The Ultimate Guide to Whitewashing Your Furniture and Floorboards

How to Whitewash Timber?

From modern homes to rustic cabins, whitewashed timber is a popular finish that can make spaces feel brighter and more inviting.

It’s a great way to add character and richness to a piece of furniture, some timber wall cladding, and even your timber flooring. It showcases the wood’s grain and texture while making space or furniture item feel light and airy.

The good news for you is whitewashing is a fairly cheap and easy process, with very little hardware, tools or timber supplies required. Read on below to find out the three best ways to create whitewashed timber.


Smooth Finish Whitewash

If you’re looking for a whitewash finish that’s sleek and modern; then the following method is best. It’s appropriate for timber with a smooth finish – like new MDF products or plywood – you can find these in most home timber and hardware stores.

Step 1:

As a starting point, create a one-to-one mix of paint and water. This will make the paint semi-transparent, allowing the timber to remain visible once the mix is applied.

Step 2:

Dipping a clean rag into the mix, begin to wipe the cloth across the surface of the timber, making sure it’s applied evenly. 

Step 3:

Allow it to dry, and then continue adding more coats until the finish is to the opacity you would like. The more layers you add, the less visible the timber beneath. 

This application method is best if you’re looking for a polished look and feel.

Textured Finish Timber Whitewash

To create a more textured finish that’s a little less refined than the above; a similar process can be followed. The main difference is that the paint and water mixture is thicker and applied with a paint brush.

Step 1:

Create a whitewash mix by stirring 1-part water in with 2-parts paint. 

Step 2:

Then, using a brush – not a roller – apply the paint mixture, with strokes in the direction of the wood grain. By working with the grain, rather than against it, you will give your timber additional texture.

Step 3:

Before the paint fully dries, wipe over the surface with a clean rag. Be careful of wiping the paint off too vigorously as you still want to leave some on the surface. 

Step 4:

Add new paint and wipe, as you feel appropriate. It’s worth noting the mixture will also dry quicker than regular paint. 

For this reason, work in small sections, to avoid the paint drying before you get a chance to wipe it over with the rag.

This finish is most suitable for timber that has a bit of grain and character – think  Victorian Ash or American White Oak it also works great for some types of timber flooring but we would recommend getting professional flooring contractors for such jobs.


Rustic Finish Floors Whitewash

If you’re planning on whitewashing reclaimed and recycled timber with rough surfaces, like palettes and fence posts, the paintbrush and rag methods won’t work.

Step 1:

To work with these surface textures, pour paint over the timber and then use a scraper to push the paint along the length of the timbers, working in the same direction as the wood grain.

If the paint isn’t spreading, add a few drops of water to make its consistency less viscous.

The result will be a whitewash that fills in the gaps and dips on the rough surface of the solid timber. It will create a rustic and aged look, reminiscent of old barns and farmhouses.

Distressed Finish Whitewash

To create a more distressed look, that can be applied to all types of wood surfaces – from smooth to rough, new to old – then the following technique can be used.

Step 1:

Rub candle wax across the timber, paying particular attention to high points and knots in the surface. Once you’ve done this, paint the wood and allow it to dry to the point of becoming tacky.

Step 2:

Once tacky, wipe down the surface using a rag. You’ll notice the areas where the wax was applied won’t have paint stuck to them, creating a vintage, second-hand look.

General Whitewashing Tips

It’s essential the surface of any wood, mainly reclaimed or recycled timber, is clean before you begin working on it. 

Tip 1:

Wash the timber down with water and soap and allow to dry before you begin whitewashing.

Tip 2:

If you’re looking for a more refined whitewash finish, it’s also worth sanding the timber. This will remove any previous finishes that will stop the paint adhering.

Tip 3: 

Keep in mind what type of wood is being used and the building project. The paints would vary depending on the end use of the hardwood.

Finally, it’s also worth considering what paints are best to use. We always recommend using a low VOC option; these are high quality and will give the best results for your home installation. 

And remember, if you have any questions or need product recommendations, our friendly team at Austim, Perth’s trusted timber supply company, are always ready to help! Need timber for your project or want to learn more about DIY timber projects? Contact us today!

Mike Rowney