Taking the house my mom grew up in, the farm my grandparents shared for over fifty years and making it a home for us to grow old in.

Our oak kitchen counter tops looked like a hill billy after a bad fight.

It seemed the perfect choice for our little country kitchen. We’d made everything else so, it seemed only natural that we would be making our counter tops as well. Initially, when I thought this renovation wasn’t going to absolutely and totally drain our bank accounts, I had been holding out the hope of being able to afford slate… Then reality happened. My second choice was butcher block but, honestly, we couldn’t afford that either and, after building the sink base, the cabinets and the pantry, I ended up really wanting to make our counters too. So, the plan was hatched, we would be making our own “butcher block” for the counters. We did not have enough pine left to make them like we made the butcher block island top, however, we did have a whole pile of oak out in the barn. It was only about about 1/2” by 3” but I thought it would work. It had been used before as each end had an old screw hole in it but I have no idea where it came from or what its passed life entailed all I knew was that it was OAK and it was in long enough pieces to do all of our counter tops. I got to cutting and Joe glued and nailed it down with our brad nailer. Here it is right after we finished.

The horror story about our oak kitchen counter tops, how they warped and split and how I fixed them! @GrandmasHousDIY

Isn’t that lovely? Yup, just lovely! We were both stoked and it was really quick and easy. So, I sanded them down, bought some mineral oil and oiled them according to the directions. Its at this point when things started to take a turn out of the lovely spectrum and into the “oh no….” spectrum. Was it because we didn’t put enough nails in it? Was it the wrong kind of oil for oak? Was it because it sat absolutely dry as a bone in the barn for several decades and couldn’t handle something about the environment in our kitchen? I don’t know. What I do know is that we were taking REALLY good care of them! We weren’t using them as a cutting board, the oil was working, water did not sink in and any tiny little bit of moisture that got on them I whisked right off and I was SO careful not to get water on them ever! Anyway, this is how they looked: like a hill billy after a bad fight missing some serious teeth. I tried re oiling them as they started to separate and warp and, I swear, the oil made them WORSE! Was it because they were just SO dry? Was it because I actually, in fact, have no idea what I’m doing?!?! I will say though, deep down, with my experience working with wood (which is actually pretty extensive at this point) I was not surprised… Just deeply disappointed and VERY disgruntled because of all of the possible scenarios that I knew could happen, this was the worst.

The horror story about our oak kitchen counter tops, how they warped and split and how I fixed them! @GrandmasHousDIY

So, every day, I came downstairs to see the counter top just getting worse and it stared at me every time I was in the kitchen, mocking me. Something HAD to be done. I’m not good at “redoing” anything, we really do build things to last around here, or, at least we TRY to. On top of the knowledge that all those glued boards were going to be a pain in the butt to pull up, I also didn’t want to ruin our brand new back splash which was, of course, put in AFTER the counter tops. And then Joe informed me his dad needed his help so I would be alone for most of this last weekend. First thing I did was some research on water based sealers (polys) if I was going to get this these counter tops perfect, it would be staying that way this time! No more mineral oil for us! I bought a slightly different type of wood glue, the stuff we used before was basic, the stuff I chose this time was meant for wet environments. I got out our 2” brad nails and used those instead of the 1 1/4” brads. I did not go with a food safe sealer, I had no plans on literally putting our food directly on our counter tops, our food is always on a plate, or a towel, or SOMETHING, what I was interested in was having a counter top I could WIPE off and CLEAN! Because, as you can see, they had become an unsanitary horror.

The horror story about our oak kitchen counter tops, how they warped and split and how I fixed them! @GrandmasHousDIY

I did not tell Joe I was planning on fixing the counters. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him, I guess I was embarrassed and basically blamed myself for their not turning out. I do, in fact, have a lot more experience in wood working then my man does (go figure) and he’s blindly trusted my plans pretty much from day one when it came to this house. Most of my plans worked out just fine – this one was truly my largest failure and I didn’t want him to have to help fix my mistakes. So, we parted with a kiss, he headed out Friday night and I got to work! I decided the first few boards beside the sink were good enough, I added LOTS more nails to them and then, oh so carefully, started pulling up the rest of the tops. I have only incredible things to say about wood glue, the majority of the counter top came up in huge chunks, held together really well by nothing but the glue we put between the boards and, because we used such short brad nails and didn’t glue it down, it literally popped right up into my arms. I was not shy with the glue or the nails this time and did a certain amount of pounding them in, mostly to make myself feel better, pounding on things is always good for making me feel better! With the counter tops all together again (like they were the first time) I went around with my glue and filled in any lingering gaps. After letting them dry over night I tackled them with the my sander the next morning. (Admittedly, I half believed I was going to come down stairs in the morning to find them all gap toothed and horrible again…)

