How to Create Faux Reclaimed Wood Countertops

Some of the biggest expenses in a kitchen remodel are countertops and cabinets. So what’s a budget-savvy Remodelaholic to do? Paint the cabinets and DIY the countertops, of course! Today’s guest has a fabulous tutorial to show you how to create beautiful *faux* reclaimed wood countertops, using new wood. Don’t they look great in her farmhouse style kitchen?

DIY Faux Reclaimed Wood Countertops, By The Ragged Wren Featured On @Remodelaholic

If farmhouse or reclaimed wood aren’t your style, there are lots of other DIY kitchen counter options, too:

diy glossy painted countertopsglossy painted countertops diy copper countertopscopper countertops faux-marble-countertop-tutorial-Batchelors-Way-on-Remodelaholicfaux marble countertops
diy stainless steel countertopsstainless steel countertops diy concrete countertopsconcrete countertops diy painted faux granite countertopsfaux granite countertops

And now, buckle up and take a ride with Alyson (remember her camping tent bed tutorial?) to learn how to create your own faux reclaimed wood countertops:

How to Create Faux Reclaimed Wood Countertops

by Alyson of The Ragged Wren

Hi all, I’m Alyson. I am so excited to be a guest on Remodelaholic! When I originally found this blog, I knew I had found my place. I am definitely a remodel-aholic, decor-aholic, and paint-aholic…which you can read all about, over at my blog The Ragged Wren. I have been a  faux painter for almost 14 years now (gosh that makes me feel old). I love my job….as style, and design changes, I keep changing right along along with it. Not so much conforming, but creating new, and better ideas. It’s an addiction really, which can get expensive…really expensive (just ask my husband). So to keep things budget friendly, we do the work ourselves. Luckily my husband is quite handy, so we make a really good team!

We bought our current home almost 2 years ago (it’s still not finished of course…my work is never done). The kitchen was the space I was most excited about. I paint so many people kitchens, and cabinets on a day-to-day basis, that I knew exactly what  I wanted in my kitchen. I knew I could turn this ugly, builder-grade kitchen into my dream kitchen.

With pressing schedules at work for both of us, it wasn’t even addressed for 8 months after we moved in. It’s a terrible feeling walking into a ugly kitchen, knowing you have the ability to fix it, and no time.

So we finally made time to start our remodel just after Christmas in 2012, when we both had off.
I had this big plan, for black leathered granite counter tops for the island, and a beautiful white and grey granite for the other counters. After getting my first quote, we realized it was way out of our budget…and I wan’t going to give in on quality for cost!

So I decide we would have to make them ourselves. First we looked at using real reclaimed wood. I found some gorgeous planks, that had been torn off of an old barn. They were wide and had such great character. Then, I found out you had to “plane” them 1-2 times to get them to a usable state…which would take all the character away. So we decided it wasn’t worth the money.

We realized our only option was to start with “new” wood, and make it look “old”.

I didn’t want it to look like butcher block, so we played around with several sizes, and types of woods. We finally decided on Poplar.
To do a trial run, we focused on the island counter, and vent hood. They seemed like things that would still go, if we decided to scrap the other counters, and go with granite.

Here is where the kitchen started….

kitchen before faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

kitchen before reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

I know…blahh! For the record…not my faux painting job on the walls 🙂

Here is the kitchen after the remodel…..

kitchen remodel with faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

white kitchen with faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

The counters here, really make the kitchen. They play such a big part in the farmhouse feel of the kitchen, that we couldn’t have gotten from granite.

Here’s how we did it… 

You can see the whole kitchen remodel over at my blog.

To start, we took off the laminate counters. Only a couple of screws hold it on from the underneath, so no biggie there.

remove old countertops to replace, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic Next we installed a plywood base. This is the spot to make changes to your existing layout/footprint, if you have the room. We extended the island out an additional 4″ from it’s starting point. We also added decorative molding, and legs, to give it more of a furniture feel, and add to the stability.

install new plywood base for faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

The plywood was screwed directly into the cabinet base, and 4 “L” brackets were used underneath the overhang. Adding several nails, helped hold it in place, for installation.

L brackets to install plywood countertop base, faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

For the the top layer of wood, we used Poplar. Pine is already a yellow colored wood, so stain takes even yellower. Poplar tends to have a green tint to it, but a stain with a red tint to it, can counteract this.  This is also considered a soft wood, but one of the harder ones. Pine would have shown to many dents. The poplar will show a little bit over time, but that just adds to the character.

We chose 2 widths of planks (so it didn’t take on a perfect, butcher block look), 6″ and 8″.  We took the easy way out, by having the guys at Lowes cut our wood for us…cheating I know, but a major time savor. Mapping out the sizes, and placements was key here.

The first thing we attached was a 1 1/4″ thick piece of Pine trim. This, when finished, will give the appearance of the wood being ticker than it really is. We mitered the edges, leveled it with the top of the plywood, and screwed it directly into the sides of the plywood. The holes were filled with wood putty. Its alot harder to get a good seam here if the top pieces are already on. So doing this first is important.

poplar planks to make faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

finished edge of faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

Next each piece of poplar was screwed on, starting from one side working to the other. This is a two person job. My husband screwed from underneath the plywood, into the poplar, while I held pressure on the top of the board (sometimes having to lay on it to give it pressure, like in the center). Make sure the screws your using aren’t to long, you don’t want them poking through. They just need to be long enough to catch a bit of the poplar, and don’t counter sink them. Don’t worry if the boards aren’t  perfectly level, it’s meant to look like reclaimed wood, so it shouldn’t be perfect!

Here it is after all the piece are put on.

faux reclaimed wood countertop on kitchen island, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

The corners ended up being pretty sharp, and with little ones that run laps around our kitchen, we had to take those down a bit. I just used a palm sander, and wore down anything that had a hard edge.

sanded rough worn corners for faux reclaimed wood counters, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

 Since the counters are supposed to look old, I ran the sander down the center of the seams as well, between each board. Making a deeper grove in some areas, by alternating pressure.

imitating wear and tear on faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

To rough up the tops of the counters, and give them an aged look….I used some top secret tools and objects from around the house.

A chicken wire basket….hold it over the area, and bang in one quick hard motion…super high tech, I know (no baskets were harmed in the making of this counter).
DIY reclaimed wood countertops from new wood! Get the tutorial from The Ragged Wren at

A large garage hook…This will get damaged, so don’t plan on using it again. A large screw, with a heavy thread, would work here too. I held it down, and whacked the threaded end, sometimes dragging the marks close together like scratches. Other times, making rows.

Common tools create the perfect reclaimed wood look -- The Ragged Wren on

I also used the pointed end of the hook to make grouping of holes. Use a hammer to get a deeper hole.

how to give faux reclaimed wood countertops character, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
Staining was next.

I’d love to give you some secret formula, but as with most of the stuff in my house, there was a lot of make it up as you go. I made lot of samples, using the scrap woods…this is about half of them 🙂 My husband is very picky visual, and needed to see the final product, to commit.

stain faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
Make samples for yourself…I would try small cans of stains, writing down what you do, as you do it. I had all of these marked with codes. Make sure your looking at them in your rooms lighting. We ended up changing out our fixtures bulbs, to a bright white kind. This gave us a more natural light in the area, and not so yellow, as with a standard bulb.
I finally decided on a combination of several stains. To get a variation of color you need more than one color of stain.
I used three stains…”Summer Oak” by Rust-oleum, “Dark Walnut” by Minwax, and “Sun Bleached” by Rust-oleum.
mix stains for a reclaimed wood countertop, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

I mixed a tiny bit of the colors together, and added a good amount of paint thinner. About 1 cup of thinner, to half a cup of stain. This really thins out the stain, making it a build-able color. I used a foam brush and started off with a light coat. Raw poplar takes stain very quickly. The paint thinner will allow the dark stain the penetrate down to each pore of the grain…which gives it that aged look, unlike straight stain.

Turn new wood into reclaimed wood using stain and some tools -- easier than you think! -- The Ragged Wren on
Beautiful faux reclaimed wood kitchen counters | The Ragged Wren on
The stain will get lighter as it dries (you can keep building the base darker, with more layers of stain). 

