When our Airbnb guest house flooded, the insurance unsurprisingly gave us peanuts to redo it. Hiring someone else would have left us with crappy flooring, crappy fixtures and a crappy laminate countertop. We of course decided to just redo the house ourselves and put in quality work.
To do it yourself or not do it yourself
One of the big expenses was the countertop, which we priced at thousands of dollars. I don’t believe I found anything for less than two grand. So of course I called up my big sister, Tashelle, and said I have an idea for countertops and I have no idea how to do it so I need your help. Tashelle knows how to do everything.
Start with wood
We purchased some 2×6 redwood from Lowes (could have saved more going to a sawmill or a lumberyard, but we were under a time crunch with guests coming to rent the farm house).
We measured the countertops and cut the wood on a tablesaw. We also ripped the sides, which was a new vocabulary term for me. That means cutting the sides of the wood. I guess wood comes with rounded edges, I don’t know why, and if you were to glue the pieces together, they’d have dips in between each piece that would catch food and other counter nonsense. So anyhow, you want a smooth countertop which means you have to ‘rip’ the wood to have straight edges.
Glue the wood together
Once we had the right size and the correctly ripped pieces, we simply put elmer’s wood glue (or liquid nails when we ran out of wood glue and were too lazy to drive the hour out to Lowes) and then clamped the pieces together with uhh clamps.
The clamps will put indentations into your wood (depending on how soft the wood is), so we put shims under the clamps.
The shims we used were just the ripped pieces of the lumber–no reason to buy shims. These prevented the clamps from messing up the countertop.
Now, just to be honest, these countertops cost us probably as much as professionally installed countertops because we had neither a tablesaw nor clamps. We had to buy all those and so the project probably ended up costing us a grand. HOWEVER, we have used the tablesaw and clamps for about 500 projects since so I don’t count these as costs for the countertop.
Anyhow, we clamped the 2×6’s together two at a time, waited for them to dry (probably only took a few hours although we quit for the day and took it up the next morning), then we glued the glued pieces together until we had 5 in a row, which ended up being exactly perfect for the width of the counter.
We sanded the sucker with a belt sander and then a regular hand sander until you could wipe a baby’s butt across it without getting a splinter. We started with course sand paper and progressively went up to the fine sand paper to get smoother and smoother wood.
We repeated this process for each section of the countertop and then glued and clamped the connected pieces together. We didn’t do anything fancy like an angled connection because like I said we were under a time crunch and honestly we were exhausted, dirty and over it by then lol.
Install the Countertops
We put liquid nails (which was our preferred glue by now) on the edges of the counters and set the wood countertops on top. The big problem we noticed now was that the wood was bowed a little.
We REALLY needed to invest in a planer for this project, but we’d exceeded our budget already and so we just made do. I sound all smart here, but I had no idea what a planer was lol. Tashelle taught me that it’s this machine thingy that levels out wood perfectly so that it gets the bends and bows and whatever unevenness out of the wood.
We made do as homesteaders must and simply stacked cinder blocks all over the countertop. On top of towels!!!! Redwood is softwood which is cheaper, but it also nicks a lot easier. The cinderblocks successfully pushed the countertop down onto the glue and we clamped it for good measure (don’t forget the shims!).
Backsplash and Glaze
We also took another 2×6 to use as the backsplash of the countertop. This thing was a MONSTER to put on. Sigh. I hate to criticize Lowes, but their wood was sooooo warped. Seriously, take the time to find a sawmill or a lumberyard (bit more expensive than a sawmill) and get REALLY straight wood.
Once we had everything installed, we decided the wood was too soft to just use wood oil and put a FOOD SAFE glaze on it to protect it from dents and cuts. If you prefer wood oil, go with a harder wood .
Anyhow, the countertops may not be quite as perfect as a professional installation, but they have sooooo much more character and we are proud of ourselves each time we see them. Plus, besides the tools we had to buy, they were a gazillion times cheaper than professional countertops. Definitely worth the effort!