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The $125 kitchen counter makeover

In a world of granite, marble, and travertine, sometimes it’s nice to switch gears and remodel your counter tops out of something that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars, is readily available, and can be matched to accommodate a wide variety of tastes. So come with me for a kitchen counter makeover on the cheap.

I’m talking about wood counter tops. They can be made to be finished to appear light, dark, natural, or even butcher block in finish and for about $125 they make far more financial sense than $5000 for granite. After all, kitchen remodels don’t need to drain the kid’s college fund. With a little creativity, some moderate skill, and prior planning, you can dramatically change the look and feel of your kitchen area for pennies on the dollar.

Here’s how I did it and the supplies I used. I chose to go with regular pine 1×12’s in order to keep the cost down. I then used a small strip of oak as the front lip. This harder front edge should give some insurance against bumps, dings, and scratches.


From there, I simply glued and clamped the pieces together and let them dry overnight.


Once the glue was nice and hard, I went back and filled in any splits, or knots in the lumber with regular wood glue. I just use this like a filler paste. If you want a less obvious, more natural look you can mix wood glue with fine saw dust to make a perfectly matched wood filler.


After all of this has had time to dry, I sanded everything smooth, first with an 80 grit sand paper to smooth out any big defects or bumps, and then with 120 grit to give it that smooth finished look.

Next I wiped down all of the surfaces with a clean damp cloth to get rid of the sawdust residue and marked the location for the sink cut out using a pencil and a T-square. Then I went back and triple checked my measurements because I really wanted to make sure I’d have this in the right spot. If I didn’t it could have really made the project look lop-sided.


At this point, my countertop was starting to take form so I moved it into its new space in the kitchen to dry fit it and see if any of my details, measurements, or mental pictures were slightly off. Everything looked good so it was time to apply the finish.

I choose Minwax’s “Honey” color of stain and polyurethane in one. This finish acts more like a paint than a true stain finish. You simply spread it on the surface in as even a manner as possible and it will self-level after sitting for a short period of time.

Here is what it looked like after 1 coat.


I let each coat harden overnight and sanded between coats with a 320 grit sandpaper. This helps take out any minor bumps and imperfections from the finish and prepares the surface to bond to the next layer. I again wiped it down with a damp rag each time to remove any dust.

Here is a picture from after I applied the 2nd coat. Yeah, I let it dry before setting my hat on it.


For the final coat I wanted a glossy smooth finish that would be easy to wipe down and look like a professional bar top type of finish. Minwax also makes straight polyurethane in a gloss finish that I used to also add a bit of hard shell durability to the counter.


Here’s how it looked at this point

Once this dried, I simply removed the kitchen sink, finished cutting out the accompanying hole in the wood, and set everything in place.

When all was said and done, I’d spent about $120 in materials, 6 hours of labor over a few weeks, whenever I had time, and got rid of a major eye sore that was previously my ugly white tile, with dirty grout counter, before. Is it flawless? Nope. Are there better looking finishes and counter styles out there? You bet. Do they cost less than $200? Nope. So if you’re on a budget and still want to move up one level in your countertop game consider looking outside the box, learning a new skill, and having fun in the process.


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  1. That is some good bang for your buck! Did you end up finishing the backsplash? I still need to do the backsplash in my kitchen remodel (last thing left!), got any tips for me? I am not particularly handy, but I do what I can. 🙂

    • Hey Mr. DD. It was fairly easy. I had never done it before this project either. If you snap a straight line with a chalk line it might help make sure the backsplash doesn’t start to gradually become slightly crooked as was the case with mine. I’m hoping to finish it this Presidents day weekend:). If I had it to over again, I’d probably use the peel and stick type of tile instead of using mastic (It’s a type of adhesive) for the sake of simplicity.

      • I’ve used the peel and stick tile on the bottom shelf of my lower cabinets. Doesn’t seem to be super sticky. Do you think that the peel and stick backsplash would have problems after awhile. Unsticking I mean.

        • I think that the surface it’s going to mate to will probably determine if it will stick long term. If it’s fairly smooth and clean, then the adhesive will have a much better chance of adhering properly. It probably won’t come loose if this is the case unless it has a defective adhesive. For items like this, where I’m not sure of the quality, I try to search it on amazon and read the negative reviews, even if I end up buying it somewhere else. If the surface the tile is to be mounted to is heavily textured, I’d probably steer away from the peel and stick type of tile. Otherwise, I’m all for it though! It save the additional step and cost of mixing together a mortar style adhesive which is what I did because I didn’t weigh the peel and stick option.

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