How to Finish Wood Countertops

Wood countertops bring a touch of class to any kitchen
Wood countertops bring a touch of class to any kitchen (Image: Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images)

The two categories of finishes for wood countertops are food preparation oils and waxes or permanent waterproof finishes. A good finish for a wood countertop will seal the wood and block moisture from penetrating into the wood. Be aware that some species of wood will change color over time. To keep the wood from oxidizing or changing color a finish is required. Caution needs to be taken with the type of finish used. Some finishes are toxic or can go rancid over time. Wood countertops can be both beautiful and functional.

Things You'll Need

  • Random orbiting sander
  • Sandpaper 80- and 120-grit
  • Tack rag
  • Rag

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Determine the countertop's use. Will it be used for food preparation or not?

Oils and waxes are used in food preparation areas for wood countertops. They require periodic renewal to maintain their protection. Mineral oil is one common food-safe oil used to treat wood countertops. However, it offers limited protection from water. Tung oil is another treatment but with greater water resistance. Polyurethane or similar coatings are intended to be a permanent finish that don't require reapplication and are not intended for food preparation areas.

Sand the wood countertop with a random orbiting sander. Use 120-grit fine sandpaper to remove any glue squeeze out during the installation.

Clean off the countertop of any sawdust and wipe down with a tack rag.

For food-safe countertops, rub mineral oil or Tung oil across the wood countertop. Allow the oil to soak into the wood. Keep applying the oil until the wood will not take any more and the oil just sits on the wood without any absorption. Wipe off excess oil with a clean, dry rag.

Another option is to wipe down the countertop with a mixture of oil with melted paraffin wax. Oils need to be reapplied once a week. Wax should be reapplied every few months to maintain the finish.

Brush on polyurethane or similar coatings per the labels direction. Apply several coats to build up the surface. You need to sand between coats with a fine sandpaper.


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