We love a fireplace, the look and the warmth adds so much to a space. The first home we ever had together was a single wide trailer that had a wood burning fireplace in the living room. It was a perfect way to add warmth to a room on a cold winter night.
When we had MORE then out grown our single wide we built a home on the same land as our trailer. We loved our wood burning fireplace but cutting, hauling and storing wood can be quite a hassle in the winter months so we decided to install a gas fireplace in the basement of our new home. It was a first for both of us. We were raised with wood burning fireplaces in our homes growing up. We decided we didn’t want to be hauling wood through the house to get to the basement and the ash that settles on everything was something we were trying to avoid.
We held out hope that we would love our gas fireplace, and thankfully we were not disappointed. We had a very large family room in the basement, having 4 boys required a large space for them to play and burn off some energy. It warmed up the large family room and the heat even drifted up the stairs warming the kitchen and living room.
When we sold our ranch and moved into town for whatever reason we didn’t put a gas fireplace in that home. I don’t know why we decided not to include one but it was something I missed, a lot. We then moved countries and purchased a spec home that we added character and charm to but having bought it in the construction stage it didn’t include a gas fireplace.
I knew if we ever moved again I would definitely include a gas fireplace in the design if possible. So when we decided to build a semi custom home we were clearly going to include a gas fireplace. We didn’t have a choice of placement but I was very happy with the location of the fireplace. We only had two style options, something modern or a little more traditional. I really liked the modern look in the show home but my style leans toward traditional when thinking about design pieces that are a little more expensive and permanent.
The day we signed on our home was also the day we had to make a few decisions on some structural elements. So before we even visited the design center we had to decide what kind of fireplace we were going to have them install. They had a modern one on display in the show home but they didn’t have a traditional one to look at or even a picture of the design. After going back and forth I took a chance and opted for the traditional fireplace. I wasn’t 100% sure what we were going to end up with but I held out hope that I would love it and it would work with the design of our home.
Thankfully we were able to see what we were getting early on in the building process. Our home has a large family room / great room with the gas fireplace as the feature. I was a little worried that it would take up too much space in the room but I am glad we went with it even thought it was an extra cost. It was included in the overall house building budget but I knew we were going to want to add some character to the design.
We did spend a little extra for the stone around the gas insert but I was a little disappointed at the time when I saw the finished design. I had pictured the stone covering the whole bottom area of the fireplace. I didn’t realize it would only go around the actual insert. Having the stone installed was an extra $600. I figured $600 in stone would go a lot farther then it did. For the first while I was trying to decided if we should buy more stone and extend it along the whole front or if I just live with it and love it the way it is.
It was a little boring when we moved in but like most of my ideas they evolve bit by bit. One thing I knew I wanted was barn wood behind the tv portion of the fireplace. I knew it was going to be one of the first things we worked on. I wanted to get the barn wood up quickly so we could get our tv hung. I love the look of beautiful weathered barn wood. It has been trending for a while so it is readily available but man is it expensive. I went to a barn wood warehouse to look around and see what was available. There was so much pretty wood shipped from all around the country but it was way more money then I was willing to spend so I decided to create my own for a fraction of the cost.
We made our way to Home Depot and purchased some cedar fencing then I got busy making it look like old barn wood. There are quite a few steps but it really didn’t take that long because I was able to do it all in stages. By the time I got finished one stage I was able to start with the beginning board and got moving onto the next step.
I began by sanding all the boards. Barn wood is usually very rough and so is cedar fencing but I wanted to knock of the extreme roughness and make it a little smoother for in home use. I was also trying to eliminate the possibilities of slivers as I worked with the wood.
After the boards were sanded I got to work getting them all white washed. For this project white wash is simply thinning down the paint with water. Since we were wanting a rustic look I didn’t want the wood to look too heavy with a thick coat of paint. I used the Behr ‘dove white’ paint that is the color on my trim and doors throughout my home. I didn’t measure exactly but it is approximately half paint to half water making it pretty runny.
I usually have sour cream or cottage cheese containers in my painting cupboard for times like this. I poured a little paint into the container and added the water. I stirred the paint and water mixture with the paintbrush until it was thoroughly mixed. Since it is so runny you don’t need to mix up an enormous amount because it will go a long ways. You’re now ready to start white washing the previously sanded boards.
Because the paint is so thin it goes on quite quickly. I made sure to cover most of the board because it fades and absorbs while it dries because you’re working with a white wash and not paint. For this stage I would paint a board and lean it against the fence to dry. By the time I got all the boards white washed the first one I painted was ready for the next step.
As you can see from the picture the white wash absorbs into the wood and fades quite a bit, exactly what you are looking for. Now it is time to give the boards another quick sanding. Barn wood has a weathered and worn look so it is important to not make your boards look too perfect.
This sanding step is not to smooth out the board but rough up the edges a bit so the stain I am applying next will adhere in a weathered and worn look. I worked through the sanding process on all the boards and then got ready for the next step, adding a little color. I wanted to keep the look behind the tv a little understated and muted. Barn wood can come in a few different colors but I was wanting to keep it a subtle grey.
I used the ‘classic grey’ minimax wood finish stain for this stage. You want to work a little quickly in this step because you don’t want to get too much stain on the board so it looks unnatural but you want to get enough on to give it a little color. It’s not a huge problem if you don’t get it wiped off in time because you can always fix the areas with a little sanding and touching up.
Depending on the look you are going for you can barely add spots of stain or you can do what I did and give it a pretty good covering. I usually wear a disposable glove whenever I’m working with stain because unlike paint it doesn’t wash off easily. When I’m working with rough wood I prefer to use a paint brush to apply the stain instead of a lint free cloth so I like to use these super cheap paint brushes you can get at Home Depot for less then a $1. I can paint on the stain and when I’m finished I can toss them in the garbage. After the stain is applied I give it a quick wiping with the cloth. Depending on the length of board you may want to work in stages, stain a little and wipe off before you move to the next part of the board just so it doesn’t dry too much.
After you’ve got all your boards stained you can go back to the first board and give it another quick sanding just to add to the weathered look you get from actual barn wood. I thought it turned out so pretty.
I love love love Annie Sloan soft wax in dark and clear. It leaves your wood feeling so soft. It is a little expensive but it really goes a long ways. You don’t use a lot and it has really great coverage.
Because I wan’t wanting to add any additional color to the board I used the clear soft wax. With you wax brush you rub it on and then with a lit free cloth you wipe it off. I either use lint free cloths I pick up in a big bag at Home Depot or I use the blue shop towels. They both work incredibly well. After I got the wood all finished it was time to include Monte to help me get it installed.
Monte started by marking where he could securely nail the barn wood boards to. We started at the top and worked our way to the bottom of the tv area. We made sure not to line up our seams but because the space isn’t that large there wasn’t a lot of variation in the seam placement. I didn’t want to have any short pieces but keep the boards as long as possible.
This picture makes me laugh. The TB looks so small in the space. We are a one TV family and we just moved what we had without much thought about the size of the space. We knew the TV looked small but installed it and figured we’d get a larger one soon. I love the way the barn wood looks with our grey walls. I tried to make each board a little different by adding more or less stain and sanding lighter or heavier. I was so proud of myself after it was all installed, I love the look for a fraction of the cost.
I am really happy with the way it is looking. The over all fireplace needs a little more attention but this is a great beginning. The cost of the handmade barn wood was about $50. Not a bad start to a beautiful show piece in our home.