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Replace Formica with solid wood countertops

If you are looking for an affordable solution for solid wood countertops, or want to replace Formica countertops with wood, here's how to use PAR pine planks to make your own kitchen countertops.

While there's nothing wrong with Formica wood-look countertops, you can use wood planks to make your own genuine wood countertops and add true warmth and beauty to a kitchen.

With regular application of butcher block oil, food-grade mineral oil or beeswax, solid wood kitchen countertops are affordable and beautiful. 

The first step is to remove your existing countertops. This is not difficult to do since most countertop are either attached using brackets, or via screws through the top of the cabinets underneath. Take a close look underneath or inside the cabinets to determine how your particular tops are attached and remove any fixings.

While pine planks were used for this project, you can use meranti as another affordable option. However, bear in mind that while meranti is not generally classified as a hardwood, it is a harder wood than pine and is therefore a more durable option. Pop into your local Builders Warehouse to see what timber options are available, or click here to find your nearest timber merchant.

You can also consider using scaffolding planks for this project.  These are wider and much thicker, as well as being available in longer lengths. A thickness of around 32mm is recommended for kitchen countertops. 

Planks can be joined together using a variety of joining methods, the strongest being to use wood glue and a Pockethole Jig or Biscuit Joiner. It is also important to use exterior or waterproof wood glue to ensure a strong, lasting bond.

After joining planks, clamp and leave overnight before cutting out any detailing. Finish the assembly by sanding with an Orbital Sander and 120- and then 240-grit sanding pads to even out edges and smooth. If there is considerable difference in the height of the joined planks you may want to consider using 80-grit sandpaper and a Belt Sander.

Use the old countertop as a template for cutting to length, or for any cut outs that need to be made to mount appliances such as a sink or hob, etc. For new installations, measure accurately and cut assembled planks to fit.

Stain and Seal

The most important steps when using wood as kitchen countertops is to ensure that the wood is completely sealed against moisture.

1. Apply your choice of wood stain to the raw wood. Woodoc Gel Stain comes in a variety of wood tints and can be used to create the faux butcher block finish that was done for this project.

2. After application of the wood stain, place the countertops upside down in order to apply Woodoc 10 interior sealer to the underside. Make sure to follow the instructions on the can for proper application. This is especially important where wood countertops will be used around the sink area, or in a laundry. While butcher block oil or food-grade oil is applied to the top, it is also important to seal the remainder of the wood.

For areas where you will not be doing food preparation, such as the sink area, consider applying Woodoc 10 as a sealer rather than oil. The sealer will flow into the joins and ensure adequate protection against moisture. Also bear in mind that regular application (every 12 months or so) is necessary to maintain a waterproof barrier.

Secure the countertop onto the cabinets with brackets and screws.

Apply butcher block oil or conditioner liberally for the first application, and repeat this process weekly for about a month. Follow this up with regular application of oil to ensure the tops are protected against moisture.

Clean up any wet spills immediately.

Do not cut directly on the countertops, but use a cutting board.


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