Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bathroom Countertop Tutorial

In our recent bathroom remodeling project, the main focal point is definitely our custom countertop. It looks beautiful now but it was quite the process getting there!

The bathroom is very tiny and is especially narrow when you first enter making the position of a vanity awkward, no matter where it's located on the wall. The vent in the floor and needed standing room for when you get out of the shower also limited the possibilities. This meant the position of the sink had to stay in the same place. Shallow depth vanities are difficult to find and are usually not very attractive - especially in this bathroom where it sticks from the middle of the wall. Since I knew I wouldn't find one I liked, and custom is always better than plopping in a store-bought cookie-cutter piece, I started playing with the idea of a full-length counter top to span the entire length of the bathroom.

Once I figured out the full length, free standing counter top was what I wanted to do, I had to start working on a template, as well as a material choice. Granite, concrete, or another kind of solid surface was out due to the weight (not to mention the cost!). I thought about laminate but I really wanted this counter top to be "carved out" rather than built. Looking at the redwood slab table I used in the Home and Garden Show, it hit me: "what about wood?!"

Originally I wanted a slab of wood, preferably with unfinished edges. I spent an entire day researching and calling lumber yards from Cleveland to Kentucky to find something the right depth with one unfinished edge. I knew it could be planed to the thickness I wanted. Unfortunately, after an entire day, I still couldn't find what I wanted! Most places just did not carry pieces that wide (21"), or they were ridiculously expensive.

I don't know how it popped into my brain but a few days later I thought about butcher block. I thought maybe if I could stain it and clear coat it I could still get the effect I wanted. I started searching for butcher block and found the perfect top at Ikea, for $59! Awesome.

Once I had the countertop the first thing I did was (well, after it sat around my house for a couple of months!) cut it to length and then cut it to the depth I wanted. I wanted it as shallow as possible leaving more space in the room but still deep enough to accommodate the vessel sink and still look balanced. The faucet was offset to allow us to cut it back an extra couple of inches. Once the depth was cut, we traced the located of the sink onto the top and cut the hole for that. Then I traced the rest of the shape onto the top from template I created based on the curve of the sink and the door swing. This took some time to get right and once it was cut it took even more time to sand all the curves until they were perfectly smooth and graceful (thankfully my awesome brother did that for me!! Thanks John!)

Once all the edges were sanded, we carried it down to the basement where it was stained with my favorite stain color, dark walnut by minwax.

After about 3 coats of the stain I began the polyurethane. This was the hardest process of the entire thing! I could not get an even coat on the countertop without getting a bazillion bubbles in the finish. I followed the directions to a t: sand lightly between coats, wipe off all the dust, and even bought the recommended brush. Thinking a new brush would do the trick, I bought a total of 4 different brushes at more than $10 each.....almost doubling the cost of the countertop, haha. At least the brushes can be used again. I bought all different types of bristles trying to find the right one. Eventually I gave up and got a different polyurethane. I've had great luck with this one in the past but didn't go with it originally because its water soluble and being around a bathroom sink I didn't think it would hold up. So far it's worked like a charm - I love Rustoleum products! It goes on super smooth with no bubbles. It also has a milky color to it when it goes on so you can make sure you have an even coat and see exactly where it's been applied. It also dries harder than regular polyurethane, has a faster drying time AND cleans up with soap and water. I highly recommend this product to anyone! After about 5 coats of polyurethane (I seriously lost count!) it finally has a nice glassy coating.

To install the countertop, we simply ran a 1"x3" board along the back wall and one of the sides. The other side already had a wall built out that the original banjo top sat on. This wall was left and the new countertop took its place. The countertop was screwed in place from underneath. We also added decorative brackets on either side of the sink for extra support at the deepest part. Its pretty sturdy but so far I haven't been brave enough to try to stand on it.....Maybe I'll make Brian do that, haha.

That's about it for the countertop. I gave up a little bit of storage space from the vanity but I feel it was well worth it. The curves in the vanity soften the lines in the bathroom and visually make it seem much larger.  The huge mirror that runs the entire length, the long back splash, and the streamlined light fixture all help carry the horizontal emphasis making the room feel longer - a success in my book!


1 comment:

  1. What kind of saw did you use to cut the butcher block?