When it was time to build the countertop for our base pantry cabinets, it was hard to decide what material to use. Since the countertop is only 8’ X 15 ½”, it would have been relatively inexpensive to just buy a premade countertop. I considered stainless steel, copper, tile and while those are all beautiful products, none of them felt right for this pantry! Finally, I decided to build a wood countertop and after a few fails, it turned out to be the perfect choice.
This is a project a beginner can complete successfully!
What You’ll Need to Build Your Wood Countertop
Below are all the materials I used to create my countertop. You’ll need to adjust the sizes and quantities to fit your project.
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- Building Materials I Used
- 5 – 2 X 4’s (I used pine boards. They were only $3.56 each!)
- Wood glue (I used Franklin International 1414 Titebond-3 Ultimate Wood Glue, 16-Ounce)
- Size 2 1/2 Pocket hole screws
- 2 1/2 wood screws (I use Spax self-drilling with t-star heads)
- Shims, in case you need to make adjustments (I didn’t need to use them)
- Tools I Used
- Kreg Jig K4 Pocket Hole System
- Sander (I used the Factory-Reconditioned RIDGID ZRR2611 Professional 6-inch Random Orbit Variable Speed Sander)
- Sandpaper – 80-grit, 120-grit and 180-grit
- Compound miter saw (I use a Hitachi C12RSH2 15-Amp 12-Inch Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw with Laser Marker. You can also use a circular or track saw. Or you can have your lumber precut to size when you purchase it. If you do this, be sure they cut all of the pieces exactly the same length)
- PORTER CABLE 15 Amp 12 in. Thickn (if you don’t have a planer, just buy build ready lumber. It will cost more, but dependent on the lumber you choose, your project will still be budget friendly!)
- Finishing Materials I Used
- Daddy Van’s All Natural Beeswax Furniture Polish – Lavender & Sweet Orange,5 Oz
- Sherwin Williams Repose Gray latex paint
- Sherwin Accessible Beige (paint matched in Behr)
- Chestnut gel stain
Build Your Countertop
I only needed 5 2X4’s. I purchased rough boards and planed them with my Porter Cable portable planer but you could easily buy build ready boards. Using all five boards made the countertop too deep, so I rip cut the fifth board in half. Be sure you check your boards for straightness while you’re buying your lumber. It is so frustrating to get your lumber home and half of them are warped (don’t ask how I know this!)
I then cut all the boards to the exact countertop length. You could also cut the entire countertop to length after you put it together with a circular saw or a tracksaw if you choose. Next I laid them out in the pattern I wanted to connect them. I decided to connect the boards with pocket hole screws and glue. If you’ve never used a pocket hole jig before, there’s a great video that explains it here. It’s an easy way to get a strong joint in wood.
Once I’d laid out my boards, I numbered the two sides that would connect with correlating numbers. I also marked where I wanted to drill the pocket holes. I have drilled the wrong side and/or in the wrong place before so I’ve found it’s very helpful to have these clearly marked.
My Kreg jig always gives me a tight joint, but I usually overcompensate so as a backup, I used wood glue too! After gluing, I used clamps to hold the joints together while I set the screws.
Time to Sand..and Sand…and Sand!
I let the countertop set overnight. With my husband’s help (this thing is heavy!), I placed it on top of the pantry base cabinets. It fit like a glove! I secured the counter to the cabinets from the underside using 1 ½ wood screws. Then I sanded, and sanded and sanded some more. I typically always follow this pattern when sanding wood to finish: 80-grit, 120-grit, 180-grit. Sand the entire project with each grit BEFORE you move on to the next grit. If you’ve read my previous post about building our thick shelves, then you know I HATE sanding. I was not in a happy place!
Once the wood countertop was as smooth as I wanted, it was time to finish it. I wanted something different but everything I considered took…a…lot…of…work! I wanted something easy! Sometimes you just want to do a project that takes a few minutes and you’re done…that’s the place I was in!
I Should Have Worked Smarter…not Easier!
There was gel stain leftover from refinishing my son’s bed and it was so easy to use so I went that route. You slap it on and rub it off fast! So that’s what I did…. BIG, FREAKING, MISTAKE! I hated the way it looked. It was too dark and it almost looked like fake wood! But I was tired, I wanted to be done and I so did not want to SAND anymore. So I decided that I’d live with it for a while and maybe it’d grow on me… like a fungus or a mole or something!
Two weeks later, I still didn’t like it and knew I had to do something or the pantry would never get done. I’d seen painted wood finishes that had been distressed to give a weathered worn look. I wasn’t sure if this was exactly what I wanted, but it sure beat sanding all that stain off and starting over. Did I mention that I hated sanding?
Painted, Weathered Wood Countertop
I had some paint samples in the garage so I decided to use them. First was Sherwin Williams Repose Gray. I wanted it darker so I added some Behr black to it. Next I watered it down until it was a thinner consistency. Then I painted right over that gel stain. After about an hour, I painted over the Repose Grey with watered down Accessible Beige (Sherwin Williams color paint matched at Home Depot). I let it dry for about three hours. Then I sanded…just a little! I took the paint off in some places and left it in others. I played around with it until I liked the way it looked – there’s not an exact science. You just have to like it. If you take too much off in an area, you can always add more paint. That’s the beauty of it…you really can’t mess this up!
I purchased a simple wood baseboard and used it as a backsplash. If you have a router, you could make your own. I decided not to use caulk to fill the crack where the backsplash meets the counter because it doesn’t bother me. I kind of like that look…like it’s settled! You’ll notice I still need to fill in the nail holes…I’ll do that later.
A couple of things I learned doing this – if you need to add paint, add both layers! When I sanded off too much and then added just the accessible beige, I lost the layering effect. You could tell that I just slapped some more paint in that spot. Secondly, you can make lemonade from lemons! I do know this but a reminder every once in a while is a good thing! My gel stain countertop was a lemon…but I turned it around with the paint! But I needed that dark chestnut base the gel stain added to give me the look I wanted. Don’t give up when something doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. Rethink, retry, redo! You can work it out!
After sanding the paint, I wiped the countertop down with a damp rag, then used a tack cloth to get the remaining sanding residue. Finally, I used Van’s furniture polish to seal and protect the countertop. I LOVE this stuff. It’s all natural – just beeswax, lavender and sweet orange oil. It adds a glow to your wood and the smell is amazing!!
I love the way the countertop turned out! This pantry is a departure from my usual aesthetic – it has a softer feel! And there’s color…I am usually really into neutrals! But I really like the way it feels when I walk into the room and that, I think, is the whole purpose for decorating and renovating – to feel good when you walk into the rooms in your home!
Wood countertop done…now on to the cabinet drawers!