Happy Summer, everyone! (School ends for me this week, so I’m in official summer-mode, whether or not it’s June 21st!) Mr. C and I finished up our countertop installation a little while ago, and it was the last major hurdle of our kitchen overhaul. You may recall that we hemmed and hawed over whether to go granite or butcher block for the majority of the countertop surface, along with whether to keep the breakfast bar granite or install carrara marble. If you missed my ramblings on this subject, feel free to get caught up here. In the end, we decided to go with the butcher block and keep our granite breakfast bar as is….and to allocate any recouped savings on curb appeal projects (much to Mr. C’s delight)…so this decision was a true win-win for both of us! Here are some preview pics of our kitchen after the countertops were installed and in its almost finished state:
Throughout the year we’d spent many an afternoon wandering through the kitchen remodel sections of several large “big box” remodel stores, and I was surprised to see how expensive butcher block countertops can be…..that is until we happened upon Ikea’s kitchen display. Ikea’s solid wood countertops are also extremely well priced and are extremely popular amongst DIYers lately. Throughout the year I’d read many success stories about Ikea’s butcher block and how home owners had even installed the wood themselves. Ikea offers three different types of butcher block, and they also sell a dark walnut laminate, which I honestly considered for a hot minute, but in the end, we knew that going with natural materials (granite, stone, butcher block, etc.) was ultimately what we wanted and would also be the safer investment for future home resale purposes.
Happy with the price (approx $600 including the home delivery fee) and quality of Ikea’s butcher block, I knew we had found a winner. However, I also knew that the coastal kitchen vision I had in mind for our butcher block countertops would require a few extra “customizing” steps to truly fit the bill. As my inspiration pictures here and here show, I am drawn to a darker walnut color butcher block. To achieve this walnut effect, all I needed to do was simply stain my beautiful yet light colored Ikea butcher block, right? Well, it sounded easy enough a solution to me….but up until that point all of the Ikea countertop pictures I’d seen in blogland featured the countertops in their natural state – which was beautiful but not the look I was going for. All of the wood we have in our house (floors, furniture, etc. is dark – it just wouldn’t mesh right. I have a thing for matching woods.) So I scoured my favorite blog sites even deeper to try and see if someone out there had attempted such a project. And wouldn’t you know it, I stumbled across This and That featuring not only advice for installing an Ikea countertop, but specific directions for staining the wood!!! What a find, I tell you. I read and reread Vanessa’s countertop post, asked questions (which she so kindly and promptly answered) and I ran my plan by Mr. C and our brother in law (whom happens to be an excellent carpenter). After studying up and ordering the necessary supplies, all systems were a go to stain and install our Ikea countertops. Before I get into the details and how-to, here is a before shot of our kitchen when we bought our house last year:
As I said, This and That’s directions were extremely helpful and I don’t think I would have had the guts to go through with this idea without her extremely helpful advice that she shared on her blog. For that reason, I’ve also put together our slightly modified version of the installation/staining process (which focuses more so on the pre-stain prep, staining and post-stain work), to hopefully help out other DIY-ers that may attempt this relatively painless and inexpensive (yet time consuming) project. The steps we followed do differ slightly from This and That, mainly because we had to deal with joining not one, not two, but three corners (although we didn’t have to contend with cutting out the sink hole).
Without further ado, here is our how-to:
* If you are lucky enough to have an Ikea near you, I highly suggest going to the store to check out the butcher block in person. Ikea sells three different types (oak, birch and beech) and there are color variances amongst each. In addition, the colors you see on your laptop may be very different from the in-person colors of the wood. I can personally attest to this, as Ikea’s oak picture online looks pretty dark (dark enough that I could possibly get away without staining it) but when I saw it in person at the store it was much lighter. Note the comparisons below:
Online pic of Ikea’s oak butcher block:
What it actually looks like in person:
* Before ordering your Ikea countertops, it goes without saying that you will need to carefully measure your existing countertops and/or the area that you plan to install your new countertops. Measure this area, measure it again, and then measure it one more time. Then, hand your tape measure off to someone else and have them repeat the process. Once you have determined your measurements, order your Ikea butcher block. Our kitchen countertop space was around 55 SF, so we needed to order three slabs at 96 7/8×25 5/8″ each. You can purchase the butcher block in the store (which may require a heavy duty pick up to haul it home….and depending on how much you’re getting it will be very, very heavy) or online with home delivery (this cost us just under $100 and we received our butcher block in about a week). As I said, this butcher block is solid and very heavy, so I am really happy we decided to have it shipped right to our house…..and btw it took two very large (well over 6 ft) dudes to carry it into our basement. Once your butcher block has arrived, keep it in its packaging until you’re ready to start working with it – I repeat, don’t open the boxes and leave your untreated butcher block laying around. Without proper sealing, butcher block can warp if wet and you realllly don’t want that to happen.
