Undermount sink w/wood countertops?

August 13, 2010

I am still in the initial planning stages here but I am leaning towards wood countertops. (Specifically ikea beech w/coats of regular and satin waterlox.) My question is, is doing an undermount sink with wood countertops crazy? Right now I have a regular stainless steal top mount sink and the idea of having an undermount that would allow me to sweep crumbs into it is really appealing. I also like the look much better. However, I wonder if I'm just asking for trouble by subjecting the wood to constant water contact. Any thoughts? (On a side note in two days I could be asking a question about a completely different type of countertop as my mind is made up on anything at this point!)

Comments (37)

  • davidro1

    I've seen it done. With Ikea too.
    I have no idea what the long term side effects might be.

  • sayde

    I asked this question on the woodworking forum. The responses were mixed but there were many who said don't do it. I'm now thinking of having a bib of marble all around the Shaw's undermount sink -- about 20 inches on each side and 8 in back. The remaining counters would be wood. But like you I could change my mind again . . . . .

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    If you apply enough coats of the waterlox you could totally do an undermount sink. I would just be careful not to scratch the finish around the sink where the raw wood would be exposed to the water. But if that was to happen you could just reapply the waterlox and you'll be good to go! Hope I could help!
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    Not a "pro", but if you want to protect the wood counters you can't go wrong with Waterlox Marine finishes. It's specifically for treating wood that gets water exposure. Seal everything before your sink install. Including the underside of the counter if it will be exposed to steam from the DW.
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  • denifitz

    sayde - have you seen any pictures of that done? I'm trying to visualize how it would look. In general I am not opposed to mixing materials, I'm just having trouble picturing that scenario.

  • cookingofjoy

    I was thinking of doing the same using maple and a farm sink. I really like the idea of softer surfaces in the kitchen with the little kids (and hopefully fewer broken dishes). I also was thinking of some way to have soapstone around the sink, but I wasn't sure how that might look since we have the traditional L kitchen layout there's no obvious break.

    I'm hoping we'll hear from someone with this sort of situation (and hopefully a good experience!).

  • snoozingpug

    I've seen a perimeter of granite (like 4" around the sink in a squared off design, with the faucets deck-mounted onto the granite) and then raised wood countertops (raised up about 1" from the granite and farm sink) for the rest of the island. This was a large farm sink in a large island and I'm trying to remember what magazine it was in. Gorgeous look, though.

    We are doing an undermount prep sink in one of our wood perimeter countertops. I'm less worried about water damage with it being just a prep sink - mostly used for the instant hot water tap, probably. I don't think I would do an undermount main sink under wood countertops, but have seen it done in magazines. I can provide my own feedback in a few months, though. :)

  • jenswrens

    If you've been on this forum for any length of time, I'm sure you've seen photos already of my wood counters with my undermount farm sink (just do a search for butcher block or IKEA and jenswrens). Here's one thread. Sure some of you are sick to death of seeing them! But since you asked...

    No, it's not crazy to do an undermount with wood. I love my Ikea beech waterloxed counters. I love my undermount sink for all the same reasons you listed, and I'd never do a drop in again. Here's a photo of mine a couple of years ago.

    Except for a few water spots around the faucet, the counters still look great. If I were diligent about waterloxing, and if we were diligent about cleaning, I wouldn't even have these spots. But we are notoriously messy (i.e., DH never wipes the counters, ever, and he's a great splasher). Here's the nitty gritty photo (really nitty gritty cuz it's a cell phone shot taken 5 minutes ago). We only put on 2 coats of waterlox original, and we haven't waterloxed in about 3-4 years. We should've buffed and reapplied a coat or two when we switched out the faucet a few months ago but we were too impatient.

    Here's the dirty laundry:

    Hope that helps.

  • writersblock (9b/10a)

    Oh, jenswrens, I, for one, never get tired of seeing your counters. :)

  • cookingofjoy

    jenswrens - your counters are gorgeous! (and this is exactly the type of story I was hoping to hear!) Thanks for the leads for searches, too.

  • eustacem

    Not EXACTLY what you were asking but I found this link very helpful; I've decided on wood countertops also.

