Hanging my Chippy Paint barn door this week felt monumental! Perhaps because it was unnecessarily difficult on account of the instructions for the hardware lacking in the department of actually instructing, but I figured it out and made it happen. It’s funny that I ended up with the chippy paint finish on my “barn door” because I changed design directions three times before I ended up right where I began in wanting a door that looked like it had about 100 years of paint layers flaking off and exposing all the different color choices that had been made over the years as well as some of the original wood. It was a fun process to create this “old look” in a used but newish door.
Studio Barn Door
I was originally going to build a door using plywood and 1×4 furring strips, finishing it with wax like I did my distressed picture ledge. Well, I was originally going to build some kind of vented door which I wanted to finish with chippy paint and make it look like a super old door I might have found in a ditch at the end of a dark alley. Then I found out (from my heat and air company that were out for my annual spring tune up) that I don’t need a vented door for this closet because it’s not a gas furnace and there is no combustible air flow consideration to be considered.
My next plan was to go the route of the distressed pine like my picture ledge. THEN I remembered a door I purchased at my local lumber yard last year when they were having a “sidewalk sale” and clearing out some old inventory. I’ve tried to kick that habit of buying what I don’t need because it’s a good deal and I might be able to use it someday but I slipped on that particular day. This door happened to be the exact width I needed and I was able to cut it down to make it the appropriate length so I decided I HAD to use it.
I used some gel stain to cover up the orange-y red oak finish. This door has about 1/8″ layers of textured fiberglass on the outside and is filled with expandable foam. It has indented graining but it’s not wood and doesn’t take traditional stain. I thought I’d try to mimic the look of my faux beam picture rail wax finish with gel stain but could tell early on that it wasn’t going to pan out.
One other design consideration had been a brightly painted barn door. I loved the idea of a bright pop of color but I didn’t want my barn door to have that much of a center stage in the craft room area of my studio so decided to go back to my original plan of a chippy paint finish.
Chippy Paint Technique
I had a little sample of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint in Shutter Gray that I wanted to try out. I painted it on, thicker in some areas, thinner in others. Then I scraped it off in some areas to make the application even more inconsistent. This milk paint is meant to chip and flake and there’s no real way to predict how much or where it will do so.
I brushed off the flakes, scraped off more paint in a few areas which exposed the dark stain I previously applied. I sanded down through the dark stain in a couple areas exposing the original orangey color. I think the door looks pretty cool with just this one color of chippy paint. I could certainly have stopped here but I wanted my door to look like it had decades of layers of chippy paint.
I applied another uneven layer of Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint, this time Kitchen Scale which is greenish blue. I put it on thin and only here and there.
I let it dry and then scraped it again exposing some of the initial gray/white and some of the wood. (The clamps are me attaching a strip of wood to the top after trimming the door down.)
Next I used some latex paint in Light French Grey (Sherwin Williams) but before I painted on the latex paint I applied some globs of paste wax. I patted it on in random areas.
I brushed on a sloppy coat of Light French Grey followed by a patchy coat of Argus (Also Sherwin Williams latex paint). I allowed the Argus to dry to the touch then scraped up patches of paint randomly all over the door. Some areas I scraped all the way to the wood. Other areas I scraped off only one or two layers of paint.
I keep applying patchy coat after coat of the three different grey colors, scraping in between randomly. Sometimes I would clean off the scrapings but other times I would leave globs and flakes of paint laying on the door and let them dry.
I kept patting globs of wax here and there in between coats of paint. The wax prevents the paint from sticking so the paint peels off in those areas. I brushed the paint on in the sloppiest paint job I could do because the sloppier the paint went on, the cooler it looked when I scraped it partially back off.
Periodically I used an electric sander to get down to the original dark stain or bare wood in random areas and then I’d repeat the paint and scrape steps.
I periodically smacked a scraper or putty knife against the door creating realistic distress marks.
I also discovered that using my air compressor and a small tipped blower nozzle would make the paint peel up in a really cool random way that I couldn’t achieve with my scraper.
I’m really liking how the door is looking at this point but I really really like the few areas where the original Kitchen Scale blue/green is showing through and decide that I want more of that color. I added one more patchy coat of Kitchen Scale.
I may or may not have followed that up with more Light French Grey and then more (dark) Argus Grey. I spent the entire day coating and re-coating this door — but it doesn’t really matter as no-one including myself will ever EXACTLY recreate this look. Every chippy paint project is going to be unique so just be creative and go wild with your unique application!
Then I added one more thick, blotchy, drippy, splattery coat of Light French Grey.
