The tried and true tips supplied below are based on my experience applying a Waterlox finish to over a dozen butcher block countertops in my home and rental units.
I’ve done a lot of research on wood finishes. Having used the Waterlox finishing system many times I can testify that this unique blend of tung oil and resins is an excellent choice for new countertops, a kitchen island, re-finishing existing wood countertops, and other woodworking projects.
If this is your first time doing an application of Waterlox, this tip sheet details the main steps needed to create a durable surface that is water resistant and brings out the natural beauty of wood no matter what type of wood you’ve got.
(This post may contain affiliate links. Check out our affiliate disclosure for more info.)
Tip #1: Take this fight outside
The Waterlox products I use to seal butcher block counters and woodworking projects are Waterlox original tung oil finishes. In particular, I use Waterlox “ORIGINAL formula” in semi-gloss (to seal and build up the finish) and the satin finish which I use as the final coat. I’ve found Waterlox original sealer creates a durable finish.
I apply all coats of Waterlox out in the garage. The stuff is natural – it’s a unique blend of resins and a tung-oil base – and it provides a water-resistant finish safe for food preparation once it cures, but it stinks!
You don’t want to be in a closed room with it for an extended period of time. If you have any say in the matter, Waterlox your butcher block countertops in Summer or Fall. The less humid and the more warm the air, the quicker your dry time.
Tip #2: Go cheap (brush) or go home
I use inexpensive chip brushes (those $1 brushes with a wooden handle and natural bristles) for the first two rounds, and then cheap foam brushes for the next two or three rounds.
I only use one brush per coat of Waterlox. I don’t, for instance, wrap a brush in a plastic bag and then use it again to apply subsequent coats of sealer. I did that once and left behind glops of dried Waterlox.
I have also left behind bits of foam brush when I tried to use one twice. Why bother? For good results, just throw out the cheap brush and move on to a fresh new one.
Tip #3: Reuse, repurpose, recycle!
I start saving up containers as I approach Waterlox go-time so that I can pour out just enough Waterlox for one go-around on a countertop, and then I toss the container along with the brush.
By about the middle of the second countertop I was doing pitch perfect, no waste pours into single serving Chobani yogurt containers which are the perfect size for a 2” chip or foam brush.
If you have to re-use a container wipe it out thoroughly with a dry cloth when you are done with a coat. Probably best to use a clean glass container for this purpose.
If you allow the Waterlox to dry in the container, and then try to re-use the container, you are pretty much guaranteed to get glops of dried Waterlox in the next coat.
Tip #4: Crinkle crinkle little can
The quart-sized Waterlox Original Sealer comes in a rectangular can. It’s a good idea to crumple up the can as you go. This pushes air out of the can which would otherwise dry out the product.
Sub-tip: check out tips from Waterlox regarding “Storage of Waterlox” and “Storage Solutions”.
Tip #5: (Don’t) get into the groove
In the beginning I poured out Waterlox in exactly the opposite way I’m suggesting here. It just made sense to me to pour from the “short” end of the can. Well, wrong.
Pour the Waterlox out of the can in the way shown in this photo (but take the cap off, of course) to keep the stuff from pooling on the top of the can, making the screw cap harder and harder to twist off as the layers of Waterlox dry in the cap grooves.
Tip #6: The disappearing first coat. Don’t panic!
As the folks at Waterlox state on their website, Waterlox penetrates deep into the pores of the wood to create an elastic finish that protects against water damage and offers a smooth finish.
Waterlox original sealer/finish comes in a satin finish, semi gloss finish, and a high gloss finish. I use the semi-gloss finish for all but the last coat when I switch to the satin finish.
The semi-gloss finish is very loose. It has a consistency closer to water than to, say, polyurethane. I suppose this depends on the grain of the wood of your butcher block counters, or the species of wood, but for both the Ikea and Menards wood countertops I worked with the stuff really soaked into the wood surface.
Don’t panic when your first coat pretty much disappears on you!
I lay down a thick first coat and by the time I make it to the end of the butcher block top I’m working on the surface looks like bare wood. Just let that first coat dry for 24 hours (if it’s hot and dry outside I will recoat in 12 hours), and then move on to the second coat.
I don’t bother sanding the first coat, I just move on to the next.
