KITCHEN COUNTERS

January 28th, 2013

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(image via here)

Like a lot of folks right now, I got slapped down and made the flu’s bitch for the past couple weeks. It was unseemly and awfully rude, but now it seems like I’m slowly getting back to business. All that time spent in bed tossing and turning with fever dreams and paralyzing full body anxiety brought on by being completely useless in general when I HAD SHIT TO DO, gave me a great opportunity to feel still more awful since I started obsessing over the shameful progress of our kitchen renovation.

What has happened kitchen reno wise? I changed the light fixture. So, great progress since 2011.

Hey now, I did buy the Ikea Numerar Countertops about a year and a half ago. So I tried. I mean, they’ve been sitting in our garage gathering dust and disappointment, but whatever. No big deal. I’m not a loser.

*I’m kind of a loser.

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(images via here, here & here)

When I step into the kitchen I get so pissy looking at those forever unclean looking turquoise linoleum counters that I dream that my concentrated hatefulness would somehow make them get gone and wood appear. Then facts ruin it. I don’t have the time or budget or willpower to update the kitchen right now. Sad face.

For now, I’m bookmarking this great tutorial from a few years ago about installing and treating Ikea’s wood countertops as a way to bone up on what we need to do. But before anything gets demoed? I need a sink. And tile. And a faucet. And I need help. So much help.

Consider this a Shame Post to get my shit together and make our kitchen look just a little less funkytown, you know, before another year slips by.

OH, and if you guys have used these counters yourself and have any install tips or treatment advice, please feel free to share. Personally, I don’t mind if the wood gets worn and dinged and used looking. I like character and the imperfections don’t kill me. Plus, the price for these was right for my budget and this house in general.

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    43 Comments

    1. Kris on 01/28/2013:

      Hi, I have these counters in the flat I rent and although they look good then I am not a huge fan. I don’t feel that I can ever get them really clean, seem kind of filmy. Maybe it is because they are oil treated or something. Also, you have to be really good with wiping the areas around the sink dry or it will get very dark and bulging. Seems like the former renter was not very good at that so eeeek. If you are using a drying rack of some sort, you have to keep the area under that dry as well.
      So all in all; Looks great but you really need to baby it.

    2. Elsie Harrington on 01/28/2013:

      I just had a Ikea Numerar counter installed in my kitchen in Provence France. I love it so far, BUT: the wood was so dry from the climate here and the rare use of these here that the ceramic cooker hole was cut to close to the edge and it broke the wood. The titebond glue I had fixed it. Also I tung oiled it on both sides for two weeks, having done this many times on furniture, and it was so dry it soaked up 1 liter of oil, and I decided to polyurethane the entire surface, just to be sure, with all the water action going on. So, It’s been a few months and I do love it, the feel and look. The small ancient room is all white with whitewashed old beams, black slate backsplash, so it warms it up while not being either too trendy modern or old fashioned. Classy looking. Very easy upkeep. Be careful there is no warping, and consider isolating for heat source and dishwasher, and sealing the sink well. Sand till satiny smooth between coats and before poly if you do that. Good luck.

    3. Melissa B. on 01/28/2013:

      I’ve been debating the IKEA vs. Lumber Liquidators butcher block materials for my kitchen island for a few months. I THINK I’ve landed on the IKEA version. In my “debate period” I’ve come across a pile of reviews and input about the stuff. One of the best (relatively) objective responses I’ve found was at the blog “Old Town Home”, link: http://www.oldtownhome.com/2012/11/8/IKEA-Butcher-Block-Counter-Top-Review/index.aspx . They have a few different IKEA butcher block posts, so if you find this one useful – click around for others about finishing, installing, etc.!

    4. Sarah on 01/28/2013:

      I put these in around my sink 2 years ago and they still look great. No problems. We just oil them once in a while. My only complaint is that they aren’t darker. We went with the birch and never stained them, so that’s my fault really.

    5. Dan @ Manhattan Nest on 01/28/2013:

      I have butcherblock (numerar in oak) in one section of countertop between my stove and the fridge, and it’s been great. I try to use mineral oil on it every couple of weeks and I just clean it with white vinegar or murphy’s. I cut everything all over it (isn’t that what it’s for?) and I kind of like all the cut marks. I think the biggest thing is no standing water…

    6. Florian on 01/28/2013:

      I had these tops in beech in my flat in Charlottenburg. I wasn’t very nice to them, so they didn’t age very well. I oiled them, but didn’t do it enough and not repeatedly, so the top would stain easily, especially around the sink. A stain from the underside of a slightly rusty pot I could never remove again.

