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There are few things in a kitchen that cost more than a countertop, particularly when materials such as granite and quartz are used. However, if you are keen to save some money, then you can learn how to make wood countertops that will look just as good as professionally-made products. If you are sold on the concept of saving money, we need to inform you that this is by no means an easy project, hence why we have provided all of the information that would be needed to make your own countertop below.
Table of Contents
Regardless of the type of countertop that you plan to build, you will need certain tools and materials to ensure that you are able to make the necessary cuts and get the finish that you need. We have provided a breakdown of the different materials that you would need to ensure that you are able to build the best countertop.
Even if you have never learned how to make wood countertops before, it goes without saying that you would need wood. Apart from the measurements, you will need to ensure that the boards are completely straight with no warps. Here is a general rule of thumb that you can follow when measurements are concerned.
If the desired depth is 16 inches use two 1×10 boards that will give you a depth of 18.5 inches. While it would make sense to use a pair of 1×8 boards, this will give you a depth of 14.5 inches instead of 16 inches. This is where nominal size needs to be considered, as the true size of a 1×8 board is .75×7.25 inches. Therefore, you will need to take 2.5 inches of a 1×10 board for it to measure 6.75 inches wide.
This might seem very complicated, but it is simply to show you that there is a difference between the nominal size and the true size of wooden boards. The price of the wood will vary depending on where you buy it and the species of wood that you choose.
While you will need to buy certain materials, it is not necessary to buy a new set of power tools for one project, instead, some hardware stores will allow you to rent them. Just in case you were unsure of what you would need, we have provided a list of tools and materials that you would need to make a wood countertop.
- Kreg jig (To drill pockets that will allow you to join planks)
- Table saw (Required to rip down a board)
- Miter saw (Required for all standard cuts)
- Chip brush
- Pocket hole screws
After you have learned how to make wood countertops, you will find that finishing the wood is an incredibly satisfying feeling. Before we dive into the how-to part of this, we would recommend getting the following finishing products to ensure that you get the best possible finish.
- 80-grit sandpaper
- 120-grit sandpaper for decorative edge profiles
- Wood sealer
- Butcher block conditioner for butcher block countertops
- Polyurethane top coat for a furniture look
- Wood stain (optional)
The list that we have provided is more of a guideline as you will use different finishes for different types of wood or countertop styles. Additionally, we suggest using a waterproof finish if you are planning to use the surface for food preparation.
Choosing the Right Wood
One of the most exciting parts of learning how to make wood countertops is choosing the type of wood that you will use. Wood varies in price and appearance, so it is important to do enough research to ensure that you are choosing the best material for the job. Additionally, there are various pros and cons that need to be considered with each type of wood.
Wood can generally be split into two categories – hardwood and softwood. Each type of wood has certain advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered. Below we have provided a list of some of the best woods that can be used to make wood countertops.
Hardwoods are always more expensive than softwoods, but they are more durable. For a long-lasting countertop, we would recommend using a hardwood, but if you are learning how to make wood countertops, we would suggest using a softwood. Hardwoods are very difficult to work with and they require more experience, but the hard work is worth it as you will have a countertop that can withstand a lot of abuse.
Not all hardwoods are the same since some of them possess an open-grain pattern that requires more sealer. This is why we would suggest staying away from ash and oak, as these woods will allow seeping.
Tigerwood is noted for its durability and density, in addition to its striking stripes. It has a higher density than hickory and wenge and it is also extremely resistant to scuffs, decay, and insect infestations. Tigerwood, like other thick hardwoods, may be tough to work with. However, they can be worked on using expert hand tools.
Hickory is among North America’s densest and toughest hardwood species. As a result, it is often used for countertops and different types of furniture. Although it is known for its durability, hickory is often less expensive than most hardwoods as it is widely available throughout the United States.
Keep in mind that due to its density, hickory may be difficult to work with. It has the potential to dull or crack fresh blades and damage hand tools. So, you will need to have a lot of crafting experience when working with this species of wood.
This North American hardwood is well-known for its exquisite appearance, thanks to its fine grains that are paired with classic color tones. It is mostly used to manufacture furniture, but it also makes an excellent kitchen countertop.
