Are you looking for a way to get the exact colour of butcher block countertop you want, but don’t want to spend the money for a high end, trendy shade? Or maybe you’re looking to update the current wood tones of your counter or tabletop. In this post, I’m going to show you how to take an orange-hued butcher block and whitewash and seal it to get the chic modern twist you want for a fraction of the cost that it would take to buy a new countertop!
This post was first published in 2013 and has since been updated.
One of the goals for the decor in Our DIY House was to have NO orange or golden toned wood ANYWHERE. I think it looks great in some houses, don’t misunderstand me! But if you recall, when we were building our forever home we lived in our Garage House, which was full of orangey wood because that was the cheapest color of laminate flooring and cabinets we could find. I was just plain tired of it, and I wanted our new house to have a more contemporary character.
We were on a very tight budget for our house build (especially toward the end), and couldn’t afford stone countertops. That would have been my first choice. I considered laminate countertops, but I wanted something light-coloured for our kitchen design and I couldn’t find a laminate color I liked in our price range.
I had a wooden butcher block countertop on my island and I loved it. So I thought about butcher block counters in our new house, but my only hesitations were (a) the golden color of the cheap IKEA ones that we could afford and (b) the thought of it rotting and moulding around my kitchen sink.
After browsing Pinterest and my favorite blogs, I stumbled across a few posts on how to stain and seal wood countertops. I had my “eureka” moment: what if I whitewashed some butcher block, and then waterproofed it? It would be the perfect solution for our kitchen! I had been thinking that raw wood was the only option, but of course a little stain can always change wood to whatever color you need.
It took a lot of time and work, but here’s how I whitewashed, stained, and sealed my inexpensive butcher block countertops to get the look I wanted. I’m really happy with the results! I think you can tell there is an authentic touch to it because of all the work I put in. Let me show you how I did it.
We purchased our counters from IKEA. Our 10×10′ kitchen and island cost less than $800, a comfortably cool price. My husband cut them to size, and I sanded them with my lovely power orbital sander! This exposed the natural wood and got it ready for stain.
How to whitewash butcher block?
I used some non-toxic water-based stain in a whitewash color and applied it with a brush in the direction of the grain on the wood surface. I did small sections about one foot in length at a time.
Next, I wiped each section down with a cloth after a few minutes. I wiped with the wood grain, just like I had applied the stain. The effect was instantly cooler and lighter, which was exactly what I wanted. I really started getting excited at this point!
Here’s the change in my wooden countertops after one coat of whitewash. I decided to do four coats in total because I knew the sealant would yellow the counters a little and I wanted to over-correct with the stain. If you aren’t sure exactly what effect you’re going for, try practicing your technique and the number of coats of stain and sealant on a scrap piece of wood before you get started! The time figuring out what you really want will be worth it.
I stained the tops and the three visible sides of each butcher block piece and let them dry overnight.
How do you permanently seal a butcher block countertop?
The next day I sealed them with Aquaspar, a water-based varnish that is extremely waterproof and durable. The little foam brush I used worked really well, and I sanded with very fine sandpaper in between coats. Then, I coated the counters with varnish twice before they were installed. I also sealed the sides and the underside once. You can test different kinds of sealant on scrap wood before you begin too! Some people like to do their kitchen counters with mineral oil, for example.
After Sean installed our new countertops, I sealed them one more time. They’re so fresh, shiny, and pretty. They gleam, they’re unique, AND they’re waterproof!
I’ll treat my whitewashed butcher block countertops just like I would a laminate countertop: no placing hot pots and pans directly on them and wiping up spills as soon as they happen.
I think staining & sealing inexpensive butcher block counters is a great alternative to laminate counters when you’re on a budget! Plus, they’re so pretty and vintage-looking. I’m totally in love.
This technique would work for other projects too! This farmhouse style whitewash technique could be used on different wood for a totally different effect all over the house. You could create a bright bedroom set for a naturally beautiful bedroom retreat, or freshen up the storage unit in your dining room by whitewashing your sideboard! You can see it would be great anywhere.
Have you whitewashed countertops or furniture in your home? Leave a pic in the comments or tag me @thediymommy, I would love to see it!