Burl Wood Furniture Hack and Factory Finish Paint Job You Can DIY

10 Materials
3 Hours

I’m showing you how to get the look of expensive burl wood for less than $20 and in under 20 minutes. Plus I’m divulging my tips for getting a chalk paint finish without buying those expensive chalk paints.

This is my newly freshened desk, complete with faux Burl Wood look.

Step One: Preparing Vintage Furniture for New Paint

Since this piece had been stored in the garage, it was covered in accumulated dust, spider webs, and dirt.

To clean it up, I began by taking a plastic-bristle brush to each horizontal edge to remove loose dirt. This also removed any chipping paint from the piece.

Then I used a fine grit sandpaper and an orbital sander to smooth the entire surface.

This process leaves behind a lot of dust, so I vacuumed the whole surface.

Then, to be extra cautious, I wiped the piece down with a damp cloth, saturated with white vinegar to remove any leftover surface stains.

Now my piece was ready to be primed.

Step Two: Prime It.

To insure proper paint adhesion, I opted to prime the desk with a primer I’d had tinted dark. This was leftover from my bathroom cabinet project (seen in this post: One Day Kid’s Bathroom Makeover), but you can always take a can of primer to your hardware store’s paint desk and ask them to tint it to any shade before you buy it. While it won’t be as dark as your paint, it will cut down on the number of required coats when you are painting a dark color.

I used a disposable paint brush because I find removing primer from bristles to be exceptionally challenging, so I opt to just buy a cheap brush that I don’t mind throwing away.

I brushed the primer onto the molding first, being cautious to avoid pooling. Then I smoothed over the entire piece.

I allowed my primer to fully cure for 3 hours, then painted the desk.

Step Three: Paint It

For this paint technique to work, I used flat (or matte) black paint, sourced from my local home improvement store and tinted to my desired color.

Chalk paint is, in essence, just matte paint. Only for some reason, it costs so much more than a quart of standard paint. So I’ve been playing with finishes to see if I could achieve the desired effect without spending more than I have to.

The secret? Apply a wax finish over matte paint to get a factory finish.

Step Four: Apply Finish

I used an old dry cloth, dipped in DecoArt creme wax finish and gently applied a tiny amount over the entire surface of this desk. The result? The exact same factory finish for a lot less.

Instead of splurging on expensive burl wood veneer (which I may still do down the line), I used burl-printed contact paper to get a faux burl furniture look.

The reasoning? Well, I didn’t really know if my spouse and I would like this look, so I didn’t want to commit the time and money (a lot of money) to the project until I was certain. I thought about it and it made sense to spend $15 on contact paper, versus $300 on veneer, to try it out!

The only reason I may still use a veneer on this desk in the future is that this shade of burl isn’t exactly what I wanted. I really wanted a blonde burl, but just couldn’t find it. For now, this looks great with her MidCentury chair. So we’re both quite happy.

Step Five: Apply Burl Wood Contact Paper

Just like wallpaper installation, you want to start with a clean surface and apply a straight line just a little at a time.

I started by applying the very top edge of the paper and SLOWLY unrolling the paper backing from the sticky side, smoothing with a wallpaper tool as I went.

Once the entire space was covered, I used a straight edge knife to trim off the excess.

Then I simply peeled off the excess paper and smoothed again, taking care to work out any air bubbles.

I completed the step on 3 of the sides, but you can apply this as much or as little to achieve your desired effect.

Resources for this project:
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Teri | T. Moore Home
Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!
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  3 questions
  • Janet B Janet B on Apr 21, 2019

    Looks awesome!!!

  • HandyGirl HandyGirl on Apr 27, 2019

    That really looks great! You want a lighter burl? Did you consider white washing the contact paper? Wonder if that would work? Degloss then paint or gently rub on a watered down paint or finish to lighten it. Probably a dumb idea but I love to experiment. Since I’m a big fan of dark wood I would have been tempted to glaze the “wood” to make it appear darker. I’ve never tried contact paper so have no clue if you can even do anything like that....

  • Robbie Robbie on Jan 12, 2023

    Will you address how you finished the drawer fronts?

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