The shifting colors of American cherry are also well-known. The wood will typically darken or redden with time. This is especially useful for white-cabinet kitchens since it produces a beautiful contrast, making your kitchen appear more dynamic.
Black walnut produces an extraordinarily luxurious-looking countertop due to its rich dark hue and tight grains. It may appear dull at first, but it acquires a very smooth surface with time, adding to its costly appearance. Because of this, wooden countertop finishes are rarely needed when working with this wood.
Aside from its beauty, walnut is valued for its durability and strength. It also requires less upkeep than other kinds of wood. Simply rinse it off with water as well as a mild soap solution, then massage it with oil on a regular basis to avoid cracks and other wear and tear.
There are very few softwoods that we would recommend using, but if you are learning how to make wood countertops, this is a material that we would suggest using first.
Softwoods are inexpensive and very easy to work with. However, these woods are also prone to denting and because of their open-grain structure, they will need more sealer.
Although pine wood is softer compared to hardwoods, it has exceptional rigidity, strength, as well as shock resistance. Pine is also less susceptible to shrinkage and swelling. As a countertop, it will look good, but it will be susceptible to dents and scratches over time. This means that it is not an ideal wood species for this specific purpose, but it is great for first-time DIYers to learn how to make wood countertops.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Wood Types
As we have established, hardwoods are best for making countertops and they also respond much better to wooden countertop finishes, meaning that you will use less sealer and save a bit of money. However, softwoods have benefits of their own, such as being easier to work with. Below, we have provided a table that highlights the advantages and disadvantages of the different wood types.
|Type of Wood||Advantages||Disadvantages|
How to Choose the Best Wood
If you are new to making wood countertops, it is important to have a clear understanding of what the surface will be used for. This will make it easier for you to determine what type of wood you will need to choose. Below are some of the different factors that need to be considered before choosing wood for your countertop project.
Wood can be easily scratched when compared to surfaces made from concrete or granite. Depending on what you will use the surface for, the hardness of the wood is very important, for instance, you would not use a pine countertop for a food preparation surface as it is susceptible to absorbing water. Instead, a harder wood such as cherry or black walnut would be better suited for this purpose.
Not everyone has the budget for oak countertops, but this does not mean that you will need to compromise when it comes to the quality of the wood.
Woods such as hickory are much more cost-effective as they can be found all over the country and they can be used to make incredible countertops.
There is no point in buying wood that you do not find attractive and we believe that the overall aesthetic of the wood is very important. Not only does the wood need to look good, but it is important to choose something that matches your kitchen.
The wrong type of wood will look out of place and you will not have a great time in your kitchen.
Take the time to consider various color options and the stain variations that are best suited for the wood.
Countertops do not need to be monotone slabs of wood that were only cut to size. Instead, there are different types of countertop designs available. Each one is suited for a different budget and has a completely different design compared to the next one on this list.
Butcher Block Countertops
These unique countertops are made of wood and available in a range of shapes and colors. Butcher block countertops in various forms may be made from a variety of woods such as maple, oak, walnut, and cherry.
Budget Wood Countertops
It is difficult to imagine that beautiful wood worktops are so affordable. The trick is that they are fashioned from basic stained pine planks, which give them a contemporary and attractive look.
Adding this countertop to a tiny room, such as a butler’s pantry, is a low-cost and straightforward DIY.
You can use any type of wood for this, but the goal is to save money, so stick to pine for the best results.
Another cost-effective option would be to make a plywood countertop. However, you cannot simply use the plywood that has been lying in your shed for the last few years, instead, you will need to get your hands on birch plywood. This has been proven to be the best option for countertops and other types of furniture as it comes with a good quality wood veneer or a pre-prepared surface that can easily be painted.
Preparing the Wood
Making a wooden countertop of your own can be very exciting and we are certain that you are brimming with fresh ideas right now. However, there is a lot that needs to be done before you can install the countertop, so let us take a look at the preparation process that needs to be done before installation can be started.
Step One: Wood Preparation
First, choose your wood, any hardwood, such as cherry, oak, teak, mahogany, or walnut, would create a lovely counter. The first stage in preparing the wood is planing. This is to create an even thickness throughout your board. It is a good idea to draw some pencil lines on the board to illustrate where the high areas are once you start working on them.
For this task, we would recommend using a triple-bladed power planer. Some species of wood are filled with twists and knots, making it both attractive and difficult to deal with.
