How to Distress Hollow Core Doors

On today’s episode of Bless’er House flops…

this oh-so-innocent looking but dastardly door.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

I know this oak grained antique door may be looking at you all puppy dog eyed, but let me tell you. We had it out, this door and I. And actually there were two of them.

Two months ago, I had mentioned as we were in the middle of our master bedroom makeover that I’d found the Craigslist treasure of the year, a pair of old solid oak doors for only $10 each. What a deal! Well, uh… not so much.

After going at these things with varnish stripper for hours and sanding down to the bare wood with my palm sander until my arms went numb, I realized after further inspection that they were in rough shape. There were cracks all over them and since they were solid oak, they were easily 200 pounds each. (Which I already knew before trying to strip them down, but I was stubborn and swore they would somehow magically work.)

UPDATE: See our full master bedroom makeover reveal here!

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

The whole point of getting new doors for our master bedroom was to put them on a track to help our weird door configuration in there, and I’m pretty sure these beastly ones would have caused it to rip right out of our drywall. Sigh…

So on to Plan B- hollow core doors:

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

Since I wouldn’t be able to have that gorgeous wood grain I so badly wanted, I decided to go for texture with a chippy paint look instead.

The only problem was… it’s not all that simple to achieve that look on these types of doors because they’re not really wood at all. I mean, they’re practically a step up from cardboard.

But I got as close to the real deal as I could.

Supplies used:  (Affiliate links are provided below for convenience. For more information, see my full disclosure here.)

I wanted to make the doors look like they were solid wood underneath the chippy paint finish, so I painted a coat of the Algonquin color first. I used my paint brush, but you could use the sprayer if you wanted to for this step.

Normally, I would paint two coats, but since this was only the base, I just did one. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

When the Algonquin was dry, I brushed on the crackle medium, which is clear. The thicker you brush it on, the bigger your cracks will be, so I laid it on pretty thick. Lay your door down flat on the ground as you want the crackle to be even and you don’t want it to drip or puddle.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

Just follow the directions on the back of your crackle medium. I used the CraftSmart brand from Michaels, but I couldn’t find it to buy online anywhere for some reason.

I let the crackle dry thoroughly, about 2-3 hours.

For some extra distressing, I used my fingers to rub a little Vaseline on some of the edges of the door panels where paint would naturally rub off with age.

Then, this guy came along…

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

This was the first time I ever tried a paint sprayer and my life is officially changed. It saved me a good hour of painting by hand, literally. It’s going to be my lifesaver when I get to painting our cabinets in our kitchen makeover.

The reason I used a sprayer was because crackle medium is tricky stuff. If you overbrush it, it won’t crackle and you end up with this gunky weird texture. But if you only brush on one stroke of paint to make the crackle work properly, you can end up with odd looking brush strokes on large surfaces. So the sprayer was an easy way around all of those problems.

I poured an entire 500mL bottle of the Casement color paint into the sprayer’s paint chamber and mixed in about 10% water to thin it. That amount just barely covered 1 door, front and back.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

Make sure you practice with water first if you’ve never used a sprayer to get used to it and figure out how to spray a steady, even stream.

I sprayed on one fairly thick coat of the white to get good coverage (since you can’t do a second coat with the crackle) and then watched the magic happen. You can watch it crackle right before your eyes in a matter of a few minutes.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

When the paint was thoroughly dry, I wiped away the Vaseline I’d rubbed on the panel edges with a clean rag to reveal more of the brown tone underneath.

And that was it! This actually took a lot of trial and error, but I’m finally pretty happy with how these doors turned out.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

Our next step is hanging them on a barn door track so they will slide. I’ll be so glad when our bathroom door no longer slams into our shower door and creates a traffic jam for Robert, Olivia, and me.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

With the chippy texture and the metal track that will go on this wall, I think it’ll finally wrap up this room and give it a little bit more of the farmhouse vibe. This bedroom turned out more modern than I originally planned, but I kinda love it.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

So what do you think about them? Perfectly chippy? Too distressed? You think we’re fooling anybody with these? After several attempt at this door situation, I’m just glad it’s all done.

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

If you missed any of the other master bedroom makeover shenanigans, you can check out all of the projects and plans from the beginning:

If you ever want to go distress, chippy crazy on any hollow core doors in your house, you can pin this post for future reference:

How to Distress Hollow Core Doors to Get a Chippy Paint Finish |

P.S. I can’t tell you guys how thankful I am for your sweet words from last week’s e-course launch. I hope y’all are loving it! Have any of you finished it yet? What did you think???


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  1. Those doors are a blaze with texture and charm, they really add to the overall look of your bedroom I love it!!! I’ve been checking out your course, and I think it’s wonderful and easy to understand, wish you were there before I paid out thousands at college for this!!! I’m always looking at new ideas for interior design, it helps me to stay in the loop, as well reminds me of things I might have overlooked!! Thanks so much for all your hard work to put this together, even though it looks easy, it’s not!!!!

    1. Thanks so much, Pat! Are you an interior designer? I sometimes wish I’d gone to college for that. So glad you’re liking the course!

    1. Yay! Go for it! It’s more fun outside of the comfort zone for sure. You learn so much about your abilities.

  2. Your bedroom is beautiful. Love the e-course, wish I would have had it 23 years ago, when we bought our house. Glad to know I have evolved with the best (I do all the things in your course and shop at most of the stores on your list). Just a note for Californians: thrift stores are so popular, that they are getting expensive, and it’s hard to find great items unless you visit them all the time. I find the best buys at garage sales (early) before they donate to the thrift stores. Love your blog, it’s just like I’m chatting with my best friend ? .

    1. Thank you, Robin! I’m so glad you’re enjoying the e-course! I know what you mean about the thrift stores. Some of our neighborhoods are more expensive than others. It’s taken some traveling around before I could find a well-priced one. I agree though. Garage sales are awesomesauce!