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Bathroom Butcher Block

2014 February 23
by Becky

While letting out a deep breath, I can confidently say…the butcher block vanity countertop is done.

Remember our “little” master bathroom renovation? The one that has been going on for a month now? Yeah, it’s still going. This is real-life renovation people, none of this “Oh it fits perfectly!” and “Hey, there’s hardwood floors under here!”

In our family, that kind of luck is unheard of. We’re the people that have our babies much too early and slice open extremities at large home improvement stores. We could totally be one of those sad couples on “Renovation Realities” who get shut down in the first step due to a broken pipe or mis-measurement.

Somehow, we persevere. Harsh words may be screamed into pillows, but somehow we always get the job done.

When this project was starting, the plan was to use granite and be done with it. Have someone come in, measure, and shine up some pretty stone to slap on our old vanity. But things quickly turned in a different direction. To wood, or concrete.

Simple. Renewable. Inexpensive.

I even attended a course about concrete casting…just to see if it was for me. I was willing to try but issues like weight, framing, durability, and maintenance made me question it. I did quite a bit of research about Ardex Feather Finish but quickly found it scratch-prone and volatile. I only wanted to do this countertop once. So butcher block seemed to be our solution.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Fresh Butcher Block

After a small (week-long) setback due to ordering issues, Ikea had this gorgeous, 73″ butcher block countertop delivered to our door. Stu and I removed the (very heavy) cultured marble countertop with built-in sink—good thing I’m all recovered from my surgery and can do this stuff again!—and then we measured, measured, measured. Since there was a slight variance in the old top, we measured till it seemed our eyes would bleed before feeling confident in our cut…67.5″. We had one chance.

But…there’s a bowed wall in our bathroom.

Pretty tough to account for a significant bow in the tile wall that can only be noticed if you really look for it. Well, we didn’t think to really look and ended up with a good-size gap between the butcher block and the interior wall. Tears were almost shed. Words were said. Options like tearing out the sides of the old vanity (spacers to make it fit against the walls) were thrown around.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Butcher Block Back Splash

What did we do? Freaked out for a bit, then moved forward with the drywall, starting it just at the top of the butcher block to allow fudge-room. Our worries slowly started to dissipate and things got better. Trimming the width of the countertop provided us with the beautiful back trim piece to cover our uneven gap. We just hid the uneven gap at the back of the counter with the leftover piece of butcher block. Sure if someone were to get really close the check the way the back piece lines up with the butcher block there would be a discrepancy. It’s not perfect, but no one will EVER notice (until I tell them through a super public medium…like this blog).  

The more we did, the better things got until soon, it was time to secure the top into place.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Butcher Block Fitting

Look at that. It fits. And looks great! The small gaps on each side? No big deal. In fact, I’m not even sure we’ll do anything about them.

Right on.

Next up we had to pick a stain, though we were totally digging the natural wood look. Our whole house is trimmed in this beautiful dark wood, so we weren’t sure it would be OK to add a light tone in this room. Some testing was in order. The hubs grabbed several options on his twice-a-day run to the hardware store while I gave the butcher block a good sanding.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Stain Options

The Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner was a must, I applied it right away to the countertop and the piece of scrap. It helps provide an even stain throughout the different pieces of wood. Because I’m a visual person and can’t make any decisions until I’ve seen way too many options, I did this.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Stain Tests 2

The three that caught my eye were English Chestnut, Honey, and, of course, natural. I left them on the scrap piece for about five minutes, as recommended by the MinWax instruction, then removed. I’d always recommend testing stains because certain areas stain darker in less time, like the edges. Good to know before launching in to the real thing.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Stain Tests

If I were going to pick a color, it would be the Honey. It’s beautiful and reminds me of the wood throughout our house.  BUT…

After putting the wood conditioner on our new countertop, we couldn’t bring ourselves to stain it. The wood soaked the conditioner right up so I did second coat and finished with a couple coats of polyurethane. Done.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Sealing Countertop

We love how the rich, natural wood compliments the newly painted cabinets and gorgeous gray tile floor. Once we set the vessel sink on top, we were totally in love.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Butcher Block Complete

I breezed right though those last steps! When in reality, installing the sink, drain, and faucet took at least two trips to the hardware store and plenty of time. We needed a new hole saw for the faucet, longer water supply hoses, and a flexible pipe to help us move the main line to a more centered position (which may very well need to be updated in the future for code reasons), but for the most part, this stuff was smooth sailing.

We went with a centered faucet after seriously considering an off-set placement. After staring at both options for way too long, we went with the traditional centered look.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Testing Sink

Nothing makes me smile more than our handy work doing what it’s supposed to do. I’m head over heels for this set up.

In case anyone is wondering, this project has not been all that expensive. Painting the old vanity was a huge cost-saver…a similar one in the large size would have run around $1500. Ordering high-end looking fixtures on Amazon saved us a boat load (they all got great reviews so we’re confident everything will hold up) and getting the countertop from Ikea saved us roughly $1300 over ordering something custom at a home improvement store. The floor tile was very inexpensive too. We’re getting a lot of bang for our buck!


What do we have left? Well, that back wall of course. I have big plans for it. Plans that may or may not look totally amazing. Lighting, a mirror too. We also have a few trim pieces to add and a lot of trim to paint but at least it’s usable for now.

Master Bathroom Renovation - Sconce

No matter what, we’ve already taken this bathroom from shabby builder grade to beautiful and luxurious. Just a few new finishes make it feel like a real master bathroom.

Any next steps will be put on hold as Ethan and I are currently on our way to sunny Florida! Oh how we’ve dreamed of this escape from the Midwest chill. Bring on the beach and pool, we’re ready.




8 Responses
  1. Linda Johnson permalink
    February 24, 2014

    It all looks so beautiful. You did a great job and I cannot wait to see the lights and mirror…

    Have fun in Florida!!

  2. February 24, 2014

    Awesome job. Save some of those great ideas for our Florida get-away. It’s been a fun project with many more project opportunities.

  3. February 25, 2014

    All I can say is wow. You are brave. Love it!
    Jen recently posted..tot school: Letter HMy Profile

    • Becky permalink*
      March 4, 2014

      Thank you! It could also turn out to be a huge failure. We shall see!

  4. Barbara permalink
    April 8, 2014

    I need to refinish my butcher block kitchen counters. Ugh.

  5. chris permalink
    June 23, 2017

    Is there any finished photos of the bathroom wooden top. We are in the process of redoing our bathroom and I thought about using butcher block

  6. July 20, 2017

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