DIY Faux Butcher Block Laminate Countertops
The natural wood of butcher block countertops bring warmth and charm into the home, blending easily with natural and industrial kitchen designs. Wood can offer a modern feel while also retaining its cozy rustic charm. However, wood countertops aren’t for everybody, since they require dedication and commitment. They need careful and frequent sealing to keep them from absorbing liquids or staining, and they can be problematic around the sink area, particularly for homeowners who have a drop-in sink.
While natural wood materials are expensive, laminate offers a less costly way to achieve the appearance of wood in your home. Building your own countertops with laminate means that you don’t need to eliminate the natural aesthetic from your kitchen space.
Laminate comes in convincing patterns that can give your countertops an updated look without busting your budget. Among with the many benefits of laminate is its ability to be a simple DIY project, saving you the material costs and installation fees that a normal counter-replacement might cost you. Or if you’re interested in resurfacing your existing laminate to appear more like natural stone, check out our guide here.
With this tutorial, we will teach you how to make a countertop using two layers of particleboard. Then we’ll go over how to glue and install laminate onto the countertop using contact cement.
Note: Building your own countertops will save you money as opposed to purchasing premade counters. However, it’s most cost efficient to do this if you already have your own tools, including a drill, circular saw for cutting, and a router with laminate bit. Having to purchase those tools will increase of the cost of the project, but will also make it easier to do more DIY projects in the future.
Make a Blueprint
To begin, make an extremely accurate blueprint of the size and dimensions of your countertops.
Be sure to include any cut out areas or places where your laminate will need to angle around the counter.
Making a blueprint ahead of time will help you get a feel for the shape of your counter and plan where laminate seams can go.
- Circular saw
- Router with a laminate bit
- Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) or high quality particleboard *
- Contact cement
- Wood dowels
- Metal file
- Wood glue
- 1 inch screws
There are many options of wood laminate to choose from, from darker to lighter designs, as well as designs with a high level of color variation. When purchasing your laminate, make sure that you get a little extra in case something goes wrong with your measurements. Laminate comes in 12 foot lengths, so it’s important to think strategically about whether you will have seams and where they will be. You might be able to cover them up with a kitchen appliance, or make them look like the natural seams you would have in a wooden butcher block countertop.
If you want your counters to have a beveled edge, many laminate varieties have premade edges that you can glue on. They will add a bit to the cost, while giving you an alternative to the square-cut. That being said, traditional butcher block countertops do tend to be squared off.
* We recommend the particle board, since MDF is more likely to swell if water sits on it for long periods of time.
Make the Countertops
Use your blueprint to roughly shape the counters, keeping in mind that your final cuts will happen once both layers of the counter are adhered together. You will be using two layers of 3/4 inch thick MDF or high quality particle board. This will get you a 1 1/2 inch thick countertop which is standard for traditional wood countertops.
Glue both the bottom and the top pieces and then lay the glue sides together. Then, using the drill, screw upward from the bottom layer to lock them in place. Make sure that your screws are not long enough to puncture the top. At this point, use the circular saw to cut both layers at once to your exact counter measurements. You should now have a 1 1/2 inch flush edge surface on which to stick the laminate. If you find that your edges aren’t smooth or level, take this time to sand the sides.
Installing the Laminate
1.) Measure and Cut the Laminate
Measure and cut laminate strips that will go along the sides of your countertops. When measuring all pieces, have about 2 inches of overhang on every side. Next, cut your bigger top pieces with as few seams as possible.
2.) Dry-Fit Your Pieces
It’s always a good idea to dry-fit all of the pieces before you start gluing. Lay your countertop pieces into place without any glue to make sure your cuts are accurate, and double-check that you have left laminate overhanging on all sides.
3.) Glue and Adhere Sides
Use a foam roller to apply the contact cement onto the laminate pieces for the sides. Then apply glue to the sides of the counter. The contact cement will be tacky to the touch. Attach the laminate piece to the side of the counter. Allow it to dry according to the instructions on the can (about 30 minutes).
Contact cement sticks fast to itself, meaning that the process of adhering your laminate to the counter can be unforgiving. We recommend working slowly and precisely to make sure that everything fits into place the way that you want it to the first time. If something goes on crooked, it will be difficult to pull it off again.
In areas where you have an angled space that isn’t appropriate for creating a corner with the laminate, you will need to bend the laminate using heat. First you will want to sand the back of the laminate at the section when it will need to bend. Then use a heat gun to make it more pliable while you carefully bend it to the shape that you need.
4.) Trim Away the Extra Laminate
Use a router and laminate bit to trim off the edges of the sides so that they are flush with the wood. This may take a couple passes, as well as some practice on scrap materials for those who aren’t familiar with the process.
5.) Glue and Adhere the Top
Roll your contact cement onto the surface of the countertops and the back of the laminate that you cut for the top.
Lay wood dowels every 3-5 inches down the length of your countertop. Since the dowels won’t stick to the contact cement, they are there to give you more control over the laminate placement.
Place laminate over the wood dowels and make sure that everything fits how you want it to. Then, beginning at one side, remove the dowels one at a time and adhere your laminate to the countertop. Allow it to dry for thirty minutes.
6.) Trim Away Extra Laminate from the Top
Use the router again to trim off the extra laminate. Then, file the corners at a 45 degree angle where laminate meets laminate to prevent sharp corners.
- This installation will take a couple days, so it’s best to set up an alternative space for preparing for preparing food and kitchen use.
Rushed decisions could lead to expensive or time-wasting consequences, so we recommend taking your time and not trying to complete everything in a day.
- To get a feel for the tools that you will be using, you can practice on particle board scraps and scrap laminate. This is especially important when using the router, as nicks can damage the effect of the edge of your countertop.
- Use a similarly-colored crayon or marker to disguise any nicks or flaws.
- It’s uncommon for a kitchen to have a wood backsplash, so this is not a recommended part of the installation. Instead, you might opt for installing a tile backsplash according to your color theme, or painting the existing wall for a contemporary, minimalistic appearance.
- While laminate is easy to clean, it’s not a good surface to prepare food on directly the way you would with a traditional butcher block. Dark colors might come to show scratches from wear and tear, liquid messes should not stand on the laminate for a long time, and excessive heat can cause warping problems, so you should always use a trivet with hot pots and pans.
Wood’s natural beauty has become an expensive commodity in contemporary kitchen remodels. However, that doesn’t stop us from wanting to bring the warmth and pleasing design of nature inside. With a DIY installation, making your own laminate butcher block designed countertops can give you perfect customization with a price tag of around $500 or less.