In this DIY tutorial, I show you how to build a DIY cedar accent wall using reclaimed fence boards.
Even if you don’t need a cedar accent wall, these DIY tips and techniques can be used on other DIY woodworking projects.
Tools Needed for DIY Cedar Accent Wall
- Crow Bar w/ Nail Remover
- Wood Stain
- Staining Pads
- Chip Brushes
- Orbital Sander
- Belt Sander
- Sand Paper
- Stud Finder
- Brad Nailer
- 1.25″ Brad Nails
- Spray Bottle
- Pressure Washer (Optional)
- Garden Hose
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Miter Saw or Circular Saw or Hand Saw
Also, be sure to visit my tools page for a complete list of the tools and materials I use for my project.
My wife and I moved into a new house in December of 2015.
Ultimately, this house has everything we wanted – more land, separate garage/workshop, and many other amenities.
However, the above ground pool in the backyard was the one thing we could have done without.
Also, the pool was not really an above ground pool. The bottom half was in the ground while the top half sat above the ground.
So, what does a pool have to do with a DIY cedar accent wall?
Keep reading to find out.
Mother Nature Destroyed our Pool
We experienced an enormous amount of rain which caused flooding and catastrophic damage to many areas.
Consequently, the excessive water in the ground caused my empty pool to collapse inwards.
This happened despite the fact I emptied it beforehand.
Thank you, Mother Nature!
Now, the pool removal moved to the top of our priority list.
In order to properly remove the pool, we hired a professional to remove the deck and pool, fill the massive hole, and put down new sod.
In turn, I removed 2 sections of our cedar fence to give the contractor room to fit the skid-steer in my backyard.
After removing 2 sections of the fence, I decided to remove the remaining sections of the fence and replace the entire cedar fence.
Obviously, the fence just would not look right with half of it being new and the other half 10 years old.
Identify Type of Wood
Before you proceed with this project, I encourage you to identify the type of wood used for your fence.
Most fences are made with Cedar or Treated Pine.
Do Not use treated wood for interior projects as they are full of harmful chemicals used to preserve the wood.
Luckily, cedar has a distinct smell and vibrant colors.
First, remove a fence board and cut a piece off to ensure fresh wood is exposed.
Next, smell the wood.
If the fence has a pleasant smell, the fence is cedar.
Best Wood for Accent Wall
In my opinion, Cedar wood is the best wood to use for reclaimed wood projects for the following reasons:
- Natural oils maintain appearance.
- Repel insect
- Resist decay
- Repels water
- Prevent shrinkage.
As a result, cedar wood withstands the test of time.
This makes it ideal for reclaimed wood projects.
Reclaimed Cedar Fence Boards
While removing the remaining sections of the fence, I thought about what to do with old cedar fence boards and reclaimed cedar fence board projects.
Suddenly, a picture of the unfinished wall in my workshop came to my mind.
In short, a DIY cedar accent wall using reclaimed fence boards would be perfect to cover my wall insulation.
Cedar Wood Planks Needed for Accent Wall
First, I determined how many wood planks (fence boards) I needed for the cedar wood accent wall.
Quick Tip: I suggest determining the number of wood planks needed for an accent wall before removing the reclaimed fence boards.
Determine Square Footage of Wall
The best way to ensure you have enough fence boards for your project is determine the square footage of your wall.
Next, determine the square inches of 1 fence board.
Then, convert the square inches to square feet.
As a last step, add 10% to account for any mistakes.
For example, my workshop wall is 25′ x 14′ and 1 fence picket is 72″ x 6″ (or 6′ x .5′).
- 25 * 14 = 350 square feet on wall
- 72 * 6 = 432 square inches
- 432 / 144 = 3 square feet for 1 picket
- 350 / 3 = 116.7 pickets needed
- 117 + 10% = 129 total pickets
To save time with this formula, simply measure the fence picket in feet instead of inches.
Also, a typical fence board is 3 square feet so divide the total square footage of the wall by 3.
Properly Remove Fence Boards
It’s important to remove fence boards properly in order to repurpose them for a reclaimed wood project.
Keep in mind, some fence boards will get damaged during the removal process.
This is not a big deal as the undamaged part of the board can still be used as long as the board is 16″ long. More on this later.
If the fence has stainless steel screws, you are very lucky.
Most, if not all, fence installers and homeowners use nails to install fences because it is cheaper and quicker.
3 Ways to Remove Fence Boards
There are 3 ways to remove fence boards to avoid damaging them.
First, a crowbar can be used to either remove nails if the head of the nail is accessible or pry the fence board away from the runners (boards that run horizontally and hold the fence boards in place).
Of course, the most time consuming method is the best way to remove fence boards without damage.
Second, a reciprocating sawwith a metal cutting blade is a popular option.
With this method, the nail holding the fence board to the runner is cut by running the saw behind the fence board.
This method is faster than using a crowbar.
However, the blade may damage the fence board behind the runner.
Jig Saw Or Circular Saw
Lastly, a jig saw or circular saw can be used to cut the fence below the top runner and above the bottom runner.
This method is definitely the fastest way to remove fence boards.
However, 25% of the fence boards are wasted.
Once the fence boards are clean, the nails, staples, and imperfections become more visible.
First, use a pair of needle nose pliers to remove the staples.
The fence boards normally have 1 or 2 staples in them because they were used to attach the price tag to the board.
Next, use a nail remover or hammer to remove the embedded nails.
