We’re still talking about the laundry room, but we’re in the home stretch! After installing our cabinets, we could move on to the countertop, which we actually started working on over the summer. But in Chicago, with nice weather comes outdoor projects, and so the countertop took a back burner while we laid pavers, built a picnic table and planted greenery.
Only a few weekends ago did we turn our attention back towards the laundry room, and months after starting Project Butcher Block, we were finally able to call this countertop done! We chose butcher block for its affordability (a 3′ x 6′ slab cost us less than $150 at the hardware store), and with all the white cabinetry, we wanted to bring in some warmth. Despite the amount of time we spent dragging our heels, the majority of this project can be completed in a weekend – if you just set aside the time for it.
WHAT WE DID:
You might remember that the base cabinet is kicked off the back wall by about 8″ so that the front face of the cabinets would align with our stacked washer and dryer. With this cabinet secured to our small 2″ x 4″ box frame, we could take our measurements. That said, drywall is rarely square, so although this room received almost four walls of new drywall, we were still at the mercy of the shared walls (one being an exterior wall, the other to our bedroom). Scott measured from side to side and front to back in 3 places, and I made note of each of these measurements. We also added an extra inch to the depth of the cabinet for a small overhang. As an example, our front to back measurements were 32 7/8″ (left), 32 15/16″ (middle) and 33″ (right). Our side to side measurements were 38″ (back), 38 5/16″ (middle) and 38 1/2″ (front). You can see that the side wall was a good 1/2″ off-square overall!
On a large sheet of 1/4″ thick foam board, we used these measurements to make our template. In our case, we assumed that the right side and front of our countertop would be a 90-degree angle, based off of the careful install of both the base cabinet and washer/dryer side panel. We made a mark at each of our measurements – measuring over and up from two of the ‘perfect’ sides of foam board – and we used a long, spare piece of trim to connect our dots. (Optional, but an extra pair of helping paws can speed up this step.)
I used a utility knife and a straight edge to cut along our lines, and then we placed our perfectly-imperfect template into place. The fit was just right! We made a note to reference the front/top, and then it was time to make our cut.
We traced around our foam board template directly onto the butcher block, and Scott used our circular saw with a makeshift straight edge to make his cuts. Afterwards, I used a fine sanding sponge to clean up any burrs along the edges.
We brought our countertop back inside to check our fit, held our breath, and… like a glove, I tell you! The extra inch for overhang was a nice match for the base cabinet, and the nominal gap around the other three sides of our butcher block would eventually be sealed with caulk.
Next, we were able to make the openings for our sink and faucet – easily the most nerve-wracking part of this process! We’d been hoarding this adorable Kohler bar sink for almost a year, and the day had finally come to unbox it. We traced our undermount line using the paper template provided with the sink, spacing it 4″ from the front and left of our counter.
We picked up these fresh new blades for our jigsaw, and Scott began cutting. Slow and steady wins this race. The circular design we chose for our sink meant that he had to freehand the whole thing, and to say we were both nervous is an understatement!
About halfway through the cut, he screwed a long scrap of 2″ x 4″ into the ‘hole’ of the sink. This would prevent the cut-out from starting to fall, which could in turn affect his cut. His precaution worked like a charm, and all said and done, his finished cut was nice and clean! With the sink cut-out complete, we then used our hole saw to cut a 1 1/4″ opening for the faucet. We measured the distance from our kitchen sink to the faucet, and basing it on that, we made the hole about 2″ away from the sink opening. This turned out to be a huge error, but luckily, it was one we were able to remedy! In a nutshell, the rim of our sink was so large that the faucet wasn’t able to fit through its opening; as a result, we had to modify the sink (more on that in another post!), so learn from us: measure thrice, cut once. #basicruleofDIY
Back on a positive note (and before we had realized the error of our ways), I polished up Scott’s cut by sanding – lots and lots and lots of sanding. I started out using course sandpaper on our Dremel, which helped to take down any areas that weren’t as round as they could be. Although tricky to get the hang of at first, I found that by attacking these areas from below, I could get a better grip on the tool. Afterwards, I used sanding pads and worked my way around that circle – over and over and over again. I started with 80-grit, but by the end, I had worked my way down to a super fine 400-grit paper.
Finally, it was time to apply our finish! We went with our favorite fail-proof dark walnut stain, and we sealed it using Waterlox. The butcher block was pretty thirsty, and it drank up one coat of stain pretty quickly. We liked how dark it got, and not wanting to go any deeper, we left it alone at one coat. The next day, we began applying coats of Waterlox using a natural bristle brush.
I applied four coats over the course of four evenings, and I used a super fine 1500-grit polishing sandpaper between coats. This was our first time using Waterlox, and the final results were a higher gloss than I was expecting, but it has mellowed over time. I’d liken the sheen to a step above satin, and although that alarmed us at first, it quickly grew on us. Now, we couldn’t imagine anything less than this soft shine!
If you follow along on our Insta-stories, you’ll know that we finished up plumbing (thank you to everyone who chimed in on our angled-faucet debate!), and despite the faucet trouble, we are thrilled with our cute little sink. Scott will be back to fill you in on how we plumbed our extra-deep counters, including our road bump and how we resolved it.
In the meantime, I’m awaiting a photo print to hang on the wall, and our DIY suds could use a re-fill. You’re so close, laundry room!