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How To Refinish a Wood Countertop

Refinishing a Cherry Wood Countertop:

There is an unmistakable, unique look of quality when I see a solid wood counter-top. It is the mix warmth, character, and quality that makes it a popular and sought after choice in many high end kitchens. Many people have a perception that installing a solid wood counter-top is cost prohibitive and nothing dresses up the “cookie cutter” kitchen better than a solid wood counter top. Wood counters are gorgeous but require periodic maintenance.  If your wood counter top is stained, looking a little dull, or the finish is worn it is time to refinish it.  Learning how to refinish a wood countertop is easy. We always say “Refinish it don’t replace it!”

Refinishing a wood countertop can be a weekend project if you use the right methods and finish. The counter top in this article is Cherry and is approximately 60″ and 24′ long.  Areas around the cook top are stained from foods and there were several water stains visible from wet glasses.

The client asked us to us a product called EZ-DO.  EZ-Do is is a polyurethane gel that is a perfect match for Varnique finish butcher block products. It can also be used to convert a penetrating oil finish top to a Varnique finish.  EZ-DO Seals and protects wood surfaces. When deciding how to refinish a wood countertop you need to determine if you’re wood counter is going to be  mainly for aesthetic purposes or for general food preparation tasks, including cutting.   

Wood Countertop Finish

The EZ-DO finish is a Varnique semi-gloss, which is an excellent protection option for aesthetics but also allows you to roll dough and have direct food contact – NOT Cutting!  A Varnique finish is as close to maintenance free for a wood counter top as you can get.   
A varnique finish can be easily cleaned with mild soap and warm water and will not need to be refinished until it wears out. A Varnique finish is more resistant to water spotting and staining and it is also safe to use most non-harsh or abrasive household cleaning products.

What You Will Need:

The first step in preparing to refinish a wood countertop is to assemble the right tools.   Your three most important tools will be a cabinet scraper, a random orbital sander and a HEA tool activated vacuum  cleaner attached to your sander.

Here’s a list of what you should have:

How To Refinish A Wood Countertop:

Scrape the Counter:

The first step to refinish a wood countertop is to remove the old finish. Start by using your cabinet scraper and scraping the wood counter top with the grain of the wood.  A cabinet scraper eliminated using super aggressive sanding grits by removing the finish down to the wood surface. 

Cabinet scrapers lose their “edge” after 10 minutes of use.  Familiarize yourself with how to sharpen a cabinet scraper.  [you will need a mill file and a burnishing tool]

Hold the sharp cabinet scraper with both hands and at a low angle to the wood.  Pull the scraper over the wood surface – this takes some effort.   The shape of the burr on the scraper allows approximately 0.02 millimeters of material to be removed at a time. When working around items that are in place like a cook-top use the cabinet scraper and a hand held Sandvik type scraper.

Sand the Counter:

I started prepping the main counter wood surface with 80 grit to remove some of the stains that seeped into the wood.  I then worked my way up to 220 grit sand paper. 

I used a tool activated HEPA vacuum  by DEWALT to capture the saw dust.  the DEWALT vacuum turns on when the sander is turned on and stays on a few seconds after the sander is shut off to clear the vacuum hose of dust.   READ my review or watch a video review on this vacuum here. For edges and hard to reach areas I hand sanded and used small blocks of wood for sanding blocks.

Remove all Saw Dust:

Using a tack cloth I wipe the entire surface down several times with a tack cloth.

Applying the Finish:

One of the last but most satisfying steps in refinishing a wood countertop is applying the finish. The EZ-Do finish is super easy to apply and there is no need to worry about lap marks.  We applied the finish to the wood in 4 foot by 4 foot areas using a high quality brush and then wiped off the finish in circular motion using a clean rag. The beauty of using a finish like this is that it really is fool proof.  Its easy to apply, easy to use to repair sections and because you wipe it off with a rag there is no threat of unsightly lap marks.

Additional Finish Coats:

Allow the finish to dry per the manufacturer recommendations, sand with 400 grit, tack the surface and re- apply the finish.  several coats can be built up to provide a thicker coat of protection.

Benefits of using EZ-DO:   

Refinish a Wood Countertop Conclusion

If you follow these “refinish a wood countertop” steps and take your time in the preparation steps you will end up with a nice finish and years of protection for your wood counter top.  Learning how to refinish a wood countertop can be a rewarding and easy do-it- yourself project!


Installing a custom wood counter top

How To Refinish a Wood Countertop
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