Square Each Fence Board
Ideally, a miter saw works best to square fence boards.
In addition, a circular saw or hand saw with a speed square works just as well.
To square an old fence board, I cut the bottom at a point on the board where the chipping, splintering, or rotting stop.
Next, I cut just below the ‘dog ears’ at the top of the fence.
The ‘Dog Ears’ on a fence picket refers to the top of the fence where 2 small 45 degree angles are cut on each side.
Clean Old Fence Boards
It is important to clean reclaimed fence boards before using them for a cedar accent wall.
If not, I could potentially introduce bugs and/or mold.
To clean old fence boards, I pressure washed the boards to remove the loose dirt and debris.
In order to save time, I lined all the boards on my concrete driveway and wash them down.
Next, I flipped the fence boards over and repeated the same steps.
Second, I mixed bleach with water in a 4:1 ratio (4 parts water to 1 part bleach) in a spray bottle.
I sprayed the mixture on one side of the board and rinsed off the cleaning solution with a hose.
Then, I repeated on the other side of the cedar fence board.
Allow the fence boards to dry for 24 hours indoors. A box fan helps expedite the drying process.
Sand or Plane Fence Boards
Once the fence boards are dry, I ran them through my planer. If you don’t have a planer, an orbital sander with 80 grit sandpaper works well.
Before proceeding, choose one side of each board that looks best and focus on finishing the side you choose.
It doesn’t make sense to sand/stain both sides of each fence board.
I used my planer for the first half of this project to get a smooth surface on each fence board.
Then, my planer quit working for the remainder of this project.
As a result, I used my orbital sander with 80 grit sandpaper to sand the cedar fence board.
Most reclaimed fence board wood projects have a rustic style.
In turn, minor holes and cracks add character.
However, some imperfections are too large to ignore.
I used wood putty to repair the holes in the fence boards.
First, fill the holes with wood putty and allow to dry.
Then, sand the wood putty flush with the board using 220 grit sandpaper.
Stain Fence Boards for a Wall
First, I used multiple colors of the same Varathane fast-drying wood stain to create a unique wall.
Furthermore, I just chose the 5 colors listed below and went with it.
First, I separated the boards into 5 groups to make certain I had an equal number of fence boards for each color wood stain.
Next, I used a chip brush to apply the wood stain to 10 fence boards at once.
By the time I finished the tenth fence board, it was time to wipe off the stain on the first board.
So, I determined the correct number of fence boards to stain at once according to the drying time.
Then, the stain dried overnight.
I didn’t put on 2 coats because I didn’t want the wood to appear as though it was painted.
Seal Reclaimed Wood Fence Boards
After the stain was completely dry, I sealed the cedar fence boards with shellac spray finish.
Often times, I use shellac on many of my projects for the following reasons:
- Dries quickly
- Non Toxic
Also, I chose the spray can instead of the brush on shellac in order to finish this step faster.
First, I lined the boards up on the ground outside to make the staining process more efficient.
Next, I sprayed the boards with a steady sweeping motion from side to side.
Additionally, I overlapped each spray by 1″.
After I finished the last board, I put on another coat of sealer.
Also, I sprayed the fence boards vertically instead of horizontally (side to side) to get rid of any spray lines from the previous seal coat.
DIY Cedar Plank Accent Wall Installation
To install the fence boards on a wall, I used a brad nailer with 1.25″ brad nails and a leveler.
If you don’t have visibility to your studs like I did, use a stud finder to mark your studs at the top, middle, and bottom of the wall.
Studs are not always perfectly straight so it’s important to mark them in multiple locations.
First, I installed the first cedar fence board at the top left corner of the wall. Why? I prefer the top to have full boards b/c it is more visible than the bottom.
I checked to make sure it was level with my leveler and drove in 2 brad nails (top and bottom) near the middle of the board.
I just chose a stud that was near the middle of the board.
Next, I drove in 2 nails for each stud the board went over. One nail near the top and the other nail directly below near the bottom.
Then, I installed additional boards while working my way from left to right to the other side of the wall.
I used my miter saw to cut the boards to size when needed.
Quick Tip: Make sure each board is long enough to cross at least 2 studs in order to be properly secured. Studs are 16″ apart, so each board will need to be at least this length.
Also, these cedar fence boards are not going to shrink or expand significantly like new wood.
Ideally, the correct way to install fence boards on a wall is to complete an entire row and then start a new row while working your way down.
However, I didn’t always follow this rule because I didn’t feel like moving the ladder across my workshop for each row.
Luckily, this didn’t cause any issues with the installation.
I had about 10 feet of cedar fence boards that were more narrow than the other fence boards.
Essentially, they were the end pieces of the fence.
Instead of wasting these fence boards, I decided to make an ‘H’ in the middle of my DIY cedar fence board accent wall.
My last name starts with the letter ‘H’.
While this was a great idea and worked out well, it was a HUGE pain to work around.
Ultimately, it caused more time to measure/cut boards around the letter than it was worth.
If you plan to do something like this, I recommend installing the letter on top of the completed wall instead of the method I chose.
This DIY cedar accent wall took time.
I questioned whether or not the work was worth it during the project.
So, I came to the conclusion this project was well worth my time.
It is very satisfying to use old fence pickets on my workshop wood accent wall.
It is rewarding to reclaim something and turn it into something useful and visually appealing.
I hope you learned how to build a reclaimed cedar accent wall.
There are many other reclaimed fence board project options, so get your creative juices flowing and think of something awesome.
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