4 Easy Steps from Builder Grade to Beautiful Revamped Oak!


Before- Builder Grade Oak Wall


Is your home stuck in the 90’s? Are you living in a home that has builder grade oak wood cabinets and trim everywhere?! I feel your pain. I am not a fan of the “blonde” colored oak wood that comes in every home from the 90’s era. My home has builder grade written all over it and there’s even a gigantic wall with blonde oak from floor to ceiling in the living room. I don’t mind the trim details since I really like the character it adds, I just need to find a way to make the wall fit my style.


I originally thought painting it Muslin White to match the trim in the house that I painted from the oak to white would be a way to lighten up the room. The primer came out and without a second thought, the wall was going to transform to a white wall. Here’s the first transformation from oak to primed white..

Not a fan of the white wall! -or the kids mess :)

Not a fan of the white wall! -or the kids mess 🙂

I instantly knew it was a mistake. It seemed to be a huge eye sore and lost its definition and character that I loved so much about it. Next thing you know, I’ve decided to try something different! Who knew? Me, change my mind? No way! 🙂 The house is painted a very light gray and having the oak wall blend well with the surrounding walls and colors was important and my gut was telling me that staining it a dark espresso was going to make the wall feel dark.

A new stain color was at Home Depot that I had never seen before. Varathane offers a Weathered Gray that would be perfect for the wall! It comes in a 1/2 pt. for $4.82! That was going to be the new stain color that I would cover most of the wall with, but leave the fireplace white to make it stand out. Off I went to buy the stain and the polyurethane to coat the wall after the stain is dry plus buy mineral spirits for cleaning and paint stripper to take off the primer I had just put on..


The orange paint stripper they sell at Home Depot is highly recommended for removing paint and it worked very fast. There is only an orange smell to it and nothing toxic about it which works great with kids. I worked and worked and scraped and scraped to get the primer off until I was finally left with the unfinished oak wood. It was ready to be stained after a good cleaning of mineral spirits with a cloth. This took a little longer since it included a broken arm and surgery, but trust me, I was back on a ladder and staining before you could say “boo”! ($20,000 later..)


This was a very expensive and painful wall to remodel!

This was a very expensive and painful wall to remodel!


To apply the Weathered Gray stain, I used a cotton rag that would apply the stain evenly. Wiping in the same direction as the wood grain, the stain applied lightly leaving a small amount of oak wood to come through. Initially, I wasn’t sure how much oak I wanted, but after applying one coat I decided that I wanted more of an even look of gray and applied a second coat. That was the perfect amount of gray! Now it just needed a little something extra to bring out the wood grain!

Applying the Weathered Gray Stain

Applying the Weathered Gray Stain

I went to my local craft store looking for some kind of white stain or wax I could apply to the wall. I came across a craft FolkArt Home Décor white wax that might do the trick! Unsure of the result it would create, I did a test spot on the side of the wall and I loved it! I started applying it vertical strips and moved across the wall as I worked. The best way to apply it seemed to be with a cloth by rubbing it on and wiping off parts of it around the grain, leaving the white wax predominantly in the wood grain lines themselves. It really brought out the grain and it stood out way more than it ever did with the blonde oak stain.IMG_3339


Once the wall has the wax layer, it’s time to cover it with a coat of polyurethane. This will protect it from coming off in the future and seal in the stain. Make sure a good brushed is used to prevent brush streaking in the poly coat. Let dry for at least 24 hours.


The result is striking and all of the builder grade oak lovers have turned into loving the driftwood gray wall. Now it blends in beautifully with the adjoining gray walls, but still stands out and makes a “look at me” statement. Don’t you love what the white wax does with the grain?! I might be using this Weathered Gray stain again very soon! If you try it, you will not be disappointed!

Driftwood Stain

What do you think?!

Fireplace Wall Gray Stain



Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that when clicked and purchased earn commission percentages, but my recommendations are my honest and truthful opinions.


