Today I'm going to show you how to whitewash wood with chalk paint. This whitewashed wood furniture painting technique is a great way to update wooden furniture without losing the grain of the wood. Whitewashing wood is fast and easy and in the space of a day, you could give your furniture a brand new look!
This whitewashed pine table project is part of my multifunctional workspace series. I'm leaving links to the other posts in this series below if you are interested in following along with this workspace makeover and learning how to whitewash furniture.
How the pine table looked before whitewashing
This is how the pine table looked directly after I brought ít home.
When I first got my pine table home, I intended to paint it a solid white colour with chalk paint.
The table is the perfect size for my new workspace. Because it's a drop-leaf table it's very versatile and space-saving. I found it second-hand on eBay and it's exactly what I was looking for.
Whitewash wood - Prep
A QUICK REMINDER: When attempting any DIY project, please take care to undertake the necessary safety precautions. You should always follow the manufacturer’s safety recommendations when using any product or tool. When following my instructions for a DIY project, you are doing so at your own risk.
Step 1 – Clean the furniture
It's always a good idea to clean your furniture before whitewashing or before applying any kind of paint technique. During the washing process, you may find spots of grease, cracks, splinters or defects which may need attention. If there's a spot of grease on your wooden furniture, it could ruin your whitewash finish. Whilst washing down this table, I found quite a few strips of clear tape stuck to the wood.
Read my 'Easy Bookcase Makeover' post for more details on cleaning furniture.
Step 2 – Remove the previous finish
Sand before you whitewash wood.
Materials needed for sanding
- Protective goggles
- Protective face mask
- Electric sander
- Sandpaper in grades 80 + 120 + 240
- Wire brush
- Lint-free cloth
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Because the pinewood tabletop was pretty scratched up, I went ahead and sanded it smooth with my handy mouse sander. I started with grade 80 sandpaper to get rid of the varnish and scratches. After that, I sanded with grade 120 and worked my way up to 240-grade sandpaper which made the tabletop really smooth and ready for whitewashing.
★Tip★ Read the post on how to prepare furniture for chalk paint for a deep dive into furniture preparation before painting.
Step 3 – Brush the wood
Next, I brushed the table with a wire brush to get all of the sanding dust out of the grain and then wiped it down with a damp cloth. Once it was dry, I placed the table in my workspace to see how it looked in that room.
You may not know that I'm creating a multifunctional workspace in my home. You can read all about that and see my plans in the post. 'How to create a multifunctional workspace at home'.
Asking for help from our Facebook community
After living with the table for a little while, I began to doubt my decision to paint it white. I used the table to shoot some photos of my newspaper seedling pots and loved seeing the wood grain in the photos. What I didn't like, was the orange colour of the pine so something would have to be done, but what? That's when I decided it was time to get a second opinion.
If you are a member of my brand new home and garden Facebook Group, you may have seen the video of my table in the post where I asked for advice. The most resounding answer was that I should be whitewashing my pine table with chalk paint! Yes! It made perfect sense, then I could paint the table white without losing the lovely wood grain pattern.
That's what I love about the Chalking Up Success Facebook Group. It's like having all your DIY buddies right next to you for every project. When you need advice they are always ready and willing to help out. Find more information towards the end of this post.
So, now to the next question!
The simple answer is yes. The beauty of whitewashing wood with chalk paint is that you can create various effects depending upon how many layers of whitewashing you apply.
For instance, when whitewashing furniture which has a deep grain, like teak, the whitewash will settle into the grain and give the impression of natural ageing. I used this technique on an upcycled wooden coffee table.
Read the post 'Riviera Maison inspired coffee table makeover' to see how that turned out.
A similar effect is achieved with liming wax.
No, you can't. The wood needs to be clear of any stains or varnish which will prevent the whitewash from soaking into the wood.
If you want to paint the table a solid colour with chalk paint, there is no need to remove the varnish first unless it's chipping off. Chalk paint will cover varnish a treat. You may need to paint up to three coats depending on how dark the furniture is and how opaque you'd like the finish to be.
Chalk paint can be used on any kind of wood. To cover the wood with a solid colour so that the grain can no longer be seen, it might be necessary to apply a knotting solution to the pinewood first. Knotting solution 'binds' the knots and stops the tannin from bleeding through the paint and ruining your finish. I didn't use a knotting solution before I started whitewashing the pine table.
Step 4 – Materials needed to whitewash wood
These are the materials you'll need to whitewash wood with chalk paint.
- White chalk paint
- Old spoon
- Glass Jar or painting tray (I found these metal trays - yay, no plastic!)
- Lint-free rag
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How do you make whitewash with chalk paint?
Step 5 – Dilute paint
It's easy to make a whitewash with chalk paint. Just add a small amount of chalk paint to a jar or paint tray and mix in a cup of water. Roughly one tablespoon of paint should be enough to start, depending upon how large the piece of furniture is that you are painting.
Making the most of chalk paint
If you have some left-over chalk paint that has dried up, don't throw it away, you can still use it to make a whitewash solution. I will save the tiniest amount of paint in an airtight jar because I know I can always use it to make a whitewash solution somewhere down the line.
