Tag Archives: waterlox

Waterlox Kitchen Countertops: Almost Three Years Later

It was over three years ago that we were working on our Kitchen, and not quite three years ago that we finished the countertops.

At the time one of the hardest decisions was what to finish our wooden countertop with. In the end we went with Waterlox. It was supposed to be durable, food safe, low maintenance, non-chipping and easy to repair if the need arose.

The counter tops have taken three years of abuse and misuse by a family of 6 who didn’t always use a cutting board (but usually did), who didn’t always wipe up water, vinegar, ketchup or whatever else feel on the counter (but usually did) and who treated the counters like something meant to be used, and not like a piece of art.

This resulted in some expected damage, like nicks and scratches, as well as some unexpected blemishes, like water marks under the handle of the faucet,  a big circle that peeled off where ketchup had sat on it for an hour or so (oops), and occasional print transfers from plastic bags (??!!??).

So, we decided to refinish it before winter set in, so that we could have the windows open during the process. Waterlox is super stinky when it’s drying. I suppose I could’ve tried the low-VOC formula this time, but the original formula worked so well, and it’s so expensive per can that I didn’t want to risk it.

Before and after. The color change is mostly due to lighting, but the difference in sheen is pretty accurate.

I hit the damaged spots with a random orbital sander with a 120 grit pad on it. I sanded down until I couldn’t see the damage any more, and blended the sanded area into the surrounding still-good areas.

The top picture is after spot sanding all the blemishes. Below is after refinishing.
This black streak was writing from a plastic breadbag. This sort of transfer occurred several times, and we were never really sure why. Usually we could just scrub it with a dish rag and get it off, but occasionally it was stuck on too hard for that to work.

After sanding I applied two very thin wiped on coats to see if it would blend in. It did stick to the old waterlox seamlessly as it was supposed to, so we carried on.

Water damage under the faucet handle. Our hands were often wet when we turned it off, which usually meant a drop or two under the faucet all the time. After re-finishing I turned the handle to hang over the sink.

After the thinly wiped coats I applied several spot-specific coats in the areas where I had sanded, making sure to blend out from the sanded areas into the surrounding counter top.

I did this  to build up a coat that would be about the same thickness as the original coat so that the color would blend better.

Before and after showing how the new coats blended nearly seamlessly into the old.

Between each coat I wiped the counter with 1000 grit sandpaper to remove any bubbles and dust that had settled while it was drying, and then wiped it as clean as possible with a towel.

It’s so shiny again.

I lost track of how many coats I ended up putting on, but it was at least 8 coats, but probably 10 or 12. The final two coats were very thin wiped on coats to make sure that whole surface had the same wipe pattern.

It’s so shiny again.


Re-finishing the counter was slightly easier than if it had been polyurethane or something since the new finish blended so well with the old. However, it took just as long between coats for spot application as it did for whole counter application three years ago, so it wasn’t quicker.

We’ve been happy with the day-to-day performance of the Waterlox. It’s handled water, cuts, condiments and hot pans

I’m sure we would’ve abused a laminate countertop too, and we couldn’t replace or refinish laminate after only three years. Also, while Waterlox is expensive ($90ish/can) for a finish, the cost of a new countertop in comparison makes it seem cheap.

On the other hand, while laminate would’ve gotten beat up too, it probably would’ve still looked adequate. The wooden countertop was starting to get dark spots from where the Waterlox had been cut or dissolved by ketchup and then repeatedly gotten wet.

I still like the look of the wood better, but wood with Waterlox is more work than laminate would be.

So, if you want maintenance free, then wood + Waterlox probably isn’t the right choice. It looks great for a few years, but eventually you’ll need to take a week and refinish it. If, however, you like the look of wood countertops and you’re willing to do the maintenance then Waterlox seems to be a good option and I’m glad we went with it.

It’s so shiny again.
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Maple Drop-Leaf Waterfall Counter Top

When we were remodeling our kitchen we wanted a distinct look and something that wouldn’t break the bank. We also wanted something that would let us maximize space. So, we came up with the idea of a drop-leaf countertop.

Here’s a finished picture first.


01 - Final product first I hear that039s the thing to do

Here’s the before picture. We just had a typical laminate countertop. It worked well but was old and dinged up and was starting to delaminate at the ends.

02 - Here039s our old kitchen countertop

We found someone giving away a lot of used tongue and groove maple flooring from an old house in Minneapolis. I figured I could use that and make a countertop the same way I’ve made cutting boards, just bigger.

03 - FREE Maple tongues with nails

The first step was to cut a flat edge on all the boards. I set up a fence on the table saw and ran them all through. The tablesaw cut right through all the nails, no problem.

I used a cross-cut sled to cut off the tongue and grooves from the ends of the boards as well. Tongues and grooves don’t actually fit perfectly — there is enough space in there to account for warping and seasonal movement. With a countertop glue-up we don’t need or want those gaps.

At some point in here I used a belt sander to remove the polyurethane and other coatings from the top of the boards and to remove the traces of underlayment from the bottom.

04 - Tongues removed


After cutting everything we laid the boards out to double check that we’d have enough of the right shaped boards to make the countertop. We wanted to minimize butts on the front face, and make sure that any pieces near the end or sink were long enough to be strong. A little 3 inch stub at the end of the counter would be more likely to come loose in the future.