    Jenswrens...looking at your countertops only reinforced my decision to do wood. They are just beautiful!

    Here is a link that might be useful: Wood countertop advice

  • dawn_t

    Jenswrens, love your Ikea beech counters!
    I finally installed my sink and faucet yesterday - can't believe I don't have to wash dishes in the bathroom sink anymore! It's only been 18 months... :)

    My waterloxed Ikea numerar with undermount sink (hope it holds up as nicely as yours):


  • traceee

    Have you seen the cool sinks at Ikea? There are two white which are similar to farm sinks that although top mount would look wonderful with butcherblock. I think "Positano" used one in her kitchen recently.

    If you have your heart on stainless, maybe the people at ikea can help you put something together with their butcherblock product. The nearest Ikea store to me is about 1 hour away - I would love to see their showroom.

  • lakeaffect


    We have southern yellow pine counters (bowling alley in a previous life) with black walnut trim and a fauxgranite undermount sink. We're hard on stuff and not obsessive about wiping up spills or water from washing dishes, paint brushes, gardening implements, etc. Ours have been in around 16 months. We used Epifanes, a marine (food safe) finish and are very happy with how it's held up.

    This isn't much of a close up, sorry.

    Good luck-


  • wickedgrace

    I have fallen in LOVE with these countertops! For the past 3 years I have been planning my remodel with granite but now have had a complete change of heart. For the people with the undermount sinks, any special instructions, tips or requirements for using undermount? Did you install sink & countertops yourself? I have a very handy hubby so if it is a DIY project I think he could do it. Where did you purchase your wood?

  • trailrunner

    I have teak counter tops on my perimeter area, around the cook top and the sink. I think I am the only poster on here that has teak. My cabinet guy got the wood and constructed the tops. I sealed them in place with Waterlox. It has been 4 years of very hard use, you may have seem all the Kitchen At Work pics in different threads. They look like they did when they were installed. Good Luck ! c

  • shelayne

    One more shot of IKEA Beech taken just now, undermounted sink, waterloxed (original and satin). Mine is prep sink that gets constant use by lazy people, and it is holding up well so far.

    We installed a week before Thanksgiving.

    I love it!

    All these photos of wood c-tops are just YUMMY!

  • denifitz

    These are great! Thanks everyone!

    snoozingpug, good luck with your prep sink! I'll be waiting to get your feedback in a couple months. :) j/k!

    -jenswrens, I did see yours previously. That color is magnificent. *drool* I really appreciate the update on how they are holding up. Sometimes when I see how things look at install I wonder how they will look in a year. Seeing yours is very helpful! I definitely wouldn't want to have to resand and seal often, but every two years or so wouldn't be bad. Lots of stones require annual maintenance.

    -eustacem, that link is helpful, thank you.

    -dawn_t, congrats on your sink installation. It looks awesome! Those look like the cabinets (or are similar to) the ones I'm considering!

    -traceee, I have seen them. I love the double sink, but I have a VERY small kitchen and only have room for a 24 inch cabinet base. (That one requires a 36 I believe?) :( boo. I think I need to find out what the largest sink I can is get to fit into such a small cabinet.

    -sandyponder, wow! So unique!! Bowling alley? I love it! I've never heard of Epifanes, but the idea of having a food safe seal is really appealing. How was it to apply? People have sounded pretty happy w/the waterlox, but it's not food safe.

    -trailrunner, those are beautiful and I have heard teak is very strong. Thanks for posting. I'm guessing teak is expensive?

    -shelayne, wow - great detailing on the edges!!! Did you do that yourself? It looks so professional!

  • snoozingpug

    You got great feedback, denifritz, good luck with your decisions and installation. Do post pictures! As of today at noon, we won't be doing wood - the special slab of RFG marble that we bought has been lost by the fabricator/warehouse. Long story, but we had to pick something else out *today* and went with a Costa Esmeralda that we will be pairing with soapstone instead of wood.

    Good luck to you!

