Our House: DIY Kitchen Cabinets & Butcher Block Countertop

We moved into our house three weekends ago!  As we did most of the labor ourselves during the building process, I beginning to share some of the ways we saved money during the process.  In today's post, I will share some of the affordable tips & tricks we did to design our kitchen.  Specifically, I will talk about refurbishing kitchen cabinets and the butcher block countertop we purchased & installed.

DIY Kitchen Cabinets

I previously wrote about how we found a lot of good deals for building materials (& just about anything else) from Craigslist.  I have started calling my wife the “Craigslist Queen” since it seemed like we were driving somewhere for a good deal once or twice a week.  One of our Craigslist finds mentioned in the original post was a set of 30-year old solid oak cabinets that we purchased for $500.

We needed to spend an additional $200 at a salvage store to acquire two additional cabinets to complete the floor plan.  And we purchase a gallon of primer & paint from Lowe's to repaint all of them.  In all, we have about $800 bucks invested in our kitchen cabinets.  We are pleased for the time being as a new quality set would cost at least $2,000 for solid wood cabinets (not including the countertop).

How we refurbished the cabinets

One regret of ours during the building process is that we didn't stop to take pictures.  We broke one of the cardinal blogging rules as I had been planning several posts on the building process.  So I did my best to take pictures afterward.

1. Apply Bonding Primer

The first thing you need to do is put a coat of bonding primer on the outside surfaces.  If your cabinets have a laminate wood grain top, you will first need to sand it down.  If you are unsure if your cabinet faces or sides are laminate surfaces, you will know as primer will quickly become bubbly and will not stick when you try to paint it onto the cabinet surface.

DIY Kitchen Cabinet
The unpainted surface of our cabinets.

We used a bonding primer in it to make the cabinet's glossy surfaces extra sticky.  After putting one quote of primer on the cabinets, then, we put three coats of an oil-based enamel paint that is more durable than a traditional latex paint.

2. Apply “Pieces of Flair”

As a way to contrast our tan walls, we decided to paint our cabinets white.  The white cabinets looked good by themselves, but, we wanted to add a little something special to make them appear better than just “old cabinets repainted white.”

So we purchased a roll of paintable beadboard wallpaper.  You can pick up a roll at your local home improvement store or on Amazon.  For about $20-$25, you can buy a roll that's 20″ wide and covers 56 sq. ft.  We purchased one roll and had plenty to spare for future projects.

Installing the wallpaper is real easy.  I recommend having a square edge that runs the length of the cabinet and a flat tool like a ruler to squeeze the excess glue out.

To apply the wallpaper:

  1. Cut wallpaper to size
  2. Dip in a tub of water for 30 seconds then place on surface to “cure” for 5 minutes (fold two ends together with sticky side up)
  3. After 5 minute wait, apply to cabinet surface
  4. Use a flat instrument like a ruler and roll along wallpaper to squeeze the glue out.  Similar to applying a new smartphone screen protector and rubbing all the bubbles out.
  5. Allow to dry for several hours (or overnight) and paint.
DIY Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinet Face with Beadboard Wallpaper

For all of our cabinets, we put the wallpaper on the center of the cabinet doors.  The above picture shows what one cabinet looks like finished.

3. Paint Surface

After allowing the beadboard wallpaper to dry overnight, we applied three coats of paint to the cabinet to get the look we desired.

DIY Kitchen Cabinets
We built the valance from scratch.

 

DIY Kitchen Cabinets

The above pictures show both sides of our cabinets.  We also found somebody selling two pieces of beadboard (on Craigslist) that we cut to size and placed above the countertop and along the bar for extra design points.

Refurbishing the kitchen cabinets took some “sweat equity” but we were really pleased with the end result.

Butcher Block Countertop

The above image includes a picture of the butcher block countertop.  We bought this new from a retail store as we didn't have the tools to make it ourselves.

We needed 12 feet of butcher block and purchased it from a national chain called Floor & Decor that recently opened 45 minutes away from us.  Ikea also sells butcher block and you can always go to a local cabinetmaker as well.  As we were on a budget, we choose Floor & Decor where we purchased it for $300.

DIY Kitchen CabinetsThis is the same image from above, but will include it again for convenience.  We needed 12 feet of butcher block, but an oven is in the middle of that 12 feet.  They did not sell an 8 or 4-foot section, so we used a handheld circular saw to cut the block to our needs.

Treating Butcher Block

When you first get butcher block, it is going to arrive and be installed untreated.  You can leave it this way, but, to get the glossy look and to maximize the life of any wood cutting surface, you will need to routinely apply butcher block oil.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B001ESTA30&Format= SL160 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=monebuff 20ir?t=monebuff 20&l=li2&o=1&a=B001ESTA30We use Howard Butcher Block Oil as it's the most common brand.  It costs about $8 or $9 and can be purchased anywhere with hardware section.  I recommend purchasing two or three bottles of this stuff the first go around.

3 bottles might seem excessive, at first, but you will understand why.

How Often You Need To Oil You New Butcherblock Countertop

 

  1. Every Day For The First Month
    With an unfinished butcher block, you will need to oil it once per day for the first month.  The first bottle only lasted me a week because the wood absorbed so much oil (similar to a dry plant getting water).

    The second bottle has lasted two weeks so far and I think I will get a month's use out of it!

2. After the first month

After oiling daily for the first month, you can slack off to once per week for the next month or so, then once per month after that.  You will know when you need to add more conditioner as the block will lose its shiny luster and will get dried out.

Each house is different and humidity is key.  The butcher block next to the oven will probably dry out before another part because that section has more exposure to heat.  But, maintenance is a lot easier if you are diligent for the first month.

Helpful Tips

  1. Reducing the Mess
    Applying the butcher block conditioner is somewhat messy.  You are essentially applying mineral oil to the wood and your hands will show the evidence.  To help reduce the mess, I apply with an old rag & keep it in a plastic ziploc bag when not using.  The bag keeps the rag moist, which also means less oil being used for each application.
Treating Butcher Block Countertops
How I store the oil & rag when not in use.

2. Watch out for rubber feet

We just ran into this issue yesterday, but kitchen appliance with rubber feet left behind some black residue on the block.  My wife was using the food processor and you can tell how the vibrations from the machine had moved the feet in a clockwise pattern.  We were able to remove most of the stain but not all of it.

Our other countertop is Corian, so we do not have that issue.  My initial recommendation for butcher block is to put some piece of plastic in between the two surface to prevent the feet from leaving their mark.

Summary

Now you know how we saved lots of money on our kitchen design budget and were able to “splurge” by getting a butcher block countertop.  We were also able to find out oven on Craigslist and even our barstools!

Hope you enjoyed & feel invigorated to DIY your next kitchen cabinet project!

Thanks For Reading,

Josh

What DIY kitchen products have you completed?


Josh founded Money Buffalo in 2015 to help people get out of debt and make smart financial decisions. He is currently a full-time personal finance writer with work featured in Forbes Advisor, Fox Business, and Credible.