Bungalow Kitchen Reno: Staining and Sealing the Butcher Block Countertops

Quick housekeeping thing: if you receive my posts via email (which, you're awesome), and you got my "new post" email on Friday featuring an outfit...I'm sorry. I think Blogger had a moment and decided to send a year-and-a-half-old post out to my email subscribers. Let's hope that doesn't happen again (and if it does, please remember that I wasn't saved until 2010, but I began blogging in 2009, so...context). More apologies to follow, probably.

Anywhoodle, back to our regularly scheduled programing...

Last time I continued to share the journey of our kitchen renovation by explaining the first stage: preparing and installing the butcher block countertops. There is more to be said on the topic of the counters, as this aspect of the project required the most effort on our part (i.e. more than a phone call and writing a check), so I'll talk more about that today. And if you didn't catch The Before Situation, you can catch up on that here

When we left off, I had sanded off the factory finish, and our awesome helper Dave had the mammoth task of installing the countertops, sink, and faucet. I found many DIYs online that made all that look like no sweat, but we draw the line at some attempts, and this is where we wisely brought in an expert who had experience with IKEA's butcher block. Money well spent, especially given the care and attention to detail by Dave, who treated the project as if it were for his own home. That's gold, right there.

You see that hot mess in the center of the kitchen?
Yeah, it stayed there over the course of the weeks we spent working on this project.
It just made more sense than putting away, pulling it back out,
forgetting something we needed while we were covered in stain, etc.
Embrace the "Ugh" and know that it will be all worth it.
And use a drop cloth (or, in this case, the plastic in which the butcher block was packed).
With the counters in place, we proceeded to stain these bad boys. Although the natural birch color was lovely, we knew that we wanted to bring some warmth to the space.

Since this was our first attempt at staining, we kept a large scrap piece of butcher block to practice on, as well as to use as a test spot to determine what color stain, how many coats, etc. We already knew that Waterlox was our sealer of choice, and found the heads-up to be true that the tung oil does cause the stain to lighten a bit after application, so we kept that in mind, and made sure to test with the Waterlox, too, to avoid any surprises in the finished product. I'm not generally a fan of oil-based paints and whatnot, but we decided to go with Minwax, and landed on the Early American shade. (By the way, those color samples in hardware stores...they're lies. Testing stains--and paint in general--is crucial before running and gunning on your final product.)

Interesting lesson learned: we kept hearing folks recommend a wood conditioner before staining, so we actually bought a quart of it to use on the counters. When we tested with it, however (which we almost didn't do, not thinking it'd be all that different), we found that we didn't like the way the stain took to the wood. We liked the variations and quirks of the wood, and wanted to pick up all the little natural elements of the slabs, which we felt like we lost with the conditioner. So we didn't use it at all, but it was still worth trying and knowing that much.

We ended up doing four coats of Early American, but initially only planned for three. We liked the way the sample looked with three coats, but this is where the advice to wait and stain until the butcher block was in place totally nailed it. Looking at it in the space, we really felt like we needed it just a tad darker, especially knowing that it'd lighten at least a shade with the Waterlox (again, as we learned from our test applications). We even experimented with how long we left on each coat to ensure the right color acceptance. If it sounds like a lot of work, it's really not. I would just set an alarm and reapply every few hours, so it was more time consuming than anything. But so worth it in the end, to not finish everything up in a hurry and end up hating the end result.

As far as application, we waited the recommended time between coats, and applied the stain with stain pads. I'm sure there are lots of cool gadgets and tools out there, but we bought the cheapest, off-brand stain pads, and a cheap pack of work towels, and went to town. And our receptacle of choice to hold the stain? The lid of a Chik-Fil-A side salad. Recycling, y'all.

We finished the counters with three layers of Waterlox, and added a little extra on the wood around the sink and faucet for good measure. This stuff is potent, so either buy the low VOC option, or make sure you have good ventilation and a mask. We were hit and miss on weather as we did this, but opened the windows whenever we could, and had the air purifier on full blast. But often, we simply left the house to get a break from the fumes and try to protect our brain cells. We waited 24-hours between coats, as recommended, and used a natural bristle brush (bought a new, cheap one, and made sure to take some duct tape to it before using to catch any wayward bristles or random nonsense stuck to the brush that would try to get all up in our finish) to apply each coat. (And in case you missed it in the last post, I had applied three coats of Waterlox to the underside of the butcher block that would be placed near the sink and dishwasher to protect the wood from condensation or leaks.)

Final step (for this phase): apply a line of clear silicone around the sink to create a watertight seal. Like icing on the cake. (Dave had siliconed the under side and sink lip before installing, but we applied the bead around the exposed under-mount since we wanted to ensure the stain would take to that wood.)

So, I teased in the last post a little tidbit about brown paper bags being a sanding miracle. I read this tip from one of the blogs I was stalking that posted a DIY for butcher block counters, and I thought it sounded insane, but I had brown paper bags on hand, so thought, 'Hey, I like free. Let's do this!'

Y'all... We ripped off a section of paper bag about the size of my hand. Going in a small circular motion, we used the brown paper bag to sand between coats of Waterlox. Seriously, baby's butt. I guess it has just enough natural texture to work like a very, very fine grain sandpaper. But it made each coat look amazing, and we even went over our final layer with brown paper bag before stepping back and doing a happy dance.

Here she is...

I promise that I will share the deets on this AMAZING sink and faucet next time, but this post has already been uber long. Kudos to you for sticking through it. 

Other posts in the kitchen reno series:

No comments:

Post a Comment