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What is a Faux Wood Finish?

By Jeri Sullivan
Updated May 16, 2024
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A faux wood finish is a painting technique that is applied to surfaces to mimic wood. Faux, which means "false" in French, is a way to make a less expensive material such as plastic or sheet rock look like it is made of wood. The technique may also be used to make a cheaper type of wood such as pine look like a more expensive type of wood like cherry or mahogany.

To create a faux wood finish, the wall or piece of furniture is sanded to create a flat surface then wiped clean to remove any dirt. Once dry, a base coat of latex enamel paint is applied to create the wood-colored surface. An additional coat is often needed so the original wood grain, furniture or wall color does not show through.

Most painters use a wood graining tool to make the actual faux wood finish. The two main types of wood graining tools are a brayer and a comb. A brayer is a rubber roller that has been cut with a wood grain design. Paint or stain is layered onto the surface and the brayer is rolled over it while the paint is still wet to leave the wood grain design.

A comb is a flat plastic tool with grooves or notches cut into one edge. As the comb is pulled across the wet paint surface, it removes the excess paint and leaves the wood graining pattern. Each wood graining tool has a specific wood species design, so to create a different wood pattern a second tool would have to be used. Depending on the type of wood grain chosen, the pattern may also include knots to make it look more authentic. A clear topcoat is typically applied so the faux wood finish is protected.

The most common application for a faux wood finish is furniture but walls can be painted using a faux finish technique to create the look of wood paneling. When painting a large area, there is often more than one brayer design used so the pattern does not repeat too much. For walls, the painter will start at the ceiling level and roll the brayer down the wall in a straight line. The process is repeated with alternating brayer designs until the area is completely painted. The resulting faux wood finish is an economical alternative to paneling the entire wall and can easily be painted over if the homeowner tires of the design.

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Discussion Comments

By Heavanet — On Jul 10, 2014

@talentryto- When it comes to cleaning faux wood finishes, you don't have to worry about using a special cleaner or moisturizing it like you do real wood. Wiping it down with a damp cloth and mild soap and water should be enough to keep your furniture with faux wood finishes looking like new.

By Spotiche5 — On Jul 09, 2014

@talentryto- I think that the most important tip for cleaning faux wood finishes that also applies to cleaning real wood is to be careful not to get these types of surfaces too wet. If you do, you need to dry them thoroughly to prevent damages from occurring.

Just like with real wood, faux wood can warp and crack if it is exposed to water frequently, or left wet for long periods of time. Though faux wood finishes will require frequent cleanings, you must be careful to make sure that you dry them thoroughly after each cleaning to protect them after you have cleaned them. This is the case with faux and real wood.

By Talentryto — On Jul 08, 2014

I'm looking for some tips for cleaning a faux wood finish. I am wondering if some of the same rules that apply to cleaning real wood are also relevant when it comes to faux wood.

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