I meant to post this yesterday, so here is a rare Tuesday post for you!
If you’ve been following me on Instagram and Facebook, you are all up to speed! I’ve been sharing countertop progress for the last few days via those sites, but I also wanted to share here, along with some lessons we learned along the way.
Up until now, our countertop has always been a speckled black laminate with a 4″ bullnose backsplash. I know it isn’t exactly the most stylish thing in the universe but I have to be honest, the countertop was great. I could set burning hot pans down on it, leave water on it, crack open a beer bottle on it (hey, I couldn’t find the opener) and more. This thing was virtually indestructible. I’m not sure why I’m telling you all of this, maybe only to say I’ve traded in the most maintenance-free countertop in the world for something a little more fussy.
Yes, I’m looking at you butcher block. Butcher block’s saving grace is that they are friggin’ beautiful, fit a number of decor styles (rustic, modern, traditional, transitional), are easy enough to DIY and are inexpensive. I will trade maintenance free for a little less maintenance free any day if I get a beautiful countertop in return.
So, one of the things on my birthday list was that I wanted my parents to come help Aaron and I install these countertop, along with a new sink and a faucet. And that’s exactly what happened this past weekend. Actually, we got it all done in about 10 hours! THANK YOU PARENTS!
So let’s get started. My parents arrived and we immediately started to remove the existing laminate tops. We started by unhooking all of the plumbing, un-installing the dishwasher and then removed all the screws we could find. We cut the silicone seal between the backsplash and wall, yanked the entire countertop loose and tossed it in the backyard. We also removed the wood veneer panel on the left side of the dishwasher (it was being replaced by the waterfall side). We then brought in the uncut butcher block to begin our measuring.
We bought extra countertop because we knew we wanted the waterfall edge (that vertical piece encasing the dishwasher). We decided the waterfall would be our first cut, then the longest piece, followed by the two short pieces that flank the stove.
Dry fitting the pieces
Once all of our big cuts were made, it was time to do what I had been dreading for weeks: cutting the sink hole. The internet has lots of scary stories about DIY sink-hole cutting gone wrong and I was beyond anxious about it. Screwing up the sink hole meant buying another countertop and that was not in the plan$. So it had to be good the first time.
Our sink came with a template for undermount installation (thank god!). We found the center line of the cabinet and aligned it with the center mark on the template. We also marked which faucet holes we’d be needing based on our faucet’s design (2 holes). And then we taped all the template edges down and carried it outside.
My dad was 100% the commander of this project and he was 100% in charge of cutting the sink hole. He drilled a pilot hole with a 1/2″ paddle bit inside the cut line and then used a jig saw to cut out the entire hole. He cut right through the paper template into the wood.
This whole part of the day was a knuckle biter. Butcher block is hard as a rock and the jig saw was bouncing all over the place. He had to switch blades several times. We found that if we applied pressure to the cut areas, we could reduce the amount of bouncing but not by much. Luckily, we got it done and the cut looked great. This is further proof why my father is the master.
With the sink hole cut, we assessed what we needed to sand. We needed to round all of the cut edges and we also had to make sure the inner rim was nice and smooth. You’ll also find that if you cut with a jig saw, the blade may angle in at certain areas around the perimeter of the hole. We fixed all of this with 80 grit sandpaper. A sanding block would work just fine too but the orbital sander made everything much faster.
With our holes cut, we installed the sink and faucet. We did remember to put silicone down along the rim of the sink prior to using the undermount clips. And for the faucet, we just following the instructions
All of this happened in our backyard (and I have a blistered burnt neck to prove it, ugh) mainly because we had much more space to work versus the tiny kitchen.
Before moving it all back inside, I couldn’t help but do a little bit of memory keeping on the underside of the countertop. Nerd alert:
Next came the installation of the countertops, which involved cramming ourselves into the tiny cabinets to drill up through the countertop with our 1 1/2″ deck screws. Our cabinets came stock with plastic corners with screw holes, so we re-used them to attach and anchor the new top. We had to drill pilot holes for each screw and we broke a couple of drill bits in the process. Have I mentioned that butcher block is really, really hard wood?
This is a terrible photo but here’s a quick snap of them installed and ready for stain and sealing.
We’re under a strict countertop ban until the sealer arrives (we ordered Waterlox via Amazon) so all of our meals have been prepared on the cooktop. Needless to say, we’re so antsy to get this finished!
So, before I sign off, I wanted to list out some of the helpful lessons we learned along the way:
- The sink installation and template was confusing. It is billed as a dual-mount (either a drop in or undermount installation) sink, but it did not come with the appropriate hardware for undermount. I had to purchase the undermount clips separately. Luckily I caught this ahead of time! The template is also a little off (and only provides a template for the sink hole, not the actual area of the entire sink). It’s a beautiful sink and totally worth it, but be prepared.
- If you have a 30″ sink base cabinet like us (most are 36″ in full-size kitchens) be sure to get a faucet with a narrow arch. Many faucets have a wider arc, which places the water near the front of the sink in a smaller cabinet, constantly splashing over. We picked our faucet specifically because of the narrow arch. The water stream ends directly over the drain hole instead of at the front of the sink.
- Use fresh blades for every cut and swap out frequently!
- Keep some saw dust on hand if you need to use wood filler. Saw dust mixed with wood filler creates a perfect match for the wood you are repairing.
- Have help on hand. Each 96″ countertop is 100 pounds and unwieldy! We used sawhorses which seemed to work OK.
I think that’s it! The tops are stained now too, but I’ll leave that for another day!