Step Two: Re-sawing and Planing
Once you have gotten the wood to manageable pieces, put it through the planer a few times on the ends to straighten it. However, despite cutting the wood, it is important to note that hardwood can still be large and hefty to work with, so we suggest taking your time. Since getting the boards flat is critical, you can use a hand plane after running it through the planer.
At this point you may need to re-saw the wood. If your pieces are large and heavy it is preferable to opt for a table saw over the bandsaw.
A table saw will provide added support which will ensure smooth straight cuts. However, keep in mind that since a table saw can only cut so far, you may need to cut one side and flip the wood over to cut the other.
Step Three: Joining Wood Pieces
At this point, you will have the wood chopped up and you will be able to see the section where the blade ran through. A jointer will come in handy for this section as you will need the proper support to ensure that you get the boards flat.
However, if you do not have a joiner, you can also build a jig that can be used on your planer, which essentially transforms it into a jointer.
Whether you have a jointer or a modified planer, you will need to ensure that the boards are flat. This will also make a brilliant addition to your workspace.
Step Four: Drilling
Start by arranging the boards how you would like them and then mark the sides that should be up. You will also need to check where the ends will need to be joined again. It is best to use a hand plane, as you will constantly need to check and plane as you work on the final touches of the boards.
When all of the boards have been flattened, make five marks that will indicate where the dowels will be placed. Use a dowel jig to line the boards up to ensure that everything connects in a straight manner. You will then need to drill more holes to get the dowels to properly line up.
Step Five: Clamping
Now that you have your holes drilled, you can run beads of glue around the joints, install the dowels, and start clamping the pieces together. It is always a good idea to clamp the boards to ensure that the wood does not bow. The only thing left to do is to add more clamps to allow the glue to dry.
Step Six: Sanding and Routing
When the glue has dried you can begin the sanding process. A belt sander will be great for removing chunks of material; however, if you prefer taking a conservative approach, you can also use an orbital sander. Switch between a rough and a fine-grit sanding disk for the best approach.
The key is to remove all of the scratches on the surface to get the best possible finish. Once you have finished sanding, cut the counter to fit where you plan to install it, this can be done with a jigsaw.
Installing the Countertop
You need to ensure that you are able to secure the countertops to the cabinet. While some hardware stores have dedicated clamps and slots, these might not work as you are making a countertop that is designed for a specific cabinet. Below you will find more details on how to install a countertop.
Start by cutting scraps of plywood at a 45-degree angle that will be installed at the back of the countertop. These will need to be installed in the corners where you will be installing the countertop. The front of the countertop should also have the necessary support, so if needed, cut some extras for the front too.
Your next step would be to drill a 3/8 inch hole in the support angles that you have cut and installed in the corners that needed support brackets. Lay the countertops above the new cabinets and then position them in place.
You will need to use a self-tapping pan head wood screw along with a washer that is larger than 3/8 inches.
Now that you have the countertop locked in place, you will need to caulk around the sink and the edges as required. After 48 hours the countertops will be ready for light use, and after 7 days you can use them regularly.
Keep in mind that it will take around 30 days for the caulk to fully cure.
Tips to Ensure a Proper Fit
The last thing that you would need when making a new countertop is to fit it and find out that the fitment is incorrect. Not only will it take more time to ensure that it fits properly, but it is an incredibly labor-intensive task to constantly remove, adjust, and refit a heavy countertop. We have provided a few tips to ensure that you get the best fit right off the bat.
Use a Template
Make a template of the countertops before you start cutting wood. This may be done using cardboard or cheap 1/8′′ plywood. We found that cardboard from empty moving boxes can also be used, which worked OK, but we recommend using used cardboard pieces to strengthen the area between the top and bottom flaps.
If you are working between two walls, make your template in two parts that overlap and are then secured in the middle.
You will be able to scribe either side for a much better fit. Place the template material over the cabinets and use a compass to mark the wall line at the peak of your template. You will then need to cut it out and test-fit it. If necessary, make adjustments.
Do Not Neglect the Overhang
On the template, draw the overhang with a compass from the bottom. As required, cut and adjust, and repeat with the remaining countertop pieces.
Make a point of accurately labeling your countertop templates using the top as well as the front so they do not get flipped around when you take them out of the kitchen.
