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My DIY Wood Countertop Is Finished! (well…almost)

I still haven’t polyurethaned the countertop (not sure whether to do that before or after I build the bookshelves), and I haven’t decided whether or not I want one more coat of stain on it, but for the time being, I’m calling the countertop finished!

In yesterday’s post, I left you with the countertop looking like this…

DIY Wood Countertop For Built-In Bookcase 8

So to finish off the countertop, I trimmed out the edges in 1″ x 2″ cedar.  I didn’t get pictures of that process, because I feel like I’ve done it so many times on other countertop and table projects that you don’t need to see the actual steps again.  And I forgot to get a picture of it before I stained it, but here’s how the trim looked…

Make a DIY wood countertop with 2 by 4 lumber

It’s definitely the finishing touch that the countertop needed.

And after filling all of the trim cracks with wood filler and sanding the whole countertop smooth, I did one more thing before staining.  I always sand the edge of the trim by hand to remove the harsh corner on the trim wood.  The difference is subtle, but I think it’s very noticeable…

Sand the edges of trim to remove the harsh edges

And then it was on to the fun part…the staining!!

First I used wood conditioner.  I’ve learned my lesson the hard way about leaving out this step.  I won’t be skipping it anymore!!

Then I used one coat of Minwax Early American, followed by two coats of Minwax Special Walnut.

Stained wood countertop

Wood countertop stained with Minwax Early American and Minwax Special Walnut stain

I’m contemplating using one more coat of the Special Walnut.  I’m just not sure.  I’m trying to imagine this countertop with creamy white lower cabinets and upper bookshelves.  What do you think?  One more coat, or leave it as is?

DIY Wood Countertop

DIY Solid Wood Countertop made from cedar 2 by 4's

Of course, the polyurethane will darken it just a bit, but I’m still leaning towards one more coat.  And I think applying the polyurethane before building the bookshelves will be easier, although I run the risk of scratching it.

Hmmm…decisions, decisions!

If you missed the other posts on how I built this solid cedar countertop, you can see the actual building process here, followed by the sanding and cutting to size here.

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  1. It’s beautiful, I can picture it as is with the creamy white cabinets. I’m sure
    as always, whatever you choose will be great.

  2. I personally would go ahead and apply the polyurethane to protect the wood while you work on the shelves, and save the final coat until the project is all finished. A fine “sanding” with 0000 steel wool to eliminate any scratches, a once-over with a tack cloth, then the final coat of poly.

  3. Looking good! May I just say that that front piece of wood, the front-most plank in the middle, has absolutely gorgeous grain! None of the other pieces, from what I can tell, have that kind of detailed grain; I wonder if you chose that it specifically to go there, hmm??
    I don’t think I saw the post about your lesson learned for using wood conditioner, where may I find it? And lastly, I think you could go a tad darker on the counter top, but considering you’ve already added 3 coats and it’s not as dark as I would’ve thought, I don’t know what difference it will make.

    1. Haha! You give me far too much credit. 😀 I didn’t even pay attention to the grain when I was cutting the trim pieces!

      I don’t know that I have a particular post about the wood conditioner. I’ll have to look. It’s more just from trial and error (and error, and error), that I finally realized that it’s not worth it to skip that step.

      1. I actually meant the counter TOP piece, not the trim. But anyway, what IS wood conditioner, what does it do? I’m asking bc I did a staining project for Christmas that failed. My dad, who has way more experience in this kind of stuff, made me seal the wood after staining (cuz I was also painting something over the stain) honestly I can’t tell you more about the sealer it was in an unlabeled can. Then when I applied the coat of polyurethane on top, it first looked gorgeous while wet, but it dried sorta white and you could barely see the wood grain underneath. I’m wondering if wood conditioner would have helped here is all. Any ideas?

        1. Softer woods, such as pine, are pourous. The conditioner allows the stain to go on evenly. Not necessary to use with hardwoods such as oak.

  4. Your DIY counter top is turning out very well! I am doing a very similar project and I was waiting to see how you attached the wood top to the wall and cabinets below. Any advice?

  5. It is looking fantastic. I think I would add a little more stain. You are doing a great job. I would love to be there to work with you, but I can’t. I see $$$ for all that you have added to your place there. Whoever gets it will feel they have a one of a kind custom condo. Keep up the good work, waiting to see the final results.

  6. Sanding the edges makes a HUGE difference! I wouldn’t have thought of that. Makes the piece look professionally made – well, that doesn’t make sense because you’re a professional! The sanded edges are a great final touch, the icing on the cake, etc… Love watching your projects come to life.

  7. Kristi, your project is looking Wonderful!! I’m in agreement that another coat of stain would be gorgeous, and the creamy white will complement it perfectly. I’ve always been partial to the dark stained top and light painted body on furniture, it is my favorite finish. Also love your attention to detail. A little sanding on those sharp edges really gives the finished piece a great “feel”. You are doing such a fab job on your condo, I’m sure it will sell in a snap!