* When you have a solid weekend carved out to dedicate to starting this project, you are finally ready to take your butcher block out of its packaging. Well, almost ready. First you need to remove your old countertops:
Mr. C and my brother in law were able to do this relatively quickly and painlessly. Please be aware that you will now be countertop-less (and sink-less) until the project is complete, which could be as little as a week but possibly longer if you are a procrastinator, like us. It will all be worth it in the end though, promise!
* Now you are truly ready to remove your countertops from their packaging:
Using your countertop measurements, cut each board to size and if you have corners, drill the holes for the bolts to attach the two pieces of wood together (these bolts/directions should come with your Ikea package, fyi):
We were very lucky here, as our master carpenter brother-in-law took charge with this. Really, he’s a master; just check out his big tools and fancy truck:
…And check out some of his amazingly beautiful custom woodwork on his website. If you live in MA and are in need of a gifted carpenter, he is sooo your man! So as I was saying, it is very important to drill your holes and make any necessary cuts to the wood (such as cutting out a sink hole) during this beginning step. If you have corners like we did, just drill the holes – you don’t have to attach the two pieces together yet. Because our bro in law took care of this step, I don’t have detailed directions for this step but I do believe it’s absolutely something any DIY-er could do on their own. We only attached one corner during this stage, and that was only because we had an extremely small piece to add to a large piece.
* Before going any further, make sure your newly cut countertops fit properly in their new home:
If you need to make any adjustments, do that now. Do not skip this ultra important step. Also, if you are installing a sink (old or new) within your new countertops, make sure your sink will fit in its new spot. We bought an Ikea’s farmer sink (more on that in a future post):
and all we had to do was set the sink on top of the wood – but we still tested it out during this step to make sure it fit before continuing on. If you have a drop sink or a sink requiring more work, I highly suggest reviewing This and That’s directions.
* As I said earlier, the Ikea countertops aren’t fully sealed, but they do have a very light factory finish on them that will need to be sanded off before you can stain them. Sand the entire surface (front, back, side to side….front, front, back, back, side to side…..KIA anyone?!?! I love those hip gerbils!) Like This and That, we also used a 120 grit sandpaper followed by 220 grit paper and Mr. C. used an orbit sander to make the job go much faster than just by hand:
When sanding be sure to go with the grain of the wood, not against it:
* After sanding, wipe the wood down with a tac cloth to remove any dust. Now you’re ready to apply a pre-stain wood conditioner. I used Minwax’s Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner on all sides in the direction of the wood:
* It won’t take too long for your wood conditioner to dry – maybe an hour or so; here is what our slabs looked like after their deep conditioning treatment:
Once dry, sand down with 220 grit sandpaper and wipe with a tac cloth.
* Now you’re ready to stain. If you’ve stained wood before, feel free to jump right in on your countertops. I, however, was a newbie to staining so I practiced my staining technique on a few scraps of the butcher block that were left over:
You can use a rag or brush – I say go with whatever you’re most comfortable with and for me it was a brush. I applied two coats of Minwax’s Dark Walnut 2716:
Once again, apply your stain in the direction of the wood grain and to all sides:
I noticed that it took much longer than I had expected for the stain to dry (as in, it took overnight and I still had to wipe off some excess in the AM). I asked my carpenter bro-in-law about this and he said that was perfectly normal for the type of wood (oak) I was using and not to worry. This and That mentioned that the final step (Waterlox) caused her stain to lighten slightly, so if you are worried about that I suggest staining a bit darker than what you want your end results to look like; you can see below that my newly stained countertops (pre sealer) are darker here before they got Water-loxed:
* After staining is complete, do another very light sanding (just to remove any air bubbles, etc.) in, you guessed it, the direction of the wood and to all sides.
