Note: This bathroom remodel is now finished. Don’t miss the updates at the end of this post!
I know y’all were probably expecting a finished vanity today. I’m so sorry to disappoint! I promise, there is a method to my madness right now, and my method required that I spend some time working on my DIY butcher block countertop for the vanity.
This is one of those “one thing leads to another” and “one project is dependent upon another” types of things. Before I can really start putting this room together, I need to install the wainscoting. But because of the way part of it will wrap around and act as a backsplash for the vanity, the wainscoting has to be installed before I can install the vanity. But before I can install the wainscoting, I needed to know the exact height of the vanity with the countertop.
So that’s why I did the basic build on the vanity, and now I’m moving on to the countertop. Next will the be the new doors since the door casings have to be in place before I can install the wainscoting. After I install the wainscoting, I’ll come back and finish up the vanity and countertop. See? I really do have a method. It’ll all get finished soon, though. 🙂
Anyway, I’m off to a good start on the countertop but it’s far from finished. I got it put together, did a preliminary sanding with 60-grit sandpaper, cut out the sink hole, got all of the cracks filled with wood filler, and then sanded it down to a smooth finish with 150-grit sandpaper. It still needs staining, lacquering, and sanding (I want a hand-rubbed finish), but it’ll get there. (And I’ll explain why I chose lacquer when I get to that point in the process.) But so far, this is what it looks like.
So here’s how I built the countertop…
I shared this first part a few days ago, but just to review, I started out with 2″ x 3″ pine boards. I found these on the aisle in Home Depot where they have the 2 x 4’s and other 2-inch lumber, and they were just under $2 each. They are pine, and they started out pretty rough. They actually had a stamp on them that said “stud.” I’m not sure why 2 x 3’s would ever be used as studs, but the point is that they’re obviously intended to be used for structural purposes where they’ll be hidden, rather than used on an item that is supposed to be decorative. So I really had to dig through them to find ones that look relatively decent and aren’t warped.
The problem with the boards is that they’re rounded on the edges…
If I made a countertop out of those with the rounded edges, I’d be sanding for days (or using an obscene amount of wood filler) in order to get a flat surface. So I used my table saw to rip the boards on each side, cutting off about 1/4-inch from each side to remove the rounded edges. With the edges square instead of rounded, the boards could sit right up against each other and form a flat surface.
The actual dimensions of a 2″ x 3″ board are more like 1.5″ x 2.5″. So after I removed about 1/4 inch from each side of the boards to remove the rounded edges, I was left with boards that were 1.5″ thick, and approximately 2″ wide. (They were actually slightly under 2 inches, because I used 10 boards for my countertop, and ended up with a countertop depth of 19.5 inches, which happened to be exactly what I needed. I love it when that happens!)
To start putting the countertop together, I first arranged my boards, right side up, just like I’d want them to appear on the countertop. I looked at each board individually to determine which side looked better, and then arranged them so that I didn’t have several knots grouped together or anything like that.
Then I flipped the boards over because I would be working on the bottom side of the countertop to put it together. I made sure to keep the boards in the exact same order and configuration as I flipped them and arranged them so that they were upside down.
Next, I took some measurements on the vanity, marked where the center of the countertop would be, and then determined the position of the sink. I used the template that came with my sink to draw where the sink would go. My marks at this point didn’t have to be precise, as this sink outline wouldn’t actually be the cut line I use to cut the sink hole. I just needed an idea of where to the sink would be so that I didn’t put screws in or right up next to the sink hole.
Then I numbered the boards and marked where I wanted my pocket pocket screws to be inserted. I staggered these marks, as you can see below.
And then I used my Kreg pocket hole jig (this is the updated version of the set I have*) to drill the pocket holes, and attach the boards to each other one by one. I’m not going to go over the details of how to use a Kreg Jig since there are approximately 12,000 tutorials out there. But I will say that it’s an incredibly easy tool to use, and every DIYer should have one! There are some really helpful videos showing how to use a Kreg Jig. Ana White has a great video here, and then here’s another short video that shows how to join wood edge to edge like you’d need to do for this particular project. But again, you can just google “how to use a Kreg jig” and you’ll find a tutorial on just about every DIY blog out there.
