Another chapter in the ongoing rehabilitation of my kitchen has concluded.  The long awaited butcher block countertops, on an indefinite hiatus due to a supply issue at Ikea, have finally been installed, after a labor intensive process that has become characteristic of the various jobs this house has dealt me 🙂

Work began with the removal of the old – a hideous pinkish laminate/veneer product that was presumably slapped on sometime mid-century.  A seemingly benign process at first approach, it became more complex as the layers became revealed.


The pink veneer was first removed, revealing a particle board substance that possessed, in equal parts, the properties of wet sawdust and reinforced concrete.  My initial attempts to remove only this layer were met with an hour of chiseling the substance off whatever it was glued to, which quickly evidenced itself as the original coin tiles that also comprise the flooring of my bathroom.

A beautiful and historic detail, my initial kneejerk reaction was to change courses entirely and attempt to preserve the tile as the new surface of my counters.  My approach throughout the ongoing work I have done has been to undue as much of the damage that occured in the 1950’s – 1990’s (read: wallpaper, vinyl, orange/brown paint, etc) by restoring the original lustre of the home in its wood, tile, and craftsman detail.  Alas, in this case it was not to be, as chips of  broken tile flew and a thick coat of Liquid Nails tested the very limits of my crowbar as I strained at it.  No, I had to go deeper.  Scouring the tiles off themselves was out of the question as I attempted to find the substrate they were fixed to and was met with more and more mortar.  Scraping away at the edge of this mortar, I found the bed of mortar to be 1-2 inches thick and realized that the task had just gotten harder.

When all was said and done, my initial estimation of prying up a sheet of laminate covered plywood and laying down the new butcher block was replaced with a 2 day crowbar job that left my entire house coated in a fine layer of concrete dust.

When I got to the backsplash, I was given the gift of an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone – create a more aesthetically pleasing and functional backsplash for my sink, as well as preserve an original detail from the home.  It may be difficult to see based on the image below, but the tile that was found underneath the coating of vinyl and Liquid nails was beautiful and intact, and matched the aesthetic of my kitchen remarkably well.

Finally, after two days of scraping, pry-ing, and hammering, the demo was done.  Out with the old… in with the new.

I sourced the materials (butcher block and stainless sink) from Ikea for under 200 bucks and set to work.  Thanks to some helpful guys at Creative Woodworking, I made some precision finish cuts on the butcherblock boards (after making some meticulous measurements) and even used the scrap to make 3 beautiful cutting boards (which now grace the homes of myself, my girlfriend, and my buddy Pete who helped me on installation day).

Install was pretty smooth.  The old adage “measure twice, cut once” paid off and I only had 1 minor measurement error to the tune of 1/16 inch, which was quickly addressed with a handheld skilsaw.  The original subtops of the counters are shown below, and proved to be fairly true and even (after an hour or so of nail removal and scraping).

Pete helped me with an extra set of hands (and eyes) while installing the counters, and the following day I made some finish cleanups, including touch-up painting, sealing the counters with a mineral-based oil, and cutting mitered and painted wood trim.  All of that with some liberal application of silicone sealant at all the seams and I’ve got a pretty spruced up and watertight new set of counters.  Sum total of the project was $400, including removal and dumping of debris, all materials and products.  Worth the facelift?  You be the judge: