Remodeling a kitchen is one of the most expensive home improvements you can carry out in your home, but it needn't be so; there are ways of keeping costs down including learning how to build your own wood countertops.
Readymade countertops can take out a big chunk from your budget, but if you choose the right wood and follow these steps you will be rewarded with countertops that are just what you want.
What Wood Is Best?
The first "how to build" step is finding out what wood for countertops is best to use. This depends on two factors:
- The style and color of your kitchen.
- What kind of wear the countertop is likely to receive. The best wood for a countertop is, hardwearing, resistant to knocks, able to cope with high temperatures, and be water resistant.
Light Color Woods
Beech is light in color and one of the cheaper options. Needs frequent oiling (every 3 months) as it doesn't resist water well.
Bamboo is not just an eco-friendly choice it is also robust and water resistant.
Maple can be white/cream, to pink-tinged with an interesting grain. Hard-wearing and long lasting (is often used on dance floors).
Rubberwood can accept different finishes, so can be made to look like oak or rosewood at a lower cost. Environmentally friendly option for a wooden countertop, as rubberwood trees are at the end of their life after latex production, so this is getting a further use out of a tree that would otherwise have been destroyed. Resists water well, is durable.
Ash is the palest option, varying from cream to light brown, with an even texture. Tough but elastic too, so stands up to shocks well.
Birch wood varies in color from white/cream to red-tinged light brown. Extremely durable and water resistant, ideal for busy kitchens.
Medium Color Woods
Oak adds character to any kitchen, with its small knots. Very durable and a classic choice.
Dark Color Woods
Iroko is becoming a favorite for contemporary wood countertops because of its dark appearance. Has a naturally high oil content so is more water-resistant than most other woods.
Wenge the darkest wood you are likely to find, its color varying from dark brown to black, and the most expensive too as it only grows in West Africa. The most water-resistant option though.
Walnut is recognizable for its dark color, and is very heavy and durable. Despite this, it is an easy wood to work with (pictured).
Remember that the color of the finished wood countertop will appear darker once it has been treated with oil. However you choose the wood to build your wood countertops from, buy it quarter sawn where possible, as it is more stable.
The next step in making wood countertops is measuring up.
- Measure from the back of the cabinet that's against the wall, to the front of the cabinet door - it's important you include the door in the measuring, and don't just measure the cabinet carcass. It's also important to factor in any backsplash or tile that currently exists, that may be removed when you install the countertop as this will impact on your measurements.
- Add 1 inch to this measurement to allow for an overhang, to get the overall width of countertop you need.
- Along the back edge of your cabinets, or existing countertop, measure from one side to the other side of each wall, to get the length of countertop you will need to cut.
- If you have a U shaped, or L shaped kitchen, that you only need to measure into each corner once, to ensure there is no overlap. i.e., if the longest piece you've measured goes right from one side to another, the piece that will butt against it at a right angle should be measured from the corner where the cabinet doors meet, rather than from the wall corner, as this has already been included in the first measurement. Use existing countertops as a guide to what lengths to cut, if this helps.
- Remember to exclude free-standing stoves etc. from your measurements, that aren't surrounded by a countertop. Equally remember that built-in hobs and sinks, still need to be included in the measurement of countertops.
Cutting & Shaping
Now you've done your measuring, and you know how to choose which wood is best for you, you need to get going with the actual making - it's put it all together time!
It may be worthwhile looking into how much the leasing of some of these tools would cost before you begin. You really need the best tools for the job to save costly mistakes, and buying them for a one off project just isn't feasible.
- You may not be able to buy your wood of choice in the width you want, so gluing together several planks may be necessary, before you begin the actual cutting. Use a strong epoxy glue between each plank and secure with bar clamps to hold until set - at least 24 hours. Wipe off any excess glue.
- Use this method too if you want to build a wood butcher block countertop - use strips of wood rather than planks, and organize them in a staggered fashion (like the pattern of a brick wall).
- Next secure your wood on a stable work surface with clamps, and cut to your measurements using a jigsaw or bandsaw.
- If any sections are particularly uneven on the surface then plane them down.
- Use a drum sander, or belt sander to smooth the surface.
Mineral oil should be rubbed into the wood in the direction of the grain, and allowed to sink in, until it can take no more. This is usually around 4 applications. Leave 8 hours between each application, and wipe off any excess that hasn't been absorbed, when you are finished.
So, now you know how to make wood countertops DIY style, you should be left with a beautiful and unique piece that will last for years to come - now you just have to install it!