Does anyone have VARNISHED (not oiled/waxed) wooden countertops?

lcehSeptember 27, 2007

I really want wooden countertops in my cottage-style kitchen, but I am NOT interested in the current vogue for oiled/waxed wood counters -- too risky, with red wine, tomatoes, and water splashing everywhere! I would like to finish the wood with either a marine varnish, a polyurethane, or bowling alley finish. (Yes, I know they're not "edible", but I don't plan to eat the varnish or chop food directly on the counter). Does anyone have varnished or otherwise permanently sealed wooden countertops? How have they held up, especially around the sink and stove? Can you buy a good finish product that has a satin finish rather than a high-gloss?

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dirtdigging101

i had some great wood in my last house and so we had wormy maple countertops, sealed with satin poly from lowes several coats lived there two years and never a problem, had 3 glasss cutting boards for prep and hit things and was fine, just had to use caution and care a bit more than usual but was ok. and the unique wood counters just about sold the house and if u want it go for it

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 3:57PM
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reyesuela

I have some in the bathroom of a 40+ year old house. There is discoloration where the soap apparently used to sit, but it looks amazingly good.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 4:05PM
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vjrnts

I had a small expanse of varnished wood in my old kitchen; the finish was checking and peeling. It was over the dishwasher, next to the sink so it was subject to a lot of water over the years. I don't know what it was finished with; I bought the house two years ago and it was in place at that time.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 4:21PM
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Fori is not pleased

You can get satin and other levels of low-gloss varnishes in the good marine stuff (like spar varnish). I guess it's technically polyurethane these days and not "varnish", but it IS good stuff. Be careful with how the dishwasher vents because steam might be to much for it, and it might not be up to code near a range or cooktop (but I don't KNOW that).

I have seen but never owned wooden countertops and I agree with you that varnish is more appealing than oiled from a sanitary and maintenance perspective. Using a polyurethane is essentially plastic-coating your wood. What could go wrong? You might have to refinish it every few years, but it's not too hard--you won't have to strip it first unless someone goes crazy with a knife.

There used to be available (and probably still is) a "bar-top" varnish that was designed for heavy-use areas like, well, bars. Test a few different cans of stuff and see which holds up best. And maybe see which smells least bad (or least long) because you will be refinishing once in a while...

    Bookmark   September 27, 2007 at 4:44PM
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jenswrens

I too thought we could only use oil on our wood countertops, but after a few months I got really tired of doing it, it was a messy gross procedure, and it never really looked good. We don't cut on the countertops either, but I still didn't want a polyurethane or something toxic. I did want something that didn't require so much maintenance. So we sanded the tops down to get rid of the oil, applied mineral spirits, and decided to Waterlox them. OMG, what a difference. I love the way they look and feel now. They've held up great, even around the sink.

Waterlox is a tung-oil finish, but it doesn't need to be renewed monthly or built-up over time like mineral oil, so it's really not like "oiling the countertops." We used the Waterlox Original, which has a semi-gloss finish, but they do sell a satin finish as well (see the Products page at the link below). You probably don't want the marine or "bar-top" finish for your kitchen - brings to mind those awful super shiny tables in the restaurants in Florida I remember from my youth - you know with ropes and shells embedded in them. :-) Anyway, you can recoat without sanding, and it is super-easy to apply. It dries to a hard finish, and water beads up on it.

Here are some photos. This was after just one coat. They recommend 3-4 coats. Tung oil is non-toxic, but it is made from nuts, so be cautious if you have someone allergic to nuts in your household.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waterlox

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 12:08PM
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kailleanm

Beautiful counters!!

We have varnished wood all around the galley in our sailboat. Our galley is directly under the main hatch. It is a VERY wet environment. The wood looks awesome. Every few years we sand a little and apply a couple more coats to keep it looking great.

Get marine spar varnish. You can get any finish you like. The low gloss versions look lovely.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 5:28PM
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dab07

jenswrens,

that looks like a really nice finish! does the waterlox have a strong odor or last a long time after applying? (finishes often give me headaches....)

also, where did you get your counters?

thanks

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 11:43PM
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peachym1984

Jen - is the countertop still holding up? We have butcher block countertops too (actually an old bowling alley) and I want something other than vegetable oil to put on them too.

Great pictures!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 10:11AM
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gardenergwen

We too used Waterlox on our butcher block island (from Ikea) and love the finish. Waterlox is great in that it comes in different finishes (Satin, Semi-Gloss, Gloss), can be applied over stains (most people feel safest using food-grade types), and is really impervious to water when it dries. It is very easy to apply however there is a little odor that quickly fades as the finish cures.

DeVos Woodworking used to have a webpage loaded with pictures of their wood countertops with Waterlox but the site seems to be down at the moment.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 10:59AM
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trailrunnerbiker

Waterlox here too on teak. You will never regret putting it on. Takes a minute to wipe on and smells for a couple hours and then gone. Never sand again . We have it all around the gas cooktop, deppfat fryer and sink. Here is the link to info.

Here is a link that might be useful: Waterlox

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 11:29AM
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