Tip #7: Like grains of sand stuck to a piece of paper
I lay my second coat on thick too. When that one dries you’ll start to see some shine. Exciting! After this coat dries you will need to sand.
Sanding between coats from here on out is absolutely the key to getting a super smooth finish across the entire surface of your wood counters.
I sand with 220 grit sandpaper (you can also use steel wool), then wipe the entire surface down with a clean damp rag followed by a wiping with a clean dry rag.
You can use tack cloth for this step. I prefer using a damp, then dry, rag.
I don’t use paper towel because it can leave behind paper fibers – especially on the coats where there is little to no shine on the counter surface.
Now it’s ready to re-coat.
Tip #8: Do not touch (up)
For coats three, four, and sometimes five, of Waterlox I use a foam brush and it’s all
For coats three, four, and sometimes five, I use a foam brush and it’s all about building on the last Waterlox coats.
I look for dull areas and dry spots going into a new coat. You don’t want to try to touch up as you go. Waterlox will self-level if you put enough on.
If you steadily work your way to the other side of your countertop and then notice a dry spot somewhere it’s better to just let the entire coat dry, then give it a light sanding.
Then hold your foam brush at an angle and let the product collect in the tip of the foam brush. Push the tip into the middle of the dry spot and saturate it on your next go around.
Tip #9: Go gently into that final coat
I do the same sand/damp-cloth-wipe/dry-cloth-wipe process for the final coat but I use 400 grit sandpaper before applying the Waterlox satin finish coat.
FYI, the satin finish is a little thicker than the semi-gloss finish. I find that you have to work a little quicker with the Satin Finish. It just seems to set a little quicker.
Definitely do not touch up as you go (see Tip # 8).
That final coat is so satisfying to put down and when it dries it has a gorgeous feel to it. Your butcher block will look amazing. Really!
Tip #10: Wherefore art thou, 1.5″ butcher block?
Okay so this tip is about purchasing butcher block, not applying Waterlox. I’ve been asked about this tip several times so thought I’d just add it here.
Ikea stopped offering 1.5” thick countertops several years ago. If you prefer the thicker profile I’ve found quality butcher block at comparable prices at Menards and Floor and Decor. I believe you can order the thicker tops online at Home Depot and Lowes as well but you’ll have to wait for shipping.
Also, did you know that you can get butcher block through Amazon? Now you do!
BONUS: 2022 update
If you are still considering options such as mineral oil, linseed oil, or pure tung oil instead of Waterlox, you might like this post which details the pros and cons of using natural oils.
Check out our Waterlox FAQ to go in-depth on commonly encountered Waterlox problems and how to fix them plus info about cure time, color change, treating end wood grain, using Waterlox on a cutting board, cleaning products, and more.
Wondering how Waterlox stands up to normal use as well as abuse over the years? Check out this post that describes four years of living with Waterloxed countertops.
For even more project help the Waterlox website is a treasure trove of info and great instructions. Between the Waterlox project guides and Passionate Chump DIY butcher block posts you won’t need “good luck” to create a good quality finish on your butcher block tops.
68 thoughts on “10 tips for perfect Waterlox butcher block”
Thank you so much for the details and it’s obvious you are very knowledgeable in this area. My husband and I have researched how to refinish our maple island top and you wrapped it up for us in detail. Thanks again!
Thanks for your comment Charolette! I hope your maple island top turned out great! I’m about to embark on yet another Waterlox project and I had to refer back to my own post to refresh my memory on the best way to go about it. 🙂 Glad the post was useful to you.
Do you seal the under side of the butcher block too?
Hi Sara – thanks for visiting and for the great question! I seal the sides and if I’ve cut a hole in the butcherblock, eg., to install a faucet or sink, I coat the sides of the hole. But I haven’t sealed the underside of any of the butcherblocks I’ve Waterloxed. For the one butcherblock located over the dishwasher, I have used the Ikea FIXA Diffusion Barrier which looks like sticky tin foil and costs under $10. I haven’t seen any issues on that or any of our other butcherblock like warping or water damage. I really don’t think it’s necessary to seal the underside. Hope that helps!
What if I’ve already installed the countertop and the sink and faucet? Can i just seal the sink well and not worry what the inner walls where the sink cutout is? Or will i need to cut up the caulking, pull the sink out, and seal the inside cutout?
Hi Nathan – First off apologies for the delay in this reply. There was a technical issue with both my WordPress template and my web server set-up that wouldn’t allow me to comment. Seems we are back now which is great. Re your question, my response: I’m not sure. If it were me and the sink is in my home and I’m confident that I did a great job sealing things up with caulk, I would probably leave things as is and check in on the situation every once in a while. If the sink in question is in a rental unit, I might re-do it, coat the cut-out, have peace of mind.
Can I put on the finish in my shop or do I need to do it in place on the cabinet, for an under hung sink I guess you put as many coats on the drop into the sink area? Thanks
Hi Rick – I do all of my Waterloxing out in my garage because the smell is pretty overpowering to me. But there are many variables at play, from ventilation in your space to your personal level of tolerance for stink. 🙂 All to say, where to Waterlox is up to you. I’ve not done an undermount sink but I have done drop-in sinks and I coat the walls of the countertop where the sink will be as many times as I coat the countertop. I just load up my brush and dab the side walls, letting the Waterlox drip down the side into my cup. Hope that helps and thanks for your question. Good luck with your project!
I’m just about to do this with a slab from Home Depot that will go on top of a medium shelf for our coffee center. Thanks for the specifics. I made my list and will refer to this! Now to see if Ace carries Waterlox. I am considering staining it first since I like either lighter wood or darker and not as crazy about the medium shade.
Hi Alicia – thanks for writing! I have only ever seen Waterlox online. I’ve bought it through Amazon and also directly from Waterlox through their site. I think Amazon was able to get it to me a little quicker and with Prime I got free shipping. I love the lighter wood but as I wrote in another Waterlox post I did (see https://www.passionatechumpdiy.com/waterlox-on-butcher-block-4-years-later/), the color of the wood did change a bit – tilted toward a more amber color over time. The color will change a little with the first coat of Waterlox, and then deepen with time. Your project sounds great and I hope my tips help to make it go smoothly. Good luck!
Fantastic details! Thank you for your tips on how to apply Waterlox. Getting ready to put my Satin Waterlox last coat on now. Couldn’t have done such a good job without your post. I read Waterlox’s directions, watched the tutorial videos and still found your post superior. I also appreciate the post on how the countertops have held up and cleaners to use. Thanks for taking The time to post and help the rest of us DIYers!!!
Thanks so much for the comment Kirstin. So glad this post helped you crush this DIY project! I do love the feel of that satin Waterlox when it’s brand new. So satisfying. Using the right cleaning products is truly key. Our counters continue to hold up and I’m sure it’s because we haven’t used anything abrasive on them. We don’t treat them with kid gloves; we just use the right cleaners. Enjoy your countertop!
What cleaners do you recommend? Have you used the Waterlox cleaner!
Hi Nathan – thanks for your question. I wrote another post — “Waterlox on Butcher Block: 4 Years Later” (https://www.passionatechumpdiy.com/waterlox-on-butcher-block-4-years-later/) — where I talk about exactly this. Scroll down to the section labeled “Our secret to Waterlox longevity” where I discuss cleaning products. I have not heard of Waterlox’s cleaner. Will check it out! Thanks for the info!
I have had 5 coats of Waterlox on my butcher block counters for two years. I have a problem with any stickers on the counter or even magazines sitting on it for more than 1 minute. When I go to pick up the sticker or magazine, it is firmly stuck to the counter, and I have to soak and scrape it with a credit card. In some cases, the finish has peeled up all of the layers leaving a big, highly noticeable spot. Do you have this? How can you stop or fix it?
Hi Eric – I have not encountered this problem to the extent that you describe. I have experienced a very stepped back version of ink-transfer with glossy magazine covers. But a few spritzes of a natural cleaner, let it set for a minute, and then a wipe up with a paper towel has taken care of things for me. I have never had to soak a spot for more than a minute and I can see the ink lifting off in that minute. Never had to scrape, and I’ve never had layers peel up. That makes me wonder if the surface wasn’t prepped thoroughly before the Waterlox was applied? Like – it didn’t adhere to your butcherblock? I would absolutely reach out to Waterlox and tell them about this. I’ve contacted them once or twice over the years and they’ve been timely, friendly and thorough. Sorry I don’t have any answers for you. That sounds frustrating and I’d be freaking out if that was happening to my countertops!
