Once upon a time I was scrolling through Pinterest on a boring Monday evening, aimlessly searching for easy, inexpensive ways to update curb appeal. I came across a beautiful house that just inspired me like you wouldn’t believe. See photo below. I fell in love with the wood accents against the white house. Conveniently enough, our house is white with a small front porch and columns and railings! I needed to find a way to achieve this look! After casually asking my husband if we could do it, I was immediately told no. Not a chance. Well…sometimes I don’t take no for an answer. That’s when I decided to take it into my own hands and challenge myself on DIYing our faux wood porch columns.
If you followed me along thus far, you may have already read 10 Budget Friendly Ideas To Update Your Home and noticed at the very bottom I mentioned I gel stained our front porch columns for a more ‘rustic’ look.
See photo below of the finished product.
Let me first start off by telling you how PROUD I am. I did this all by myself. It was my little project and I am so incredibly happy with how it turned out.
If you’re at all looking for a challenge or looking to also upgrade your front porch to add more curb appeal to your home, then I urge you to keep reading. In this post, I will go step by step, detail by detail on how I achieved these faux wood porch columns. This was fairly inexpensive and took about a good week to complete!
If I can do it, so can you!
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Before you bust out stain, paint and brushes you will first need to prep your area.
I first started out by power washing everything using this power washer. I power washed the columns, the railings, the brick, the vinyl siding, and around our front door. My goal was to get rid of as much white chipped paint as possible to lessen the amount of sanding I would have to do.
To my surprise, the white paint on the columns were not coming off.
I was immediately disappointed and already accepting that this was going to be a bust and I would end up painting it all white again.
However, after getting a little bit of advice from my expert DIYer Dad, he encouraged me to gently sand the columns. The reason why the paint was not coming off is because those columns are not real wood. It is actually something call OSB. Better known as particle board but with a wood grain effect.
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The tops of the railings and around the door, the previous paint came off quite nicely just with the power washing.
After power washing, you are going to want to wait a day or two to the let the wood dry up before sanding.
I used an orbital sander similar to this one with 60 grit sanding discs and went to town on the railings, around the door, and gently on the posts.
Please make sure if you are working with particle board that has the wood grain effect, do not and I repeat DO NOT sand completely down. This will smooth away that wood effect which you are going to want later on. The particle board is too porous and the stain seeps into the wood too much.
If you are working with bare particle board, I recommend painting it a white or a cream color as a base before gel staining.
As you can see in the photos below, the white paint completely came off the tops of the railings, mostly around the door and gently on the posts.
I didn’t completely sand down the parts that I was going to repaint white because that would be a waste of time. I sanded enough to get rid of the chips and smooth out the surface to allow the paint to go on smoothly.
Before I stained, I wanted to repaint all the white.
Now, looking back I wish I would have stained first and then painted white only because the stain would sometimes splatter on the railing posts. I caught myself having to touch up a few areas here and there.
But I survived.
I went ahead and looked up some classic white exterior paint colors. After being super torn between a few colors, I ended up using Pure White by Sherwin Williams.
I used this white on the railing posts, around the door and the top, side and underside of the wood above the columns. Later on, I refreshed the white around our garage door too since I had a lot of paint leftover! One coat may be enough but I opted for two.
Now for the fun part.
Because I knew that I could not use regular ole’ stain on the painted particle board columns, I wanted to do some research on the best approach of achieving a natural wood effect on faux wood.
Pinterest never fails. I read so many articles, tips, tricks, and DIY projects on GEL STAIN!
I have never heard of gel stain before this project. After using it, I cannot recommend it enough. Gel stain is meant for these kinds of projects. When you cannot sand down the paint, Gel Stain is your answer.
Originally, I picked out gel stain in the color Walnut but after doing a small test spot, it was just too dark for the look I was wanting.
Please be sure to test out colors before going all out on your project. It is much easier to sand down a small area again to get rid of the bad color versus sanding a bigger area. It will save you a lot of time.
I ended up with Varathane Gel Stain in Provinicial. If you are looking for a natural reclaimed wood color, this is it.
Because I researched so much, I used what other bloggers and DIYers recommended for applying the gel stain. Majority voted using a chip brush to apply the gel stain to your project. It was recommended to not apply the stain during a hot part of the day because it has a tendency to dry pretty quickly. I found this to be true. I also got myself a nice set of regular paint brushes to apply not only the white paint but to use for tight corners and edges where the stain meets the paint.
The chip brush works great when applying the gel stain over a larger area but when you want to get close to an edge, its too rough. That’s when I would opt for the smoother, regular paint brush.
I first worked on the columns. It was so easy and effortless. The gel stain enhanced the faux wood grain effect so perfectly that now it literally looks like it could be real wood posts!
After finishing the columns, it was now time to stain the tops of the railings.
This is when it got tricky. Because this was actual real wood, the Gel Stain did not go on nicely. It seeped into the wood and made it so dark. It did not match and looked awful.
I went to the store and got normal stain in the same Provincial color. After applying a small test spot, I still was not happy with the results.
For some reason, it just looked off. The color did not match the posts at all. I tried a third color called Natural in regular stain, but this made the wood look more orange. See below.
I was at a lost. I was defeated. The columns came out so perfect! How could the real wood be harder to work with?!
My husband suggested I paint the tops of the railings again and just use the gel stain over the paint.
At first thought I hated that suggested. The tops of these railings didn’t have a faux wood grain. If I were to repaint it, then the real wood grain would be gone and the gel stain would look dumb.
But after playing with the idea for a bit, I decided to give it a go.
I repainted the tops of the railings white. Let it dry. Gently, and I mean gently took some sandpaper and brushed off a bit of the white paint to allow just a little of the wood grain to pop through.
Once I dusted and cleaned up the mess, it was time to gel stain the railings.
This is when the chip brush really came in handy. I was able to use long strokes and different techniques to essentially paint on a wood grain affect.
Can you believe that?! Look how amazing and real it came out! I could not be more pleased.
After cleaning up my mess and allowing the stain to dry for a few days, I put my front porch back together again.
My husband suggested we use the empty space behind our railing to add some of our favorite plants. I found a perfect plant stand ladder at my local Home Goods but here are some similar ones from Amazon!
We displayed a beautiful Heart Leaf Philodendron, a baby Marble Pothos, a thriving Parlor Palm, and a personal favorite, Shefflera Umbrella Tree. These plants all do best in indirect light but with lots of humidity. They all seem to being so well out there!
All that’s left is adding some fun chairs and cushions with a stylish rug and door mat and you are all set!