  1. paulgriffin66@gmail.com'
    Paul says:


    I’m just curious the brand of white paint you used to paint the mantle? Did you have to give it many coats to keep the oak from showing through?


    • Chrissy says:

      I applied one coat of primer and then applied 2 coats of Glidden Satin Paint in Muslin White. It covered very well and the primer helps fill the grain of the oak!

  2. krpettiford@gmail.com'

    Hi Chrissy,

    I plan on painting my front and back doors which are some sort of metal. Would you recommend that I use the paint stripper to remove the old paint? Also, what type of paint would you recommend?

    • Chrissy says:

      Hi Kimberly! If you want to paint a metal or steel door, I would get a special paint which is usually oil based so it adheres better to the door. If it has a lot of imperfections, I would sand it a bit so it’s smooth. Use a roller that is meant for smooth surfaces because it will leave a nicer finish on the door. So no paint stripper needed! Rustoleum has an awesome paint for doors and it also helps with rust issues 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  3. charlettacloud@gmail.com'
    C Cloud says:


    Beautiful!! I am restaining my hardwood floors using the weathered gray stain. I would love to try the white wax to achieve the same look. Do you wipe it on then off? Or is it just applied like the stain? How much do you think I would need for about 400 square feet? Thank you In advance for any suggestions.

    • Chrissy says:

      Hi there! I’m so glad you love it like I do! The important part of putting on the white wax is wiping it off. The wax that’s left will be in the creases of the grain which is what makes it so beautiful. I would do a test spot first and see how much to apply and how much to remove. Work in small squares, wipe on then remove immediately so it doesn’t dry first. The wax goes a long way so you may get away with a small container. Since you’re using it on the floor, you will want to use a clear wax or poly as the finisher to make the white wax stay put. Make sense? Please update with pics!! 🙂

  4. jessierivers@gmail.com'
    Jess Rivers says:

    Hi Chrissy! My husband and I are trying to use your method on your Oak Cabinets. We live in MN and we love to do things ourselves! Did you ever have a problem with the brown oak showing through? We seem to have a problem with the grey not completely taking to our cabinets. Jess

    • Chrissy says:

      Hi fellow Minnesotan Jess! Did you strip the cabinets first? Make sure all of the poly is removed before staining. So our wall does have some brown showing through but I did that on purpose by wiping off the stain a bit after I applied it. If you want a more solid gray you will need more coats to completely cover. Honestly if you plan on doing the wax over, it is so beautiful with some brown variation in it too! It barely peaks through. Take a close look at the pics and you’ll see it too.. I love it!

  5. the.mccarthys@verizon.net'
    Caryn says:

    Hi Chrissy, love love love this look! Planning to do it to my brown den which I’ve been searching for Just The Right Thing for 10 years! I’m trying to follow your process, please help. My project will be 4 walls, and mine are 80s era, not 90s, so have a heavy clearcoat/varnish that is probably oil base. Question 1: did you strip it because of the primer or the clear coat? That is, if you hadn’t gone through priming and changing your mind, would you have stripped or just put the weathered gray directly on the clear coated wall? (I am trying to avoid stripping and sanding all four walls and all that molding!) Question 2: did you get it down to bare wood with the nose-friendly orange stuff? Thanks so much for your advice and for solving my 10-year problem Brown Room!

    • Chrissy says:

      Hi Caryn! What a huge project! Can you send a picture of the room so I can see what you’re working with? You can email it to mommystoolbelt@gmail.com if you have a hard time posting it with your comment. So you really need to get down to the wood past the varnish on top to use the grain to your advantage. What makes this look unique is staining the wood and then following up with the chalk paint that’s wiped into the grain. It won’t work unless you take that layer off. The orange stripper worked really well but you do need to put time into it with that many walls. Just an option, maybe you could paint 2 walls white and have 1 standout wall with the treatment? Let me know if you have more questions!!

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