Our Walnut Countertops–Sanded, Sealed and Finished!

April 12, 2013

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Those black walnut countertops we got from Craft Art are officially done and we can’t wait to share a little bit about the process and a whole lot of photos with you today.  First, here’s how our painted countertops looked before we tore them out:
And here’s how the countertops look now:
I’m whistling at them. I am. We removed about eight inches off of the peninsula to give us more room in the dining room (you can see how far the previous countertop extended in the photo below–so annoying) and that alone made a huge difference, but the warmth the walnut adds to the kitchen is our favorite part.  When we left off on Monday, we showed you a little teaser of the first coat of sealant:
The countertops actually arrive with one coal of sealant on them, but it penetrates into the wood pretty well, so multiple coats are recommended. This is how our countertops looked after the second coat of sealant:

We loved it.  I was ready to stop there.  It was just looking so good.  Isn’t that funny?  I think there is a life lesson in there about potential.  About how we might think something is really good, but that doesn’t mean we should stop trying/working at it/giving it our best–because that good could turn into something even better–that you could have never imagined.  That’s life our countertops. There were a few key products we used.  For the sealer coats, we used Waterlox Original Sealer/Finish (it came with the countertops).  We applied it with a paint pad (shown in the center, picked up at Home Depot) and then buffed it into the grain with an old, clean t-shirt.

Before we started, and in between each coat, we sanded down the tops with 320 grit sandpaper.  It is really fine and helped us get the smoothest surface possible.  After the sealants, we applied two coats of Waterlox Satin Finish (it also came with the countertops) mixed in a 50/50 ratio with the Sealer/Finish.

For these coats, we didn’t buff it in with a t-shirt, but just put it on thick with the paint pad (we used a new pad for each coat) and then went over it again pulling the pad in a straight line the distance of the tops without lifting it. 

The topcoats did a great job at self-leveling and left us with an ultra-smooth satin finish. Purrrrrrr.
We have a few navy paint touch ups to do, and some tape and bags to remove–but we honestly couldn’t be happier with the countertops themselves.  They are better than we imagined.  When we initially installed them, I wasn’t sure if the color would get rich–(it was so light!), or the wood would ever feel…very smooth.  Like, ever. But with each coat, we fell in love more and more.

The timeline for the project went something like this: we received the countertops last Tuesday, cut them down, sanded them, sealed the underside–twice!,  installed them, sealed the tops–three times!, and put two top coats on and now, a week and a half later we’re done.  Not bad, right? We’re really happy with that timeline and head-over-heals with the results.

And yes, a backsplash is coming.  Let’s talk about that and our new sink and faucet next week.

Happy weekend, friends!

Psst. We partnered with Craft Art for this project. All words, opinions and sweat are ours, all ours!

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What do you think?

  1. Stephanie N says:

    Maybe I missed it, but how has the Waterlox performed as far as protecting the wood from water damage? Have you had to recoat your counters? What do you use to clean them? I am about to put a wooden dresser in as my bathroom vanity, and while I love how Waterlox has held up on wooden floors in a bathroom, I know countertops are going to get wet far more. Thanks for your help! Your countertops are gorgeous and I love the shine without being high gloss.

  2. Karen says:

    Can you tell me (if you remember) what kind of black walnut it was? plank style ? edge?

  3. Xochitl says:

    We are also trying to do a waterfall on one side of our cabinets. Since the waterfall and countertop square up, how far over the cabinets did your wood countertop go? One inch or two?
    Did it make opening up the drawers or shelves in that corner difficult?

    We are also looking at Craft Art as our walnut countertop supplier, which would give us an overhang of almost two inches (with DYI option.)

  4. Rose says:

    What I really want to know is what is the name/brand/type of original sealer you used?

  5. […] Chris Loves Julia – Which made me ask why I didn’t take the time to find Walnut butcher block to begin with. […]

  6. Jenn C says:

    Before you removed the old painted countertops – how did the paint hold up? I have some ugly laminate I need to hold me over another year and am looking into painting them the puddy color as well! Would love any insight!

  7. Anonymous says:

    What’s a “coal” of sealant?

  8. I know this was so long ago, but quick question!

    I’m in the process of sealing our countertops now. I’ve done 2 on the bottom, and 4 on top. And now moving on to the satin finish. THANK YOU for the tip to mix it with the sealant, will definitely do that! But wondering did you also sand in between the two finish coats?

    And did you buff or sand after the final coat or just let it be? A little nervous because it is looking a little streaky so far, but hoping applying the satin finish with the paint pads will help smooth things out.

    – Allie

  9. This website was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve found something that helped me.

  10. I know you were only using this kitchen for 6 months before moving, but how did you find that the walnut held up? I really want wooden counters, but have heard bad things about water stains…

  11. Vica says:

    Holly LIZA MINNELLI! You have the exact color scheme I am going for when we remodel, which I hope will be in the spring.From the white to the navy to the counter tops! FYI You have just been added to my blog roll.

