Building Wood Countertops for The Solar Cottage

One item top on my wish list was wood or butcherblock countertops. They give countertops a warmth that can’t be created by any other means. They’re also warmer to the touch than most any other material out there.

Wood countertops do take a little special care. You can’t sit hot items on them, you can’t use chemicals on them, they will need to be refinished at some point and time, they are softer than tile or stone and therefore can easily be nicked or cut. Although sealed, I’m very careful that water doesn’t stand anywhere for long periods, especially around the sink. Wood countertops also cost more than most materials. I know they aren’t the best choice for countertops for all these reasons, but they are beautiful!

After spending a lot of time researching and shopping for wood countertops, I decided to make them myself. I’ve never done this type of carpentry work before (or much of any carpentry, lol!), but after reading up on the process, I was willing to give it a try. Lucky for me, we ended up with an extra bundle of wood from my hardwood floors, so if the whole project went south I wouldn’t be out too much money.

First, I laid out my extra flooring in a template, held together by clamps, to make sure I had enough wood for the exact length and width I would need for my countertops.

making sure there was enough wood for the cabinets

Using left over hardwood flooring for the kitchen countertops

Next, with the help of my sister, we ripped both sides of each board using the table saw. The flooring was ¾ inch thick by 3 inches wide. I calculated that by sawing off the tongue and groove on each side, I would end up with ¾ inch wide x 2-inch-deep wood that would be perfect for my wood countertops.

Then, we transported the wood to a friend’s workshop. With the help of my sister Kim, my nephew Nolan and his girlfriend Rachel, we proceeded to glue and clamp the wood together as quickly as possible. This part of the process was where I got nervous, wondering if this was going to work or not. We had to work very quickly, making sure each side was adequately coated with glue, squared up, and clamping as we went. The glue sets up pretty fast, so there wasn’t any going back and moving boards. We started out trying to brush on the glue with cheap 1.5 inch wide paint brushes, but we ended up using our fingers to spread it faster. We’re not experts, so it took all four of us - two people spreading glue, one person lining up and squaring the boards and making sure they were pushed together tightly, the other person clamping. Because the countertops were about 27 inches wide, and because our clamps wouldn’t reach that far, we made the wood countertops in two -13.5 inch wide pieces. Also, 27 inches was too wide for the planer.

The Crew after we glued and clamped the hardwood countertops

After the glue had set, my nephew took them to his woodshop and had them planed and sanded smoothly. Then he glued both pieces together, forming one 27 inch wide countertop. This sucker was heavy!

The countertops planed and sanded

The wood countertops laying on the back of the truck

The wood countertops laying on the back of the truck

The wood countertops after planing and sanding-loaded in the bed of the truck

Once the countertops were back at the cottage, we placed them on the open shelving. The guys measured and sawed the ends of each countertop section, as well as the hole for the sink (this was hard to watch, knowing that if the hole was cut wrong or the wood cracked-that would be the end of it!), but all went well. I filled in any holes and knots with wood putty and sanded it smooth once again. We didn’t do anything to hold the countertops in place-they were extremely heavy and the farmhouse sink would act as a weight.

Installing the wood countertops

Installing the wood countertops

To protect and color the wood, I coated them with dark tung oil. It took about 7 coats of tung oil with citrus solvent to get a good waterproof seal. I didn’t have quite enough wood to go the length of the counter, so my sister Lori came up with the genius idea of placing a granite slab between the countertop and stove. This worked out perfect for a place to roll dough and place hot items!

countertops being installed

countertops being installed

Tung oil and citrus solvent used to seal the wood countertops

I’ve been using the wood countertops now for over a year-they have held up wonderfully! The beauty of the wood countertops brings me joy, but the joy comes mostly because my loving family helped make it happen; I couldn’t have done it without them!

Finsihed wood countertops!

Finsihed wood countertops!

If you’d like a complete tour of Madrone Hill Cottage (aka The Solar Cottage), CLICK HERE for a video tour!

Greeting from The Solar Cottage!

Karin