DIY – Lakehouse Planked Coffee Table

My planked coffee table makeover is now completed and is the center-stage STAR in our family room along with the “new” driftwood planked end tables. I originally planned my DIY planked coffee table to be done similar to the end tables but then it took on a life of its own.

Like the end tables I used ASCP and AS clear wax then distressed the coffee table. Now it’s ready for a new planked top.

While I was choosing wood for the planked top, I realized the coffee table could have a more Rustic Lakehouse personality than the end tables because it sits alone in the center of the lake cottage style room. Its main function is to act more of a footstool (yes!) as we watch television in the evening, so I wanted to keep one side of the table clear of any decor. Opportunity…I could add some sort of lake graphic, using paint, to that wood area…built-in personality without clutter!

Once I knew there would be a “vintage” Fishing sign worked into the look, I decided to give the overall table a real rustic look by choosing wood that was actually “damaged” – yes…knotty, cracked, split and rough surface pine boards. I had no problem finding plenty of (crappy) 3.5″x 8 foot boards, I just needed to sift through the stack for usable straight and non-warped boards. I had these 8-foot x 3/4″ thick babies cut down to 48-inch lengths. The wood was super cheap at less than $2. per 48″ plank. I already had a 7″ board in the garage that could be used as the “sign plank” for the graphic, and another board that is 2.5″ to fill-out the width of the table top.

Above photo shows how to take advantage of the damaged wood to get an enhanced, distressed, aged-look, as in the photo below.

The below photo also shows a board where the peeled layers (like above photo) were peeled away at different times during the whitewash and staining stages. The technique gives an interesting layered multi-tone depth to the wood.

As soon as I unloaded the boards, I ran an orbital sander down the board’s side (I held a sander at a 45-degree angle and just took off an 1/8-inch of the boards’ sharp edges) to create a V-groove, so when planks were butted tightly together there would be a “gap”. I also did some major sanding with the orbital to smooth down the knots and gashes so the planks looked aged over time by weather. I hit the wood with a hammer, banged it with needle nose pliers, and scraped it with a screw driver. Then I did my Easiest-Ever Driftwood Plank Paint Technique on the 3.5″ planks, See below for how I did the two “sign” planks (7″ and 2.5″ boards.)

Vintage Fishing Sign Graphic…

For the two “sign” (7″ and 2.5″) planks, I whitewashed and only did the first Minwax Provincial stain before continuing to the gray stain, then I painted them to look like an old sign. Here’s how…after the Provincial stain was dry, I painted the “sign” planks with harvest gold (yellow) craft paint. I used a chip brush so I could feather out the paint where I knew it would be sanded away during the distress process. Once the signs base yellow dried it was time to add graphics….I am attaching a PDF download of my Freebie FISH & TACKLE sign graphic HERE. (Revised now!)

I printed it out on my home printer, letter size, then scribbled on the backside of the paper with a soft lead pencil, so I could transfer the design onto the wood. Of course you could plan-ahead and use transfer paper or a stencil cutter, but this was pretty easy to do the way I did it.

To draw the fish, I used a medium tip black Sharpie permanent marker to trace over my transfer design. When I laid out the transfer design, I positioned the fish so it bled off the board, as if there was a “lost board” with the rest of the sign design on it. Keep in mind as you paint and ink the design, precision is not a big deal because the end result will be heavily distressed anyway. I used red and blue craft paint to paint the text, “BAIT and TACKLE”. Tip: When choosing paint colors, remember the colors will be muted by the gray stain that later goes on top, so…go brighter.

To create the effect of chipped letter edges and the chipped paint inside of the letters, dapple paint on with the tip of a flat art brush. No lettering skills needed, remember it too will be heavily distressed.

I stained the two “sign” planks with Minwax Classic Gray, and then used my orbital to distress it. Because I wanted it to be extremely distressed, I chose to use the power sander instead of hand-sanding. Note: the stain causes the sander to take off chunks of paint. So if you want less distress (a smooth sanded look) then you should stain after power-sanding or you should just hand-sand the stained wood.

Below photo shows after one-coat of Minwax Classic Gray stain, and the first sanding with the orbital sander. See the chunks taken off, nice! But, I wanted it MORE “age”, so I did a quick dry-brush of Classic Gray stain over the bare wood chipped off areas, let it sit a while and re-sanded as seen in the later photos (drilling & attaching planks) – You’ll see I really distressed it!

Attaching the Planks to the tabletop

Prior to attaching the planks, I wiped on two light coats of acrylic poly clear coat to protect the wood from water rings. I attached the planks to the coffee table using nuts & bolts. I found that the nuts & bolts were enough to hold the planks firmly to the tabletop without using any adhesive glues. Attaching the planks was easy to do, but I have some tips that made it that way.

Pre-drilled planks laid back onto the tabletop for positioning.

Process & Tips:

  • Do a dry-fit to determine where the two outer-edge planks hit on the table top. When laid out the way I wanted it, my two outside boards were nearly flush with the underneath table top, and the ends extended over the table by 1/4-inch.
  • Mark the holes to drill on the planks (I made a template and checked the position on each board so I would not hit a knothole or any obstacle underneath the tabletop) Then pre-drill holes into the planks (remove planks to a separate area, don’t drill planks while they’re on top of the table : ) Then lay the pre-drilled planks back to their position on the table and drill through the hole of one of the outer side planks right into the tabletop.

  • Drop in the bolt/tighten nut to secure the planks position and repeat the second drill hole into the other end of the same plank. Drop in the bolt and finger-tighten – this will give you a stable edge (the first stationary plank) for placing other boards.
  • Lift plank and clean off sawdust before drilling next hole.
  • I drilled & bolted on the plank next to the first one, then I did the other outside-edge plank, and the last of the 3.5″ planks. The whole time all the loose boards were laying in position for spacing, and I kept pushing them tightly together. Since my planks varied a bit in length, I used an extra board to size-up both ends of the planks (photo below.) Before drilling the next hole make sure a bold has been dropped in the previously drilled hole to hold the plank in place.

For the more rustic look I painted the bolt heads to look rusty. That can be done prior to or after drilling, because the bolts can be removed easily.

Rust effect – Bolts are sprayed with Hammered gray paint, then craft paint in browns & red & gold tones dabbed on with finger, and sprayed a cleared matte finish to seal the paints.

Final distressed graphics and the painted bolts.


I added three gray hyacinth grass baskets (Home Goods) to the coffee table for storing pillows, games and books. The baskets match the larger baskets I used for the end tables. A wooden tray holds magazines, reading glasses and the television remote control, with room on the side for Captain’s feet.

Once I assigned words like, Rustic, Lakehouse, Vintage, to describe my coffee table vision, the pressure was off. I began to look for all those little Imperfections in the wood and to make sure I kept a wonky fit & finish to my build – because in the end, it’s those imperfections that give character to my Perfect lakehouse planked coffee table.

Whew! I am ready for some short Posts…

Thanks for Meeting Me Lakeside!


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