This is a really long post but if you are considering doing butcher block countertops yourself, it is worth the time. We learned a lot about ourselves, and our marriage, during this part of the kitchen update. This was one of the most stressful things we did. Mostly, scary because an incorrect measure or cut would mean ordering another counter section which meant more time and money. And by week 8 of a renovation both of those things will make you cry.
But fear not. We did it and so can you. I tried to be as detailed as possible in the tutorial below without being confusing. Hopefully I have achieved that and this will help some of you DIYers! SEE KITCHEN REVEAL HERE.
Decide on which butcher block you want. At Lumber Liquidators there are four choices in wood type: American Walnut (a little more expensive), American Cherry, Maple, and White Oak. You can stain any of these to achieve the color you want. I wanted something with natural tones so I went with the American Walnut. It has natural variation in color and has a warm brown tone without stain that goes well with the rest of our home. IKEA also has butcher block for purchase but they do not have as many options in types and the longest section they sell is 8 feet.
Measure to calculate how much to order. Think about how you are going to connect the different pieces. If you do a 90 degree connection your lengths might be different than if you do a 45 degree connection.
90 Degree Connection – 2 rectangular pieces put together
Blittle (what I affectionately call Brian on the blog and when he is in trouble at home.) and I both thought the 45 degrees looked more professional and resembled a “normal” countertop the most. For our kitchen, we ordered one 12 foot section and two 8 foot sections. These are not carried in stock at Lumber Liquidators so you have to order online or call/visit the store to order. They were delivered in a week or two. Keep that in mind when you are scheduling. We picked ours up from the store instead of paying for delivery to the house. They are HEAVY but we moved them on our own. This can be a two person job but a third person would be helpful for extra muscle.
When you open the box and see that it looks rough and there are scratches, DON’T FREAK OUT. There is an obvious right side (top of countertop) and wrong side (bottom of countertop). The bottom is not sanded at all! Here is what our bottom looked when we opened the box.
You can see some scratches and that it is not very smooth.
Here is the top side.
PREP AND PROTECTION PRODUCTS:
Let’s talk about prep and protection. Usually butcher block is wiped down or coated with food friendly Tung oil or other food safe oil. When you use butcher block as a countertop that will be exposed to more water (around a sink and dishwasher) and heat (the oven and stove), it needs to be protected differently. Waterlox a company that makes sealer and finish products just for wood countertops and wood floors.
I followed these directions I found on the Waterlox website that are specifically for butcher block as a countertop. These products are not cheap but a little goes a long way. For our counters I ordered 1 gallon of the Sealer/Finish and 1 quart of the Original Satin Finish.
SIDE NOTE: If you want to stain your butcher block, do it BEFORE the sealer and finish products. I went with American Walnut so I wouldn’t have to stain. It has a natural dark color variation. Some of you might have a pine or lighter wood and want to stain darker. That is possible but be sure it is done BEFORE the Waterlox products.
I put 3 coats of Sealer/Finish using the *Wooster Bravo Stainer on the bottom side waiting 24 hours between coats. Doing this helps protect the bottom from moisture and heat from the dishwasher and under the sink as well as from heat released by the oven and stove. This will inhance the color immediately.
Making cuts. Base your cuts on your kitchen layout. Our first cuts were for overall length. Meaning wall to wall or wall to end of the cabinet. We had three large rectangular pieces that fit in place but now we needed to make the 45 degree cuts.
Using a *protractor we measured our 45 degree cuts. Protractor? Yes, a huge one. You find them at Lowes or other hardware stores in the tool area or on *Amazon. There are large protractors used to measure angles for crown moulding. We measured, measured and re measured our angles. It was absolutely nerve racking making those first cuts but we finally went for it. I recommend a new saw blade for this. Butcher block is thick, heavy and hard on your saw. Go slow and let the blade do the work. Sand your cuts smooth without rounding the edges.
Why is there tape in the picture? We put tape on the edges to protect the wood when we were cutting and testing our fit. Not sure if it did anything but it made me feel better.
Put the pieces in place to check for fit. Make any length adjustments now.
Prep for the fasteners. We used *countertop fasteners and used a router to cut the grooves for them. To be safe we tested our router depth and size. We made a template out of plywood and tested it on scrap butcher block before we worked on the real countertops. We laid the counters on the floor next to each other, upside down, lining them up like they would be when they were installed. We decided to do 3 fasteners at each joint. We traced the template then used the router to make the grooves.
Now install and fasten. Put your counters in place on the cabinets. You might have to do something adjustments but things should fit well. Be sure to look at the corners lining up and check to see if they are level. Ours were pretty easy and we did not have to do much adjusting.
We had to install our sink BEFORE we could install the counters. Due to the sink’s size and location, our cabinet size and plumbing, our huge, under mount sink could not be installed after the counters. If you have a drop in sink this will not be a problem, but if you have an under mount please keep this in mind. We installed it after all cuts were made and tested. It was the last step before we put the counters in place and put on the fasteners.
Filling cracks and evening out joints. Since we had walnut counter tops I bought walnut filler and I mixed it with some saw dust that I saved (there will be plenty! just put it in a ziploc until you are ready to use it). This causes the seam to have color variation just like the rest of the counter and not just a single colored seam. After it is filled, sand smooth.
Sealing with Waterlox. If you would like to stain your countertops, do it BEFORE Waterlox. I chose not to but it is an option. Apply the stain like you would to any surface. Wait at least 8 hours for it to dry then apply your coats of sealer. Again, I used a clean *Wooster stain brush to apply the coats. Be sure to clean it well after each use. I put 4 coats of the sealer/finish (5 around the sink and faucet) and 3 coats of the Satin finish. Yes, I waited 24 hours after each coat and yes, I sanded between each with 400 grit paper. I do recommend waiting the 7 days after your final coat for heavy usage. Although the countertop will be dry, it is not be fully cured and can not handle everyday use yet. BE PATIENT.
ENJOY! It was a lot of work but we used less than half our countertop budget and were able to put the money saved towards splurges like a counter depth refrigerator and double ovens.
*It has been been over 2 years since we installed the butcher block countertops. I cook from scratch almost every night plus cook a breakfast and lunch for myself pretty much every day. The countertops have held up extremely well even with the hard daily use. Remodeloholic asked me to review my countertops along with some other bloggers that have them. You can read those reviews here.
Recommended products for this project: