DIY wood countertops four years later

It’s been four years since we added the island to our kitchen and made our own wood countertop. The post about our DIY wood countertops is by far the most popular post on my blog, so I thought it would be helpful to share how our counter is holding up.

I will preface this by saying we are not gentle on our counters. We don’t always wipe up right away. We drop things, spill things and bang things. The island is our main prep space, so it sees a lot of action.

However, we do use cutting boards for chopping and don’t set hot pans directly on the wood.

DIY wood countertops

After four years of steady use, the counter has held up very well, and I definitely recommend making your own wood countertops if you’re looking for a cheap, functional, durable solution.

The construction

We used the Kreg Jig and wood glue to join our 2x12s together and then filled the joints with wood filler. All of the joints are still tight. We’ve not seen any gaps between the boards and the wood filler has not cracked or chipped.

My big concern when we first made the counter was that it warped. However, it leveled out once we trimmed it to the right length and screwed it to the cabinets. Since then, the counter has stayed pretty flat. One board is still has a slight arc–my cutting board rocks a bit when I’m chopping–but it hasn’t worsened over the years.

Wood is soft, so there are some dents in the surface from where we’ve dropped a heavy can or jar. I’m not sure it’s possible to have a wood counter and not have some dents in it, especially after four years. If you want a pristine counter, wood may not be the choice for you.

The finish

We chose to stain our counter to match the existing cabinets in the kitchen, and then sealed it with Waterlox. Staining opened up one issue that I did not expect. We have a couple of chips along the edge. The stain didn’t sink too deeply into the wood, so the lighter wood shows at these chips. If we had used a clear sealer rather than a tinted stain, the chips probably wouldn’t be as noticeable.

Chips in the edge of a wood countertop

The Waterlox finish seems to protect the wood fairly well. Water or other spills bead up on the surface and doesn’t soak into the wood. Most things rub out fairly easily even if they’ve been left for a little while.

Initially, I was a bit surprised by how shiny Waterlox was. This seems to be a common concern with the Original Finish that I chose. It appears to have dulled a little bit–or I’ve just gotten used to it.

There are a few spots that have dulled a little more than others. I’d characterize it as “etching” or watermarks where stains have set before we wiped them up. As obvious as the mark looks in the picture below, in real life you actually have to look pretty closely to see it. It just doesn’t reflect as much light as the rest of the counter.

Stain etched on a wood countertop

The verdict

The counter looks and works really, really well. I’m a bit amazed that we made our own countertop and it worked–and four years later it’s still working.

For us, the wood counter was a temporary solution–temporary around here being 5 to 10 years. I’m not sure I’d recommend them for a long-term renovation, but I expect we will easily get another few years out of this counter. We know we’ll do a full gut renovation of the kitchen someday. But until then, we needed more prep space. The island and our DIY counter definitely gave us that.

For the work and money we put into this counter and the function it’s added to our kitchen, we are very happy with the choice to use wood and to make it ourselves.

If you have any questions about our counters, I’m happy to answer them in the comments.


16 thoughts on “DIY wood countertops four years later

  1. Hi, they look beautiful! I’m wondering if the Waterlox is food safe? We have one of those Islands we bought about 6 years ago, like around $120-$140, it came with the butcher block countertop, it’s on wheels the one side can stay up or go down, its 3 ft tall. Its time to spruce it up 😊 I’m gonna scrub it all up, sand it all down, raise the bottom up quite a bit (Hubby’s the chef & he’s 6’4) paint the body and maybe stain and seal the top. I’m tossing up a few different products up in the air, one is the same stuff the use on bar tops but it can be expensive. But everything HAS to be food safe, we have 8 cutting boards & he uses them but makes a mess.

    • Waterlox is food safe. That’s part of why it’s so popular amongst bloggers. I’d recommend it. If you decide to go with Waterlox, I’d suggest moving the island outside to apply it if you can. Four years later, I still remember the smell of it!

  2. Wow and wow!!! I’ve been thinking of doing a wood top vanity in my master bathroom but haven’t because of concerns about water stains/damage and what type of finish to do (poly yellows, epoxy is a pain in the rear, blah, blah, blah). Reading this has convinced me to take the plunge! Thank you for the informative posts and especially the follow ups!!

  3. We bought a house about a year ago that has wood counters. They looked beautiful when we moved in, but within 2 months were starting to show some very definite water damage. I think they just put some poly on top and called it good! I want to try and fix them rather than getting all new counters. Do you think the water lox would work in this situation? Do you think I should sand down the counters and restain them? Thanks for your help!

    • That’s frustrating, Wendy. I do think Waterlox would work in this situation, but I would suggest sanding down the counters first. In my experience, poly can be a bit of an impervious coating. To get even coverage with the waterlox, or oil or another coating, I think you’d want to get as much of the poly off as possible.

  4. Hi! I commend you for making your own butcher block counter top, I imagine it wasn’t easy. After 4 years it looks great. Trust me, I know, lol. We purchased a home 2 years ago that has butcher block counter tops in the kitchen. The home was 13 years old, so it’s 15 years old now. The counter tops are very orange with uneven coats of what looks like poly or some other type of sealent. Right now it looks the worse around the sink because my hubby is very helpful but very sloppy, lol. I’m waiting for the sink to just fall in! We talked about refinishing as if it were actually a possibility when we bought the house, lol. So 2+ years later, I’m dreaming of a walnut stain with a satin finish countertops. I did look into quotes for granite, only the very basic colors were in our budget. Plus part of me wants to give these counter tops a try, but the main obstacle I see is getting the layers and layers of poly off of them in the first place. I wish I could post a picture. I’ve stained furniture and cabinents before but have never stripped any before. Ugh, I wish I knew what to do!

    • A walnut stain sounds lovely. Stripping the counter honestly wouldn’t be too bad. A couple of hours with stripper. On a flat surface it would be a piece of cake, I think. Then sanding, new stain and wax or sealer. I hope you go for it. It would be much, much more reasonable than replacement, especially granite. If it ends up not working or you don’t like it, you’d be out a few days of effort. But if you do like it, it could be a big win.

    • Hi Kayla. We have not reapplied the waterlox. The original coats seem to have held up, and the counter still seems pretty impervious to water.

      We do have some more etching or watermarks as I mentioned in this post. And the dings where the wood has actually chipped are definitely noticeable. Again, I think this is more because of the stain I used, rather than the waterlox itself.

      If you are more picky than us, you may get to the point where you want to sand down the counter and refinish it, but for us it’s working–literally working–well.

  5. Great job and look! I’m thinking of doing the same for a ‘temporary’ fix as well. My questions are…1) would you recommend the flat finish instead of the original for the Waterlox? 2) We have to cut a hole for a cooktop. When in the process should that be done? Thanks

    • Hello Patsy. I haven’t minded the shiny finish, and I definitely feel it has dulled over time. It’s completely personal preference. In terms of cutting for the cooktop, I would do that once the top is assembled, but before it’s installed and finished (note I finished mine in place). You’ll want to be able to dry fit the top, cut the hole exactly–measure thrice!–and then spend a good amount of time sanding the cut edges. Once it’s all sanded, you could either put on the finish or install and then finish. I’d just make sure to finish the edges of the cutout as well as the top surface. Good luck!

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