While the layer was damp, and not dry all the way through the wood…I took a darker version of the stain (still thinned out), and with the edge of the foam brush I started to highlight areas of the grain. You don’t want the wood to be completely dry, because the stain would be harsh, and stay right were you touched the wood. When the wood is wet, and the stain is thin, they bleed together, giving a softer aged appearance.

 As the stain would dry I would go over, and over certain areas, to build the color.
use layers of stain to build color on faux reclaimed wood counter, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
Making it heavier over knots, or any distress areas, and down the seams of the planks.
build stain to create authentic reclaimed wood look | The Ragged Wren on
Here you can see the variation in the color…
details of faux reclaimed wood countertops, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
reclaimed wood kitchen counters | The Ragged Wren on
Sealing this all in, and making it kid proof was key!

The best (and only in my opinion) product for this is Waterlox. Just like the name says, it “locks” out the water by sealing the pores. The can runs about $40, and covered all my counters, with left overs. I used what they call a “medium sheen” here. I purchased this at a specialty wood store here in town, it’s not carried at the local hardware store.

This stuff is REALLY stinky! Be warned.
waterlox to seal faux reclaimed wood countertop, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

I applied this with a foam brush, going in the direction of the grain. Coat the surface with one thick coat. Once you have a full coat on, don’t touch it again. The sealer will start to pool together as it dries, so don’t worry about brush strokes. Some areas will dry faster than others, almost immediately. These are areas that are really porous, and this is the sealer going down as far as it can get.

Once its completely dry, (24 hours is good), repeat this step. You will keep doing this until all of the sealer is sitting on the surface (no more fast drying spots), this layer will take the longest to dry. I put on 4 coats…which yes, meant almost 4 days, but this is such and important step, you don’t want to get impatient here (not easy for me).  I lightly sanded between each coat, with a very fine grit. The wood starts to pucker, as the moisture is dries out of it, and can feel slightly rough.

When dried completely, the “medium sheen” looks more like a gloss, kind-of wet.

waterlox sealed faux reclaimed wood counter, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
how to take the gloss off of waterlox sealed wood counter, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
To take away the newness, and the gloss, I took the palm sander, laid flat, and gave the top a good sanding. Don’t worry about changing the durability of the wood. The grain is filled with the sealer, so taking off part of the top layer still keeps that intact.
We did lots of food, sauce, and water tests, before moving onto the rest of the counters. I even left water overnight, and it never soaked in, not a drop! I don’t have a single stain yet either (and they have had their share of stain-able junk, globbed on them).
waterlox to seal wood countertop, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
Build Your Own Faux Reclaimed Wood Countertops,The Ragged Wren On @Remodelaholic

[pinit align=”center” url=”” image_url=”[email protected]Remodelaholic–533×800.jpg” description=”DIY Wooden Countertops with a faux reclaimed wood finish. Beautiful! #remodelaholic #wooden counter tops #DIY kitchen”]

We made a vent hood, using the same treatment.
faux reclaimed wood range hood | The Ragged Wren on

diy wood range hood, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

And finished off the rest of the counters…. a month later.

faux reclaimed wood kitchen counters | The Ragged Wren on


white rustic kitchen, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic
white rustic farmhouse kitchen with DIY reclaimed wood counters, The Ragged Wren on Remodelaholic

Its been a year now, and they have held up so well. I am 110% satisfied with the end result. I wouldn’t even  trade them for granite at a really cheap price!

We don’t really use them as a cutting board but I guess you could, we get that question alot.

So how much did it cost?
The Island
-Poplar boards
-Pine edging
-Plywood base
-Cabinet trim pieces (pine)
-Wood posts (pine)
Total Island Makeover $272!!
Main Counters
-Poplar boards
-Pine edging
-Plywood base
-Trim molding (for the back splash seam)
Total Wood Counter Cost $372
I would say that’s a whole heap cheaper than granite, and totally in my budget!!
It may seem like alot of work, but it’s really very simple, just lots of layers, and some patience (which I am not known to have). The biggest task is getting the project mapped out on paper, determining what sizes of wood, and how much.

From there it’s just a screw driver, a sander, and a paint brush!

Our house style, is farmhouse, meets beach house… these were the perfect fit!

