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My Six DIY Countertops (Pros and Cons Of Each, and How They Rank For Kitchen Countertops)

Over the last several years, I’ve made six different types of DIY countertops. Most of them have been made of various types of wood, but then I also made my kitchen countertops out of concrete. I get questions about all of these countertops on a fairly regular basis, and the most-often question is, “Can I use this in my kitchen?” People are always on the lookout for inexpensive options for durable kitchen countertops.

So I wanted to recap the various countertops I’ve made over the years, and also give a quick rundown of the pros and cons of each one.

Six DIY countertops and how they rank for kitchen use

DIY Countertop Made From Cedar Fence Boards

This countertop was my first test run with making my own wood countertop, and I used cedar fence boards. You can find the details here…

Cedar fence boards are incredibly rough, so it required a lot of sanding. I also didn’t own a table saw at the time, and I’ve never owned a jointer or a planer, so it was impossible for me to get the edges of the fence boards perfectly straight. That affected how they fit together, and I ended up with lots of cracks that had to be filled with wood filler.

Overall, it was a good project for me to dip my toe into the DIY countertop pool, and you can’t beat the price. But if you can find a little more money in your budget for a countertop, I actually wouldn’t recommend this method when there are better options available.

DIY Solid Cedar Countertop

This is the countertop I made to go on the built-in cabinets in the condo living room, and it’s made out of cedar 2″ x 4″ lumber. You can find the whole process in the following posts…

I loved this countertop. It was thick and substantial, and really pretty. Although, if I were to do it now, I’d use some other methods for finishing it rather than just using dark Minwax stain right out of the can. I’ve learned a lot about staining and finishing wood since then, so I’d use a method (probably involving wood bleach and/or whitewash stain) to minimize the wood grain.

There are two keys to making this countertop:

  • Make sure that your cedar 2″ x 4″ lumber is thoroughly dry. I used boards that I had had on hand and had been sitting outside in the Texas heat for at least a couple of months before making the countertop, so there was no moisture left in the boards at all.
  • The boards are very rough and require a whole lot of sanding. Start with something like an 80-grit paper on a belt sander, and work your way to the finer grits for a really smooth finish.

The good thing about cedar lumber is that the edges are VERY square, and not rounded like the edges of pine lumber generally are. That made it so much easier to fit them together edge-to-edge without needing a table saw.

So can this be used as a kitchen countertop? Technically, yes. And since it’s solid wood, it could also be used with an undermount sink. However, cedar is a soft wood, so you’d need to manage your expectations because it can, and probably will, easily scratch and dent.

DIY Pour-In-Place Concrete Countertops

My concrete kitchen countertops are by far the most labor-intensive DIY countertop I’ve ever done. But as you can imagine, because they’re concrete and not wood, they’re also the most durable. You can find the entire process in the following posts…

As long as you use a durable sealer from the start (I recommend polyurea, which is used by companies that refinish concrete garage floors), the countertops will hold up to just about anything. Sadly, I didn’t use a good sealer from the start, so my white concrete countertops got badly stained after a couple of years.

They required refinishing, but I ended up with beautiful and bright countertops with an almost indestructible finish. You can read about the refinishing process here…

Unfortunately, last week I found the one substance that will shrivel a polyurea finish like a raisin — isopropyl alcohol. I use isopropyl alcohol to clean items that have resin, alcohol ink and paint on them, and last week I accidentally spilled an entire bottle of isopropyl alcohol on the countertop. I thought I cleaned it all up, but sadly, some of it ran underneath an item that I always have sitting on the countertop and I didn’t realize it until 48 hours later. By that time, the alcohol had completely shriveled the polyurea finish. So now I’ve got a little repair to do.

But for two years now, that finish has been virtually indestructible. It has stood up to every other chemical I’ve dropped on it, from paint to turpentine to paint thinner to mineral spirits and everything else. And it would have been fine with the isopropyl alcohol had I noticed it immediately and wiped it up, or had I spilled it out in the open where it would have evaporated quickly, rather than letting it run underneath an item on the countertop where it couldn’t evaporate and sat there for 48 hours.

