Step by step, let’s dive into how to whitewash furniture as part of this DIY cedar chest makeover.
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Here’s what the cedar chest looked like when we picked it up from the thrift store for only $30.
Before we got around to whitewashing, we added legs to the cedar chest.
We also painted the body of the cedar chest.
But let’s dive into how we whitewashed the top and legs!
How to Whitewash Furniture
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- SurfPrep Sander / Sandpaper: Use code RAY10 to get 10% off your order.
- Shop Vac
- Tack Cloth
- Zibra Square Brush
- Antiquing Glaze
- Varathane Water Based Polyurethane
- Country Chic Paint Sponge
- Cathedral Taupe
- Lint Free Rags
- Fuji Q4 Paint Sprayer
Step by Step – How to Whitewash Furniture
- Sand to Raw Wood
- Topcoat Raw Wood
- Make Whitewash
- Brush the Whitewash On
- Wipe Off the Whitewash
Step One: Sand to Raw Wood
First I sanded the old finish off with my power sander.
I sanded it all down with 100 grit sandpaper first, trying to go slow and without putting much pressure on the sander so I didn’t leave any marks from the sander.
Then I sanded with 150 grit sandpaper, and finally with 220 grit sandpaper.
For the edge detail, I used a coarse foam pad to sand the curves without changing the shape of them.
It didn’t get really close into the details, so I went back with some folded up pieces of sandpaper to get some of the stain off there.
Making the Legs Look Rustic like the Top
Then I moved onto the legs to try to get them to match the top of the cedar chest.
I wanted to go for a raw wood, whitewashed type finish, but the top of the cedar chest was really rustic and I intentionally had left some of the old dark stain in the corners.
So I needed to make the legs look the same.
I tried to recreate the look of the stain in the corners and tight spots by brushing a little bit of antiquing glaze into those areas.
It definitely looked really really rough at this point!
But after the glaze dried, I sanded the legs down, kind of like I would if there was wood stain that I needed to sand off.
Annnd they still looked rough. But I still had one last step to hopefully make them look good.
Step Two: Topcoat Raw Wood
Then, I wiped a coat of my favorite water based poly on the legs and the top of the cedar chest.
The coat of topcoat acts like a really thin barrier to help keep the whitewash from soaking into the wood too fast.
But since it’s so thin, and over raw wood, it doesn’t repel the whitewash at all and the whitewash still soaks in pretty fast.
Step Three: Make Whitewash
While the topcoat dried, I mixed up a batch of whitewash.
I really like using a creamy colored paint for whitewash instead of a stark white paint.
So I used this Cathedral Taupe color from Fusion that I had on hand.
And I mixed a little bit of the paint with water to thin it out a lot.
You can use basically any water based paint to make a wash, Fusion is just the kind I had on hand in the right color.
Step Four: Brush the Whitewash On
After the topcoat was dry, I brushed the whitewash onto the legs and the top of the cedar chest.
I tried to leave the whitewash in the details as much as possible to help blend the stain that was left in the details, but not cover it.
Step Five: Wipe Off the Whitewash
And then I quickly wiped the whitewash back off as fast as I could.
But the Whitewash Soaked in Too Fast
The top of the cedar chest was a little bit more difficult because it was a much larger surface. But I tried to brush it on as quickly as possible, so I could wipe it off as fast as I could.
I didn’t think about it much before I started to brush the wash on, so I started on one side then moved to the other side.
If I would have been thinking before brushing it on, I would have worked along the entire back part first, brushing it on in about a 4” section from the back. Then I would have wiped it off in that area before brushing on the next 4” section.
That way I would have been able to brush it on and then wipe it back off quicker.
So, when I wiped off the whitewash, it soaked in too fast in some areas, making it really hard to wipe off.
I tried using a baby wipe to help wipe it off, and it worked a little bit, but it looked pretty splotchy.
So I waited for it to dry all of the way, and then I sanded the whitewash away where it was too thick.
Sanding it worked really well and helped smooth out the raised grain that I had created.
Step Six: Seal
To finish it all off, I sprayed the whole cedar chest with 3 coats of my favorite water based poly topcoat.
I love how the whitewashing on the feet and top turned out!
Just enough to keep the wood light, almost like raw wood.
Click here to see the full DIY cedar chest makeover with a brush free finish!
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