How To: Install Butcher Block Countertops

We’ve made no secret about the fact that we l-o-v-e how our DIY butcher block countertops came out when we updated our kitchen in 2010

The whole process was a bit scary at first; we had never taken on a project of that size. A lot of online research led us to believe that we could tackle them easily – and we were right. Here are the details on how you can do the same. For the purposes of this post we are starting from the point after you’ve removed your old countertops. We just used a crow bar to remove ours, but they are all different.

Supplies:

  • CMT ITK Plus Finishing Blade with 40 Teeth and Circular Saw
  • Jigsaw and Carbon Blades
  • Sander and Both Coarse and Fine Grit Paper
  • Corded Drill and Bits Large Enough to Accommodate Your Plumbing Fixtures
  • 2 8’ pieces of butcher block counter (ours came from IKEA here, you can pick up similar versions at Boos, Lumber Liquidators or even your local lumber yard)
  • Elmer’s Wood Glue (we got the kind with wood shavings in the glue for added support, plus you can sand and paint it if needed)
  • Dap Clear Adhesive and Caulk
  • Saw Horses
  • Gloves (see why here)
  • Sander and Both Coarse and Fine Grit Paper
  • Measuring Tape and Pencil
  • Waterlox or Other Product to Finish Your Wood, Brushes and Lint Free Cloths

Here are the steps we took to get these puppies installed:

Step One:   Measure your countertops two and three times. There is no going back once you make some of these cuts so take your time and be careful. Think about where you will have a seam and where curves or corners are needed. Our counter is 165” long, so we had to use two pieces and opted to keep our seam in the sink where it naturally fell. This also made cutting our sink hole much easier than it could have been.

Step Two:  Decide and mark where your sink and any other cut-outs need to be placed. We used a template provided with our new under mount sink to trace the outline in pencil on our two pieces of wood. If you don’t have a template you can flip your sink upside down on a piece of craft paper or even the white side of some wrapping paper to make your own template. We also marked holes for our new faucet, but had to go online to the manufacturer’s website for the necessary dimensions. No template was included, we just thought about how we use the sink and evenly spaced all the parts.

Step Three:  Begin carefully cutting your countertop length with your circular saw and guide. It’s helpful to have a second set of hands to hold the wood in place. It’s heavy but you don’t want to risk it slipping while being cut. Sawhorses are useful for keeping the wood level as well.

We made straight line cuts for the length first, and hauled them back inside to make sure our sink markings and curved end still matched up  before proceeding with those more complicated cuts. We also used the factory finished edges for our seam, and put our cuts at the ends so that the seam looked extra neat.

Step Four:  Make your trickier cuts. For us this meant hauling the counters back outside and cutting our curved end, after making a wrapping paper template. We also used a circular saw and guide to cut our straight edges of the sink and a jigsaw to cut the rounded corners. If you are not installing an under mounted sink you have a little more wiggle room here.

We used a corded drill and Speedbor bits to quickly cut the holes for our faucet, sprayer and soap dispenser.

Step Five:  Sand, sand, sand.  We sanded every single cut edge and even lightly sanded the surface of our counters lightly to help the sealer adhere. Depending on how well your cutting goes you could have to sand A LOT or not much at all. Just be patient.

Step Six:  Attach your counters to the cabinets and seal the seam. We just used a really thick bead of DAP clear heavy duty adhesive and those babies didn’t move. We didn’t screw the counters into the cabinets or anything because this worked so well. But if it doesn’t work for you be prepared to add a few screws underneath your counter to attach them to the cabinets. Of course make sure your screws are shorter than the thickness of your counters to they don’t poke through. That would be bad.

We also just used thick wood glue to adhere our seam. It worked well for us, but we have snug fitting counters. If this doesn’t work for you we’ve heard that a biscuit joiner would work well. It’s a bit more technical but would work for sure. Ask someone in your hardware store about it and they should be able to help you out.

Step Seven: Seal those puppies! We used lemon oil for a couple of weeks until we had the time to seal ours. Some people only use oil to seal theirs and just apply it every 2 weeks or so. We’ve heard this works really well. We are just lazy so we preferred to seal ours tight with about four coats of Waterlox and then be done with it. The water beads right up and they wipe clean.

Waterlox just takes time because you have to give each coat a full day to dry before reapplying, and its fumes kick like a ninja. It is absolutely not low-VOC so if you have bambinos oiling might be your best option. We just followed the instructions on the can and website though and got a look we love – minus a few brain cells.

Other tips:

  • use clear caulk to seal around your sink and fixtures once they are installed and even to seal around your backsplash
  • leave a quarter of an inch all around your counters, meaning between the wood and the wall to allow the wood to expand (we haven’t noticed ours moving but did this just in case, once you add tile and caulk the edge you cannot see any space between the two)
  • make sure to attach a vapor barrier of some sort over your dishwasher if it will installed under your counter, this will keep the steam from penetrating the wood (we just used a thick sheet of plastic sheeting and a staple gun to tack it down)

We hope this info helps you guys out! If you have any questions, tips or comments please feel free to leave them here. We’ll make sure to elaborate or answer as many questions as you can come up with and if you’ve done a similar project and have better ideas spill ‘em!

Want to view our posts through the whole process? Check out this, this, this, this, and this. Whew!

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