Overall, as far as DIY kitchen countertops go, the concrete is my favorite by far. And I would guess that most homeowners aren’t using isopropyl alcohol, paint thinners, etc., in their kitchens. Concrete countertops sealed with polyrea are incredibly durable and will hold up beautifully to normal, everyday kitchen use.

DIY Solid Pine Countertop With Undermount Sink

When I got to the countertop in my bathroom remodel, I decided to use the same process I used on the living room countertop in the condo, but this time I used pine 2″ x 3″ lumber instead of cedar lumber. You can find the process in these posts…

I really love this countertop, and even more so now that I finally learned how to finish pine so that the grain is minimized and doesn’t turn yellow and orange. I shared that process here…

And since it’s solid wood, it can be used with an undermount sink.

This countertop has held up incredibly well in our bathroom, and it’s the main bathroom in our house. But would it make good kitchen countertops? I’m on the fence with that one. Pine is an incredibly soft wood, so as long as you’re prepared to endure scratches and dents, then it might work for you.

Pine would simply never be my choice for a kitchen countertop, but that’s not because it’s a soft wood. It’s because of the color. New pine, in my opinion, just isn’t a pretty wood. And unless you take several steps to finish it, it also doesn’t take stain well. So in order to get it looking really pretty, it requires a rather lengthy staining and finishing process.

I’d be afraid to use something like that in a kitchen that requires hard-wearing surfaces. It would be much better to use a wood for kitchen countertops that’s naturally pretty without the need for stain, and especially without the need for some lengthy staining and finishing process to make it look pretty. Cuts, scratches and dents would be virtually impossible to repair on wood that has undergone such a lengthy staining and finishing process.

DIY Butcherblock-Style Countertop Made From Red Oak Hardwood Flooring

Of all of the wood countertops that I’ve made, the pantry countertop that I made out of red oak hardwood flooring is my favorite. You can find the process here…

If I were going to choose of the DIY countertops that I’ve made to use in a kitchen, this would be it for two reasons. (1) Oak is a hard wood, and is often used for making butcherblock countertops. It’s durability would minimize the dents and scratches that you would get with pine or cedar. And (2) of the three woods that I’ve used, oak is the prettiest left natural and without a stain.

From my own experience with wood kitchen countertops in the condo kitchen, I found that the easiest way to keep them looking pretty is to forgo any stain or clear sealer, and just use plain mineral oil to seal them. That way you can sand out any dents, scratches, or stains, re-oil the wood, and they look as good as new.

So if you have your heart set on a DIY wood countertop for a kitchen, this is the one I would go with. However, I would add one additional step and seal the plywood base with several coats of a clear finish (like General Finishes topcoat) before attaching the red oak hardwood flooring boards.

Also, keep in mind that since this countertop isn’t solid wood (i.e., it’s oak boards attached to a plywood base), it can’t really be used with an undermount sink because you’d see the plywood edges around the sink hole.

DIY MDF Countertop For An Undermount Sink

This is my most recent DIY countertop, and it went into the studio bathroom. It’s two layers of MDF that I painted and covered in clear epoxy resin. You can find the whole process here…

Since this countertop is new to me, I can’t really speak about personal experience with durability, or give my opinion about how it would hold up as a kitchen countertop. However, my one suggestion would be that if you do want to use this as a kitchen countertop, be sure that you use an epoxy resin coating that’s actually made for countertops. I’ll be trying Stone Coat Countertops resin this week, so I’ll keep y’all updated on my thoughts and experience with their product in future posts.

