How to Gray Wash Rough Cut Wood

Some people enjoy a simple life and like having a rustic aesthetic in their homes. They want to have a house that looks like a cottage with washed-off tones to their furniture. Fortunately, wood can easily be gray washed if you apply the proper technique to give it a rustic look. So keeping the rustic theme in mind, we will discover how to gray-wash rough-cut wood in this article.

To gray-wash rough cut wood, you first need to apply gray stain to the wood. After which you whitewash wood with white paint mixed in water. Lastly, you sand off the paint slightly to mix the gray with the white and give it a gray-washed look.

With that said, most people avoid going for a gray appearance to wood since it looks like washed-up driftwood. But if done right, it looks very different from common driftwood. It has an appeal to it which is why most people get pulled towards it and try it for themselves.

Steps to Achieving Washed Grey Effect On Rough Cut Wood

If you follow these steps, by the end of the drying process, you will have perfect gray-washed rough-cut wood.

Step 1: Preparing the Rough Cut Piece

Before you start working on fresh rough-cut wood, depending on what you want to do with it, you will first need to prepare it. For example, if your project demands, then you can mill it or if you want to keep a rough look to the wood then sand it lightly.

Step 2: Applying Gray Stain (Optional for Darker Tone)

So the first thing you have to do is to choose a gray stain of your choice. Rust-Oleum weathered gray stain was our pick for this project. You just need to apply the stain with a foam brush on the rough-cut wood. 

Once applied, take a clean rag and wipe off any excess that remains on it. Now you have to wait for the stain to dry off before moving towards the next step. 

You can skip this step if you do not desire the wood to look too have a darker tone of grey. If you do follow this step though, our suggestion would be to go through step 4 for a more natural look.

Step 3: Mixing Paint or Stain With Water and Application

We need to mix your choice of latex paint or stain with water in this step. You can use distilled water if you are picky about results, but normal filtered tap water works fine. The ratio you have to keep is one part paint and 3 parts water, so three times the amount of paint is to be added. 

Once you are done, you need to apply the gray-wash to the wood. It can be applied using a painter’s rag or a brush and once you are done wipe off the excess.

Step 4: Giving Wood White Wash (Optional After Following Step 2)

Use a painter’s rag or brush to apply the white paint wash to the wood. Make sure to do this in the direction of the grain as you want it to really get it into the wood as much as possible. Once you are done, use a painter’s rag to ensure you got the whole thing properly onto the rough-cut piece. 

As before you need to wait now for the paint to dry properly. It might take time since the paint has been diluted with water.

Step 5: Sanding off the Paint

While the step says we need to sand off the paint, we don’t necessarily mean to remove the paint completely. We just need to sand it off lightly to bring out the grey inside it. This will give it a grey-washed look, and provide the rustic aesthetics you are looking for. Take 150 or 180 grit sandpaper and just lightly scuff over the paint. Don’t overdo it and remove the paint completely.

Step 6: Cleaning Up

Once you are done sanding, you will have your gray-washed look on the wood. Now just clean off the piece and you can apply any finish of your choice. We would recommend something like a clear wax finish, but if you feel that the gray is not up to par on this piece, you can always use a gray-tinted wax on it.

If you want a darker gray-washed tone, just supplement the white paint with a lighter tone of gray than the stain. This will provide a darker gray-washed look to the piece.

Our Recommendation

Our choice of grey-washed stain is the Rust-Oleum weathered gray stain which is not too dark a color. With this, you can get an amazing weathered look without having to grey-wash the wood. If you are looking for a darker tone of grey then maybe something from Minwax might be suitable for your taste.

Pros and Cons of Gray-washing Wood


  • Gives a decent aesthetic look for people who want their wood to give a rustic feel.
  • Adds a layer of protection against the elements.
  • You can apply a film layer finish over it.
  • Has a subtle pleasing tone that is soothing to the eyes.


  • Grey color is not for everyone, it can be dull and boring for some people.
  • Paint might penetrate the grain and if you want to take it off you will need to sand thoroughly.

Difference Between White Wash and Grey Washing Wood

Grey washing wood is pretty similar to whitewashing it. The way you apply it to wood is the same, the way you mix the paints with water is the same. There are very few differences between them except for when you whitewash you use white paint and for grey washing, you need to use grey paint.

You also don’t need to sand a grey-washed piece if it has reached your desired look. For whitewashing you need to scuff the piece to bring out the tone of the wood otherwise it just looks like poorly painted wood.


Can you apply a finish over your gray-washed rough-cut wood?

Yes, you can apply a finish that sits on the top of the piece of wood rather than penetrating it. Something like wax is great for this application since it does not penetrate into the wood at all and just sits atop it.

Can you whitewash over gray-washed wood for a lighter tone?

Yes, you can whitewash over a gray-washed piece of wood to give it a lighter and more rustic feel. You can experiment with this as much as you like and you can sand off more than you need if you want to just keep small elements of white in the piece. 

Does applying a wash to wood raise the grain?

As it is with any application of water over wood, the grain will raise slightly when you apply a wash to it. This is why you scuff it lightly with sandpaper to knock it down.

How long should you wait for the wash to dry?

Mixing stain and paint with water increases the drying time of the stain or paint. If you have gray-washed a piece then leave it for at least a day to dry off properly before you knock down the grain lightly with sandpaper.

Final Thoughts

Gray-washed wood is very pleasing and has a rustic appeal to it that most people who prefer a minimalistic look desire. It retains the original look of the wood while providing it with an appearance that does not pop or stand out. So if you want to gray wash rough-cut wood then follow the steps above and make sure to wait for the wash to dry before working on it any further.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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