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We moved into our home exactly one year ago. And let’s just say, there are still some unpacked boxes and my entire upstairs, aside from kids’ rooms of course, because priorities, remains largely undecorated.
Though my first priority would have been swapping out the horrible carpet in our home, I basically loathe carpet, for hardwood floors, the hubby’s first priority was where to put his massive book collection. Sometimes you gotta compromise. We had a huge loft with absolutely nothing in it, well I take that back, it was full of unpacked boxes, that’s what was in it. But of course, I didn’t take a before picture, because I never remember until halfway through a project.
I, of course, started where I begin every project, Pinterest. There are about a million tutorials on built-ins ranging from less expensive, such as IKEA hacks to super high end, so basically CUSTOM. Let’s just say, I’m on an IKEA budget with Custom taste. So DIY it is.
Where we truly scored was shopping at the best store in town, my dad’s garage! He’s a contractor so he ALWAYS has a garage full of building materials. And sure enough, he had about half a set of kitchen cabinets he had pulled out of a customer’s home, super score. There were just enough that we could use three sets of cabinets and a set of drawers with one set of drawers leftover for a laundry room project (that still remains unfinished so that’s a whole other post to come).
I wish I had taken before pictures of the cabinets, they were scratched up, a really dark brown and full of spiders but heck, they were free. So I began the process I hate most, sanding ugh. Thankfully I only did one cabinet and then my husband took over that part.
I decided to paint the primer on with foam brushes since it goes on pretty quick and doesn’t have to be super perfect. I used Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer in white and because I wanted really good coverage, I did three coats, lightly sanding in between. Shellac has a strong odor in my opinion but it covers and seals really well. Since we’re painting white, we don’t want any knots or original color bleeding through.
After waiting a few days for drying time (it could be done sooner but I wanted to take my time), we were on to painting. We selected the whitest white possible and a high-quality paint, Behr Marquee Ultra Pure White Semi-Gloss Enamel Paint with Primer. My husband had bought me a paint sprayer for my birthday, do you think that’s a weird gift to get your wife? Because I was stoked and now it was time to try it out. It was way less intimidating than I thought and after a few passes, I got it down.
If you’re painting in your garage like I was, you need the Homeright Spray Shelter, it will protect your garage from spray paint going onto everything. I waited a few days in between coats and then allowed a couple of weeks of drying just to be sure before we installed the cabinets in our loft (by we, I mean my dad, since he is the expert and we wanted to get it right).
Lower cabinets installed, but now what to do about a counter? I had my heart set on a butcher block counter but yikes have you ever priced those? So yet again my little budget got me thinking….Pinterest! There are about a million tutorials on building a wood countertop but I found this post by Sawdust Girl and it was the one I primarily followed. There’s a ton of posts out there for butcher block kitchen counters, and while I’m not brave enough to attempt this for my kitchen, I sure as heck could try it for my loft. Worse case scenario, we would be out the price of 2x4s.
Since the cabinets are 24″ deep, we ended getting five 2x4x12s and one 2x6x12, giving us 2″ of overhang and then we just had to take some length off at the end to get the correct length countertop for the width of the cabinets.Here is where we messed up, make sure the boards are super straight. PLEASE. Building the countertop is actually pretty easy.
- Belt sander (to get it smooth like butta)
- Kreg Pocket Hole Jig
- Liquid Nails
- Clamps (at least 4 depending on length)
- Stainable Wood Filler
First, you need to measure and drill your pocket holes on the bottom side of the counter. Next, glue all of the boards together using liquid nails and clamp tightly. Screw your boards together and BOOM you have a counter. Well, an unfinished one full of holes and cracks anyway. Wait until the next day for the liquid nails to dry. Now you’re going to sand like you’ve never sanded before hence the need for a belt sander, so much faster. This is also when we cut off our extra length and because we didn’t pay attention to how straight the boards were, we had a super wonky warped end and cut as much of that as we could. Grrrr.
Now it’s time to use about a million pounds of nail hole filler to fill all the dents, imperfections, and cracks. Personally, I was going for the look of a solid piece of wood so this step was important. Let it dry and then sand and sand again. Is it looking like a wood countertop? P.S. That tennis ball helps me gauge how far I’ve pulled my car into the garage. Ha!
Stain. I wanted the counter to be rich and dark in contrast to the white cabinets, so I used Minwax Jacobean. Before applying the stain, I applied a wood conditioner to hopefully get a uniform application. We did a couple of coats of stain and had to touch up a few areas that just would not take the stain very well. A trick I read online was to soak a rough sheet of sandpaper in the stain and gently sand the color into those areas and it worked!
We decided to install the counter before applying the polyurethane so time to introduce the expert again, call dad. It took some finagling (remember, warped boards) but we got it screwed down to the counter as level as possible on the wonky end. Now, something the tutorial I followed never mentioned, maybe because their boards were perfectly straight? The sections where I filled in between the boards with nail hole filler cracked a little in screwing the counter down, nooooo (that was in my head, I think). So, I just added a little more nail hole filler and stain. I figure it gives it more of an antique look.
Polyurethane. An important step in protecting your counter. I went with Varathane Triple Thick Polyurethane in Gloss since we wanted it to be very glossy. I did three coats. Ain’t nothing happening to this work of art! The cool thing about this stuff is that it’s self-leveling and had no bubbles at all! Make sure it’s really dry between coats and don’t overdo it when applying. The trick I learned online, buy a high-quality brush, soak it in water before you use it and then gently squeeze dry until no more water comes off on a paper towel. This ensures there is no air in your brush bristles. Then start in the middle and slowly brush out, being sure to overlap strokes. Allow your counter to completely dry, sit back and be amazed at how inexpensive your beautiful wood countertop was!