      Maybe the oak tops are tougher, but unless you know you’ll be good about keeping them well oiled, you might consider using some kind of varnish.

      I didn’t seal the sink very well, and there was some warping around it, so be sure to use plenty of silicone.

    7. audrey on 01/28/2013:

      Yo Morgan, stop being so hard on yourself, chica!

      I’ve had these countertops for a little over a year now in a well-used kitchen and they still look GREAT. They were a breeze to install, but that’s where the easy ends.
      Prepare for a lot of mineral oiling – especially in the first six months or so and ESPECIALLY in your dry climate. And the water – it is the devil- so follow around your guests with a dishtowel (if you’re my husband) or just be generally aware of drips and puddles (if you are me). I use a cutting board to keep it prettier, but you can always sand and start over if you decide you hate the nicks and cut marks.
      I don’t mind if mine look a little worn either. Turns out a little dilligence goes a long way.

    8. Heidi on 01/28/2013:

      I’ve had these countertops in my kitchen for about 3 years – and the countertops are tricky to clean, but you can sand them down and un-do most damage. They are holding up well hold up well everywhere but the sink. The wood around the sink is warping, shrinking, etc. This is most likely due to not sealing both sides with oil. If I were to go back & do it again, I would cut the countertops (length & sink hole,etc), then oil it at least a couple of times on both sides and then install. And – UV exposure will change the color quickly, the spot under my coffee maker is darker than the rest of the countertops – this happened in under a month when the countertops were installed. Maybe add an extra step to let your counters ‘sunbathe’ for a bit.
      Good luck!

    9. Alex on 01/28/2013:

      Morgan, When it comes to hunting down sink, faucet, etc. I had really good luck finding the kohler and grohe products I had my eye on for MUCH less than standard retail on ebay and overstock.com. Brand new and working like a charm 6-months later. Worth checking out. Good luck!

    10. Sarah Neely on 01/28/2013:

      Don’t beat yourself up! Life happens. We have the countertops & love them, dings, cut marks, burns and all. They are easy to sand down as needed (which has been twice in 5 years). My sink area isn’t as bad as Heidi’s above but I agree that that area needs the most attention & prep before you can use your kitchen. Build in lots of time to oil and sand and whatever to that section of your butcher block. Heck, go ahead & start now. Then, you’ll be ahead of the game when you find your dream sink!

    11. Amy on 01/28/2013:

      Waterlox! This stuff makes a huge difference! I have refinished my old butcher block counters twice in the past year. The first time I sanded, stained and oiled the counters. They looked nice at first, but soaked up wine, etc., and just never felt clean. I re-sanded, stained and brushed on two coats of waterlox the second time around, and it’s soo much better. Messes clean up easily, and the counters look good!

    12. Ryan on 01/28/2013:

      I have the lumber liquidators butcher block counter tops installed and used OSMO PolyX hard oil to finish them I looked into Waterlox but decided on the OSMO instead. the only stains i’ve had form on the counter tops were surprisingly from vinegar that I let sit and didn’t wipe off ’cause i was lazy. It left dark stains, but really I do’nt mind. plus, the benefit of the PolyX is that I can spot sand and re-treat the wood just in the spot that is stained.

      i love my wood counter tops.

    13. Billy on 01/28/2013:

      I haven’t used them for counters, but have them as shelves and based on that alone can re-iterate that they must be oiled with linseed or toungue oil.

      I bought the ikea bredskar sink (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/S09872036/) and rinkskar fixture (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/40176436/) and am very happy with both. UNDERMOUNT the sink for a much cleaner look and a MUCH cleaner experience.

      I plan to cover this install experience on my blog (linked above) when I can get off my arse. For now, you can see the finished results on the sweeten’s site http://blog.thesweeten.com/2013/01/17/site-visit-billy-sallys-finished-renovation-a-stylishly-curated-home-in-brooklyn/.

    14. rick on 01/28/2013:

      we have had them in oak for 2.5 years and have had no problems/are generally pleased. choice was led by cost and that this is an interval remodel with planned 5 or so year life (used old cabinets/hardware/appliances which were reconfigured, bought a new sink and faucet which will stay.
      oiled them well to start and now do it as part of the monthly major clean.
      they look great, even around our well used undermount sink…though the sealant/clear caulking needed to be redone recently as it was tending to moldy. i usually cut on boards but have cut into them at times.
      we didn’t stain them which i think is part of why care is so easy. have had 2 large stain events which led to spot sand + re-oil.

    15. Christa on 01/28/2013:

      Why worry, it isn’t like butcher block is going out of style or anything… plus, as soon as you install them they won’t be “new” anymore. So really, you are savoring the enjoyment of NEW STUFF for a longer time, amirite? Also, Leanardo da Vinci was a huge procrastinator who often did not finish his paintings. Geniuses like you are not big on deadlines.

      One thing I have learned is that I didn’t really pay attention to all the maintenance that my parents were up to all the time I was growing up. And I didn’t know anything about how to maintain various tile, laminate, wood or stone finishes of all the apartments I ever rented (oops). It wasn’t until I got my own house that I found out all about how to care for wood, stainless steel, tile and grout, glass, rain gutters, furnaces… so basically, butcher block counters require regular maintenance and care. So do counters made from granite, stainless, concrete, marble, tile or laminate. Good luck getting out of maintenance work, unless you want to go back to renting, you are stuck.

    16. We have those counter tops for our bar counter top. Another owner installed it. So when we got there it was untreated. It did get kind of stained up etc. Ya know, it is the red wine spills that kill you. So my husband took it down and sanded it. Then one thing led to another and he varnished it. Honestly, it looks damn good. It still gets scuffs and stuff, but no stains. I know, no one would probably ever consider that but we are dorks that way. Yes, Kohler and Grohe all the way. Worth every dime.

    17. stephenny on 01/28/2013:

      I recently took out our nasty a$$ old kitchen sink and replaced it with one from http://www.mrdirectint.com/ It was WAY cheaper than stores, Amazon, etc. Also, one thing I wish I would have done differently when I installed the sink, is instead of using plain silicone around the edge to seal it to the countertop, I would put a thick old line of plumber’s putty. And I also wish I’d have installed the sink to the counter beforehand like the link you posted above did. That way you can really seal them together instead of finding gaps later like I did :(

    18. Tiff on 01/28/2013:

      I’ve given butcher block counters some serious consideration and decided that for the way I live a self-rimming double drainboard sink like the ones Elkay makes are the only way to go. The double drainboard would keep water well away from your butcher block and you’d only have to make two straight cuts for the sink install. Oh, and that style of sink is also period appropriate to your house, if that matters. I’m not in love with the price tag of Elkay’s sinks (2k and up) but I bet you could find an original version for a reasonable price.

    19. Leslie on 01/29/2013:

      I’ve been planning to do this and I’m going to use the Osmo oil, too, so it was good to read the comment on that above. I’ve read Osmo is better and that Waterlox really stinks while curing. Be sure to waterproof underneath and all edges, from what I’ve read

    20. Rose Catron on 01/29/2013:

      I had Ikea butcher-block counters in my last rental. I agree with everyone else that they need a lot of babying. I thought they looked nice, though. The one area that was really difficult was around the sink – we had some buckling and discoloration, and that never goes away. I think you kind of have to let go a bit and be okay with that, because I am super clean and I still had problems. Good luck!

    21. Jody on 01/29/2013:

      We reno’d our kitchen 4 years ago and just replaced our Price Pfister tap with this Alfi model. http://www.bluebath.com/alfi-brand-ab2028-single-hole-pull-down-stainless-steel-kitchen-faucet.html

      The price was right and it is solid stainless steel. I would never buy a tap with a “finish” again. I love the brushed stainless because it doesn’t show prints and water marks like chrome. All our bathroom Price Pfister taps have chipped to, I wish Alfi made lavatory taps! Good luck!

    22. Tamara on 01/30/2013:

      In Chicago, our lumberyard carried John Boos butcher block which we ordered ($500 for our countertop) and put in an Elkay sink that goes over the edge. I thought the sink edge showing might bug me, but it looks great and we have no warping. Your contractor has to cut the hole for the sink. A huge bonus: You get a beautiful John Boos Cutting Board out of it that is worth a ton of $ because it is HUGE! You can cut on that instead of the counter and it all keeps beautifully. i’ve had mine for five years and just put some Boos Magic Oil on it overnight every couple of months and it always looks brand new! We get compliments on it all the time. Our kitchen remodel resulted in a huge bidding war for the house last month, too!

