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Easy DIY grey wash finish. Get the look of old barn boards or refinish your furniture using this grey wash finish tutorial.


The look of aged barn wood. Grey. Rustic. Perfectly imperfect. Restoration Hardware’s got it. Pottery Barn’s got it. But what if you don’t want to pay the high price tag to get it in your own home? What then? You DIY your own grey wash wood finish, of course!

Awesome tutorial - with easy to find supplies! I'm using this on my next DIY project.

With a little trial and error I’ve found a great way to get this look on any type of wood – old scrap wood, pallets found at the side of the road and even on brand new wood from the nearest Home Depot!

I used this method to give the pallet wood we used on our DIY Barn Door its gorgeous dark grey wash.

UPCYCLED BARN DOOR no title

It’s also the finish on our DIY Brickmaker’s Coffee Table.

BRICKMAKERS TABLE LIVING ROOM

Here’s how you can get the grey wash wood finish on projects in your own home. 

How to Get the Grey Distressed Look on Your Own Furniture

Materials

Tools

Instructions

  1. Sand each piece of wood. Get rid of any rough patches but keep any character marks like knots, stamps and such. These look really amazing after this finish.
  2. Using a foam brush apply Dark Walnut stain going with the grain to wood in a well-ventilated area. Let sit for 5 minutes. Wipe off excess stain with a lint free cloth or rag. Repeat on all sides for each piece. Let dry.
  3. Mix a small amount of light grey latex paint and water into a plastic cup. This will be a light grey-wash. I used a mixture of about 1 part paint to 4 parts water, using CIL Stratosphere (the color) color matched into Sherwin Williams paint (at the store). Honestly I just had them mix it into one of their โ€œlower qualityโ€ sample pots, but I found it worked just fine. Using a foam brush apply to each piece of wood over dry stain. This will lighten the wood and give it an aged appearance.
  4. Repeat on all sides for each piece. Let dry.

Grey Wash Wood Finish - How to Get the Grey Distressed Look on Your Own Furniture

Grey Wash Wood Finish - How to Get the Grey Distressed Look on Your Own Furniture

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Easy DIY grey wash finish. Get the look of old barn boards or refinish your furniture using this grey wash finish tutorial.

Materials

Instructions

  1. Sand each piece of wood. Get rid of any rough patches but keep any character marks like knots, stamps and such. These look really amazing after this finish.
  2. Using a foam brush apply Dark Walnut stain going with the grain to wood in a well-ventilated area. Let sit for 5 minutes. Wipe off excess stain with a lint free cloth or rag. Repeat on all sides for each piece. Let dry.
  3.  Mix a small amount of light grey latex paint and water into a plastic cup. This will be a light grey-wash. I used a mixture of about 1 part paint to 4 parts water, using CIL Stratosphere (the color) color matched into Sherwin Williams paint (at the store). Honestly I just had them mix it into one of their “lower quality” sample pots, but I found it worked just fine. Using a foam brush apply to each piece of wood over dry stain. This will lighten the wood and give it an aged appearance.
  4. Repeat on all sides for each piece. Let dry.

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest


 

Easy Grey Washed Wood

Now you should have gorgeous aged barn board looking wood – for your own barn door or another project!

P.S. You can click here for our original Upcycled Barn Door Reveal.

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122 Comments

    1. I am making an outdoor sign for a wedding…first attempt! I have barn board. Should I aim to get exterior stain and exterior paint to be safe in case it rains. Probably not a good question.

  1. What is CIL Stratosphere? I love this idea, but am still confused about the paint part. Light grey paint… How light is light?

  2. Do you recommend Sherwin paints, or are Ben moore paints latex as well? I only ask bc i have a little light grey BM paint left over that i can put to use. ๐Ÿ™‚ -kelli

    1. I adore Sherwin Williams. But I think you’d be just fine to use the grey you have on hand for a wash. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Thanks Shannon! The table is looking great so far, waiting for my stain to dry. Did you wax the wood after with a protective finish? I have clear AS wax, but wanted to make sure you dont have a better recommendation (like a poly) as it is a coffee table top. Thanks!

