Sunday, August 4, 2013

Butcher Block Counter Tops


UPDATE:  I've written an update on my butcher block counter tops - you can read it here.

I hesitated to even write this post about my counter tops because we were winging it the whole way and I don't want anyone to think this is a tutorial!  It is not!  However, I decided to just write it and share some of my thoughts and observations and a few of the things we did learn. 

We had some serious discussions about counter tops and what we should do. I kept leaning towards butcher block because of my daughter's counters that I love so much. However, I stayed open minded and read and researched everything.... and kept coming back to butcher block.


  So then, the hunt was on.  The tricky part was finding planks that were big enough for our island.  IKEA actually carried the large ones and luckily had what we needed in stock. 
Birch plank, right out of the box

I wanted to darken up the Birch planks but really wasn't exactly sure how to stain and finish them in a food safe way.  So back to the research I went!  It is amazing to me how helpful people can be and when I sent emails asking for help I always got quick and expert replies. 

Birch plank, heavily sanded with DeWalt Orbit Sander


Probably the advice that was the most helpful in directing me, was from a blogger who finished her butcher block with tung oil and she told me that over a year later, with just a little consistent oiling, her counter tops were more gorgeous than ever.  So, I sent an email to the company Real Milk Paint that sells natural paint and stain products, including tung oil.  They wrote me back the most informative email about why finishing butcher block counter tops with tung oil was the answer.  No stain, no varnish, no unsafe products, very little maintenance. 
I told them I wanted to darken my wood planks and was wondering about stain and they recommended Dark Tung Oil.  They also suggested that I use it along with a solvent to improve the penetration of the oil into the wood.  They carry an all natural, food safe solvent called Citrus Solvent made simply from citrus peel oil.  (This stuff is amazing.  For any of you that have ever done anything with solvents that smell and feel toxic on your hands...  you need to try Citrus Solvent.  It has such a pleasant odor and leaves no stinging feeling on your hands!) 

 

So, following their instructions and advice, I finished all the butcher block with Dark Tung Oil mixed 50% with Citrus Solvent.  It was the easiest process imaginable.  Apply, let it dry, rub it soft, repeat, stop the application when the oil no longer soaks in the wood.  It was recommended to me that I oil both top and bottom of the planks, so all this was done prior to installation, although Eldon had already cut the planks to size.


They took on a positively rich, beautiful finish.


So, the installation?  Well, this is where my amazing husband enters the picture.  Has he ever installed butcher block before?  No.  With just a little thinking and processing can he do it?  Yes.  Measure, set up straight edge...


... and cut. 


The tricky part was the island.  It required the three large planks, all cut differently and with a lot of calculating and figuring.  Very odd angles that needed to be mitered and fit perfectly together. 


Not to mention the trickiness of cutting faucet holes and cutting and fitting the farmhouse sink.  Eldon wants me to mention here that when it came to getting the rounded corners for the sink to fit perfectly he used a hole saw and then fine tuned it with a Farrier's rasp (a horse hoof trimming file)!  It worked excellent!  (Of course he just happened to have that on hand!). 


Once the island counter tops were in place and attached permanently then I sanded the mitered joints until they were smooth as silk.  This is what the wood looked like at that point, which sort of scared me.  However, I have learned from my daughter's counter tops that that is the joy of butcher block, it is very forgiving... sand out imperfections and oil them back to perfection!


And there it is.   Perfect!


Installing the counter tops on the other side of the kitchen was very straight forward.   They were just the standard size and the only cutting required was the lengths.  


I think they are beautiful.


I don't think anything else would've made me as happy as the butcher block and given me the farmhouse kitchen look that I wanted so badly.  I've been told many, many times by many people that butcher block gets prettier and prettier.  The more it is used, the slicker and glossier it gets! 

If you haven't read my full kichen post yet, you can read it here.

On the house this week:  I have my work cut out for me in sanding, staining and varnishing our solid wood five panel interior doors.  Eldon is multi-tasking plumbing and floor trim.  We are close my friends....  VERY CLOSE!!! 


38 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Just perfect! All your hard work will soon pay off as you are getting close to moving in.Have a great week...hang in there, the last weeks seem so hard....just SO ready to get moved in is all I could think about when we built. It's close...keep telling yourself that!....the planning of how it's going to be when you get your things moved in is just "spinning" in your head right now isn't it? Keep those thoughts going this week....the "daydreaming" is coming to life very soon! Thank you for this great post on how to finish the counters.Patty

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  2. I love the butcher block... looks great and wonderful choice for your home. Your house is beautiful.. Cannot wait to see the finished decorated home. Blessings!