    23. Tamara on 01/30/2013:

      This is the oil we use. A bottle lasts forever because you don’t need much. It goes a long way. Just rub it around with a soft cloth or papertowel, leave it overnight and you will be amazed when you see it int he morning.
      http://www.amazon.com/John-Boos-Mystery-Butcher-Block/dp/B00063QPYQ

    24. sarah sherman samuel on 01/30/2013:

      Hey Morgan,
      I put these countertops in our cabin reno. and we have loved them so far. We got the big farm style apron front sink that has a lip over the counters so that splashing/water contact from the faucet is minimal. We have only had them in for a little less then a year but are really happy with out they turned out. Frequent oil applications at the very beginning are key and then every once in a while for maintenance. :) Good luck!
      x sarah

    25. amy h on 01/31/2013:

      I’ve been using the birch version of these countertops as a work surface for my pottery studio for several years. I oiled them a couple times when I first got them, but I haven’t done that for years. They’re still fine — no splits or warping (knock on, well, wood), and they take quite a bit of abuse from clay. They do stain though, so I’d do more to treat them in a kitchen setting.

    26. Audrey on 02/01/2013:

      We just moved into a new place and the first thing we did was re-do the kitchen. We used the same IKEA wood top with IKEA cabinets. It was easy. We had some help but it’s better to DIY because you’ll have it exactly how you want it. Btw, we love our new kitchen! :)

    27. Rob L on 02/01/2013:

      I used these in my last kitchen and they require a lot of maintenance, but looked great. I had trouble with the area adjacent to an overmounted sink soaking up moisture and turning black. I think this would have been remedied with an oversized, undermounted sink. Don’t underestimate just how much you’ll need to oil these, especially in the beginning – you need to start with a good foundation. Lastly, staining isn’t recommended because it could leach into food that comes in contact with your counters. Good luck, can’t wait to see it done!

    28. jill danyelle on 02/02/2013:

      I have these counters in my kitchen and have been very happy with them. I had a contractor install them. There were some odd cuts and we did shelves and a custom section on pipe that rolls out – way beyond my DIY limits. I did put plexiglass on the underneath in the section that goes over my washer/dryer combo (for clothes, not dishes). Like everyone else here, I oiled them. I just used the IKEA stuff. I will admit, I probably should’ve done it more and it is on my list to give them a light sanding and re-oil. But even with the minimal maintenance I’ve done they have held up pretty well over the last few years. I keep my olive oil, dish soap, etc. on a teak tray, have coasters and trivets handy for things like sauce pans and red wine and just got in the habit of wiping the counters down with a linen towel after using the sink, cooking, etc. I love my Kohler sink and am happy with the white IKEA faucet I used – also in one of the above pics.

      http://jilldanyelle.com/ev-apt#/id/i2376734
      http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/10184881/#/00140581
      http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/50070378/

      Good luck! I am sure the kitchen will look great.

    29. Lindsey Breen on 02/02/2013:

      My husband and I installed these about a year and a half ago. We sanded and put a thin layer of lacquer over them which made them a good two shades darker, like they are permanently wet but they aren’t all shinny or anything. they don’t require any maintenance and I would use them again when we move. Because they are finished they cannot be cut on, but I would never have cut on them anyway…knife marks. I love the wood look without the poreus, please-never-spill-cranberry-juice-on-me worry. The sink is under-mounted but because the edges are finished it works well. We saved the cut out for the sink before we did anything to the wood and now it is my favorite cutting board. A++ :P

    30. blissing on 02/04/2013:

      I had IKEA butcher block counters installed next to my cooktop and I *loved* them. I had them about 3 years before I moved, and it didn’t bother me that they were “scratched”. I loved the ease of chopping right next to the pan.

    31. Ken in Istanbul on 02/04/2013:

      Hey Morgan, I used Ikea Lagan counters for my coffee shop in Istanbul (btw, come visit. I owe you for inspiration you provided). The Lagan’s are the cheaper, thinner versions. I used the treatment they sell at Ikea. Quite a few coats. Mostly, they are ok where they are installed over base cabinets, though I have noticed some splitting at the cut ends. I have one that sits on top of a long prep fridge and that one did split quite a bit. The end that split was over the fridge compressor, so the extra heat may have been an issue. Looking the other comments, it seems that the key is many, many coats of protectant and letting each one dry thoroughly. Seriously, come visit. We’ll shop.

    32. KMP Modern on 02/04/2013:

      Don’t worry. We all go through this when renovating or just living life. We buy stuff to put up and it sits in our garage until its unusable! I just blame my husband. But those Ikea counters do look great and versatile! Good luck!