So there you have it! Those are my six types of DIY countertops that I’ve made over the last several years. And to recap, if I were choosing one to use as a kitchen countertop, my order of preference would be:

  • Pour-In-Place concrete countertops sealed with polyurea (can be used with undermount sink)
  • Countertops made out of red or white oak hardwood flooring (drop-in sink only)
  • MDF countertop with epoxy resin coating (can be used with undermount sink)
  • Countertops made of cedar 2″ x 4″ lumber (can be used with undermount sink)
  • Solid pine countertops (can be used with undermount sink)

Obviously, the cedar fence board countertop wouldn’t even make the list for kitchen countertops. 🙂



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16 Comments

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Sue
    May 7, 2019 at 10:41 am

    I loved the countertop you made for your condo built ins. They were perfect for the shelving and were substantial enough to hold any kind of weighted items.

    Every one that you’ve made have been really nice. You love to use wood and you’ve mastered the art of it in many ways.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Heidi
    May 7, 2019 at 10:42 am

    We made our countertops a couple of years ago from unfinished maple hardwood flooring. I like blond wood, so I didn’t stain them at all, and finished them with hardwax oil. They’ve held up pretty well, though I think that in a couple of years I’m going to sand them all down and refinish with either a clear coat, or resin. I just wanted to point out that any type of solid hardwood flooring will work well as a countertop.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Peggy
    May 7, 2019 at 10:50 am

    Did you change your mind about the tile backsplash in your studio bathroom?

    • Reply To This Comment ↓
      Linda
      May 7, 2019 at 1:08 pm

      In case you missed yesterday’s post, she did some tiles she’s using for backsplash. You should go find that post, it’s really good.

      • Reply To This Comment ↓
        Peggy
        May 7, 2019 at 1:11 pm

        I did see the post, but I thought the tiles went directly above the counter, not over the trim. That was probably just to show us what it would look like in a general sort of way.

        • Reply To This Comment ↓
          Linda
          May 7, 2019 at 2:13 pm

          Yes, she just stood the tiles up to show us what they’d look like. The trim piece was just lying on counter top.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Mona Keegan
    May 7, 2019 at 11:17 am

    You are so hard working and creative! Thanks for sharing all of this.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Teresa
    May 7, 2019 at 11:36 am

    Kristi, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your blog. You give me courage, ideas and information for my own diy projects. For example, I think the epoxy countertop is the perfect solution for an odd bathroom vanity I’ve struggled with. Thank you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Brenda Pawloski
    May 7, 2019 at 11:57 am

    This is off topic but I remember when you made that bathroom mirror frame. Didn’t you use something like wood shims or paint sticks? What a great project, hope your buyer is enjoying it!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Val from UK
    May 7, 2019 at 1:12 pm

    What an informative post! Thank you Kristi.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Val
    May 7, 2019 at 1:45 pm

    Thanks for the repost I got the answers I was looking for, now I’m torn between it and concrete ..

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Alta Craig
    May 7, 2019 at 3:49 pm

    Wow, Kristi, just reading this post really spotlights all the hard work you’ve done in your home over the years. I can see your heart and soul in every photo and it’s truly impressive. You are well on your way to a beautiful, custom, functional home, and I will continue to enjoy the journey with you. You GEAUX, girl!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    chiflipper
    May 7, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    You are SO generous to share ALL your projects. The countertop info alone is invaluable, esp to someone trying to get “the look” without breaking the piggy bank.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Marianne in Mo.
    May 7, 2019 at 7:09 pm

    Awful to hear about your concrete counter/alcohol damage. My daughter spilled a bottle of polish remover on our dining room table back in the ’80’s, and didn’t tell me. She tried to wipe it up but it was already damaged. I know how you feel! I love the “look” of wood counters, but I’m way too lazy to maintain them, so I’ll stick with expensive quartz with a factory seal.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    CJ
    May 8, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    I made my kitchen island countertop out of 1×2’s sandwiched between MDF and coated with SCC. Everyone who sees it can’t believe I made it out of wood. It’s held up great after 5 months but I still hesitate to put hot coffee mugs or pans on top of it.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Susan C
    May 9, 2019 at 8:55 am

    I am so ready for a walk through video home tour!

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