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Techniques for Distressing Wood Beams

Updated April 17, 2017

Distressed wood beams can create a rustic, old-world feel in any home. Many people would love to use wood beams that have been distressed over time. These beams are available from buyers of reclaimed wood from barns, cabins and other structures. Purchased beams can be expensive, but the same look can be achieved on new wood beams by using a range of distressing techniques.

Create an Aged Patina

Wood beams can be distressed in many ways, but one popular way is to add a silver or grey patina. This makes the wood beams look weathered and aged. Purchase a silver metallic paint that best matches the level of distressing that you want. Water down the paint by 50 per cent or more. The amount of water will determine the opaqueness of the paint. The wood should be wiped down with water before application to raise the grain, then the colour can be applied. The colour should be rubbed into the wood. After the paint dries, a light stain or glaze should be applied to seal in the colour.

This distressing method can also be applied by using the stain on the wood first, then applying a thin coat of colour on top without sanding.

Distressing Through Paint

A common technique to create a distressed look is through paint. A wood beam that is painted has good potential for getting a distressed finish. A distressed finish is achieved by sanding and scraping the paint in certain areas to expose the wood underneath. If the beam has more than one layer of paint, distressing techniques may also bring out the previous paint colours to provide contrast on the beam.

Distressing a painted wood beam should look random and natural, rather than being distressed in a specific pattern. Use sandpaper, chisels and other tools to create marks in the wood that will expose the underlying layers.

Tool Marks and Imperfections

Tool marks, worm holes and other imperfections in a wood beam are often removed or covered up by paint to provide a uniform look. A distressed wood beam shows all of its imperfections to create a rustic look. A beam with a weathered, distressed look can be found through buyers that specialise in reclaimed lumber. But the distressing of tool marks and other imperfections can be achieved by using sandpaper to bring out the grain, knives to carve out worm holes, and metal chains to create nicks and dings in the surface or the edges of the beam.

Stains can highlight some of the imperfections applied through these methods. If a stain is not applied, a clear coat should be used.

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About the Author

Terri Deno is a freelance writer living near Indianapolis. She holds a B.A. in English from Ball State University. She has a passion for research; this passion is the driving force for writing about antiques, literature, genealogy, shopping and travel.