The look of wood countertops for way less from Thrifty Decor Chick Leave a comment

Hello there! The
huge built ins in the basement
are moving along quicker than I thought! I’ve become quite efficient at this
build over the years. 🙂 
first time I tackled this project
I used IKEA butcher block for the counters under the bookcases. It always
looks great! But from what I hear, IKEA doesn’t carry the
true butcher block anymore — the kind that is wood all the way
through. (If I’m wrong please let me know!) 
They had the best price I found anywhere for basic butcher I could cut and
stain. The last few times I’ve built built ins I’ve used a different tactic
for the counter. I first tried this on the
half wall bookcase
I made in our last house: 
Half wall bookcase with decor

This is a little trick that costs WAY less than “real” wood counters, and
it’s super easy to create. Because I needed to cover so much surface on this
current project, I knew this version would save us a ton of money. 

Instead of thick countertops, I just have a 4×8 panel of wood cut down to
the sizes I need: 

wood countertop on cabinets

This post may contain affiliate links for
your convenience. 

They will cut this down for you at most larger hardware stores. I picked
birch because it’s one of the most inexpensive options, but still looks

Unlike true butcher, the edges on these panels aren’t pretty — the “nice”
wood is just on the top, not all the way through: 

birch wood counters on cabinets

If you are OK with a thinner look for the counters on your built ins, you
can get banding for the edges. You just iron it on and then paint or stain
it to match the counters. 

But I prefer something a little thicker! My easy fix is to add this simple
“lattice” trim to the edges instead: 

thin lattice trim for DIY projects

I’ve used this
inexpensive trim for SO many projects! It’s just thin wood that is perfect for all kinds of fixes. You can usually
find it in a couple different thicknesses. 

I just cut it down to fit around the countertop:

trimming out wood for butcher block look

Make sure it’s level with the top of the counters while installing. Then I
sand down the corners a bit and then where the counters and trim meet. 

You can add stainable filler in between the two, but I don’t think it’s
necessary. After that you can treat the counters however you’d like — paint
or stain. I used my favorite stain color, Provincial by Minwax: 

provincial stain on birch

You can barely tell there’s trim on the front! Someone would really have to
look for it to notice. I promise — most people would never know you spent a
fraction of the money! 

One thing you’ll want to consider is that different types of wood will stain
differently — I used birch for the counters and my trim was pine, so they
matched up well. Some species won’t match perfectly when stained. 

Here’s a quick tip if you’re staining or protecting wood with polyurethane.
If I don’t have steel wool on hand, I’ll use a scrap piece of paper bag to
get the wood perfectly smooth instead:

sanding wood with paper bags

It works so well! You can use this in between coats and at the end — it
won’t mess up your finish at all. 

The little countertop trick will give you the look of thicker wood counters
for WAY less: 

Butcher block look counters for less

I would have spent at least $400 on birch butcher block counters for the
built ins. Instead I spent around $70 with this option. 

My advice would be to use this for areas that won’t get a lot of water, just
because of that tiny gap in between the counter and trim. 

It’s perfect for
built ins! I did this on my office bookcases as well: 

Dark green bookcases with wallpaper

I’m truckin’ right along on these! Here’s a sneak peek at the wallpaper I’m
using behind the bookcases: 

Gray tweed wallpaper on bookcases
You can find this same wallpaper a few places. It’s available on
and at

I’ll be back soon with another update on this big project! I’m SO DANG EXCITED
about it! 

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