I started with the top board in the picture above, and worked my way down. That means that I started by drilling my pocket holes in board #2, and then screwed that board to board #1 (using wood glue between them before screwing them together!). Then I drilled my pocket holes in board #3, and screwed it to board #2. Here are the first three boards put together…
And as I was attaching the boards, I used my 24-inch clamp to keep them together while screwing them together. So the process was (1) drill the pocket holes in the next board using the marks I made as a guide for pocket hole placement, (2) add a bead of wood glue down the edge of the board, (3) line it up edge to edge with the previous board and clamp the boards together, and (4) attach the screws through the pocket holes.
I would move the clamp down the boards as I worked my way down to the other side. And each time I clamped the boards, before I added the screws, I would stick my hand under the boards and feel to be sure that the boards were lining up flush with each other on the top side of the countertop. It didn’t need to be perfect since I would be doing lots of sanding, but I didn’t want to end up with any really significant height differences from board to board because that would just require even more sanding.
And here’s how the bottom of the countertop looked when it was all assembled…
I know. Not very pretty. BUT…look at the top!!
Ha! Okay, that’s not very pretty either. 😀 Not yet, at least. The boards were slightly unlevel with each other, and I had wood glue seeping out in areas. And of course, the boards had those ugly stamps on them.
But not to worry, because all of that will be taken care of during the finishing process. But first, I used my circular saw to cut the countertop for the vanity to the exact length that I needed. The remaining 3 feet will be cut down to size later and used as a countertop in the linen storage area.
So at this point, this is how the countertop looked. It was quite rough, but with lots of potential.
At this point, it really would have been nice to have a planer. That would have made quick work of smoothing out and leveling out the top perfectly. But most of us DIYers don’t have fancy planers (especially not the size needed for this type of project), so I I had to rely on my sander to do the job instead. I spent about 20 minutes giving it a preliminary sanding with 60-grit sandpaper, and it was already starting to look and feel much better. That 60-grit sandpaper cut right through all of the rough areas and wood glue, and leveled out the boards quite nicely. It also quickly removed the lettering that had been stamped onto the boards.
Before I did any more sanding, I cut out the hole for the sink. Since I’m using an undermount sink, and the edges need to look nice and finished, this part made me very nervous. I could just see myself ruining all of the hard work that I had put into this countertop so far.
I measured about four or five times to be sure I the placement just right, and used the template that came with my sink to mark the cut line. This time, I took more care to draw a very straight and neat line. Most people (especially the pros) would use a circular saw to cut the straight sides, but I learned the hard way, while building my fireplace, that I’m not good at using a circular saw when I have to cut an area out of the middle of a piece of wood or MDF. If I can start the cut on the edge, I’m fine with a circular saw. But obviously, I couldn’t start this cut on the edge. So instead, I used a jigsaw. I’m much better with a jigsaw. 🙂
Unfortunately, because of the thickness of the countertop, I wasn’t able to use my fine blade that’s made for cutting curves because it’s not long enough to cut through wood this thick. So I had to use a much larger blade that would not go around corners no matter what I tried. So I was left with corners that needed quite a bit of sanding and finishing in order to make them look nice.
But here’s how the whole countertop looked at this point…
In order to clean up those corners around the sink cutout, I grabbed a scrap piece of dowel rod (probably 3/4 inch dowel) and wrapped some 60-grit sandpaper around it. Then I used that to sand off the excess from the corners.
It worked out great! That 60-grit sandpaper really made quick work of rounding out the corners and removing the excess wood.
Then I was finally ready for wood filler. I’ve said it many times before, but I’m very generous with my wood filler usage. I made sure to push it down into all of the cracks as much as I could, and I also used it to smooth out all of the knots.
It took a couple of hours for it to dry, and then I used 150-grit sandpaper on my sander to smooth everything out. At that point, it was really starting to look nice!
I also sanded all of the edges by hand to give them that slightly rounded look that I like.
I think it’s looking great so far!
BUT…it is still cheap pine, so next comes the biggest challenge of all — seeing if I can turn $22 worth of cheap pine boards into what looks like a beautiful wood countertop. Challenge accepted. 🙂
Click here to see more DIY projects for this bathroom. Here are some of my favorites…
This bathroom remodel is finished! Click here to see the finished bathroom.