    1. I waxed my coffee table. We use coasters. I did poly our dining room table though. Your choice!

  4. I love the way your door turned out. So far I followed your steps by staining with the Minwax dark walnut, but it turned the wood greenish!! What should I do? I want to steer back into the grey/brown direction like you have. Any recommendations?

    1. Hi Sam. My guess is the wood was either a little damp or had green undertones to it already. Maybe try some Minwax gray stain. It has slightly blue undertones that may counter the green enough. Or maybe even a little white wash pickling which has even more blue undertones. Either may work – but I can’t promise. Each piece of wood is going to pull a little different undertones.

  5. Shannon question. I’ve followed all steps. Am just applying cil stratosphere final coat with a foam brush. I diluted 4 parts to 1 but am finding the planks look almost white? Will I be lightly sanding at the end to bring back out the dark? Or should I be diluting more?

    1. I’m so sorry Aimee and Dustin! I missed Dustin’s original comment somehow. ๐Ÿ™

      Basically yes, it looks rather white initially but dries much less white. You could always add more water and if you don’t like it when it dries, just redo it. It’s only paint!

  6. My table is already a whitewash finish and I want to make it a grey wash finish. Hoping that some of the grain would show thru for different tones in the wood. If I just sand it all down can I follow your steps to give me the look of the barn door? Also what grade of sandpaper should I use? Also would I wax the table after any of the steps or should I put a poly coat on instead? Thank you so much this will be my very first project!

    1. The First Project! How fun! I can’t really predict how it will look, but with paint the worst that can happen is you have to sand it and try again. You can wax a table, sure. But I prefer poly for dining room tables because of messy kids! (I’m kinda clutsy too!) Enjoy your project!

    2. Thanks Shannon for your advice. I should have explained that I am using a water base stain. Dark walnut first then
      I applied a weathered grey. My family did not like the white wash inbetween the two so I had to redo three of the table legs.
      I just feel that with those two stains it needs something else. What you see is the dark walnut background and the weathered grey stain has taken over the grain. I was trying to get more of a real weathered look. Do I need to sandpaper it lightly and apply something else? Any suggestions? Thanks!

    3. It’s really tough for me to say not seeing it. There are only a couple of ways to get a really weathered look. You have to beat the heck out of the wood. And you have to layer, layer, layer. Our coffee table for example has nine layers of stain and wash to get it looking old. Or you need to go the route of steel wool in vinegar, which I personally haven’t tried. And then there’s my blog friends company http://www.weatherwoodstains.com/. I hope something helps you get the look you really want!

    1. As in you want to grey wash a fence that you’re making from pallets? Well water-based wouldn’t likely work because of the weather. I’m soon to test a new product my blog friend created – http://www.weatherwoodstains.com. I’ll definitely be blogging about it!

  7. Hi Shannon,

    I want to thank you for the great tutorial. I just finished the first of two bi-fold closet doors for my bedroom. I attached tongue and groove pine slats to the frame of my old bi-fold doors. Instead of the oil based Minwax Dark Walnut, I used Minwax Express color Walnut which is water-based. It comes in a tube. The color turned out darker than what it looks like on the tube, probably because I used a heavy hand. I used a light grey paint by Pittsburgh called “Secret Passage”, sort of ironic since these are doors. LOL.

    The final look is beautiful, sort of a cross between aged barnwood and driftwood.

    Thanks again! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I LOVE THE LOOK, ONE QUESTION, THE WALNUT STAIN YOU USED LOOKS LIKE ITS OIL BASED, I DIDN’T THINK YOU COULD USE A LATEX PAINT WASH OVER OIL, IS IT O.K. IN THIS APPLICATION?

    1. It is perfectly acceptable in this application! It’s a REALLY watered down latex paint.

    2. Hello! What about using a grey
      Stain on top of the walnut? Also, I put a coat of weathered oak on my pine or oak (I think) table. It looks too orange. I then did a coat of mini wax classic grey…still orange.?
      This is my first time…I wanted a weathered restoration hardware look more in the grey and browns…not orange..any ideas? I do have a mini wax walnut hanging around…I’m scared.
      5
      Thanks!!!
      SHannon

  9. Super helpful! I’ve been looking for an easy way to do this, so thanks! Third comment today…can you tell I have a blissful second to binge read my favorite blogs?! ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Hi Shannon love your blogs
      Now I have a dining rm table which has almost like a plastic finished on top.. Very durable if u know what I mean..
      Now it’s ugly and worn ..
      Would love to achieve that weathered look.
      Should I completely sand it?
      Which I’m not looking to do or lightly sand and start with a base coat of paint and then to the stain and wash?
      Or is there another way.
      Thankyou

  10. I’m getting ready to gray wash a brand new restoration hardware oak table. I want the effect of the barn door. Do I have to sand the table down first or can I just add the gray wash over the top of it?

