So I sorta cheated in my Christmas home tour and showed you my completed kitchen before I even shared progress and a proper kitchen reveal! Check out my design plans for the space HERE. So today I’m sharing with you one of the progress posts, How to Install Butcher Block Countertops.
Let me start off by explaining my choice for butcher block. Had I a larger budget, I probably would have opted for white stone counters, because I love an all-white kitchen. However, I needed to make the most impact to our kitchen, with the least amount of money out of pocket, and our realtor informed us that the updates that we have already made on the house, has already put us ‘at or above’ our neighborhood, so spending a bunch on nice counters wouldn’t be a worthwhile “investment” from a house-value perspective. Additionally, I knew they would add warmth to the space to balance out the “cool” blue walls, and I could finish them with a super hard topcoat, making them virtually worry-free.
So, let’s start out with tools and supplies you will want to gather up before starting the project.
What You Need :
(some affiliate links used below)
- Maple butcher block counters, 25″ depth, 8′ length (I needed 14 feet, so I got 2, 8′ lengths, but they come in 12′ lengths as well)
- Circular saw
- 2 clamps OR Kreg Accu-Cut (this is a saw attachment that creates an easy guide to cut along)
- 1×10 inch board, approx. 2 1/2 feet long (this is to guide your circular saw for a straight cut if you don’t use Accu-Cut)
- Jigsaw with fine tooth blade
- 3″ wood screws, 2-4 per cut piece
- 120 grit, 180 grit, 220 grit, 600 grit sandpaper for orbital sander & 220 grit sanding sponge
- Orbital sander
- TimberMate Wood Filler, maple color or color to match your choice of butcher block
- Lambswool staining pads
- Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish (NOT the low VOC kind)
- Water-based kitchen and bath waterproof adhesive caulk (for sink reinstallation)
Step 1: Remove Old Counters
This is a no-brainer, right? But this part actually takes quite a bit of time and care and it is part of the prep-work phase. We started out by cutting the existing caulk so that when they were removed, it wouldn’t take huge chunks of paint/wall with it. I opened all the lower cabinet doors and drawers, located where the screws were attaching to the old laminate counters, and removed said screws. There were about 2-4 screws every 2-4 feet of counter and I saved the screws to use when attaching the new counters. Once all the screws were out, we turned off the water to our kitchen sink, unscrewed and detached all the plumbing, and unscrewed the bolts that were keeping our metal sink in place. At this point, everything was ‘loose’. Carefully, we pried up our sink and took it out. Make sure to shove a sock or rag in the pipes so it doesn’t stink up your house. Then we removed the sections of counter, starting with the smallest. When working around the stove, we slid it out a little so there was more ‘wiggle room’.
If you are going to replace your sink with a new one, now is the time to do it, just make sure you measure correctly so it fits in the space you have. We did not measure correctly (or rather, I did not measure correctly) and I had to rebuild some lower cabinet parts so I could make room for an additional 6 inches of sink. I had my heart set on a farmhouse style apron-front sink and at only $300, Ikea’s was the best value for our budget, so I was determined to make it work. Regardless of the brand of apron-front sink you choose, they come with clear instructions on the cut-out dimensions for the counters, in order to fit the apron-front.
Step 2: Measure Front, Middle, & Back of Each Segment
It is normal for walls to not be perfectly square and even, so you will want to measure the distance from the wall to the end of each segment at the front (closest to you) , middle and back (closest to the wall). Be very precise. I went to the nearest 1/16th of an inch. We started with the shortest segment, which was close to the oven.
Step 3: Cut the Shortest Segment First
Measuring from one straight side of the butcher block piece, mark the three distances for the first segment (front, middle, back). Use a straight edge to connect the three marks and draw a line. Measure the distance from the edge of your curricular saw to the outer edge of the metal shoe. Take that measurement and mark it from the line you drew on the butcher block, drawing a second line where your guide board will go. Clamp a 1×10 board, lining up with the 2nd line you drew. You could use a narrower board, but I wanted ample space for the blade motor. This will act as a guide so that you can easily cut a very straight line. You will want to hold the circular saw in place and see where the saw blade will hit, to make sure you don’t need to make any adjustments to the location of the guide-board. The blade should line up so that it will cut exactly on the inside of the cut-line.
Step 4: Cut Segments around Sink & Remaining Segments
For an apron-front sink, there will need to be a small notch cut out of the corner of the pieces of butcher block that butt against the sink. Use sink instructions or measure the width and length of the notch and mark the corner of each corresponding segment. Use a jigsaw with a fine-tooth on the hardwood setting to cut the notch out. Go slow to get the straightest cut.