Being a contractor, I appreciate the level of detailed advice you give on this project. Really well done PC.
I have one tip to give regarding storage of Waterlox after each coat.
I pour it in a saved and dishwasher cleaned pasta sauce jar. Then place a piece of saran wrap with a small (dime sized) hole cut in the center, on the top of jar.
And I have a vacuum sealer universal lid that I put on top of that and suck out all the air in the jar. Works like a champ as far as preserving the Waterlox, without having to squeeze/crush the can. Thanks again,
Thanks Matt – that’s a great tip! Crushing the can is effective but then the can wants to fall over. Annoying. Your method sounds more stable for sure. I actually have wondered about preserving the satin finish product which comes in a wide-mouth can. If you have tips to share on that I’m sure more than just me would appreciate your expertise!
This has been so helpful!! Thank you so much. I have applied 4 coats of the original waterlox over the last week onto my butcherblock, and am preparing to put the final coat of satin finish on today. Do you recommend a foam brush for that?
Hi Brooke – I do recommend a foam brush be used for your last coat. And I wouldn’t be stingy with the product either. Put enough down so that it glides over the top. The last coat is a bit nerve wracking – I know. But you got this Brooke! Thanks for your question!
Hi, thanks for the tips! I’m about to start my first waterlox butcher block project! I got a poplar piece that has some shades of green, does the green color soften with the waterlox application?
Hi David – Thanks for commenting! I have only ever put Waterlox on birch butcherblock. Funny though – I’ve wondered about poplar which I am using more and more since learning there are no knots in it. I did do a rehab project on a really old dining room table a couple of years ago. I removed a peeling veneer and underneath that was poplar boards. They were very green which I liked, but then I coated with a water-based polyurethane and the color changed a bit. Over time, the green has all but disappeared and the top got much more tan in appearance. Still nice, but I did love the green. You might shoot Waterlox a note and ask about this. Sorry I have no more intel to share with you. Good luck!
hello I am putting waterlox on my worktop I am going in the third layer and you can see some rough parts I started to sand to smooth but it seems to be peeling, what should I do to make you look smooth?
Hi Angy – I’m sorry I am only now responding to your question. Peeling Waterlox is not something I have any experience with. I wonder if there was something on your worktop, something oily maybe?, that isn’t allowing the Waterlox to penetrate the wood. I don’t know enough about your issue to suggest a fix. If it were me, I might start over by sanding the worktop down to bare wood – and then sanding some more to make sure I’m down to wood and only wood in case there’s some old, stubborn, oily substance on there that I can’t see. I’d run my bare hand over the top once I think I’m done to check that I don’t feel anything on the countertop. Then I’d start in on my Waterlox coats and I wouldn’t rush the process. I’d let each coat dry for 24 hours even if I’m working in more than ideal conditions and the countertop feels dry and ready for the next coat later the same day. But like I said, I’ve never had this happen and I’m not an expert – I’m just one more Passionate Chump out here DIYing. 🙂 Waterlox has a page devoted to answering questions like this. Maybe check out their “Project Help” page. Also I’ve contacted Waterlox customer support in the past via email and they are super helpful. Hope this is useful. Thanks for commenting!
Hi! Little late to the game and so wish we would have found this before we started! Our counters are installed and have been treated several times with a mineral oil. Can I apply the Waterlox on top of the mineral oil or do I have to sand the countertops first? Thanks!
Hi Tab G – thanks for stopping by. You may have already figured things out. If not, someone posted this very question in the comments previously and I responded. Check out my response. I hope that helps.
Thanks for all the pointers! We just finished coat #3 of the waterlox original. We are thinking of not doing the satin finish as we love the feel and look with just the original. After we finish up with coat # 4 should we sand again? And also what cleaners would you recommend to extend the life of our butcher block island top.
