How to Paint Distressed White Wood

A distressed white wood fence.
  • 2 hours
  • Beginner
  • 40-50
What You'll Need
110-grit sandpaper
White paint
Paint of your choice
Clean rags
Tack cloth

Distressed white wood is a type of wood that is completely unfinished and is also not in the best of shape. White wood generally comes from the spruce tree, but "white wood" is sometimes used as a general term for wood that has never been stained or painted. You can often find white wood in craft stores in the form of boxes or ornamental wood items for crafting. Balsa wood is often considered a type of white wood. You can find distressed white wood with knot holes and streaks of varying color or white wood that is somewhat warped. All of these problems make distressed white wood somewhat difficult to paint, but the following article will show you how.

Step 1 - Prepare the Distressed White Wood

White wood is very fine and smooth. Trying to paint any type of wood that is extremely smooth is not an easy process. The paint needs a texture for it to grip; otherwise, you will need several coats of paint in order to cover the wood. Use the sandpaper to sand the distressed white wood. Do not sand it too much because your only goal is to create a light texture that the paint can grip. Wipe the wood down with a tack cloth to remove the dust created by the sanding. Even with a texture, getting the paint to adhere properly is still tough. Wipe the wood down with acetone. This will seep into the grain and open it up, allowing deeper penetration of the paint. You can now sand the wood again to knock down some of the more distressed areas. Wipe the white wood down once more with a tack cloth.

Step 2 - Make and Apply a White Wash

White wash is a type of painting technique that was popular in the 1950s as a way to paint fences and other wood products quickly. Using a white wash is painting the wood but usually as a base coat so that the top coat can be brighter and done in one coat of paint instead of two or more. White wood will suck up the paint quickly, and the white wash will wind up being the sacrificial paint layer. Mix water-based white paint with a little acetone. The more acetone you add, the thinner the paint will be. Once the paint is mixed, paint the wood. The added acetone will help to open the grain, which can allow the white wash to cover any discolored areas.

Step 3 - Apply the Top Coat

Allow the white wash to dry completely before painting over it. The color of paint you use is completely up to you. Water-based paint will work better than another kind, but the choice is still in your hands. Apply the top coat of paint with a paintbrush. Wait for the first coat to dry and inspect the distressed white wood to determine if another coat is needed.