DIY Basics: Refinishing Reclaimed Wood featuring Chris Palmer

Reclaiming wood is a simple way to show the natural beauty of wood in any do-it-yourself project. Before you start there are some key pointers we wanted to provide you with so we partnered with Handyman Chris Palmer, one of our DIY, home renovation guru’s we turn to for advice.

What should you do when it comes to refinishing or just finishing reclaimed wood? Well, first things first, is it clean?
Likely your reclaimed finds have a large amount of dirt built up inside the deep grains and you’ll need to clean that off. There’s two ways about this that I’ve found effective:

  1. Power wash: When you use a power washer, you’ll lose a day or so drying it out, weather pending of course.
  2. Wire bristle brush and a shop vac: This requires a lot of arm strength, and will take all your might to brush through the deep grains.

My go to is the wire brush, as you can get to your building right away, after you give it a good aggressive brushing followed up with a vacuuming of course.

Next step is to choose a stain or top coat. I find a lot of people go au natural and leave the wood bare as they want that dry look. Here are three possible ways you can finish the wood.

  1. Painted or stained: You can do one or both depending on your look and style. If you paint out the wood, and scuff down some bare spots, you can then rub in dark stain to give it a great accent of even more age.
  2. Natural: Remove any loose splinters, debris, wood fragments,  screws, or nails that might cause any harm. Proceed with a light sanding to achieve the textured finish you want.
  3. Top coat: When selecting a top coat make sure it is suited to your project. If you plan to place it outside make sure the coat is meant for outdoors, some coats might only be meant for projects staying indoors. Choosing the top coat is up to your taste, but my favorite is the polyacrylic by minwax, satin finish. This water based product dries clear and doesn’t change the shade of your finish. Oil based finishes always add a yellow tint to your projects. So if you want the most natural look, while preserving the wood from water damage and spills, then use a water based satin finish.

Now you have a finished project all made of some refreshed reclaimed wood! The perfect way to keep something else from going into our land fills! Thumbs up to that!

Here are a few examples of Chris’s work as well of what the different finishes look like that Chris referred to.


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I'm Anna, the editor for the Toronto Home Shows blog. I'm an avid baker, runner, and love living in and decorating small spaces.

6 thoughts on “DIY Basics: Refinishing Reclaimed Wood featuring Chris Palmer

  1. My name is Frank, I enjoy turning dull things into vibrant refunctional uses. My ideas range from indoor and out, to small and large. I found your adds very helpfull. I am also interested with some of Annas ideas, pictures as well before and after takes.

    Frank H.McLean

  2. I tried to enter the contest but it states I need to log into Facebook. I do not have a Facebook account. Is there another way to enter the contest?

    1. Hi There,
      If your would like to enter and don’t have a Facebook account, feel free to email me your email address, I will add it to the list where a winner will be randomly selected :) Thanks for participating and good luck!

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