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Part II: DIY Whitewashed Plank Walls

by - Monday, July 30, 2012

After we decided which whitewash method to use, we had to get down to the dirty work. In this case, that meant cutting and whitewashing 72 planks. We could have made this job a lot easier on ourselves by using pre-cut lumber or perhaps achieving a similar look using v-groove boards or beadboard... so why DIY our own planks? We did it for a few reasons: we wanted wider planks, we wanted to be able to see the wood grain, and we wanted to create a custom look with the whitewash.

Since the planks had to adhere to the wall, we wanted to create lightweight planks. We decided to use 1/4" 4 feet x 8 feet Sanded 1-side Birch Plywood from The Home Depot. We looked at a few wood varieties - birch, pine, fir - but the birch had the graining we liked.

We had the sheets cut at the store into planks 5 and 7/8th inches each (you lose 1/8" for every cut because of the saw). First step was to give the planks a light sanding. Here's all the boards cut up. You'll notice that the boards have one "good" side; the "bad" side has the knots filled.

Next step was to create a workspace to paint the boards. We started doing them on the floor and then we threw our backs out and then we realized using a work table would be much easier.

We found it was much easier to do the whitewash as a 2-person job. HandyMan would apply the whitewash and I would come right behind him and rag it off. Since it was so hot outside, our whitewash dried in no time and the second coat was ready to be applied almost immediately. A few tips we learned:
  • Use a big rag and crumple it up. Don't fold it nicely.

  • As you're ragging off, every once in a while pick up the rag and drop it down again in a crumpled heap. Rag in circular motion as opposed to a straight side to side motion. This will help prevent streaking in the paint and give you a nice even finish.

I have to admit we weren't entirely sure how this project would turn out. Would we like the whitewash or think it looked cheesy??? Turns out, we loved them! Here they are, all ready to be installed. 

To attach the planks to the wall, you can use any number of adhesives: contact cement, PL adhesive, carpenter's glue. PL has great adhesion but its not water-washable and its harder to spread around evenly. Contact cement gives great instant adhesion, but it has no flexibility and you can't reposition a plank once you've attached it. Carpenter's glue rolls nicely, spreads easily, is water washable and allows for a bit of movement before it dries so that's what we went with. 

First, HandyMan would apply some of the glue to the wall and wait a minute or so for it to get tacky.

Then he would apply more glue to the back of the plank and simply stick the plank to the wall.

He used a spacer at the top and bottom to ensure the gaps between the planks were even. We used a scrap piece of pegboard which was just a bit smaller than 1/4". Also, be sure to use a level every few boards or so to make sure your boards are straight.

And he added some nails at the top and bottom of the plank to ensure the planks wouldn't move. The bottom half of some of our boards is behind cabinetry so he ensured our nail holes were low enough to be hidden.

Ready to see what the wall will look like? We put one of our Martha Stewart bench seat cabinets against the wall to get a sense of the final look...

Ahh, just the beachy feel we were hoping for! You can see enough of the grain like we wanted and also some variation in the wood colour. Its going to look so neat behind the craft zone banquette. We'll also be installing white ceiling trim and baseboards around the planks to make things look neater and give additional definition. 

What do you think? Have you whitewashed before? Or made your own planks? Or taken on a crazy DIY project though you weren't exactly sure how it would turn out??


This project was sponsored by The Home Depot. All opinions are entirely my own. 

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  1. Inspire Me Heather1:00 PM

    Your wall looks beautiful - love the whitewashed look!!! I have this linked to my plank walls post too today, rounding up all the well done walls out there by fabulous bloggers like you!

  2. This looks great! Such an unexpected look in a basement, but definitely makes the space feel airy and light. 

  3. Emily A. Clark1:04 PM

    This looks so good!

  4. This is amazing! The whitewashing I'm familiar with involved my parents hiring someone with a big tank of some weird kind of white paint to come into the barn every few years and spray EVERYTHING down in white. This would include the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and the dust and bits of straw that filled the corners. This is a far more delicate technique and totally paid off. The wall looks amazing!

  5. Sandra1:14 PM

    Love the way this turned out. Wow, these posts have been very timely for me, last week we started installing pine boards at the cottage. I asked at the local paint store about a product to whitewash the new boards and they told us to purchase a Benjamin Moore "Pickling" product. This brings back memories of those pink hued cabinets from the 80's. Any thoughts on this would be appreciated. Thanks

  6. It looks amazing! I've never whitewashed anything before but I love the look. Not sure if I'd be up to the challenge though;)

  7. love it!! you guys did an amazing job to add character, charm, and personal touch to your basement project!  can't wait to see it in person Jen!

  8. I love the whitewashed look. It's sooooo not going to look like a basement when you're done with that space. Fantastic Jen!

  9. Man, you guys are seriously hard workers. I'm so impressed with everything and can't wait for the reveal!

  10. Totally loving your idea! Looks great! It definitely has a beachy look to it, this is going to make the basement super bright and not feel like a basement. Im guessing it is better to use wood glue in this case over nails, right? More polished and finished look.

  11. Oh it turned out beautifully!  As I consider painting out of all the wood trim in our entry way I am often tempted by whitewashing instead, to get a beachy feel and keep the wood feel.  However, now I am seeing that it requires some precise sanding which might be a little too much work for me. :(  But it sure looks fantastic and is a great idea in the basement.

  12. It looks amazing! Can't wait to see the entire space. I am going to try board and batten in my son's room this fall. Should I be afraid? ;)

  13. Love this! Sarah would be proud (Sarah Richardson, of course).

  14. I love this whitewashed business. I used to do this with my woodworking projects in school. Great job, totally cannot wait for the whole picture!

  15. Great job, Jen. What a clean look! And thanks so much for the play-by-play! I'll send ya a pic of our finished product once we're done:) Thanks again!

  16. Looks great! I have a similar project in mind (although it will be more like decking the walls in my basement to allow the foundation to brethe.) I have been trying to source wood, and so far the lowest cost I had found was untreated 1x6x8's. The plywood is a good idea. Cant wait to see the rest of your basement!

  17. Deidre1:15 PM

    It looks fantastic!

  18. That looks amazing!!! An amazing amount of work paid off in spades!!

  19. looks AWESOME Jen! this is one basement reveal I'm eagerly awaiting!! the floors look equally great.


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