Countertops are a big deal when building a tiny home. They transform a kitchen in ways you can’t really appreciate until you place them on top of your cabinets and stand back to admire. Countertops are a centerpiece of any home, no matter the size.
We purchased our butcher block countertop as one solid 8’ piece of oak from Ikea and then cut it in half. After building our cabinets and measuring about 8 times, we cut the countertop using a brand new blade on our circular saw.
Before installing the counters we took the time to sand them down thoroughly with 100, 120 and 180 grit sandpaper to get a lovely soft feel and round out the cut edges. We then added 4 coats of mineral oil to the top, bottom and sides of the countertops before we mounted them to the cabinets, wiping down thoroughly with rags a few hours after each coat. Once the countertops were installed, I continued to oil and wipe each day until they stopped absorbing. I probably did a total of 8-9 coats of oil over the first week.
Choosing which kind of oil to use took a bit of research. We wanted an oil that would be water resistant but not change the color or shine of the wood and would be safe to eat off of. We ended up going with mineral oil, a food-safe laxative that is frequently used on cutting boards and wood utensils. It provides a lovely matte sheen, adds richness to the color of the wood and has virtually no smell. The wood soaked it up fast for the first week but slowed after that. Though the oil felt pretty greasy when putting it on the counters, once it was absorbed and I wiped them down with a clean, dry towel, they no longer felt greasy, just soft and lovely.
After about 6 months I decided it was time to oil the countertops again and this time tried Watco Teak Oil from home depot. This is much darker and thicker than mineral oil and it went on great using a sponge brush and gave the countertops a darker, sleeker shine. One big negative is that it has a very pungent chemical smell until the excess was wiped off. Though I like the finish the teak oil provides, I’ll probably go back to mineral oil once I use up the rest of the can.
No matter what oil you choose to seal your counters with, make sure you do your research. Food-based oils, like olive oil, can go rancid and start to smell over time. If you want to use natural oil, walnut, almond, and coconut oil all have a higher resistance to turning rancid but are still susceptible. In the hot Florida heat, we weren’t willing to take that risk.
Additionally, you want to make sure your oil is food safe. Many of the waterproof wood sealers can leach harsh chemicals over time. Read the can and directions carefully to ensure your countertops are safe for you and your family.
It’s been about a year of living with our butcher block countertops and to reflect on our experience I put together a list of pros and cons of having them in our tiny home:
- Low Cost. Our countertop was only $120 for a solid oak 8’ section, very affordable.
- Aesthetics. We receive comments and compliments regularly on how great the countertops look and feel. They give a warm, welcome feeling to our tiny home and provide a nice balance between our light pine floors and darker cedar cabinets.
- Resilient. Despite dropping things on them, our countertops don’t have any obvious bumps, stains, scratches or scars. In fact, they look just as good now as they did when we moved in a year ago. An added perk is that even if they did get scratched, scorched or stained, it would just take a simple sanding and oiling to make them as good as new again.
- Easy to Install. We were able to cut the hole for our sink and stove with just a jigsaw and circular saw and they came with all the mounting hardware we needed. After cutting them, it was a breeze to mount them in the bus.
- Always wiping. To avoid water damage to the countertops we have to be really careful about keeping them dry. This has developed into a ritual of wiping them down with a dry towel every time we use the sink, which can be a pain when all you’re doing is washing your hands or brushing your teeth.
- Sanitation. Wood is quite porous and will absorb anything that sits on it for too long. To keep the counters clean and sanitized I wipe them down with a multiuse ecofriendly spray or vinegar every day. We also avoid cutting food directly on the counter and keep them oiled and clean.
- Maintenance. The counters have to be oiled every 4-6 months and sanded down once a year. This is maintenance most other types of counters don’t require.
- Weight. Since the countertops are solid oak, they are pretty heavy. This may not be the best choice for someone who has to be very weight conscious when building their tiny home.
Overall, we’re really pleased with our butcher block countertops. They provided the look and feel that we were going for in our home, were easy to install and fit great in our budget. Though they may not be a perfect fit for every tiny home, we feel they’re Just Right for ours.
Kelly Ross is a contributing writer for Tiny House Listings. She lives in a converted school bus that is neither too hot nor too cold with her husband and two dogs. You can learn more about Kelly and her “Just Right Bus” at her website or Facebook Page.
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