* You are now approaching the home stretch as it’s time to seal your newly stained countertops! Unfortunately this is also the longest part of the process, as you will need to apply a handful of coats (to each side) and allow plenty of time for each coat to dry. We used Waterlox, and although the website says that it is sold in True Value stores, I highly suggest calling your True Value before driving to the store (especially if the store is an hour away, which was sadly the case for Mr. C)….and as it turned out all three True Values within a 2-hour proximity of us don’t sell this product. This product can be purchased online, though, directly from their website. In addition to their original formula, they also sell a low VOC formula, which is what we opted for, since, well, its the only version that could be shipped to MA where we live. This was a bit pricey at $95 for the gallon we purchased….but in the end I was really happy with it as I was worried we might need to order a lot more (we would be water-loxing over 50 SF of countertops, on top and underneath, for a total of 7 coats) but the gallon size was more than enough for us. I sealed the bottom sides of the countertops twice and the tops five times. I let each coat dry at least 12 hours (usually I waited a full 24 hours, though) before adding another coat. Following This and That’s suggestion, I sealed the bottoms first to prevent any damage to the tops. *I didn’t take any pictures of the Waterlox stage, because even though we purchased the low-VOC version, I wore a mask during the Waterlox application, opened all windows in our basement, and just tried to minimize my time in the basement around the fumes in general. It does smell a bit. Applying the waterlox is very easy though, and after applying the wood conditioner and stain, you’ll be an old pro at it.
* Once dry, I was content to just use a tac cloth to wipe them down a bit and call it a day (or month), but Mr. C insisted we ever so lightly sand the tops to make them smooth and get rid of any air bubbles. Iwas nervous to do this because I hadn’t read about anyone else doing this…and I was so paranoid about making sure I sealed them properly – what if this final sanding undid all that sealer?! But I trusted his gut and I’m glad I did because it made a big difference in the finished look and feel of the countertops. Light sanding is the key here, though.
* Once everything was finally dry, our countertops sat around on various make-shift tables for another week or so in the basement:
….Yes, I was going crazy without any countertops (or a sink!) in our kitchen for around 3 weeks but we just got hung up with other things going on that we didn’t get around to the final installation for another week. Our lifesaver of a brother-in-law once again generously agreed to lend a hand with installing the countertops. Ikea provides the necessary screws and directions to adhere your countertops to your cabinets..but beyond their directions, I really don’t have any extra pearls of wisdom to share as I wasn’t involved with this phase of the project (I was too busy spray painting our old white trash compactor stainless steel for under $10….tutorial coming soon!!):
|Can you tell which appliance has been spray painted??!!|
|Ready for her close up|
However, I can attest that the men were finished the countertop installation much sooner than I was finished the spray painting, which was actually pretty quick – especially considering the fact that we had three corners to contend with in our U-shaped kitchen layout. Judging from so many other bloggers installing IKEA countertops on their own, it seems to be a pretty easy installation.
Overall, this multi-step project was time consuming, but not difficult if you do your research and follow the directions and guidelines. All in, this project cost us around $800 for the countertops and supplies…..which is 8 times less than our jet-mist granite quote. I love the end result of our new countertops and I feel like they give our kitchen an old beach house vibe. So far, they’ve been very easy to maintain – I simply wipe them down with soap and water as needed. I don’t let big spills or water puddles sit around on the countertops, though…but I wouldn’t do that with any countertops I had – old or new. They are perfectly safe for food prep thanks to the Waterlox sealer; however, it is extremely important not to cut directly onto the countertops – always use a cutting board! (Again, this is something I wouldn’t do whether or not I had old/new countertops, but it’s especially important with butcher block). One of the best features of the Waterlox is that it’s a one time sealer – no further touch ups necessary! Many other sealers require monthly resealing so this was a huge selling point for us with the Waterlox. I probably should have mentioned these Waterlox tidbits during the actual Waterlox sealing “how to” section of this post…but this post is getting to be quite long now, and I’m at the point where I’m just spewing out information as it comes to me. I hope it helps someone else out there, just like Vanessa’s post helped me! 🙂
Here are more pictures of the kitchen in its current, almost finished state:
The final remaining projects include installing white subway tile and installing under mount cabinet lighting. Prior to installing the cabinets, the first leg of the project was purchasing all new stainless steel appliances…new appliances were a necessity, not just an upgrade, as our house came with no appliances (including no washer/dryer). Next, we tackled painting our cabinets cream; you can read that tutorial here.
I am linking up to the following blog parties.