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  3. Good morning Dori,
    I really liked your post today. We also used Ikea birch butcher block for our countertops last winter. Like you, I looked into all the different types of materials and came back to the butcher block that I had in another house 25 years ago. Our island is granite and has the cooktop so I left that because it's easier to clean when it comes to cooking but I adore my butcher block counters. I can take a piece of sandpaper to a small stain and reapply the tung oil and it's good as new. Since they are against the walls my hubby (a builder/remodeler for 45 yrs) cut 4" strips for the backsplash which gives me a small ledge. Ikea also sells a great wood cutting board with a lip that's always being moved from one area of the counters to the island.

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  4. Absolutely stunning! Very informative also; thank you for sharing.

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  5. Dori, one thing I love about your blog is that it represents true DIY! Your hubby and mine must be related since they seem to be able to build anything. My hubby has recently built a fence and gate to screen the driveway and garbage can area from the yard. In the middle of the project his gate design went awry. He thought, pondered, measured, looked at his supplies, repeated that and then, voila', he figured it out. Your countertops are perfect for your farmhouse kitchen!

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  6. Hi Dori ~ I love your blog & new home. Congratulations to both you & Eldon! I would love to have butcher block counters in our kitchen that my husband has been remodeling, but am concerned that the steam vents on top of the dishwasher would ruin the wood. What do you think of this? Thanks! ~ Laurie from California

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    2. Laurie, we used a vapor barrier directly under the portion of counter top that is above the dishwasher. We purchased it from IKEA when we got our butcher block - they call it FIXA diffusion barrier. It is sort of a reflective sheet of "paper" that has adhesive on the back so that it adheres strongly. I'm sure that hardware stores would sell it also. It was very inexpensive. I believe it is actually recommended for all types of counter tops that have a dishwasher underneath. If you have any more questions, please email me and I can even direct you to some of the people that helped me! ~ Dori ~

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    3. Thank you so very much Dori! That is such great news. We will most likely visit IKEA soon. Laurie :)

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    4. Did you use the FIXA diffusion barrier only on the counter top edge?

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    5. Courtney, yes it is only a strip of barrier that fits under the counter top edge and prevents the steam that rises from forming water under the counter top.

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  7. You and your husband AMAZE me! Love that you are both pouring so much into this house(I suppose I should use the word HOME) of yours. I can picture you both working together to build on this dream!

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  8. This is beautiful and exactly right for the look and feel of your kitchen. What a beautiful home. The love and attention to detail is everywhere! I'm so glad you share all this with us!

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  9. These are beautiful!
    I didn't notice it in the above post, but how long did it take each coat to dry/soak in? I am leaning towards Butcher block for our kitchen also.
    I have signed up to recieve your posts via email . . . off I go to check out more of your blog.
    Have a wonderful day.

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    1. Tina - the time varied on each coat but the first coat was very quick to soak in and dry(maybe about 15 minutes), the next coat a bit longer and then the third coat never did fully soak in and I followed the directions, which was to wipe off anything that didn't soak in. I've given them all one more coat of oil since then and one very light coat was all they needed and it was fully penetrated in about 30 minutes. I imagine it all varies on the type of wood, the age of the wood, etc... Thanks for reading!

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    2. Thank you.
      WOW . . . that didn't take long at all. Which is what I would need considering my kitchen is grand central station and if we had to go more than 1 maybe 2 days without a kitchen . . . the world would stop spinning, HA!

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  10. Hello! I am visiting from the Pinterest party and I'm so happy to finally meet you, Dori! I follow your daughter's blog and I have always admired her countertops. If we ever get around to a kitchen renovation, I want those same butcher block countertops from IKEA. Your husband did an outstanding job cutting those pieces to fit around your sink!

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  11. Wow, those are gorgeous and I really like how the tung oil finish looks! I came over after seeing Andrea's post. We are in the middle of making countertops from old wormy chestnut and I cannot wait to have them in. What a great kitchen you have:-)

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  12. Thank you, thank you, thank you, for sharing your experience with the dark tung oil. We have the beech butcher block countertops from Ikea and they are sized, cut, and ready to finish. We have been researching and researching and just when we thought we had made a decision on a finish, we would read something new and rethink and re-research it all over again. We really wanted something food safe, but really wanted a dark finish. I don't know that the dark tung oil will give us the exact deep tone we wanted, but it is a beautiful finish that delivers all of the other characteristics we are looking for in a finish. Thanks for all of your photos and info, this post was the final push that we needed to order the oil. I hope everything goes well with the beech. I have a question though, how much of the oil and citrus solvent did you go through?

