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Oak Counters

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  • Oak Counters

    I am putting together a quote on a modern style kitchen. Customers would like to use IKEA oak counters. These are raw wood counters that come in 96 x 26 slabs, 1 1/2 thick. The layout would require splicing, and also we would be doing a mitered corner to the ground (see attached SU render).

    I've installed maple butcher block before, but never oak, and am wondering how well adapted oak is to the kitchen environment, how to treat splices (one at sink, one at stove would be the least visible) and miters

    Any thoughts are appreciated.

  • #2
    Re: Oak Counters

    You probably don't want to hear it, but this looks like a disaster in the making to me. I recommend against wood countertops near a sink. I have installed them in the past, then torn them out a few years later when the wood has turned ugly from mold and fungus stains. Very difficult to keep water from penetrating the wood. Even the best, most meticulously applied finish will deteriorate over time. Water will find a way in.

    And if the client wants to use the countertop as a cutting board, you don't want a film finish (I use mineral oil in this case).

    Can you talk the client into a different surface at the sink? Transition to stone or something?

    Oak works fine as a cutting board. Just keep it away from the sink. My .02

    Try to learn from other people's mistakes---you'll never have time to make them all yourself


    • #3
      Re: Oak Counters

      i have done those ikea butcher block counters twice now . cannot comment on how they held up ,have never seen them again .do not see why they would be different then working with the oak .i used a combination of pocket screws and biscuits .Had those goffy things used for to pull the joints /miters tight on laminent counters but the pocket screws worked so much better,faster easier .


      • #4
        Re: Oak Counters

        On one hand my gut wants to suggest telling the clients no - it's not going to be durable and after a few years will look like crap around the sink and to a lesser degree the stove area. Solid wood will need to be able to move since it will probably grow and shrink with the seasons at least 1/8" in width - hard to allow it to move and to keep it flat - maybe use washer head screws and oversize holes to attach it.

        If they realize the lifespan of this countertop is limited unlesss they are meticulous about taking care of it then there's probably not any harm building it as they are thinking. I'd use an oil based polyurethane and fill the pores so it's a lot like a hardwood floor as far as finish goes - that will give them the most durability - forget using it as a cutting board! Also, the sink cutout will need to be well sealed with multiple coats of poly and the sink needs to be carefully caulked.

        I don't see 1/2" solid wood being worth a crap for any countertop let alone a kitchen. Ikea is not a high bar to strive for.


        • #5
          Re: Oak Counters

          Don, he mentioned 1 1/2", because of line return the "1" was in the previous line.
          As far as use goes, oak is an open grain wood. Unless you are going to finish it glass smooth with many coats of acrylic, it's not a wise choice IMO. If it is mainly for the look and they are really set on it, I would have them sign a release stating that they understand the nature of the wood and will not use the surface for cutting on. You don't cut on stone, concrete or corian either.
          I think it would make for a striking look. There are many marine grade finishes available and the mitered corners of the downlegs should be made using a marine epoxy. Use a couple of rows of biscuits or the domino and add a cleat block to back-up the joint.
          As long as everybody is on the same page as to the risks, I think you should proceed, but cover yer keister. ;-)

          It's better to try and fail, than fail to try.


          • #6
            Re: Oak Counters

            I'm not going to comment on the suitability of Oak or any hardwood as a CT. There is no accounting for taste or common sense.

            I would advise them to concentrate on the finish and spend some time coming up with a system that properly seals the wood and is food friendly. Every surface has to be properly sealed to get any sort of life out of the CT. I'm using System 3 epoxy coating on some outdoor furniture I'm building at the moment. It basically petrifies any wood if you follow the instructions.

            I've installed products from IKEA once and I followed IKEA's instructions to the letter, got the job inspected and a cheque in my hand before I left the building. I offered no warrantee on it.