Step 5: Dry Fit, Fill Holes & Sand all Segments Until Smooth
Once all the segments are cut and have been put in place for a dry-fit to ensure a snug and proper fit, remove them fill small knot-holes with Timber Mate wood filler. Then, in a well-ventilated area (garage or outside), start sanding the wood smooth. The texture they start out as is pretty rough, so start with 120 grit sandpaper, then progress to 180, and finally 220. Go slow to make sure the texture is even and smooth. If you skip one of grits, it will show when you do the top coat. Lightly sand the edge of the counters that will be facing the front, so it isn’t sharp but smoothed down a bit.
Step 6: Level Counters & Attach Segments with Screws
Once you put your segments into their place, make sure each one is level and doesn’t rock by using shims.
Pictured below you can see there were shims used to keep this piece from rocking and level with the adjacent piece.
Clamp them into place, pre-drill the holes, and then attach with the 3″ screws. Since we re-used the screws that held the previous counter in place, I didn’t list their exact size (diameter-wise), but they were 3 inches long, which is not the full length that goes into the 2″ thick counter. There was about 1 1/2″ gap from the piece of wood on the cabinet base from where the screw started, to the underside of the butcher block counter.
When attaching the “L-Shaped” section of the counters, glue the part of the wood where the two pieces will butt against each other, before attaching the screws.
Step 7: Fill Seam With Wood Filler
The seam between the two joining segments should be very minor. Timber Mate wood filler is considered the superior wood filler by most woodworkers I found out and should be used to fill the seam. Sand it smooth, once dry, with 220 grit sandpaper.
**I took a trip to WoodCraft to pick up my previous favorite wood filler by Famowood, and if you have never been in WoodCraft, you should know all of the employees are serious woodworkers and know their stuff. They have a shop in the back part of the store for classes and pretty much any demonstration you can think of involving all the tools they sell. One of the guys there told me about Timber Mate and how it has been used in Australia for years, but recently started selling in the U.S. and has been wildly popular here ever since. It doesn’t shrink or crack, is insanely smooth, dries super fast, comes in a wide variety of colors, and if some dries out from leaving the lid off too long, you can just put little water in it and it softens for easy use again. He showed me how amazing it was in store, and I was sold. I just have never seen a wood filler so smooth!**
If you are using the wood filler along a darker piece of the butcher block, like I did, I used american walnut stain and a fine round-tip paintbrush to carefully stain the wood filler portion that was along the darker piece of wood, so it would blend in.
If you look carefully, you can see where the wood filler is and where I painted the stain on that one little section.
Step 8: Apply Waterlox
Using the lambswool staining pad, apply a coat of Waterlox, let it dry 24 hours, then sand it with 220 grit sanding sponge. TRUST ME when I tell you to NOT use a natural bristle brush to apply Waterlox. A natural bristle brush (even the very expensive ones) bubbled like crazy, no matter how slow and careful I went. As soon as I used lambswool, it was like a dream. No bubbles hardly at all and they were easily smoothed out after a second pass-through. You may need a few pads, in case it gets dried out with each coat, but it is fairly inexpensive.
I opened the window immediately after applying each coat, and had a, oscillating heater fan running, facing towards the window to blow the fumes outside. After 6 hours the smell isn’t bad and you can be around it without causing any headaches or problems. For the 3rd and 4th coats, sand the surface with 600 grit sandpaper to get it super smooth (in case a particle here or there dried on the surface), and wipe with a microfiber cloth.
**I asked the guys at WoodCraft about the low VOC option of Waterlox and they told me it was crap. It doesn’t have the right hardeners that make it super durable. They also said the same original version that I bought and used on my counters was used on the floors of the Canadian Library of Congress. So yeah, it is freakin tough… and it is also food safe.**
Step 9: Reinstall Sink
Put sink into place and secure with brackets below (provided with Ikea sink). Reattach all the plumbing and if you have a new faucet to install, do that at the same time. Make sure to use a water-based kitchen and bath waterproof adhesive caulk before laying down the sink. DO NOT use the oil-based silicone because the mineral spirits clean-up will remove the Waterlox top-coat.
I partnered with Delta Faucets again for this kitchen makeover, and chose the Cassidy Single Handle Pull-Out Kitchen Faucet in Arctic Stainless. Isn’t it glorious?! I love the classic, vintage style, but updated with the awesome pull-out spray feature.
Next post, I’ll share my backsplash tutorial!
**I partnered with Lumber Liquidators and Delta Faucet for this kitchen makeover. I was provided with their products mentioned in this post, but all opinions and rave reviews (LOVE my counters and my faucet) are my own.