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

Nov 16 2015
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It seemed the perfect choice for my little country kitchen. I’d made everything else so, it seemed only natural that I would be making my counter tops as well. Initially, when I thought this renovation wasn’t going to absolutely and totally drain my 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, I couldn’t afford that either and, after building the sink base, the cabinets and the pantry, I ended up really wanting to make my counters too. So, the plan was hatched, I would be making my own “butcher block” for the counters. I did not have enough pine left to make them like I made the butcher block island top, however, I 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 my counter tops. Here it is right after I 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! I was 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 I 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 my kitchen? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was taking REALLY good care of them! I wasn’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, I really do build things to last around here, or, at least I 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 my brand new back splash which was, of course, put in AFTER the counter tops. 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 I used before was basic, the stuff I chose this time was meant for wet environments. I got out my 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 my food directly on my counter tops, my 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 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 I put between the boards and, because I 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 my counters are DONE DONE DONE. It is not possible for me to look at them in the same happy light as I did when I 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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22 Comments on "My oak kitchen counter tops looked like a hill billy after a bad fight."

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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.


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.

chris aka monkey

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


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?


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!


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

Edye |


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.

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… Read more »

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


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


Brilliant save there!! Thanks so much for the info, I have a round table my uncle made for me and the top has split, I need to re-glue and re-finish and re-seal it and didn’t know exactly what to use for it, Now I Do! so thank you for the ideas and the names of products I will need to get for it… I know it will turn out right NOW~~~

Iris Nacole
Making a shoe rack and closet storage out an old ladder


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