Hi Lauren – Your Waterlox project is probably done and you’ve been living with your countertops for weeks now. I’m apologize for my delayed response. In case it’s useful to other visitors I’ll give an answer. I think you are asking if your final step will be to sand the final coat of Waterlox you lay down. The answer from my experience is no. You should sand before your final coat with a fine grit paper. As I shared in Tip #9, I use 400 grit. After that you can lay down your final coat – either the Original Waterlox or the satin finish. I’ve always used a foam brush for sure to put down the final coat. Waterlox maintains a page, “Tips for a Smoother Final Finish“, that might be useful. As for cleaners, I talk about this in the “Waterlox on Butcher Block: 4 Years Later” post. Check out the section labeled “Our secret to Waterlox longevity” which includes a link Waterlox’s care suggestions. I hope your final coat came out great!
We are getting ready to start our project. We are going to stain it a deep walnut color first and then apply the Waterlox. Is this Product an oil that penetrates the wood or is it a poly that leaves a clear hard layer between the wood and whatever is on the counter?
Erika – thanks for getting in touch and apologies that I am just now posting a reply. According to the folks at Waterlox, this stuff is “a unique blend of Tung oil and resin” (more info). It does penetrate the wood which is why I write about “the disappearing first coat” in Tip #6. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sand back down to the bare wood if you ever need to. I recently had to do that to repair a bad burn — hot pan lid on butcherblock — that went deep into the countertop. I’ve never stained wood and then used Waterlox so I can’t speak to how the Original or Satin finish sealer will behave in this instance.
Great information, thanks for the help! One question though. In tip #8, you say potentially up to 5 coats of Waterlox. Is that including the Satin finish? Or are you thinking 5 coats of the sealer/finisher alone?
Hi Spencer – I apologize if I’m too late in getting you this information. For those who visit in the future looking for an answer to this question, a couple of times I have had to apply five coats of Waterlox – that’s four coats of the Original sealer and then one final coat of Satin finish (I’ve only ever topped my butcherblock with Satin finish). If I remember correctly this extra coat was due to an odd piece of butcherblock which just seemed super dried out from the git-go and sucked down Waterlox fast. I also think the conditions that you apply Waterlox in makes a difference in the absorption rate. I applied it one hot hot HOT Chicago summer day and it dried surprisingly quickly. It was hard but I resisted the temptation to turn around and put down another coat in an effort to get my project completed fast. Having done a few of these countertops I now know what the final coat should look and feel like. If you are unsure, and you have it to spare, do one more round. Sort of like the first coat that just feels all wrong when it disappears on you (Tip #6), your final coat will feel all RIGHT. You’ll know it when you see it! And feel it! Hope that answers your question – thanks for your comment!
How many of the quarter cans did you use for say a small kitchen, about 19 linear feet of butcher block? I got one can but now worried I won’t have enough. Other sites say seal with waterlox on all sides. Any thoughts on this? Also is it okay to do this in the garage or is that going to mess up acclimatizing. It’s hotter in the garage. But we don’t have much humidity here.
Hi Priscilla – thanks for reaching out. I couldn’t tell you how much Waterlox you need for your project but you might find Waterlox’s application guide useful for this purpose. I do seal the counter top and all of the sides. Doing this makes cleaning the countertop easy and you don’t have to worry about washing down bare wood on the sides, plus you get spill protection. I have not sealed the bottom. I worried about this when I installed a butcherblock countertop over my dishwasher which is next to my sink. I thought the steam expelled from the dishwasher when I open the door might warp the countertop. It’s been years and nothing like this has happened – all good. I do have an diffusion barrier from Ikea – ours is called “Fixa”. It cost around $5 and looks like tinfoil that you stick to the underside of the counter to deal with steam which may or may not have helped with this issue (if it’s an issue – not sure). I do all of my Waterloxing in my garage and I’ve not had any problems with the wood heating up too much or humidity messing up the finish. As I wrote in Tip #1, this stuff smells! Better to apply it outside of your living space. Hope this helps!
I am asking bc i just got in new butcher block and they say acclimatize it for 72 hours but then If I’m waterloxing in the garage it will be so hot isn’t that a recipe for warping?
Hi again Priscilla – I get your concern. Maybe, if you put your butherblock in the garage at night or in the early morning before the sun is cooking your garage, there’s a good chance that things will be okay. The countertop will heat up with the garage rather than heat up in a hurry if you bring it into the garage when it’s already 130 degrees. I don’t know this for certain and I can’t guarantee anything! As I wrote earlier, I do my Waterlox projects in the garage and summers in Chicago get hot and they get humid! And sometimes they are hot and humid at the same time! I’ve not experienced any warping but maybe I’m just lucky as well as passionate and a chump? I hope you do not experience any warping and that your project was/will be a success!
