Spoonful Test Blog

Saturday, June 21, 2014

DIY Wood "Butcher Block" Countertops

Just in case you've missed literally every blog post I've written for the past month or so, we're giving our kitchen a makeover!

I KNOW.  I've done a pretty good job keeping it quiet, right?  /sarcasm

So anyway, I have a project to share with you!  Making our own wood countertops has definitely been the biggest project we have undertaken...probably in our lives.

...besides making a child, of course.

I was SO nervous to make these countertops, but I looked at a lot of good blog tutorials and we used a lot of common sense, and we love the outcome!  Hopefully this blog post will join the ranks of good wooden countertop tutorials so that future DIY-obsessed people can use it!

First of all, you need wood.  We ended up with white fir and southern yellow pine.  I would have preferred to use all of one kind of wood, but Lowe's didn't have 2x8s and 2x6s in the same kind of wood.  Silly Lowe's!

Our old counters were around 25 inches deep, so that's what we aimed for.  The counters are made with two 2x6s and two 2x8s.  The actual dimensions of lumber are different than what they're called (which is silly, if you ask me), so I used this chart to help figure out exactly how much we needed!

The island top used four 2x6s and two 2x8s.  We made it wider than the old counter so that we can put stools there for extra seating!

So!  Measure how long each chunk of counter needs to be, and decide how many pieces of lumber you'll need.  We ended up getting five 8-foot long pieces of 2x8 and six 8-foot long pieces of 2x6.  That was the best way to do it so that we didn't have crazy amounts of wood leftover.

Next, cut your wood!  We would have had Lowe's do this for us, but their saw was broken.  WHAT THE HECK, Lowe's??  So Danny ended up cutting the wood with his miter saw, which is definitely not ideal.  A circular saw would have been much easier!

Once the wood was cut, we let it acclimate for a few days.  That way it would be used to our house's humidity (and the extreme amounts of floating dog hair) before we put it together.  Also, we were too scared to do anything with it.

At some point we bit the bullet and started working on the counters.  We did one chunk of counter at a time, because we only had four huge clamps.  And also having a million chunks of counter sitting around our house would have been overwhelming.

Our process for making the counters was:

1.  Decide the layout of the lumber.
2.  Mark each piece of lumber with a number so we don't forget the layout.
3.  Drill pocket holes in the lumber with the mini Kreg jig so they can be attached to each other.

4.  Lay the boards out between the clamps, put Liquid Nails on the edges, and squish them together.

5.  Put the other clamps on the front.

6.  Wipe up any Liquid Nails that squished out.
7.  Put screws in the pocket holes.
8.  Let it dry for as long as the can of Liquid Nails says (ours says 12 hours, I think.)

Ta da!  The chunk is made!

The next steps are:

9.  Sand the bejeezus out of the counter (especially the top).  We used both a belt sander and palm sander.
10.  Use stainable woodfiller to fill the cracks and knots.  We used Minwax.  It's the worst.  Although I'm pretty sure all woodfiller is the worst.
11.  Sand again!  Like crazy!
12.  Wipe the chunk down with tack cloth (it's nasty sticky cheesecloth that gets all the dust off)
13.  Seal the backside of the counter with polyurethane and let it dry for a nice long time.
14.  Stain the top and any sides that will show.  We used two coats of Cabot Aged Leather.
15.  Once the stain is nice and dry (follow the directions on the can!), start polyurethaning.  We used Rustoleum semi-gloss polyurethane.

To polyurethane the counters, we:
16.  Lightly sand the top of the counter
17.  Use a tack cloth to clean it off
18.  Apply the polyurethane
19.  Let it dry as long as it needs; then repeat steps 16-19 again as many times as you want!

We ended up using between four and five coats on our counters.

Also, sorry I don't have many pictures of some of this process!  It turns out that it's hard to do things and take photos at the same time.  Oh well.

Now let your counters cure!  We put them in the guest room for almost a week while we did other kitcheny things.  You don't want to use them super heavily for at least a few days, but I would give it a week after the last coat of polyurethane.

You're probably wondering about the sink, right?  That gorgeous $4 sink!

That was actually the most nerve-wracking part!  We cut the hole for the sink prior to sanding, woodfilling, and staining.

First we made a template for the sink opening by tracing it through the drain hole onto some cardstock that we taped together.

Then we taped the template to the counter and figured out exactly where we wanted it.

Look at that gorgeous wallpaper!

We traced the shape onto the sink, and I promptly had an anxiety attack.