  12. Michael says:

    Hi! I just stumbled upon your site. The counters are beautiful — I am saving my pennies to do exactly this in my house. How did you find cutting them to size? Did you use a special blade?

  13. Jamie says:

    gasp! gorgeous!!! and we just installed those pendants in our kitchen

  14. Brynne says:

    I am SO INSPIRED by the way you wrapped the countertop down the side of your peninsula – genius! I absolutely love the countertops!

  15. Sheena says:

    Wow! Those are amazing! I have definite countertop envy!! :)

  16. I love every single thing about your kitchen. Seriously – that’s my dream kitchen! Amazing work!!!

  17. Sorry if I missed this in an earlier post- but what made you decide to have the countertop continue down the side of the countertop?? I have to say that’s the only part I’m not loving about everything…

  18. cn says:

    I love the butcher block look. So warm. I was wondering, though, if you are thinking about repainting the glossy black door now. You have navy, glossy black, shiny metal, warm wood, and some white all sort of fighting each other now. Nice fighting. I love all of the elements, but is there one too many? How do you know how to pair and layer and when to stop? I have yet to perfect this in my house and can never put a finger on which element is the culprit in a room.

    • I definitely know what you mean. Right now the pantry door is still in line with our vision for the room, but if after we get the backsplash in and the room just about done, we have no problem reasessing.

  19. Melissa says:

    Hi! I am new to your blog and am having fun catching up on your posts! I wondered if you thought of changing the outlet cover on the back. Maybe you mentioned it, or are still working on finishing touches-but I thought it would look nice in stainless or walnut too. But I don’t even know all the choices ;) Loving your kitchen!!

  20. How did you like working with the waterlox? We literally just finished our Ikea BB counters and the satin was the bane of my existance. I kind of ended up with a slightly streaky finish, but we’re living with them and you can’t tell much now. I recapped here:

    You kitchen is coming together gorgeously! I’ve been dying to paint something navy and I’m loving your base cabinets!


    • Malorie,

      They are gorgeous!

      The folks at Craft Art warned us about that satin finish and advised us to us a 50/50 ratio of the satin finish with the original sealer and it turned out beautifully. If you ever get up enough energy (and I know–I know! that it takes a lot), I bet you could lightly sand with 320 grit and use the above ratio.

    • Thanks! That’s super helpful :)

  21. Wow! Your counter looks amazing! I want to do wood tops in my kitchen too! This post may be just what I need to convince a certain someone!

  22. They look great, but I had to look at the photo for a while because something seemed missing! The sink and counter top styling…it’s a slow day.

  23. Vanessa says:

    I love them! We’re in the process of buying a new (actually, very old) home. I’m dying to put in wood counter tops. Please keep us updated how it maintains around the sink. I’m worried it’ll be a hassle to keep that area sealed with all of the water exposure… hoping you will prove me wrong :)

  24. Great job, guys! I especially love the waterfall edge on the peninsula.

    There is a special place in my heart for walnut countertops. They are handsome, warm, easy to care for and wear well. Be prepared to fall more in love with them each day.

  25. Leah says:

    Julia- love the look! But.. I’m a little worried for you. Won’t these counter tops get banged up pretty easily and be a great spot for bacteria to fester? : /

  26. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely stunning!!! soo rich yet soo warm!! Thank for sharing

  27. Oh yum! Those seriously look amazing! I love the way the kitchen looks now!

  28. A + S says:

    Absolutely beautiful! I just love that you returned the counter tops on the side of the peninsula…such wonderful effect and design element :)

  29. Kathy says:

    Wow. Those countertops TRANSFORM that kitchen! Love it, though I don’t I would have the patience you both did for all those coats of staining & sealing!

  30. Julie says:

    Beautiful! Would you recommend the same sealing process with IKEA butcher block countertops? How did you decide to seal the counters after installing them (rather than before) and would you recommend that method? Thanks for the advice! I really want to update our kitchen this way!

  31. Shannon says:

    I love how it turned out! It truthfully looks great both sealed and unsealed — crazy!

  32. Shut the front door!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Amazing finish. Spectacular finish!!!!!! It looks so so rich!

  33. Katy says:

    Amazing! My new favorite kitchen inspiration photo. We’re renting now, but would love to buy our home soon. If we do, the first project will be something like this. I love two toned cabinets and those counters are AMAZING! I’m interested to hear how they handle regular use. What’s involved with maintaining them? They’re beautiful!!

  34. Megan says:

    I like that you took the countertop down the side. Totally Prrrrrr

  35. Sarah says:

    That looks gorgeous!!!!

  36. It looks amazing. I am loving them with the navy cabinets – great choice!

  37. Stephanie says:

    Those countertops are stunning! I would be petting them nonstop. Now I’m conflicted between stainless countertops and butcher block…

  38. Wow! Looks amazing. I think it was super smart of you and Chris to work with what you have and make it fabulous to not overvalue your house. This looks stunning!

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