When we remodeled this unit in our rental property, we wanted to add more counter space and cabinets. The countertop that was already there was still in pretty good condition and we were going to keep it. I couldn’t find the same countertop and finding a pretty close match was difficult. Butcher block was the best option.
Butcher block is pretty inexpensive and can be stained any color you’d like. Adding butcher block as a countertop is one of my Tips For Remodeling A Kitchen On A Budget. I wanted to stain the butcher block so that it complimented the original countertops that were going to stay.
Here’s how to stain butcher block countertops to give it a light and fresh look.
This was the space around the stove before we added cabinets and the butch block countertop.
Below is the other side of the kitchen that has the original countertops we are keeping.
What you’ll need:
- Butcher Block
- 180grit sanding sponge
- 220 grit sanding sponge
- Tack Cloth
- Minwax Semi-Transparent Stain-Tinsmith Gray
- Foam Brush
- Waterlox Original Premium Wood Finish
Purchase your butcher block
We only needed a small amount of butcher block for this project. We ended up purchasing the Baltic Butcher block at Lowes Home Improvement. We purchased the 4ft one and it was plenty for what we needed.
Sand with a sanding sponge or orbital sander
With a 180 grit sanding sponge, sand the top and sides of the butcher block then go over it with a 220 grit. This will smooth it out before you apply your stain.
I was working with a smaller surface so I just used a sanding sponge, but you can use an orbital sander instead of sanding by hand if you’d like.
Once the surface was nice and smooth, be sure to clean all the sanding dust well with a tack cloth or vacuum.
Stain your butcher block
Like I mentioned before, I wanted the butcher block to compliment the existing countertops so I used Minwax Semi-Transparent Color Satin in the color Tinsmith Gray. This stain is REALLY thick, its like paint. It can be tricky to apply. I found that removing the excess stain immediately after applying helped. It tends to get gunky if you leave it on too long.
Using a foam brush (you can also use a bristle brush), apply your stain in one long stroke then remove the excess with a rag. Repeat this step working in small areas. Don’t apply your stain to the entire surface and then go back to remove the excess like you would if you were applying an oil based stain. Be sure to remove it right away.
Minwax recommends applying a wood conditioner before stain but because butcher block is a hard wood and this stain was so thick, I skipped that step.
Wood conditioner is great to use on soft wood. It penetrates the wood grain so that when you apply your stain it goes on evenly and more uniform. This avoids your stain from looking blotchy.
Allow the stain to dry for at least an hour. Whenever you are applying stain make sure your work environment is a good temperature. Really low or high temperatures as well as humidity can affect dry time. You may have to wait longer for the stain to dry.
I applied two coats of the Minwax stain. You can apply as many coats as you’d like. Sand lightly with a 220 grit sanding sponge in between coats and also after the last coat to smooth the surface.
I love that it looks whitewashed with a gray undertone. This is the exact look I was going for.
Seal your stain
To seal and protect the stain I used Waterlox Original in a satin finish. Waterlox is waterproof, non-toxic and food safe which is why I chose to use it since its in a kitchen.
If I were to use the butcher block for shelves or anywhere else that doesn’t pertain to prepping food I would seal the stain with a water based polycryclic.
Apply three coats of Waterlox using a foam or bristle brush (I used a foam brush). The sealant initially darkens the finish just a bit but then dries clear.
Waterlox takes 24 hours to dry so I waited a full day before applying another coat. This is a three day process. Once completely dried and finished, you can carefully use your countertops but it fully cures in 30-90 days.
Unlike water based polycrylic, sanding between coats is not necessary for adhesion. You can sand between coats for aesthetic reasons. I sanded in between coats with a 220grit sanding sponge to make sure it was nice and smooth.
I absolutely love how it turned out. It’s light and isn’t like many of the butcher block countertops that are stained and look yellow or are stained dark.
Update: After several months the Waterlox did yellow a little, below is an updated photo, but its still holding up well.
Here is the complete kitchen with the butcher block on one side and the original countertops on the other.
We also painted the original and new cabinets to match!
I can’t wait to start another project where I can use butcher block. I’m going to stick with this stain look! This light stained butcher block isn’t just great for a kitchen but could also be used as a desk or in a closet.
Let me know if you have any questions!
Bond Corp says
Such an informative blog! All the information provided by you is really very helpful. I agreed that tack cloth is the best cleaning tool than any other, it is really helpful for removing tiny dust particles over any surfaces. A good tack cloth makes your work easier. Everyone should follow the tips provided by you. thank you for sharing! Keep posting!
Thanks for the helpful blog. We have waterlox but found the finish is too yellow so wanted to try something like this.
My question is, how is it holding up to every day water and kitchen messes? Any spots or staining? We will do the whole kitchen and are not the tidyiest people with a baby so dishes get done every other day sort of thing. Should we go with your method or polyurethane is my current debate.
Hi Kate! So I debated on the finish but ultimately went with something that is food safe. They are holding up great but they have yellowed over time. If you are not planning on preparing foods on the countertop I would do a polycrylic which is water based. There are other options like oils or Watco which is an oil and stain but I don’t know much about it yet.