No, for real.  I was freaking out.  Because after Danny drilled a pilot hole, he started cutting out the sink opening with his jigsaw.

This photo is staged. I couldn't be present for the cutting.

...it's not that I don't trust him.  I'm just a nervous nelly, that's all!  And since we have an undermount sink, the hole is very important!

Luckily, he did a great job (of course!).  After the sink hole was cut, he drilled hole using a 1.25" bit where the faucet would be.

After the counter was finished being sanded, stained, and sealed, we attached the sink.  We used clear silicone and sink clips to keep it on.

Gibson wanted to help!
Then we used silicone to seal the crack between the counter and sink and let it dry!  Ta da!

To install the counters, we put them on the cabinet frames and made sure they were level.  There was some shimming involved because our cabinets aren't level, as it turns out.  Awesome!  And the longest chunk of counter is a little bit warped at the end, but it doesn't bother me a whole lot.

We installed the faucet (the same one we had before, just without the deckplate) and hooked up all the plumbing.  I don't have details on that...every house is different!  Danny had to reroute some things since we went from two drains to one.  He's not a plumbing expert, but he watched lots of Youtube videos and figured it out.  I'm proud of him!

So now our counters are finished!  Hooray!  It's a huge relief that they're finished and not awful-looking.

Now for a cost breakdown!
Lumber: $53
Woodfiller: $16 ($8/tube)
Sandpaper: $12
Foam brushes: $3.60
1 1/4" drill bit: $5.30
Polyurethane: $22 ($11/quart)
Stain: $12.25
Tack cloth: $3
Silicone caulk: $8
Sink clips: $5
Sink: $4
Mini Kreg Jig: $20

TOTAL: $164.15

Originally, we were planning to buy butcher block counters from IKEA, which would have cost $400 with shipping to Danny's parents' house (to our house it would have been well over $600!).  And that doesn't include replacing the island top.

I'm pretty proud that we were able to do the counters for so much less than we wanted to originally!  We we have a huge island with extra seating this way!  Hooray!

If you want to make your own wood countertops, make sure to do lots of research and expect some frustrations.  Warping happens, and wood will never look perfect like granite.  But that's part of the reason we love them!  I like that they're rustic but still really pretty.

Also, we've been asked about the single basin sink as opposed to a double basin.  I actually like it way better!  It's really nice and deep, and I can fit cookie sheets/pans/other big things in it easier.  It's probably not for everyone, but I love it!  And the undermount is just amazing...I can wipe crumbs directly into the sink!  Yay!

And you might have noticed that the island is darker than the rest of the counters.  We're going to pretend like that was done on purpose, okay?

Let me know if you decide to make your own counters!  I would love to give you advice and encouragement!  But don't even ask me to help you make yours.  Because I won't.
Please click the little lady below to vote for my blog today!  And then go make yourself some beautiful counters!  And make me a pie!
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  1. I have the same issue with my veneer....afraid to apply it! It took me months to order it, and once it got here, I was afraid to cut it. Now that it's cut, I'm scared to apply it to my table! I just need to take a deep breath and DO IT. The countertops look AMAZING!! You guys do great work!

  2. The countertops look awesome! What about long-term maintenance? Do you need to do anything specific for upkeep?

  3. Thanks Erin L, really this article is very helpful. You'll find a wide variety of forms of belt sanders on the market, this is hard to choose which one in order to decided.

  4. Can't believe a woman could find out and do all this thing! How admirable!

  5. Wow, your kitchen makeover was amazing! Did you choose the sanders to use yourself or somebody suggested which brand and type to use for this project?

  6. Your countertops are beautiful! We are talking about doing this in our kitchen so I was wondering how the wood holds up to having hot things placed on it because I am the WORLDS WORST about pulling something straight out of the oven and sitting it on our countertops now. They are tiled so it doesn't hurt them.

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  8. Hi, i have never renovated anythig but your post does look simple and innexpensive and i am looking to do something like this for my mum. Do you prep on the wood countertop or would you advise against that? is there a specific product to protect the surface if i wanted to prep and chop things on the counter top? And how is the clean up?

  9. How have they held up to use (water around tge sink)after three years?

  10. Great step-by-step explanation! Ok, just got my husband to buy me a kreg jig! I'm gonna do it! Thanks!

  11. This is a great DIY step-by-step! I'm doing a similar top for an oversized island in a shed-conversion that will function as a dining table as well and I'm going to link to this post in my blog post about it! I'll include a link when the post is up on my blog! thanks for creating such a lovely post!

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