**Update: I refinished my countertops AGAIN (for the fourth time) four months after writing this post. I do NOT recommend using water-based polyurethane on butcherblock countertops…especially if your butcherblock is on your main countertops where your sink is located. And after three attempts, I also don’t recommend staining butcherblock countertops. Click here to see how I sealed my Ikea Numerar butcherblock countertops for the fourth…and final…time. I wish I had used this method from the very beginning.
The last two times I did my countertops, I used Minwax stain and sealed them with Waterlox. Both times, my countertops turned out yellowish orange, and seemed to get even more yellowish orange over time. Not pretty.
So this time, I decided to try completely different products. Here’s how I refinished my butcher block countertops…
I started by sanding the current finish off of the countertops with my orbital sander. I started with 80-grit sandpaper just to make the job a bit faster, and then ended with 150-grit sandpaper to leave a smooth finish.
When using an orbital sander inside, remove the dust bag attachment, and place the hose of your Shop Vac over the spout thingamajig that the dust bag attachment usually attaches to. Turn on the Shop Vac, then turn on the sander and sand away. The Shop Vac will catch most of the dust.
After everything was sanded down, and the dust was wiped away, I put a coat of Wood Conditioner on the butcher block according to the instructions on the can. I used Minwax, and found it at Home Depot.
This was my first time to use wood conditioner, and I really did notice a difference. The stain seemed to go on much more evenly, and the grain blended in more with the rest of the wood when the stain was applied, which was definitely a welcome sight.
Next it was time for the stain. I used Rust-Oleum stain in Early American. It took five coats to get the rich, dark color that I wanted. I just made sure that each coat was completely dry before adding another one.
When the stain was completely dry, I was ready to seal the wood.
This is the decision that I really struggled with the most…how to seal the butcher block countertops. The first time I finished the countertops, I was very concerned about using a product that is food safe. That’s why I went with Waterlox…it’s food safe after it fully cures.
But after two tries with Waterlox, and after living with my countertops for 2.5 years, I realized that food safety really isn’t a concern for me. I simply do not ever put food on my countertops. I use cutting boards, or plates, but I don’t ever place food directly on the surface of my countertops.
So this time around, food safety wasn’t an issue for me. I decided that I wanted durability first and foremost, and a close second was that I wanted something that would not turn yellow.
I narrowed down my options to Rust-Oleum spar varnish and Rust-Oleum polyurethane in a matte finish.
Both of these products are water-based. Water-based products definitely have their advantages, lack of noxious smell and quick drying times being two of the big ones. Another advantage…they don’t yellow over time. SOLD!
I was leaning towards spar varnish. I figured if it was tough enough to be used on things that sit outside in the weather, then it was tough enough for my kitchen countertops. But after a quick call to the Rust-Oleum customer service number, I realized that I was about to make the wrong decision. I honestly can’t remember all of the details, but the man explained to me why the spar varnish shouldn’t be used indoors. I wish I could remember, but suffice it to say that he made a very convincing argument.
I went with the Rust-Oleum polyurethane in the matte finish.
Water-based polyurethane is really quite different from oil-based polyurethane. It looks streakier when it’s applied, and also appears milky white. It always makes me a bit nervous in the beginning.
But somehow, it always dries without streaks, and completely clear. And let me tell you, that matte finish is simply gorgeous. I don’t think I can capture it completely with a picture, but in person, I just want to stare at it. It’s just beautiful.
The directions on the can said that sanding in between coats wasn’t necessary. However, I did notice that after the first two coats, it seemed a bit rough in places. So instead of taking a chance in messing up my newly stained and sealed countertops with sandpaper, I decided to use brown paper (like the brown shipping paper or a brown paper bag) to sand the surface.
It worked amazingly well, and gave the countertop a very smooth finish. After “sanding”, I wiped away all of the dust, and then gave them two more coats of polyurethane. The finished countertops look just like I hoped they would look…dark, rich, not glossy at all, and not yellow.
And this time, I’m going to do my best to be sure they stay looking beautiful!
Now I know that making a decision on how to stain and seal butcher block countertops can be quite stressful. I remember before I purchased mine, I spent hours and hours doing research online, trying to figure out what products were the best, which ones were food safe, which stains could be used, etc. With all that research, plus refinishing my own butcher block countertops three times now, I’ve definitely learned a few things over the years. All that to say this…if you have any questions about it, please feel free to ask. If I know the answer, I’ll gladly share it!