Once I had gathered all of the materials together to make my whitewash, I realised that the small amount of white chalk paint I had left, had dried up in the tin. Luckily, the paint was still soft enough that I could spoon some out into a painting tray. Then I added a small amount of water at first and used the spoon to blend the paint with the water until it turned liquid. Then, I added a cup of water and mixed it thoroughly to make a chalk paint whitewashing solution
Step 6(a) – Whitewash wood - Paintbrush and rag method
There are a few methods you can use to whitewash wood with chalk paint.
The first is to brush the whitewash onto the wood and wait a few minutes before wiping it off with a lint-free cloth. Continue doing this until you are satisfied with the finish. Chalk paint is water-based and dries very quickly which means that chalk paint projects are very quick to finish. However, it also means that you have to work fast so that the chalk paint whitewash doesn't dry before you get a chance to wipe it off.
I started whitewashing my pine table using a paintbrush. I brushed some of the whitewash paint onto the table and left it for a few minutes, before rubbing it off with a lint-free rag. As soon as I started, I could see that this whitewashing method wasn't going to give me the finish I was aiming for. It was too light, it needed it to have more coverage.
Step 6(b) – Whitewash wood - paintbrush method
The second way to whitewash wood with chalk paint is to brush the whitewash onto the wood and keep blending it all over the wood without wiping any of the paint away. The whitewashing mixture needs to be a little more liquid in this case. This technique will produce a denser coverage although the grain will still be visible. You can add as many coats as you like until you are happy with the coverage. If you'd like a less transparent finish, just add more paint to the mix.
I started whitewashing the table again, this time I didn't rub it with a cloth. I kept blending the chalk paint wash all over the tabletop with the paintbrush. Bear in mind that my whitewashing solution is very watered down.
Remember, I only used around one tablespoon of paint to one cup of water. Add to that, the water I used to dilute the dried up chalk paint (approx. 2 tablespoons). The rag method will work better if you add more paint to the mix.
TIP: When you whitewash wood, whether it be pine or any other wood furniture, make sure you paint in the same direction as the wood grain.If you are using the rag method to remove the paint, make sure to do that in the direction of the grain too. By doing that, you will create a more natural and even looking finish.
How many coats of chalk paint should I use?
Step 8 – Paint multiple coats
Because chalk paint dries very quickly even if you are using it as a whitewash, you should be able to start the second coat almost immediately after finishing the first.
How many coats of whitewash you apply, depends upon the look you are going for and how dark the furniture is. Whichever colour the furniture is before whitewashing (your base colour), will be the colour that shows through the whitewash when you are finished – makes sense right?
I gave the table three coats of whitewashing in all. I wasn't happy with how the whitewashed wood looked after just two coats and more than three would have covered up the wood grain. Three was the sweet spot for me. The wood grain is still very visible but the orange colour has disappeared.
The whitewash wood finish you achieve will be different for every piece of furniture. It's always trial and error until you get the finish you want.
TIP: Here's what to do if you are using the rag method to remove the whitewash and the paint has dried before you have a chance to wipe it down. Simply use a spray bottle to mist the area with water. Chalk paint is water-based and will dilute easily if sprayed with water. Don't try to wipe the paint down after it has dried, without misting with water first – you will ruin the finish!
How do you finish whitewashed furniture?
Step 9 - Whitewash Wood - Finishing
How you finish your whitewashed furniture depends on two things.
- How you intend to use the furniture
- Personal preference
For tabletops and surfaces which will see a lot of use, I use a water-based polycrylic for the finish. It's important to find one which does not turn yellow when exposed to sunshine. Polycrylic creates a hard-wearing, water-tight seal which means, your furniture won't get ruined by spills or small scratches.
For everything else apart from tabletops, I use clear wax. If you prefer to seal your furniture all over with polycrylic, you could do that too. I love the smooth feel of wax on furniture but it's totally up to you what you want to do. If you need instructions for applying wax to furniture, take a look at part four of my easy bookcase makeover for that.
My pine table is going to serve multiple functions. It's going to be a craft table and a photography table. The chances of spills and scratches are high. Since I went through a lot of trouble to sand away the scratches in the first place, I think the best finish here will be polycrylic. In the past, I've also added wax over the top of polycrylic and that has worked too. That way, I get the finish I need and the feel I love.
The whitewashed pine table 'after'
Here's a look at how the table turned out.
The finish is not as subtle as your usual whitewashing technique but it's exactly how I want it to look. That's the beauty of whitewashing, you can add as much or as little as you like to suit your style.
I'm already using the table as a backdrop for some product photography and am very impressed with the results!
Multifunctional room Makeover
Now that I've finished whitewashing this pine table, I'm one step closer to finishing my multifunctional workspace. I still have a few projects left to complete before the big reveal but it's getting there.
Being in lockdown has slowed the project down enormously. There are some project supplies that I just can't buy online. It's mainly because I'm not sure what I need and would rather go to the store to look for things in person.
For now, I'm happy with the progress I'm making – at least things ARE progressing so the room WILL get finished at some point! Hopefully, I'll be able to show it to you in the not too distant future!
Here's a list of the posts in the multifunctional room makeover series:
What do you think of my table? Let me know in the comments below.
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