    33. sasha on 02/05/2013:

      My suggestion is to never fix them permanently to the cabinets, if you can. I simply lift my countertop off, haul it outside on top of some sawhorses, and sand them down once per year. Bath in oil. Done.

      I have one end butted up to my viking oven. The sides of the oven get really hot and the ends have started to slightly warp. Only noticeable from the sides.

    34. Kimi on 02/08/2013:

      Morgan! Love love your blog and excited to finally have a legitimate reason to comment.

      We’ve had those counters for 2 years, Waterloxed, and they’re so amazing two of our neighbors have copied us. No oiling, no red wine stains, no annual sanding, just lusciousness. We stained them dark first (we used the almost darkest wood stain out there and then wiped it off after 10 minutes to get my ideal obsessive color). My husband, who did them, discovered the key to the counters—Waterlox them 4 times, yes 4, leaving 24 hours in between each coat. The 4 times is key, with an extra fine brush. One of our friends had her contractor do it and they skimped out on the steps and now their counters have some wrinkles. Anal diy beats out paid professionals!

      You can see one photo of our kitchen in this designsponge sneak peek:
      http://www.designsponge.com/2011/09/sneak-peek-kimi-and-paul-weart.html

    35. mopar on 02/08/2013:

      I always thought you had a very cool retro kitchen and mean to keep it! The ones you are posting are nice too though.

    36. Carls on 02/15/2013:

      Just installed Numerar countertops a couple of months ago and after a ton of research and back and forth we decided to use tung oil on them. We bought 100% pure tung oil from real milk paint online and it was super duper easy to apply but the countertop and hence the kitchen still smell weirdly oily after 2 months so I’m not sure I can recommend that route whole-heartedly at this point. It does look good though.

    37. Brian-kitchen remodel on 02/20/2013:

      Wow those pictures look great! I can’t wait to get some of the homes I do and my own looking like that!

    38. Doug Muhle on 02/22/2013:

      Home Remodeling and home renovation takes time, once you’re finally able to do it , it will be worth it. So don’t beat yourself up over it.

    39. Sarah on 02/26/2013:

      We too went the Waterlox route- five coats with 1-2 days between coat applications. All in all looks sweet and seems super durable (though we literally finished two weeks ago)

      I will say that the Waterlox is totally stanky so we had to do this in our garage, but even in the 20 degree winter weather (cause. of course that’s totally when you should decide to tackle projects like this) it all went smoothly.

    40. Lauren @momhomeguide on 03/08/2013:

      Love the wood countertops. They look so clean and pretty.

    41. Alice on 04/01/2013:

      We have the oak numerar counters, and after doing all the research we opted to go with Boos oil and board cream. The tung oil is supposedly a bit harder but the jury is out on whether it is food safe, and the Waterlox definitely isn’t – plus you can’t spot sand or clean the finished surface. The cream needs to be reapplied about once a month, but it’s easy to do, you just clean, smear it in with your hands, leave it overnight and wipe off excess in the morning. It gives it a nice sheen and smells and feels good. (I ordered 3 packs of each on Amazon.) I applied three coats of the oil – letting it soak in for 24 hours each time, and two coats of the cream. You just need to keep putting it on until water beads on the surface.

      My most important piece of advice is to seal the area around your sink and try to keep it as dry as possible. My husband isn’t as good about it as I would like, and there are some ripples that you can feel (but not see, luckily) on one side of the sink where water soaked into the wood. It’s a good idea to have a surface in the kitchen – a metal island, etc. where you can do messy things or put hot stuff straight from the oven. Also, if you want to you can make cutting boards from your sink cuts & scraps.

    42. Kim on 07/20/2013:

      Unfortunately, I moved into a house with relatively new solid surface countertops, and it wasn’t in my budget to replace them. I did remove the old hardware ( vintage 2001 brass shiny) and replaced them with rubbed oil bronze finish knobs, which updated the look enough for me to be satisfied. Knobs came from Look in the Attic & Company, and have held up nicely!

    43. RhoniT on 10/26/2014:

      I know these comment are over a year old, but the person that said Waterlox is Not food safe is WRONG. http://www.waterlox.com go FA&Q, there is 11 pages that will answer your questions. And NO I do not work cor them, but I am a fan of there product. Original waterlox in a satin sheen on birch Ikea countertops & General finish gel stain , I would do it 100 times again! In my bathrooms and kitchen

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