After the last coat was barely dry to the touch, I went to work scraping paint back off again. In some areas more layers scraped off exposing a different color than in other areas. Which is the beauty of a “decades old, chippy paint door” in my opinion.
I used a couple metal putty knifes, sand paper, compressed air AND an electric buffer to remove additional paint here and there — where I wanted to see more color or original wood.
I applied some clear paste wax to seal and polish my chippy paint barn door. I like the look and the feel of the wax finish. It should also help prevent further paint flaking.
I could have stopped about 10 times during this process and been happy with the chippy paint effect that I had achieved but it was such a fun process I just kept playing around with it. I know this look is not for everyone and that’s OK but I LOVE it!
The trolley wheels and track hardware is from a local farm co-op (Tractor Supply, Farm-n-Feed…).
I’m happy I decided to bring in some blue and green into the door. It’s not enough color to dominate the space or demand I continue using those colors throughout the studio. But while I have the family photos in their current frames, it’s a fun connection but not too matchy.
Looks very authentic.
Annet M says
So great! And totally suits the space, due to the painted faux brick wall!
Thanks so much!
Colleen L. says
That door is gorgeous. I love your dedication to your vision. It is stunning!
Thank you so much.
Absolute PERFECTION!!!! Oh my gosh that is the most beautiful door I’ve ever seen!! Great job!!
How cool! It must have been fun and liberating to do a project that really couldn’t be messed up. Just add more paint and keep on distressing. It looks just like something you’d find leaned against a wall in an old shed. Nice job.
Thanks John. That’s exactly the look I was hoping to achieve!
Hi, Sandra! How would you have built the door? Same way you build a cabinet door, only bigger?
I had no real plan. I was going to wing it.
OMG, are you FROM TN or IL or neither? Just curious… you’re such an inspiration to me!
I am from TN, living in Philly, moving to western NY soon! I’m inspired to get cracking on LOADS of diy projects because of you!
I currently live in TN. I lived in IL before we moved to TN but I am originally from ID and we’ve moved around a ton!
I was looking at the brick home & green everything in the background. Trees, grass, all so gorgeously green. My first impression was Missouri or TN.
Your door is beautiful. I’m gathering inspiration for a gawdy gold frame makeover.
You’re right. I’m in East TN.
How long do you recommend letting the paint dry before scraping?
Linda Lou says
I appreciate being able to see your random approach to this project. It helps to know that others tackle some of these projects with trial and error, rather than just accepting what we get with the first try….which I am sometimes guilty of.
Love the final effect!
I’m curious….what did the hardware run you?
I really like this technique and the outcome, but I wonder how long it would take me to do this on my kitchen cabinets. They’re very plain and flat, but of course, between the cabinets and drawer fronts, I can see a ton of work. Maybe I’ll stick to just a few coats.
Would you recommend doing this with chalk paint?
I am working on some door casings that will have this look to it but with different colors. Is there any way you could send me a list of things that you used? The door is gorgeous!
Tim Bankes says
I am new to distressing and I was curious about the chips paint. Will it continually flake paint as Time goes on. I envision kids peeling the paint off like you would skin after getting burnt from a sun tan
It may in areas where I didn’t remove all the paint that was applied over wax. If that is a concern you can spray a clear coat over the whole thing.
Although I am constantly inspired by your crazy-good skills, I think I enjoy most your honest musings about projects that could have been a fail but you persevered and they turned out awesome. 🙂 Whenever I fail and consider taking all my tools to a pawn shop (has totally happened), I think of how you always make it turn out great. So I take the tools back out of the truck and keep trying until I get it right. So thank you for sharing your thoughts/skills with all of us!
I’m glad you didn’t give away all your tools! I totally know how you feel though. I’ve been there before…many times. Problems, issues, changing of minds…they’re all going to happen. I expect them so they don’t usually make me too mad. Every once in a while I completely lose my shi* though. So I take a break and find something to do that makes me feel happy. Then get back to work. Just don’t give away your tools!
Cathy Barenski says
Can I ask what kind of saw you were using? I am a little intimidated by circular saws and that looks very safe. c
It’s a track saw. I plunges into the material. I have a tutorial if you want to see more: https://sawdustgirl.com/workshop-favorite-festool-track-saw/
Cheryl Atkinson says
Best chippy tutorial i have ever read. Thanks. Do you think laytex paint had anything to do with that? I don’t use laytex paint. Please reply.
I’m not sure what kind of paint you do use. A decorative paint with high bonding properties (like chalk paint) probably wouldn’t work very well. I hardly every use any oil based finishes so I can’t speak to how this with work with that. It’s all an artistic experiment. Keep messing with it until you like what you see.