The horror story about our oak kitchen counter tops, how they warped and split and how I fixed them! @GrandmasHousDIY

The boards had done a lot of warping that the naked eye didn’t pick up easily. With the sander I felt every new edge and ridge that had popped up. I sanded them really well, starting with medium grit sand paper and then moving on to fine grit until I, once again, had a lovely smooth surface. Back to lovely again! Now, I tackled the task of KEEPING them that way! Out with the poly I chose and, throughout that long day, I put on seven separate coats. Now, I am happy to say that I do believe our counters are DONE DONE DONE. It is not possible for me to look at them in the same happy light as I did when we first “finished” them but knowing now, for sure, that they will be looking like this for years (crosses fingers) does make me very happy. Thank the Universe that that is now over with!

The horror story about our oak kitchen counter tops, how they warped and split and how I fixed them! @GrandmasHousDIYHow to tutorial oak kitchen butcher block counter tops, how I fixed our major fail when the wood pulled a part, working, diy, do it yourself

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  1. Alice
    November 17, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    They are now beautiful. I do think they are great — but wonder why you didn’t fun some sort of “finishing strip” across the counter fronts.

    • November 19, 2015 at 5:11 pm

      We’re still thinking about that actually! I would like something that fits in so it either has to be oak or maybe barn wood that’s at least the length of the counter so we don’t have seems. So, definitely something we’re planning on adding! Thanks 🙂

  2. Nettie
    November 19, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    Your poor thing. There’s nothing worse than pouring love into a job, to say nothing of hard work, and to find it goes south. You did a beautiful job pulling it back together. I’d have just given up and chucked it in the trash! Nicely saved.

  3. chris aka monkey
    November 19, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    so glad you took the time to save this counter it is totally awesome looking xx

    • November 20, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Thank you! I’m relieved they turned out ok!

  4. Sharon
    November 20, 2015 at 4:26 am

    Hi there;
    Looks awesome now. It helped me very much as I would so much like to fix my island counter as it has burn mark in lamenate. What kind of wood glue did you use and what did you use instead of the oil?

    • November 20, 2015 at 4:30 pm

      Hi there, I used just Elmers wood glue that was also meant for “wet” places. I ended up using “Deft Interior Clear Wood Finish Gloss Brushing Lacquer, Quart” if you use that exact term you can go look at it on Amazon and see the product with the information, though I used a satin not a gloss. I don’t know if I would have used that again as it REALLY STUNK VERY badly. I think, looking back I might have just used the marine grade poly instead, but, so far, we’re very happy with how they turned out. Thank you for commenting!

  5. July 3, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    I can imagine how frustrating that must have been after so much work,seeing the counter top come apart, but I’m so happy that you fixed the counter top! It looks amazing and so beautiful! Good for you, you did it!

  6. July 30, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    The counters look awesome, Tarah! Have a great weekend 🙂

    Edye | http://gracefulcoffee.wordpress.com

  7. August 1, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    I’m so glad you were able to fix it! I’m filing this away just in case we use wood counters at some point while renovating.

    • August 1, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Jessica, thank you! And, I’m very happy to report, over six months later they still great so it was definitely a case of us needing to let them acclimate a lot longer and we needed use a lot more glue!

  8. September 22, 2016 at 7:55 pm

    I had the same thing happen to our oak table my father in law made. It was fine for a couple of months and then I started randomly hearing what honestly sounded like gunshots in the middle of the night. We lived in a humid area and when we turned the heat on in the fall and the house started drying out is when it happened. He ended up making a whole new top for it about a year ago and it has been fine since. After my table experience I would be scared to do countertops but they look awesome.

    • September 22, 2016 at 8:53 pm

      Hi Mandy, thankfully they seem to be holding now! Its been several months since I fixed them and there hasn’t been any separation since. Oh my gosh how that was a bad experience – so sorry to hear you went through it too! Thanks for coming by 🙂

  9. September 23, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    Not only do I love the look of your counters and how you fixed them, I love the way you told the story! It made it fun to read…although it probably wasn’t fun for you. lol

    • September 25, 2016 at 9:55 pm

      lol it wasn’t very fun at the time that’s for sure but if we can’t laugh at our own mistakes then we’re missing out I think! Thanks for coming by 🙂

  10. December 22, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    These counters look beautiful but I can see how you would run into problems. Thanks for sharing!

    • December 22, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      Thanks Brian, I’m real happy with them now!

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Making a shoe rack and closet storage out an old ladder


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