I recently purchased my butcher block home depot. I first applied 3 separate coats of mineral oil thinking that was the way I wanted to go. However, after reading about waterlox, I have decided to go with waterlox. I have let the countertop sit for 30 days now. Am I safe to now apply waterlox?
Hi Sheila – I used mineral oil on one butcherblock countertop years ago before I knew about Waterlox. Moving over to Waterlox, what worked for me was to completely sand that butcherblock down until I felt like I had a good clean dry base to apply the Waterlox to. I then went through the steps of applying Waterlox and all was well. I think this might be because Waterlox is oil-based. If you were doing something like a water-based polyurethane on a countertop that was previously covered in mineral oil you might run into issues. All to say, if your conditions are like mine were, you should be fine. But you might check with Waterlox customer support about this as I did my particular countertop years ago and their formulas have changed since then. I hope this helps!
Hi, I used Waterlox original, 4 coats, for my maple tabletop. How much time show i allow to dry the table since the last coat until I can put my computer and heavy thinks on the table?
Eager to use it, but I don’t want to spoil it.
Hi Marta – thanks for commenting. I have always given Waterlox 7 days of cure-time before opening it up for business. I have not had any issues with marring the finish by using the counters after 7 days of cure time. I would check Waterlox’s site for cure times at this point in time as they have added new products, etc. and may recommend something different. Hope that helps!
Hi, thanks for all the helpful tips! Do you use the tung oil sealer before the Original Waterlox? That’s what their site recommends, so I’ve put a couple of coats of that on first. I think that just soaks into the wood and then I can start with my coats of Original? I put some of the tung oil sealer on the bottom as long as I had it off.
Hi Brian – I do not use the tung oil sealer before the Original Waterlox. I do a lot of prep work before applying Waterlox – sanding, cleaning up dust – and then I just let loose with the Original stuff. The first coat does pretty much disappear. I don’t really see much of the coating until the third coat. Thanks for this tip. I will check out the tung oil sealer before diving into my next project. Sounds like a good way to not waste any of the Original Waterlox.
We are getting ready to Waterlox our walnut butcher block. Can we do all coats with the satin finish?
Hi Gene – This is a question I’ve had myself. Especially since I typically have a lot of the satin finish around because I only ever use it as the top coat — which is what I recall Waterlox says is the appropriate way to apply the satin finish. It’s supposed to be just the last coat if you prefer a non-glossy finish. To get an answer to this questions, you might ask Waterlox directly.
Hi PC, thank you for all the useful tips and information. I’ve learned so much from this page!
I’m about to finish the maple countertop I made for my vanity with waterlox. My question is, do you also finish the ends? I presume so but just want to make sure.
Thank you for any info!
Hi Phil – I do finish the ends. I typically will apply Waterlox to the top of my countertop, and then will do all the sides. I apply to the top and the sides with every coat. I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t do that as the countertop would look — I guess unfinished! — with a finished top and raw wood sides? Anyway, yes – I do the sides. It’s easy, takes no time, and means you can wipe down the entire countertop — top and sides — easily when the inevitable spill happens.
HI! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. We are about to coat our butcher block tops and will be DIYing. I have a few questions if you don’t mind answering… Do you treat the underneath the same as you do the tops? Do you make your cuts (seams, sink hole, etc) before you add your layers of Waterlox?
How long do you wait after finishing that last coat to install the countertops? When should we feel comfortable placing items on the counter?
I feel like I just spewed a ton of questions at you. Apologies in advance. So much to learn 🙂
Hi Karen – No need to apologize for our questions. And actually it’s me who should apologize for how long it’s taken me to respond. Your project is likely done and done at this point. For others reading this post and comment thread, here are answers as I know them.
Q. Do you treat the underneath the same as you do the tops?
A. I only use Waterlox on the top and sides of butcher block. I don’t coat the bottom of the countertop with it. Mostly because it’s expensive stuff. Also because I don’t think you need to do this. Mine have been in service for years and there’s no evidence that I should have coated the bottoms.