05 - Making sure I have enough for both counter tops


Once we had everything laid out I numbered the boards. the boards that were going to be part of the drop leaf join had to be drilled out, so I set up a jig on the drill press to get consistently placed holes.

With the holes drilled it was time for the real fun. We rolled up the living room carpet and laid down craft paper.  I bought some new clamps and started the glue up. I used Tightbond II, and a lot of it. I think we used a whole gallon.

06 - One round of gluing

There were several challenging things about this glue up. One was that I couldn’t get clamps underneath which meant that the pressure cupped the countertop a bit.

Another challenge was making sure that the hinge holes for the drop-leaf lined up. I ended up doing the glueup with the hinge dowel in place and then pulling it out once the clamps were on. I didn’t want it in there while the glue was wet in case glue got in the hinge.

The other major problem was that despite all being tongue and groove boards and all being cut with a fence on the table saw, the boards were not quite uniform hight. This meant that there were some dips and divots where boards met. Most of these we were able to fix by putting small shims under the short boards before gluing.

Lastly, it was a challenge to spread that much glue quickly enough so that the starting end wasn’t setting by the time we got to the other end.

07 - When the glue was partly set we scraped off the drippings with putty knives

The hinge holes worked out pretty well.

08 - Making sure that the hinge holes line up

As I mentioned, there was some cupping, so once the counter was dry I crossed my fingers and just stood on both edges and bounced. A terrifying crack later and it was flat (and cracked). It broke along a two seams which was good enough for me. I cleaned up those seams, flipped it upside down and re glued so it was flat.

Well, mostly flat. The next step was to move it to the garage. First we hit it with some hand planes, then the belt and random orbital sanders. My brother in law was good enough to help me out on this part.

09 - We used hand planes to get it flat

Next was the process of fitting the counter top. I had made it a little bit long because I knew that the back corner wasn’t square. We trimmed it several times until it fit very nicely.

10 - We left a hole to get the sink started

We also dry fit the drop leaf at this point. The hinges aren’t as tight as I would’ve liked, but they are what they are. The drop leaf hangs about 1/2 inch above the ground.

11 - Dry fitting the hinge

The next step was to install the sink. We wanted an under mount type sink, but we didn’t want it to actually be hanging there, so we built a frame for it to hang in. We opted for a farm style single basin sink so we can fit whole jelly roll pans in it for soaking.

12 - Underslung sing frame

With the sink in place it’s time to cut out the sink hole. This was very nerve wracking. I knew if I screwed it up there’d be a lot of work to make it right.

Since I had left a hole in the counter top, I stick my hand through the hole and traced the outline of the inside of the sink with a sharpie. I then cut out to the shape of the sharpie with a jig saw. That left about 1/4 inch of wood hanging over the sink and it was a little bit rough. I used the router with a flush bit to smooth it out, and then used a 45 degree bit to make a lip, followed by some work with a palm sander to smooth out the angles.

13 - With the sink in we can draw and cut the sink hole

I was still a bit concerned about the places which I’d cracked when flattening the counter top, so I drilled angled holes between pieces which looked troublesome and glued in short dowels for strength. Calvin and Sophie helped pound in the dowels.

14 - Here we039ve cut the sink out

Since this was tongue and groove there were grooves along the bottom edge around the sink. I used some of the cut off tongues, saw dust and glue to fill them in.

15 - Leftover tongues are used to fill in the grooves above the sink



We finished the counter tops with several coats of waterlox. It was really stinky for about two weeks but the smell faded over time and it’s supposed to hold up to abuse well and be waterproof.

16 - Applying waterlox

Here’s the dropleaf in the down position.

17 - Regular day-to-day-mode

And extended. We used two piano hinges and two pieces of plywood to create the legs. They fold flat and hide behind the drop leaf when it’s in the down position.

18 - Party mode

One more shot with that waterlox shine.

19 - Long view

Update: Feb. 28, 2017

Jeremy asked for a finished picture of the sink, so here’s one from today.

The silicone bead between the sink and the counter has held up well. It’s mostly clean and still sound.

The waterlox has mostly held up well. You can see fairly large chip in it near the lower left corner of the sink. That happened just recently. I’ll probably touch it up this summer. I’ll just do a light sanding on the whole thing, then apply more waterlox over the top. I’ll likely apply a new bead of silicone at that time too.

The countertop as a whole has held up really well, and we’ve been really happy with it. We’ve managed to not put any hot pots on it so far, and it cleans up easily. Some people on Reddit were extremely vocal that food and gunk would end up in the hinge and get gross. We haven’t found that to be the case. We don’t do most of our mixing right at the edge of the counter, so for the most part there aren’t opportunities for stuff to collect in there.

We flip up waterfall when we have parties and use it to serve food from, or when we’re cooking a lot, like when we’re making Christmas cookies and need space for 4 pans to be cooling while we mix up more dough at the same time.

Probably the only thing I would do differently, is that I would use this project as an excuse to buy a jointer and a planer. It worked out fine to do it on the tablesaw and I have no regrets, but the time saved with a jointer and planer could’ve been significant. On the other hand, there were nails in the boards and neither a jointer nor planer would’ve handled those as well as the table saw did.

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