    1. Without seeing it, I can’t say for sure. I would test it on the underside and decide from there.

  11. The look is just what I love. Please tell me, we have a pine wood closet from Ikea that I hate, is there any way you know to make it look good? I would really appreciate some help.

    1. You could grey wash it it or white wash it. Or stain it darker. What look do you like?

  12. I love this and can’t wait to try it. I ‘m going to get the Dark Walnut Minwax oil based stain you suggested. I was wondering may I get the specific details of the gray paint you used to apply on top? Thank you!

  13. Hi Shannon! I love this look and excited to give my table top a makeover. Question though…I’m a little confused at the pint part. Cil stratosphere is the grey you used I think I read. So 4 parts that to 1 part water in a cup. You lost me at sherwin Williams lol. Can you please clarify for me?
    Thank you so much! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Kelly

    1. The color is a CIL paint color called Stratosphere. But I almost always use Sherwin Williams paint. So it’s a color match of CIL’s Stratosphere mixed into Sherwin Williams paint.

  14. Hi Shannon,nice to get to your site!I have a walnut headboard,and a maghoney stained bureau and mirror!Would love to change the bureau and mirror color!Any help would be greatly appreciated!Thanks Barbara

    1. Hmm. Walnut would go well with a white or grey wash, if you wanted to tackle that on your bureau and mirror?

  15. I just LOVE your website! Please subscribe me for any of your supports. I paint furniture too.
    Yours,
    Susan

  16. Hi there I just finished using your bar wood technique must say its the very best
    I have tried others but yours worked the best
    Pleased with the results
    So thank you for the recipe

  17. Hi there i’m in need of help i dyed palette boards with tea and after with vinegar and bull dog mix but i left the mixture to long so the color came out to dark and rusty.
    Do you think i could add the grey latex paint over it and it will change to grayish distressed color?

    Thank you
    Kathy

    1. That is true in a traditional sense. Painting walls, etc, definitely it’s a no. But for a custom finish you can sometimes get away with it.

  18. i have a coffee table made from old pine wood. its heavy and solid piece. its a honey/yellow. would this tecnique work on this wood. if so, how should i go about it

    1. I’m not sure. Laminate is a bit funny. I’d test it somewhere inconspicuous first or on an extra piece.

  19. Hi! I have an Ikea cabinet that is their “brown/black” stain or color that I want to move in the direction of driftwood or weathered gray. In the materials description, Ikea describes the product as particle board and foil. In reading online, what Ikea calls “foil” is actually a wood product. But it is wood so thin that it is applied almost like a paint not like regular veneer. So my question is – do you think I could gently sand the cabinet and then apply minwax gray stain or would you apply the watered down gray latex paint to achieve your look. They have discontinued the cabinet -and I have a pair – that work perfectly in the space so I am trying to keep them and not screw this up:) Thank you for your advice!!

  20. I am SO happy I found your blog!!!

    I purchased a cheaper all natural pine shelving unit for my plants (Jysk brand), that I am planning on trying this stain technique with!

    Is there a way to send or post photos of our finished projects using your method?

  21. I love the coffee table, too…can you tell me where you purchased the metal frame? I’m looking to try this for a sofa table. Thanks!

  22. Glad I found this recipe, of which I have all the ingredients ?However I’m planning on applying it to indoor steps, about 5 into our sunken great room….. any thoughts on using it on stairs as opposed to just decorative projects?! Thanks

    1. I would think it would be okay…BUT you will likely want to give it a coat of poly or something for durability and so you can clean it.