Q. Do you make your cuts (seams, sink hole, etc) before you add your layers of Waterlox?
A. Yes – I get my butcher block completely cut down to size and all holes big and small cut into it before I get started. I also coat the insides of any holes. Eg., for a faucet hole, I drip the stuff down into the whole and coat all the sides of the hole thoroughly.
Q. How long do you wait after finishing that last coat to install the countertops? When should we feel comfortable placing items on the counter?
A. The soonest I’ve ever put a Waterloxed countertop in place is 24 hours after putting on the final coat. If conditions are great – warm, dry, no humidity – that should not be a problem. Note that it takes time for Waterlox to cure – different from dry. Curing takes about a week and that’s when you can start using it.
I hope your counters turned out great!
Hi PC. Great post and very helpful for my latest counter tops work. Question for you. Before applying Waterlox I had prepped the wood with 220 grit sandpaper. Ive now applied 5 coats of the original sealer/finish and there’s some spots where more of the grain is revealed it soaks up the sealer and drys rough compared to the rest of the countertop. Did you encounter the same and was this resolved by applying the satin finish?
Hi Dave – guessing you are done with your project and I apologize for the lateness of this reply. I’m wondering if you figured this out? And would love to know how things turned out. The situation you describe is not familiar to me. The first coat definitely soaks pretty much totally into the wood. The second coat tends to be blotchy. But by the third coat I tend to see the product starting to show up all over the wood – unevenly for sure, but definitely not soaking in 100% here and there. By 4 coats I don’t see dry patches, and definitely not by the fifth coat. That is strange. If I was experiencing what you describe, I think I’d hit those dry spots with a LOT of the original sealer. Really slather it onto those spots – and only those spots. I would do that until the sheen evened out across the board and then I’d lightly sand and proceed with the original sealer to get a solid glossy coat. And then I’d sand with 400 grit sandpaper and lay down the satin finish which is a little thicker.
This is great advice. I have a can of the original sealer and a quart of the satin finish sealer that I bought over a year ago. I just got back to this project last week and couldn’t recall why I had both. Now I know from this advise. Use the original sealer for the first 3 to 4 coats and the satin finish for the last 1 or 2 coats. Not remembering, I used the satin finish sealer for all coats. It is still beautiful. I sanded with 400 grit sandpaper after the 3rd coat. I put the 4th coat on last night. Checking it this morning, it is beautiful. I will hit it one more time with 400 grit sandpaper and apply the final, 5th coat. Thank you for your advise. I will follow your guideline to the tee on my next Waterlox project.
Thanks for commenting Steven! I have always wondered if you could just use the satin finish and skip the original sealer. I wonder what the folks at Waterlox would say. Particularly curious about this because the satin finish is only available by the quart and you typically only need it for one coat. When I do projects I tend to use up all of the original sealer on 4 or 5 coats and then have almost a full can of satin left over since it only has to cover the work piece once. Given what you describe, maybe I can get more mileage out of that quart I’ve got in the basement! Thank for sharing.
Bally Block in Pa makes and sells all types of Butcher Block and ships anywhere in the US. I live nearby and pick mine up at the factory.
Thanks for this tip R Berry. I just Googled “Bally Block Company” and came up with some interesting finds. Sharing here for DIYers on the US East Coast.
What is the reasoning for using a brush for the first couple coats and then switching to the foam? The guy at Woodcraft told me just to use the foam, and let each coat sit for 5 minutes, and then wipe it off.
Hi Indydi – Appreciate your question. I like to get a lot of sealer down in the first couple of coats. I have found that using a brush works better for this. I can really load up the brush with a lot of product and do a pretty sloppy first couple of coats. I also have found that the foam brush can sort of snag on the wood when it’s bare, leaving behind tiny bits of foam. I’ve had really great success using a bristle brush in the beginning and finishing the last few rounds with a foam brush. Hope that answers your question. Thanks again for commenting!
After my 4th coat of original Waterlox, the butcher block looked great, with a consistent sheen, but too shiny. I’m following your guide with my final coat being the satin finish Waterlox. My question is… after I sanded, the finish is still pretty shiny. Should I sand the shiny off before applying the satin finish or is the quick sand enough?
Hi Rocky – I also find that the fourth coat is really shiny. And I don’t want to mess with that coat too much when sanding because you need it for the satin finish to adhere to your piece. I wouldn’t sand that shiny fourth coat down too much. Do a light sanding with 400 grit, really jsut to knock down any dust poking up. If shine shows through the sanding, in my experience that’s okay. The satin coat will be a little thicker and it should definitely dry to a satin finish – even if you put it on a shiny undercoat. Hope this goes great for you. Would love to hear about it. Good luck!
Definitely appreciate the update. I put on the satin coat last night and I do love the satin sheen, but the coat went on very streaky (thick streaks like it didn’t self-level much at all). Any ideas on what I did wrong? I’m only doing a 3’x3′ island countertop, so it doesn’t take long to get the coat on so I wouldn’t think it set too quickly. I’m using the disposable foam brushes.
I’ve sanded the streaks away with 400-grit so it’s smooth again, but not shiny at all (so the top coat of Original is gone, I presume). I assume I have to put Original back on until it’s shiny again and then apply satin again or can I go with satin now? Any recommendations on how to get the satin coat on smooth?
Hi Rocky – I have had something like this happen. I put down the satin finish – the final coat – and found that there were a couple of areas where there were streaks. I figured I didn’t mix the stuff well enough before putting it down. Also, since I had the streaks in just a couple of places, I figured I didn’t put enough down. I think that’s maybe what happened in your case. I think you are on the right track. Sanding your piece to create a level surface across the countertop is a good idea. Make sure you stir the satin finish thoroughly and then put down a thick coat. I think that’s what got you – maybe you did too thin of a coat. The satin finish is thicker than original which can make you feel like you don’t need as much. But you do. At this point, I would make sure the top is cleaned off and then lay on the satin thick in one go. Also – check out this info from Waterlox. They talk about this exact thing here: https://www.waterlox.com/project-help/guide?id=8d71968c-b47b-4ec7-a1c9-a523a9c9acd9&q=
You think I can put the satin down over the sanded top (wasn’t a quick sand… had to sand pretty bad streaks out)? Or do I need a shiny coat of Original first? Should I still be using the foam brush for the satin coat? I’m wondering if temperature was an issue causing the satin coat to set up too quick. It was over 90 the night I put it on. I’m thinking of moving the job into the house so I have A/C.
Hi Rocky – If you check out Waterlox’s page about temps they say you may get streaks if “ambient temperature is too hot”. Definitely check out that page for more tips. Here’s the link again: https://www.waterlox.com/project-help/guide?id=8d71968c-b47b-4ec7-a1c9-a523a9c9acd9&q=
If it were me, I would put the satin coat over what you have right now. I wouldn’t put down the original sealer again. I would get the countertop into a cool and dry environment, let it cool down, and lay on a solid coat of satin finish with a foam brush. If you feel any drag on your brush, add more product and continue on. As long as you maintain a wet edge you should be fine. This is all just opinion! You might contact Waterlox customer support and ask them what to do. They are very responsive. Good luck!
Well, I’m getting closer! I’m glad the satin finish comes in quarts! I put on another coat after your last message and it was too streaky. So I sanded again and put another coat on, focusing on really loading up the brush. This time, the main surface looked great… no streaks and a nice satin finish. However, when I reached the end of the stroke on the edge of the countertop, the finish pooled and didn’t dry evenly with the main surface. I’m going to sand again and make sure to continue through the stroke so it doesn’t pool again and I think I’ll be there.
I hear the theme from the movie “Rocky” playing in the background…. Thanks for sharing this. Sounds like you are getting the hang of it! I hope you will update us on how this next and hopefully last go around with Waterlox turns out! Good luck!
So, do I HAVE to use a finish coat? Is the satin shiny? I really don’t want that shine on the final product. Can I just do multiple coats of the sealer and leave it at that? Thank you!
Hi Morgan – Thanks for your question. If you are using the semi-gloss sealer/finish only, you will end with a countertop that has a semi-gloss sheen. To get a satin sheen you need to use the satin finish/sealer for your last coat. I just read that Waterlox recommends you use two coats of the satin finish. Check out my recently posted FAQ where I talk about this and supply how-to info, too. Thanks and good luck with your project!
When you sanded your butcher block you hand sand or use a sander?
Hi Patrick – I use an orbital sander only when I am first sanding down the butcher block, before applying any Waterlox. Once I start applying Waterlox I hand sand. Thanks for your question!