Always Test-Fit Your Boards
Before you commit to gluing everything together, it is a good idea to ensure that you test-fit all of the boards to ensure that they fit together properly. Gluing them before you know how well they fit together is asking for trouble, as it is a headache to clean a saw blade that runs through glue.
Finishing the Countertop
There are a variety of available finishes for countertops, each one having a different color as well as different protective characteristics. We would recommend getting different samples and trying them on a spare piece of wood to ensure that you can get the finish that you would like. Finishing the countertop will prevent water damage and essentially give the wood an extra layer of protection. Once you have your finish, you will also need the following materials and products:
- Fine grit sanding block
- Paintbrush or foam brush
- Lint-free rags
- Tack cloth
Step One: Clean the Surface
Before you can apply anything to the surface of the countertop, you will need to ensure that it is completely clean. Start by vacuuming the surface then use a tack cloth to remove all of the remaining dust.
Step Two: Apply the Sealer
Once you have cleaned the surface, you should apply a sealer. Start by adding a small puddle then use a rag to rub it into the surface. Repeat the process until you have covered the entire surface. However, you need to ensure that you have applied enough to the surface without there being excess sealer on the surface.
Sealer will usually require around 20 minutes before you can buff off the leftover sealer with a clean rag.
Once you have buffed the surface, you will need to allow the sealer to dry for 24 hours before the finish can be applied.
Step Three: Apply the Finish
Whether you have chosen a wax, oil, or varnish, the application process is the same. You will need to apply your first coat with a foam brush or paintbrush, but you need to ensure that you have enough airflow to ensure that the finish is able to fully dry.
It is best to apply the finish from a separate container as the sealer will begin to dry once it is exposed to oxygen.
Step Four: Sanding
To get a smooth and even finish, we would recommend using a foam brush. However, the most important part of the process is to use a fine-grit sanding block to get a completely smooth finish once the finish has dried. Then, if needed, apply a second coat of the finish, and sand once more. You will then need to use a tack cloth to ensure that you get the surface completely free of dust.
Maintaining the Countertop
Wood countertop maintenance is not complicated at all, but you will need to finish it with a product that does not always need to be reapplied.
Naturally, moisture and staining can become potential issues, particularly if you have not used a water-resistant finish.
Along with those, there are a few additional issues that will pop up from time to time, but they are completely manageable.
Reapply the Finish
We would recommend reapplying the finish after a year of heavy use. To do this, you will need to sand the surface and then reapply the finish. This will get rid of scratches and cuts on the surface and once you reapply the stain, it will be as good as new.
A bit of dish soap goes a long way and you will be surprised to find out the impact of regular cleaning. With a damp cloth, use a small amount of dish soap and then spritz the surface with a solution of four parts of water and one part of vinegar. Allow the solution to sit for around ten minutes and then wipe the surface clean.
Avoid Direct Heat
Wood countertops can be burned and you should always be mindful of this. If you do happen to burn the surface with a hot pan, you will then need to refinish the surface. This might turn into a separate DIY project on its own depending on the damage that has been done.
Learning how to make wood countertops is a great project that can be incredibly rewarding. While this is a challenging project, the cost will vary depending on the type of wood that you have chosen. We recommend asking someone experienced for help if you are new to using power tools, but once the wood has been prepared, you should be able to do it by yourself. Overall, we wish you luck with your countertop journey!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Considered to Be the Best Method to Seal Wood Countertops?
If you are going to seal wood countertops, you should consider the type of finish that you want, along with the location of the countertop. For instance, if you are going to place the countertop near a faucet, you will need a waterproof finish. Alternatively, if you are going to prepare food on it, you will need to use a sealant that is safe for food.
How Long Would It Take to Make Your Own Countertop?
If you are comfortable with different power tools and familiar with what needs to be done, this is a project that can be finished in around 12 hours. However, the waiting period for the countertop to reach maximum hardness can take up to 30 days. So, if you want to make your own countertop, it is important to consider the waiting periods between staining and after sealing.
What Is the Most Important Step When Building Wood Countertops?
When building wood countertops, the most important step throughout the entire project is getting the correct measurements. With the incorrect measurements, you will either need to trim the wood or restart the project. Either way, it is a big waste of time and money.