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    1. Nicole and Erik! I'm glad my experience could be a bit of a help to you! The dark tung oil is amazing - it didn't darken my counter tops as dark as I originally wanted, but I have to admit that I'm extremely happy with the warm tone of the wood. What it did basically was make it warm and rich, if that makes sense. As for the amount of oil and solvent that I used: I purchased 32 ounces of each and had plenty left over. I ended up using the solvent on cleaning my brush when I varnished our doors - it is fabulous stuff! I do recommend that you purchase from the site I mentioned (realmilkpaint.com). I'm not trying to give them a plug or anything, but the quality of their product was amazing. Have fun and good luck! Feel free to send me a personal email if you have any more questions. (redfeedsack@gmail.com) ~ Dori ~

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  13. how are they for getting scratches or does that add to the character of them? They sure are lovely

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  14. We are considering butcher block for our island. When my husband check Ikea for it, their width was only 35+ inches and we need a wee bit wider for our existing island. Your sink area looks much wider than that, what size were you able to get? Love your kitchen, it's the same look I am going for .
    Beverly

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    1. Beverly - I do not remember the exact width of the butcher block we purchased from IKEA for our island, I think it was right about 40 inches. I recently had someone tell me they no longer carry the extra wide. I do know that when we purchased ours we could only get the extra wide in Beech. Check that and see. Good luck!!

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    2. Beverly - just looked on IKEA and here is the link to what we purchased: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40057853/

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  15. We are considering butcher block for our island. When my husband check Ikea for it, their width was only 35+ inches and we need a wee bit wider for our existing island. Your sink area looks much wider than that, what size were you able to get? Love your kitchen, it's the same look I am going for .
    Beverly

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  16. Its great to find such pretty amazing coutertops made of wood, it will really enhance the interiors and the restaurant.

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  17. I just installed a farm sink nearly identical to your depth in butcher block countertops! We are also winging it, having never done it before! Did you caulk around the edges of where your sink met the butcher block? Thank you for the help!

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  18. Hi Dori. I am trying to decide which countertop to go with, and I saw you mention your "birch" tops, but I also saw where maybe you purchased "beech". Which one did you go with? I want the same look that you have with the color of the top combined with the tung oil, so I want to be sure to select the right wood. Thank You so much!

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  19. Just exactly what I needed to know Thank you! :)

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  20. these look great. you did a fantastic job. thank you for sharing this with us

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  21. Is it necessary to use wood conditioner before applying the dark tung oil citrus mix on a birch hardwood butcher block island top???

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    1. You do not need to use a wood conditioner before applying your tung oil. Feel free to email me with any further questions. - Dori -

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  22. I know this is way late, but thank you for this wonderful post! Like a couple people above, I felt like I had read every possible post online about how to finish a butcherblock countertop, but then I found this one and I'm thrilled. I definitely wanted a food-safe and all natural treatment, but there were so many differing opinions about which was best. I love the look of your dark tung oil, especially over time. I'm absolutely buying it from the Real Milk Paint Co. since theirs definitely looks like the highest quality. Thank you for sharing your DIY! I'm deep in the trenches of redoing our entire kitchen and currently painting our cabinets. Good to know there's a light at the end of the tunnel :-)

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  23. Can I ask what you did to seal the countertop next to the farmhouse sink? I too wanted butcherblock and was told not to do it because if the sink leaks it will ruin the wood. What did you do to seal the wood right next to the sink? Thanks!

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    1. I used an all natural Tung Oil from realmilkpaint.com and it is fantastic. I have had ZERO problem with water next to the sink. Obviously I wipe down water spills when they occur but I am not paranoid about it. Three years later and my counter tops are still perfect and believe me I am not easy on them! The area around my sink and faucets looks exactly like it did the day they were installed. If you would like to see some recent pictures you can email me.

      I've also written a blog post with an update on the counter tops too. You can read that here: http://theredfeedsack.blogspot.com/2015/03/update-on-butcher-block-countertops.html

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