Learn how to make cheap counters by building DIY plywood countertops. Making a beautiful wood countertop from birch plywood is easier and cheaper than you think. Painted or stained they look beautiful with white cabinets.
In January of this year, we started the process of remodeling our kitchen. We tore the entire kitchen out, added more windows, put shiplap on the walls and installed new kitchen cabinets. As we head for the finish line, we needed to make a choice for budget friendly countertops.
When we installed the cabinets, we chose to use a temporary piece of plywood for our countertops. We took 3/4 plywood, ripped it in half and attached it to the cabinets.
Then, I used black chalk paint, and wax to paint the countertop. I was very surprised at how well they held up to the daily use of six people, lots of cooking from scratch and daily use.
Our longest section of countertops is just over 13 feet long. I did some research and realized that my dream countertops, black soapstone, was out of the cash only budget. I thought about using butcher block but ultimately decided to go with a nicer grade of plywood. Together, my husband and I, were able to build all of our countertops for around $250.00.
Building DIY Plywood Countertops Video
While I don’t go into a ton of detail in this video, I hope that by watching it plus reading the step by step instructions, you will understand how we built our countertops.
I generally take a lot of photos for these tutorials, however, I found myself busy with this project. In doing so, I didn’t take as many photos as I would have liked.
Supplies Needed for Building DIY Plywood Countertops
These are the supplies that my husband and I used for building DIY plywood countertops. Our counters are 1 1/2 inch thick and the amount of plywood that you will need, will depend on how long your counters need to be.
All the supplies added together was around 250.00 with several supplies left over for future projects. In my opinion, that is a good price for a budget friendly countertop solution.
- 2 sheets of plywood for the bottom layer of the countertops
- 2 sheets of plywood for the top layer of the countertops – we used birch
- contact cement
- cheap brush for applying the contact cement
- Impact Driver
- Wood Screws
- Table Saw
- Circular Saw
- Minwax Wood Effects
- Matte Polycrylic
- Sandpaper 320 grit
- Wood Filler
- Sandpaper 80 grit
- Stain brush for stain
- Brush for polycrylic
How to Build a DIY Countertop from Plywood
Step 1: Remove the Old Countertop
In our situation, the old countertop was easy to remove. My husband removed the drawers from the cabinets and unscrewed the countertop.
Step 2: Measure and Cut
Timothy, my husband, measured how long our countertops would need to be. A sheet of plywood is only 8 feet long so we had to use two pieces to make the longest countertop which is just over 13 feet. The cheaper plywood pieces were measured, cut and placed on top of the cabinets.
Then, cut the birch plywood that is being used as the tops of the countertops to the exact same size as the bottom plywood.
Step 3: Add Layer of Contact Cement
We chose to use a thick layer of contact cement between the two layers of plywood. Doing this created a tight bond between the two pieces, sealing them together.
Step 4: Assemble
Once the contact cement is painted on, place the birch plywood on top. Be sure that the top and bottom plywood pieces line up so that you have a straight edge across the front.
Step 5: Install Sink
The next step was to install the sink base. We used the template that came with our sink to trace the correct dimensions, then Timothy cut the hole for the sink and attached it.
Step 6: Screw the Countertops Down
Once the sink was in place, Timothy screwed the countertops to the cabinets. It is important to use a wood screw that is long enough to get through both layers of plywood, but not to long so that it does not come through the top plywood layer.
Step 7: Fill the Seam
Since our countertops are so long, there is a small seam where the two sections of countertops meet. Before applying stain, I used a wood filler to fill the gap, then lightly sanded with 320 grit sandpaper to get a smooth finish.
Step 8: Apply Stain
The birch plywood was already very smooth, therefore, I didn’t have to sand before I began applying the Minwax Wood Effect stain. I followed the directions on the back of the can to allow for proper drying time between each coat. To achieve the dark look of our countertops, I applied 4 layers of stain.
Now, I can get quite impatient and have a tendency to jump ahead in a project. This is one of those times that I did that. So, I suggest that if you follow this tutorial, you do the next step first and then stain.
Step 8: Finish the Edge of the Countertops
Originally, I had planned to purchase a nice trim piece to finish the edge of the countertops. Then, I came up with the idea to sand down the edge using 80 grit sandpaper. I then used wood filler to fill in any gaps, allowed it to dry and sanded again.
I continued doing this until the edges were smooth and all the gaps or small holes were filled in. I then used 320 grit sandpaper to get a smooth finish before applying the stain.
Step 9: Apply the Polycrylic
There are multiple products to choose from in order to apply a long lasting finish to the countertops. My main concern was that I needed a finish that I wouldn’t have to worry about getting water on. I wasn’t concerned about the finish being food grade because I use cutting boards and will not be cutting on the counters.
I did not want a very shiny finish so I opted to use a flat polycrylic and followed the directions on the back of the product. This process took the longest amount of time due to the hours of dry time.
Thoughts on Building DIY Pywood Countertops
Building DIY plywood countertops was a simple process. We did not have any odd angles to cut and therefore the cuts were all simple. The longest part of the process was waiting for the stain and polycrylic to dry.
I love the result of our counters. The countertops are wood so I expect some wear and hopefully in time they will have an aged look to them. However, so far they are holding up incredibly well. When water is on the counter, it beads up and I wipe it away.
In our home, we use cutting boards for cutting food and potholders to sit hot pans on. I believe that no matter what kind of countertops we would have chosen, there would still be some care and cautions to take. So, I treat these with care just as I would with any other kind of countertop.
I hope that this tutorial inspires you and shows you that you can create beautiful DIY plywood countertops on a budget. Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions.
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