  8. It looks great, but with one more coat of stain it will look even better! You are amazing. I’m always saying I wish I could build things and here you are and you just do it. I’m so glad I found your blog.

  9. Another vote for another coat. The fact that you knew to use wood conditioner before staining, and that you sanded the sharp wood edges shows that you are doing professional -quality carpentry! Nice work. As you ssid, these are the kinds of things that make a big difference in the finished product.

  10. Additional note for those curious about the wood conditioner. It’s a product that seals the grain so the stain doesn’t immediately soak into the wood and give a splotchy, uneven look, a look that might even show lap marks made my overlapping strokes with your staining brush. It gives you a bigger “window” (time frame) for applying stain evenly. It’s a watery solution that goes on easily. It can make soft woods look more like hardwoods, because it makes the grain less contrast-y.

  11. Your project is looking really nice. I don’t think that one more coat of stain will darken it. I personally find that sometimes when you go over stain it tends to lift the previous coat off in certain places. I usually apply only one generous coat. It looks like you are working with pine wood. Pine never stains evenly because of the large knots. I find it looks fine as it is and with the white it will have a nice contrast. Here is a piece I stained in dark walnut. I applied only one coat. A very generous one. The top was also pine.


    Can’t wait to see the reveal!

    [email protected] With MakeUp

  12. One more coat of stain and I would wait till your all done with the top cabinets and paint and poly last. Great Job!!!

    P. S. Next time your neighbor pulls that again just tell her “I’m So Sorry But NO” As long as your not using your power tools late at night you keep going girl. Tell her to get ear plugs!!!

  13. That’s really funny that you used those two stain colors because they are the two I am stuck between in my own project! My Hubs brought home an old wooden ice box that I am refinishing, but I couldn’t figure out what color I wanted to do it. I originally thought about Early American but when I went to get it I saw the Special Walnut and then couldn’t decide. It’s nice to see what they look like together though! It looks great!

  14. Looks great! What are your thoughts about doing this in a kitchen? And what would you use in place of the polyurethane?

    1. I would actually be hesitant to do this in a kitchen. Cedar is a very soft wood, so it will scratch and dent quite easily…not really ideal for a kitchen surface that gets lots of use and abuse.

      The best wood for a kitchen is a hard wood like oak. But then you’re getting into some really pricey lumber, so by the time you purchase the lumber and the Kreg Jig, it might be more economical to just buy the IKEA butcherblock countertops like I have in my kitchen. I do have a tiny kitchen, but I only paid about $300 for my countertops (I bought two of the Numerar 8-foot pieces).

      Now someone on my Facebook page mentioned perhaps using discounted oak hardwood flooring. I definitely think that’s a viable option as long as you’re using solid wood, and not the kind with the thin layer of wood veneer over a composite.

      If you’re using real wood, I would suggest sealing it with mineral oil. I’ve had quite a time figuring out what works best for my butcherblock countertops. I finally decided that just plain mineral oil is the best option. I wrote more about that here: https://www.addicted2decorating.com/my-ikea-numerar-butcherblock-countertop-saga-continues.html

  15. Hi Kristi! I truly love your blog and you give us so many wonderful ideas. Question for you: How did you learn to miter? It’s about time that I quit using caps at the end of my baseboards and learn how! ;-.)

    1. I actually don’t remember! I think my mom taught me how when I was quite young. She taught oil painting classes when I was young, and I would make her canvas stretchers and stretch her canvases for her (it was like a little job…she would pay me 😀 ). She taught me how to make them, and I remember using a miter box and a hand saw to cut the boards. As I got older, I moved on to power tools to do the job.

      It’s not difficult at all. I’m sure you could find lots of videos on YouTube on the topic. And if you’re considering purchasing a miter saw, you can see my recommendations here: https://www.addicted2decorating.com/essential-diy-tools-miter-saw.html

  16. I think another coat of walnut would give it a nice, rich color and against a creamy white would look great. I’m a high contrast girl though.

  17. The countertop looks gorgeous! I would do one more coat and seal it, too. I agree on the sanded edges; I always do that to my projects, too. Great work!

  18. I love the color of the countertop. It looks great and the crisp white cabinets/bookcases will make the whole wall amazing. Great job!

  19. The counter looks great Kristi. I would do one more stain coat. A creamy white would be beautiful and balance out with the blue cabinets in the dinette/kitchen (which I LOVE). How frustrating about your neighbor–hopefully she’ll back off a bit!

  20. I’m not that much of a online reader to be honest but your sites really
    nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future. All the best

  21. Hi Kristi, I know I’m kinda late on this but would you say that the selection of Cedar 2×4’s was better than the framing lumber? Are they generally straighter and less twisted? I’m thinking of building a countertop over my washer and dryer to fold clothes on and drop a sink into.