Check out the rest of the kitchen remodel, and all sorts of DIY, remodeling, how-to’s, and painting projects over at my blog, The Ragged Wren.

[pinit align=”center” url=”” image_url=”[email protected]Remodelaholic-533×800.png” description=”DIY Wooden Countertops with a faux reclaimed wood finish. Beautiful! #remodelaholic #wooden counter tops #DIY kitchen”]
Budget Friendly Diy Wooden Kitchen Countertops, By The Ragged Wren Featured On @Remodelaholic


Amazing work, Alyson! I love the finished kitchen, every last bit of it!

Visit Alyson over at The Ragged Wren to see more of her room makeovers, like her daughter’s shabby beach bedroom.. Plus, Alyson is a professional painter and she shares a ton of great painting tips, like how to paint cabinets like a pro, how to paint wood floors, and the ever-so-helpful white primer vs. gray primer
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  1. Wow – I am loving your countertops! Great job! We just bought our first home and am dying to get rid of the white tile countertops. I love the look of granite but my bank account doesn’t like the price. (Yikes!!) So I have been looking into DIY wood countertops. My question to you is, how does it hold up to heat? I see that using the waterlock makes the countertops hold up to water and not stain, but what happens with heat? With the tile countertops, I can pull something right out from the oven and place it on some pot holders without worrying about the tile countertops. Is this something I could do with the wood also? Thank you so much in advance for taking the time to answer my question.

  2. You used Waterlox good call!
    I would have gone to a lumber yards though and got 8/4 4s4 for the counters.

  3. First of all – gorgeous Countertops! Second – did you install a vapor barrier over the dishwasher against moisture? 🙂 and third – how did you go about screwing in the boards over the dishwasher?

    1. Hi there, I just built theses myself, and for the dishwasher area, I built them first (the planks and plywood) offsite, then installed them using construction glue, screws in the corners on the adjacent cabinets, and 25 lb weights above the dishwasher.

  4. LOVE everything about this! My hubby and I making our own dining room table. Does the Waterlox change the color or the stain at all? Also, what grit of sandpaper did you use in between the layers of Waterlox? Do you need to sand before that initial coat? Thank you so much!!!

  5. Looks great. I’ve watched a lot of videos and don’t see people putting plywood under the counter top. Did you put plywood underneath yours. The counter top, not the island. I saw that you did that there ,but I wasn’t clear if you did that on the counter tops too.

  6. I am just wondering how the cracks filled. Did the sealer fill them up so you don’t get crumbs and food down them. Thanks Lisa

  7. Stunning! I have a stand alone butcher block that I will be keeping in the remodel, but one thing I love about it is that I can take pans and sheets out of oven and set straight on it with no pads. Is this possible with these countertops?

  8. Did you stain I am using lumber liquidators for the butcher block and wanted to stain then water lox. Was thinking of using buildes maple had more rustic look…

  9. Hi Cass,

    Really love what you’ve managed to do with your kitchen make over. Very helpful information. Having that it has been some time now since the makeover, could you share your impression of the Ikea sink and mixer? We are considering whether to buy similar units at a much greater cost or to trust in the quality of the Ikea units? Could you share you experiences with us please.

  10. We built a farmhouse table last year. Still love it but boards shrunk quite a bit. Did you have any issues with poplar boards?

  11. This is a fantastic post of step by step directions for a wooden countertop and I am pinning it immediately to refer back when I begin my project! Your countertops are just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your information.

  12. Hi! I am following the steps you listed to create my own wood counter tops. Question, Why did you use two pieces of plywood as the base? Was it to increase the height of the counter?


  13. Hi, just wondering if you could update on your countertops? How have they lasted?? We are getting ready to make our own, and we want to follow your plan, because you seem like you did your homework to ensure durability.

  14. This counter is great. It added a few details I had not considered as I prep for our own project.

    I’m curious when you say you used 3 stains – did you blend them or use each one separately?


  15. Loved this! My question would be, can I do the same but instead of staining, can I do a faux finish? Would that be waterproof or could I still need the waterlox? We are in the process of remodeling our kitchen and are weighing our options for countertops. Please advise!!! Thanks!