Tips on distressing cabinets

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Restoring a historic house is not only quite a challenge, but it’s also a very long and potentially very costly. However, if you still really want that look, there’s a way you can achieve that without investing quite that much time and money into it. Using the process of distressing you can give an old piece of furniture that old and weathered look that is usually reserved for only old furniture. Follow these simple tips to change your cabinet into the ultimate rustic accessory.

1,2,3…. start!

Before you start, make sure your work area is protected. If the cabinet you’re distressing is standalone, you can even move it outside. Otherwise, make sure you cover your floors and counters with painter’s cloth or any other type of tablecloth. You can do this with painted, varnished, as well as unpainted cabinets, the last of which will actually be the easiest to handle. Remove any knobs and handles and put them in a box together so that they don’t get lost in the process.

Get started!

Now that you’ve prepared your working area, it’s time to start the distressing process. First, use sandpaper, preferably 60 to 80 grit, to sand down the entire surface of the cabinet. The roughed up surface of sanded wood will give paint something to stick to, making the results of the process last longer. Make sure you vacuum your work area thoroughly as well as wash down the cabinets to remove any leftover dust. Any sawdust that remains will get into your paint and mar the surface, making the end result very messy, which is not what we’re aiming for here. For any areas you don’t want to be painted, use painter’s tape.


Next, rub a stain or glaze into the wood with a piece of cloth. This is the colour that will be peeking out through the paint after it’s been weathered. You may need to apply multiple layers. For all areas you want to distress, apply wax or petroleum jelly with a bristly paintbrush. Try to keep the placement of them random, but remember that edges and corners are most susceptible to weathering. Next, apply a few coats of acrylic or latex furniture paint, letting each layer dry in between coats. After that, all that’s left is to gently sand the cabinet again after the paint has dried fully and remove all the dust. Don’t forget to seal that cabinet before you assemble it back together!

Enjoy your cabinets!