            I would handle the joints just like any other CT installation. Keep the joint away from wet areas. Mirror cut the joints (run a router or a saw with a straightedge between the 2 pieces to to get a perfect fit). Draw bolts every 8 inches. I would use draw bolts because their use insures that any movement that occurs won't affect the joint. You can spline it if you like but I wouldn't use biscuits or dominos because they might telegraph, If I did I'd use domino Sipos.(apparently they aren't affected by MC)

            Ordinary wood glue should be fine in the joints but if you are at all concerned about moisture use Tightbond 3 or better yet an epoxy like West System. I would use a spline or dominos with epoxy because I'm not sure if it would be glue starved by squeezing the bolts down to zero gap. The bolts can hold the joint on their own and the glue is mainly to seal it (it is an end grain butt after all) but a little overkill help us sleep better at night. ;-)


            • #7
              Re: Oak Counters

              I'd be looking to push a farm style/slide-in sink w/ back deck instead of under mount and as noted make sure you preseal all edges & surfaces. Heat and water will be the enemies.
              “I find the curiosity of our men with respect to this animal is pretty much satisfied.”
              ~ Meriwether Lewis


              • #8
                Re: Oak Counters

                Ikea's countertops are actually a pretty good deal. I've used them as the desktops in my office for several years now. Hard to beat them for the price.

                Mine are the 1-1/8" Beech but I've seen the 1-1/2" Oak ones as well. The one downside from traditional butcher block is that fingerjoints are exposed on the edges. Also, the individual pieces tend to be narrower and shorter. My workbench is a John Boos hard maple butcher block top and it looks so much better.

                I would not use them with an undermount sink in a kitchen. If you do it, they'll blame you when it fails. Also, I don't think you will be able to splice them and achieve an acceptable joint. No matter how good your method is the straight line between the two is going to stick out like a sore thumb because the pieces are not laced together.
                Last edited by Joe Adams; 05-02-2012, 10:13 AM.
                Joe Adams
                Deep Creek Builders, Inc.
                Houston, Texas


                • #9
                  Re: Oak Counters

                  If you're talking about splicing butcherblock end to end I wouldn't do it. that's end grain. If there was no alternative, I'd crosscut the ends and incorporate some mechanical countertop bolts to suck the joint together from underneath along with a few dominos to align parts.

                  Ironically, I have two of these very slabs on my workbench right now. I ran them through my jointer, cut dominos and used titebond 3 to glue them into a single 4 ft wide x 6 ft slab for a kitchen island. But, thats a long grain to long grain glue up-not end to end.
                  Last edited by pablodomingo; 05-02-2012, 01:47 PM.


                  • #10
                    Re: Oak Counters

                    I Goog'd "problems with Ikea countertops" there's some info avail - initial look - looks like a decent product.

                    looks like this is a common finishing system. Goog says they are oiled (not sealed) at the plant - be aware of added finish.


                    Look at Waterlox FAQ - Projects page.
                    Last edited by Happy Home; 05-02-2012, 02:41 PM.

                    "Get three coffins ready" - A Fistful of Dollars 1964



                    • #11
                      Re: Oak Counters


                      Thanks for all you input. I was hesitant before, now I'm more hesitant. I will use the info you all provided and attempt to dissuade them (at the least inform them of my reservations with more info to back it up).

                      We did talk about a chunk of stainless steel surrounding the sink, then wood from there out, but that does still leave a seam to collect moisture and junk. Stone would be so much cleaner and lower maintenance...


                      • #12
                        Re: Oak Counters

                        1-1/2" is much better than what I thought you were saying! lol The key is in the finish - fill the pores, seal it really well, then add another coat :)


                        • #13
                          Re: Oak Counters

                          Phil is on the right track with using a marine grade finish. I would also finish both sides especially near the sink and dishwasher.




                          • #14
                            Re: Oak Counters

                            I'd sand them out and leave the choice of topcoat to the owner. Waterlox is great stuff but I don't believe its foodsafe. Mineral oil is inexpensive and is foodsafe.


                            • #15
                              Re: Oak Counters

                              A few years ago I refinished some cherry counter tops for a customer. She had a granite insert near the sink and wanted a similar one near the stove for hot pots. Insert came from the local granite guy's endless supply of sink and stove cutouts. I turned the countertop cutout into a nice cutting board for my own kitchen.

                              - Rich