How to Make New Wood Look Like Old Barn Wood

| |
If you live in the city, like I do, and don’t have any friends with an old barn in their backyard, like I don’t, you may find it nearly impossible to find gen-u-ine, old wood from an old barn.


Worthing Court: How to make new wood look like old barn wood (without stinky vinegar)Pin
I searched Craigslist and all kinds of online sources to no avail.  There is a lot of rural area within minutes of where I live so I thought that surely someone would realize what a gold mine they have and would be selling it online.  But nope.  Nada.  Nothing.  Bummer.
Old barn wood is what I was after to create a backdrop for the rustic vignette that I put together for the top of the new entertainment center in my basement family room.
See those boards standing up behind the accessories in the below picture?  That’s exactly the look that I was after.  The long board in front, with sectioned spaces, is a sample board that I made trying to mimic that look using new wood.
Let me tell you about it.
First of all, I went to good old Google to do research on “how to age new wood”.  I was all set to use a method using vinegar and steel wool on some new pine boards.  I even went to Lowes to buy all of the supplies.
BUT – as I was walking down the aisle, I saw that Lowes carries boards made from cedar in addition to the regular everyday pine that we’re all used to.  One side of the boards was rough and one side was smooth.  Sweet!
My plan quickly changed.  I decided that I could use the rough side of the boards along with stain and paints to get the look I was after.
I applied translucent gray stain, brown stain and black and white acrylic paints in several different combinations to a piece of the cedar to see which look I liked the best.  Painters tape worked great for sectioning each sample off.  If you look closely, you can see that I labeled each section with a Sharpie so that I could remember what combination each one was.

I decided that the sample that was the closest to what I was after was the fourth one from the left – gray stain with black acrylic paint lightly dry-brushed on the top layer.  The gray stain that I used is Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stain in the color Sunbleached.

I used a combination of 1×2’s, 1×4’s and 1×6’s to come up with a 48″ x 24″ aged wood backdrop.  I didn’t care how the different size boards were combined together and I wasn’t all that concerned with how well the ends lined up since I wanted it to be rough looking.
I started off by laying my boards on a table with the smooth side up and attaching them all together by screwing a piece of scrap wood close to each end of the boards.  I ran a bead of carpenter’s glue along the scrap for good measure.
Make sure you put a screw into each board.

I then flipped the whole thing over so that the rough side was up.  I used a rasp to rough up the edges of the boards a little and take away that “new board” look.
I brushed on the gray stain, quickly wiping it off with a rag as I went.  Then using a dry brush technique, I lightly applied black acrylic paint here and there, quickly wiping that with a rag too.
And voila!
Even Pookie (who didn’t notice the Christmas mantle until after I blogged about it even though it had been decorated for two weeks and is right beside his chair) commented on how much it mimics the look of real gen-u-ine old barn wood.
Easy peasy and I didn’t have to put up with the smell of any stinky vinegar!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. Magazine Your Home says:

    Wow, you did a great job making that wood look old. My entertainment center looks almost exactly like yours so you have given me some ideas!

  2. This came out great, I will save this for the future. Thanks for sharing.


  3. Excellent job GF!!! It really does look like real weathered wood! You’re so handy : )

  4. Sassy Southern Lady says:

    You may not have real old barn wood but no one will know. You did a great job. I love google you can find anything.

  5. Shirley@Housepitality Designs says:

    Wow…this looks fantastic Suzy…..great job!!!

  6. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. Looks great! 😉

  7. Suzy, This is a keeper for sure! Aging new boards has always puzzled me too! I thought of buying boards and letting them literally rot in my back yard! Great tutorial! Will you share this at Tutorials Tips and Tidbits? Link goes live Wednesday at 8:00 pm.

  8. Daniela @Frugal Aint Cheap says:

    love how you used different combinations to find what you wanted to look like! great job!

  9. I love this Suzy, and I’m glad you didn’t decide to just “find” some old barn wood on one of your country drives. Your method is much better than trespassing on some good ol’ boy’s land!

  10. Jessica Kielman says:

    Wow, Suzy…it looks so authentic! Totally stealing this one 🙂

  11. Shanee @ LivingLifeSouthernStyle says:

    Very nice job! Looks great on the entertainment center. Thanks for sharing.

  12. I love it Suzy! I will definitely have to give this a try. It looks so good behind all your pretties. I’m painting my laundry room this week and YOUR laundry room post will be looked at many many times 😉 I dream about your laundry room -LOL! Really, I do.

  13. Eclectically Vintage says:

    If Pookie noticed, you know it’s a winner! Love the idea of using a rasp (although at first glance, I thought it was a cheese grater)!

  14. Looks like a fun project. It came out great!

  15. This is such great info ~ I love old barn wood but instead of making my own I’ve always sulked that I have never come across any ~ I will sulk no more and will be sure to try this technique soon!

    Thanks for sharing at Project Inspire{d} ~ Hugs, Mary Beth ~

    P.S. That barn at the top is so Americana – love it!

  16. Andrew Heilman says:

    I’m curious the combination of stain/paint/etc. you used for the swatch furthest to the right?

    1. Suzy Handgraaf says:

      I first dry brushed black acrylic paint onto the bare wood, then brushed stain over that, quickly wiping away the excess. The stain that I used is Rustoleum Ultimate Wood Stain in the color Sunbleached.

  17. Anonymous says:

    What a good job, years ago when i was still married, my wife and i liked the rustic look. I had made some signs and wanted them to look old so i got some new wood and aged it myself with stain ,paint and very dark coffee even scraped some rust off some steel and rubbed on around the nails i used to hold all together. I wish i had some picture to show you, they turned out great, I had friends come over and they to liked the rustic look and asked where i found the old boards to make the signs.

  18. Hi Suzy! I am so glad I googled this! I want to make a headboard with “barn wood” and I can’t find it anywhere, I would like mine more worn looking… wondering if the far right stain would be better for me? and maybe I’ll beat it up with a chain? what brand stain did you use?

    1. Hi Shelly. I would buy a piece of whatever kind of wood you’re planning to use (I like cedar because it’s already a little rough) and experiment on it to see what color you like. You can get totally different looks just by changing up the order of how the stain and paint is applied, how much of it you use and how long you leave it sitting on the wood before wiping it off. I wasn’t picky about the brand of stain that I used – it was whatever gray stain Lowes happened to have. I think that beating it up some with a chain is a great idea. 🙂 I love that treatment so much that I think I’m going to use it again on a half wall in my basement. I want to beat it up with a chain and a hammer some to make look more aged. I’d love to see your project when you get it finished!