Wood Countertops for a Budget Kitchen Makeover
In a world of granite, marble and travertine, sometimes it’s nice to switch gears. Change things up and remodel your countertops out of something that doesn’t cost thousands of dollars. Use something readily available, that can be matched to accommodate a wide variety of tastes. Come with me for a kitchen counter makeover on the cheap.
I’m talking about wood countertops. 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 your 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 made my wood countertops, and the supplies I used.
I chose to go with regular pine 1x12s in order to keep the cost down. I then used a small strip of oak as the front lip. This harder front edge gives some insurance against bumps, dings, and scratches for the softer wood countertops.
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 for your wood countertops, 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 the surfaces with a clean, damp cloth to get rid of the sawdust residue. I 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 lopsided.
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. I was going for a professional, bar-top type of finish. Minwax also makes straight polyurethane in a gloss finish. I used that to 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 hole, and set everything in place.
When all was said and done, I’d spent about $120 in materials and 6 hours of labor. Over a few weeks, I got rid of a major eyesore. It was previously ugly white tile, with stained grout lines. 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 upgrade your countertops, consider looking outside the box. Learn a new skill, and having fun in the process.