    1. CIL is a paint brand (carried in Canada) and Stratosphere is the color of the paint. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Hi… Just discovered your site and it’s terrific. I purchased a Pier 1 dining room table for the cottage. I saw it on the floor in Toronto– it was a perfect grey whitewash and ordered the identical table and chair to be picked up at the Moncton store and delivered to our summer place on PEI. What arrived is the same style, but a brown wash, not the grey we’d expected. It is too expensive to return so I am looking at a DYI fix… wI purchased a Varathane one coat wood stain in grain and planned to just wipe it on and within minutes wipe it off again. Will that achieve what I want? Many thanks…

    1. I’m not sure – there’s no way to tell without giving it a try. Perhaps test it on a non-visible area?

  24. I blog frequently and I genuinely appreciate your content.
    Your article has really peaked my interest. I’m going to book mark your website and keep checking for new
    details about once a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed too.

  25. Hi Shannon,
    My name is also Shannon! I just came across your website as I’m looking to refinish my oak dinning room table and I absolutely love the rustic grey look. I just have a quick question, to get the look above that you did is it a light grey paint you bought or a dark grey paint?
    Thanks for your time!
    Shannon P

    1. Hello Robert. Like the instructions say, I used a foam brush with watered down grey paint. And no I didn’t wipe it off again. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope that helps!

  26. Thanks, great article. I have a garage full of 1930’s real shiplap which appears to bea yellow brown knotty pine, but it is glossy sealed as well. I would love to brighten up/modernize the look a bit but really do not want to use solid paint and hide the grain. This looks perfect but do you think it will still work over glossy sealed wood?

  27. Hi Shannon! Thanks you for the grey distressed finish recipe. I’m a bit confused with Step 3. I get that I will be using CIL Stratosphere paint and water, 1:4 ratio; however, you indicated using “CIL Stratosphere mixed into Sherwin Williams paint”. What colour of Sherwin Williams paint would I use, and what is the ratio of light grey-wash to Sherwin Williams paint? Many thanks in advance for your reply.

    1. Hi Angela. I’m sorry it seems confusing. What I mean is that I like Sherwin Williams paints best. So I went to Sherwin Williams and had them color match CIL’s Stratosphere from a paint chip.

  28. I have a question. I have some wooden frames that are already painted a light gray. Can I rough them up with the sand paper, apply the walnut stain, and get a similar effect? Or, do you think that I’ll need gray paint to apply a wash. I’m just trying to figure out how much I need to sand the existing frame, since it’s already a gray color. Thanks for any tips!

    1. Hmmm. I’m not so sure. The grey was goes on in multiple layers, with the grey on top. You could definitely give it a try.

  29. Hi you reference rustoleum chalked country grey above in favorites. Can I use that instead of the CIL or latex paint?

    1. Hi again,
      Can I use rags to apply the stain? Whats the diff between using rags and a foam brush?
      Thanks soooo much for your help!

  30. Did you pretreat the wood like the Miniwax can says before you applied the Dark Walnut stain? Did you seal it at all at the end?

    1. In this case I did not. If the wood is particularly spotty or uneven in color, I would. And no, I didn’t seal it. There were enough layers for us to be okay with it that way. But you could wax it.

  31. currently researching how to do it yourself with grey washing on an all ready dark chestnut stained vertical wainscoting that is a bit above the normal height chair rail.. I would really like to take it down however the owner/friend of the house does not due to costs . Should I Bins the stained wood before I grey wash it ? I wish I could send some pictures of the small home to get your thoughts .

  32. I’m curious to what extra steps I need to do for furniture that is painted white to transform to a driftwood finish?

  33. I’m refinishing my wood beam ceiling (50 year old house in Florida), and some of the beams have “steam damage”. I am thinking I need to sand first, but am confused with all the products available. The current/original stain has a sheen to it (varnish I’m assuming), and the “steam” rather melted it off in areas, not all. I am trying to save some steps in the process and want to use the appropriate product(s). I’ve asked 10 people and have 10 different suggestions. Has anyone ever tried the product “Renuz-it”? I know there are many ways to do this, but I’m looking for least expensive and time saving. I truly appreciate suggestions!!

    1. Hi Carol Ann,

      I have not tried that product, unfortunately, so I cannot speak to its effectiveness. You are likely getting different answers because there are several different solutions. It is very likely you will need to sand the beams, yes. I’m so sorry I don’t have a lot of experience with beams like yours!

      Let us know how it goes.

      xo, Shannon