Close your eyes for a minute, think if your dream kitchen and what kind of counter tops you would throw in that masterpiece. Are you thinking Carerra marble (swoon), soapstone, Caesarstone? Maybe a mixture of a few surfaces to add some interest, perhaps a well worn butcher block island? Ugh, I’m dreaming too. Now, pinch yourself and wake up! We’re on a budget around here, so those dreams will have to wait until we move on up into our next house (years down the road). Don’t worry marble, I’ll see you someday, and hopefully my future kids or myself don’t ruin you.
Getting back to reality, counter tops are next on the “Kind of a Big Deal” list. With so many options to choose from, we had to stay focused in our choice as to not blow our budget.
From the beginning, the DIY endeavor that catapulted us into getting the kitchen started was finishing some wood counter top slabs. Thanks to Pinterest, I followed a few talented DIYers on their journey of transforming IKEA’s affordable all-wood butcher block counters into masterpieces. And, with Vito’s nod of approval, we had chosen our winner!
This project was without a doubt the biggest challenge (for me), and though there have been a few bumps and some pot holes in the road, I’m pleasantly satisfied with the results we were able to achieve.
As I said before, I read and read and read about past DIYers who have tackled this project. Here’s a few in-depth tutorials that I followed for our own rendition:
Here’s our materials list for the project (we had about 55 sq. ft. of countertop to finish):
- Ikea Numerar Countertop – Beech
- Palm sander
- 2 pkgs of 220 grit sandpaper
- 1qt Minwax Wood Conditioner
- 1qt Minwax Stain in English Chestnut
- 1qt Waterlox Original VOC Compliant
- 1qt Waterlox Satin VOC Compliant
- Old, but clean, cotton t-shirts
- #0000 Steel Wool
I’ll warn you now that this project is not for the impatient nor the obsessive compulsive (if you’re dealing with a ton of surface area, at least). Actually, if you can’t deal with some inevitable imperfections, then don’t choose wood at all. Wood is a great option for counters however you must be aware and OK with the fact that it will dent, it will scratch, and it might eventually stain. To us, though, those imperfections give the wood its character, and that’s even better.
As far as patience goes, though, you need at least 24 hours in between each coat of anything. For us, that meant 1 coat of wood conditioner, 2 coats of stain, and 7 total coats of Waterlox. This was a long and fume-y 10+ day endeavor!
So, let’s get to some photos of the process.
Here’s the pretty slabs before any treatment. We purchased 4 various sized pieces to accommodate our long stretch on the left side of the kitchen (shown), giant peninsula, and pieces flanking the stove.
Shuffleboard table or counters? And no, I’m not pregnant, despite how it may look!
Next, Vito worked some router magic. He cut the hole for our new under mount sink and rounded-out the sink opening. Then, he routed all of the edges with his Ogee router bit. This, in my opinion took these run-of-the-mill counters to the next level and seriously upped the style factor.
Vito used the template from the sink to cut the hole and he double-checked his lines before cutting by placing the actual sink on the counter to make sure everything was good to go. If you look closely, you can see the seam where we had to join two slabs together. We chose to join them here because it was the least obvious place. We ran into some problems here, which I’ll recap in our OOPS post a little later.
Check out that gorgeous edge! Weeeee
Next, it was time to sand that bad boy. Oy. Thank goodness for power tools!
Don’t mind my post work, post workout self. DIY’in ain’t always glamorous.
Here’s a shot of our next products in the lineup:
Up first is the wood conditioner. This preps the wood for stain, helps to give an overall even finish and limit splotchy variation. I’m glad we did this step, but I still don’t think it turned out as great as some of the tutorials above. I’m pretty sure it was because our stain was slightly lighter than those other examples. It goes on easily and doesn’t change the look of the wood too much once it’s dried.
Then came the fun part – stain! Like I said before, we went with the English Chestnut color. We had an extra quart of this sitting around so it made the decision pretty easy for us (and I think I would have chosen this color anyway – score).
Now for the really long and really stinky part. Working with Waterlox was brand new to me. Its purpose is to both seal the wood and create an extremely hard clear coating to keep the counters as durable as possible throughout all of the wear and tear they will see.
For application, I used a piece of an old clean tshirt (a new one for every coat). After some technique changes, I found my groove by pouring Waterlox directly on the counter tops and carefully smoothing it out with the grain of the wood. I lightly sanded by hand with 220 grit sandpaper in between each coat of Waterlox, cleaned and then dried the area. Coat after coat, we began to look like this:
I was sure to coat under the lip and under the peninsula overhang so that the underside was covered as well. Ideally, I would have coated the entire surface top and bottom (to prevent warping), but we physically couldn’t keep turning the piece over because of its massive size and fragility (where the seam was). So, fingers crossed in that aspect.
We were happy with the way things were turning out but wanted more of a matte finish once complete. In came the Satin Waterlox.
Dude, this stuff sucked. Considering it was basically the same product, it was so much more difficult to apply. It was thicker, but not in a good way. The directions indicated to flood the area, but not leave too much on the counter. Um, what? I had a hard time covering the huge surface area evenly, and as a result I ended up with some streaks, even after 3 coats.
I was kind of depressed about this (10 days working on one super smelly project had my brain in a fog) because I couldn’t see past the imperfections. I tried to buff out some of the streaks with 0000 steel wool – which helped a bit – but I could still see them.
So, how did I fix it? I didn’t. After reading hours worth of FAQs, forums and blogs, I realized I could either sand that thing down to bare wood and start from scratch (kill me) or live with it. Since we has people coming over the night I finally finished, we decided to live with it for a while and see what happens. Guess what. I got over it. It still looks pretty dang good if I do say so myself and you only notice the terrible spots in certain light. I know I’ll probably try a few more remedies down the line, but this is real life people, not everything is perfect (and that’s OK).
Enough sobbing, here’s some finished shots!
I clearly need to stop rushing with the pictures. I’ll get better at this, promise 🙂
Overall, we’re pretty happy with them. I haven’t had any problems with water so far, but I do make sure I wipe the counters down every night so that there’s no liquid sitting on them (which probably isn’t good for any material). I’m also kind of excited to see how they wear and evolve down the line, as I’m sure every scratch and dent will tell a story.
So, what do you guys think? Are we crazy for putting SO MUCH WOOD in the kitchen? Does the durability of these make you nervous, or are you ready to roll your sleeves up and try it out for yourself?
Up next (since I’ve basically leaked everything anyway) is the big kitchen reveal – I know you’ve been waiting! There’s also SO many details that I haven’t touched on yet and I’ll get to those too.
Till then xo,
P.S. – Sorry about this 2+ week hiatus. Admittedly, I was galavanting in Las Vegas for one of my BFF’s Bachelorette Party and I took a while to recover! We’re in the midst of planning more projects every day, so stay tuned 😉