distressing darker, I like it both ways but I did not do this to my set.

8.  Last part, two coats of polycrilic.  This was just like putting on a clear topcoat of nailpolish, the consistency was very thin and went on so easy.  I did the polycrilic in one night, it dried extremely fast and actually started to set while I was working with it.  I still gave it a couple hours between coats.

9. All you have to do now is wait, I let it dry for a day or two and then brought it to the dining room to reassemble.  This is where you would recover your new chairs (more on this in another tutorial) so your new set is complete.

10.  The hard part is waiting about a week before really using your new peice of furniture.  Waiting allows time for the paint to cure and adds to the durability.  You will not regret this especially when you avoid knicks and scratches from using it too soon.


Is anyone going to try this?  Are you in the middle of any projects that you need help with?  Let us know we would love to know what you are up to!

See you swoon ,


  1. It looks great! I just primed, painted and distressed a buffet for my kitchen. I used very similar methods, except I didn't use oil based primer. Instead I used water based multi-surface primer, which worked well. And you are right-the distressing is much easier than anticipated :)

  2. I am so glad you went with the distressing, I am trying not to go insane and distress everything in my hosue right now! If you have any before and afters of the buffet send them over so we can show off your work!

  3. I will definitely send over before and afters-as soon as I can get my hubby to help me drill new holes for my pretty cup pulls :)

  4. My husband is going to paint and distress our laminate floor in the downstairs bathroom. After redecorating, the floor looked a bit sad. We saw laminate floor in a distressed style which was really expensive, so thought it was worth a do it yourself try out. He has successfully painted furniture and distressed it, so why not a floor? Worth a go!!