  • trailrunner

    No the teak wasn't expensive. It was purchased as individual board lengths and he constructed it in his shop. I would have to look up the price, I did a couple years ago for someone else, but I remember that it is WAY less than what most are spending on granite and other stones . Good Luck to you. c

  • denifitz

    snoozingpug - I just googled Costa Esmeralda granite (what can I say - not exactly your kitchen professional!) - it's beautiful! It makes me feel like I'm on a tropical vacation when I look at it - so relaxing! You're going to love it. Sorry you had some issues w/your marble, but sometimes when these things happen they end up leading to a better end result. Enjoy!! I'll still be looking for your pictures. :)

    trailrunner-thank you. No need to look up the price; I'm just being lazy. I am on a tight budget and granite is definitely out of my price range. Wood seems like such an economical and beautiful option. I appreciate the follow up. :)

  • shelayne


    We were going to do the cutting and routering ourselves, but became overwhelmed with the thought of burning the wood or mangling it beyond recognition, so we hired someone to cut the sink hole and rout the edges for us. It was the best $170 we spent at that point!

    I did the Waterloxing myself. It took several days of repeated coats with 24 hours of dry time between each one, but sooo worth it in the end.

    We also have Waterloxed IKEA Beech as the seat on our banquette bench. DH managed to cut that one without a problem. No fancy edging, though. ;^)

  • eustacem

    Positively swooning looking at all these gorgeous wood countertop photos.

    *happy sigh*

  • wickedgrace

    I have a question about installation.....when you have a "U" shaped kitchen and have to join the 2 other pieces, how do you do it? Do you angle it in and match up the angles or have a long piece and butt the new piece up to it????? Pictures please!

  • riverspots

    Wood and water really don't mix well in the long run. Many species discolor when exposed to water for even a few hours. Protective coatings have their limits due to wood's expansion and contraction with changes of humidity. Soft coatings like mineral oil give enough to move with the wood but offer less water resistance. Hard coatings like polyurethanes and waterlox don't expand and contract as much as wood so eventually micropores will open up and water will get to the wood surface. Additional problem with undermount sinks is that silicone often fails, too, letting water seep on the underside of the counter. Best alternative to an all-wood counter would be to have the area directly around the sink to be granite or soapstone. Otherwise-keep up with maintenance of the wood finish by renewing it every couple of years along with redoing the silicone bead at the same time.

  • andersons21

    If you want a finish that will hold up better than Waterlox, use Smith's Penetrating Epoxy and/or Epifanes Marine Varnish. We have 15-yo spearguns used heavily in the California sea and sun that look perfect.

    Those of you who have finish deterioration in your Waterlox, fix it now! If you let it go, the wood will eventually split, crack, and check, and the wood damage is basically unfixable. If you keep up with the integrity of the finish by adding coats as needed, you can keep the wood underneath as good as new.

  • lakeaffect


    The Eipfanes isn't difficult to apply at all, it's a two stage process, first you do one product, then the top coat. Our cans are buried in the paint cabinet, sorry, I can't recall the exact names of the Epifanes products, but if you go to their website, everything is clearly laid out. They are also very helpful and friendly on the phone and will patiently answer questions. It's oil based, so there are fumes, just do it on a dry day and open your windows. Plan on using a good quality brush and permitting enough time for it to dry properly. Ours has been in almost 2 years and it still looks like the day it was installed. I agree with andersons, the stuff holds up well and adds a depth and richness to the wood.

    WRT where we got the counters, I saw an ad in the paper for bowling alley slabs, we went to look at them and bought a few. Other than being HEAVY, they're easy to work with; the old finish came off with a belt sander and the trim went on easily (the edges are unfinished so needed to be trimmed in something, we used locally grown black walnut).

    Sorry it took so long for me to reply, I'm not on here much.


  • heart-of-dixie

    I have wood countertops and an undermount sink. I love the countertops.
    I have not had any problems so far with the wood countertops. My cabinets are an eggshell color and with the wood countertops, it is gorgeous. My countertops do not have any seams. My countertops are from Premier.

  • nugentcn

    There are lots of beautiful countertops here!

    Sorry to hijack this thread, but the link to send jenswrens an email isn't working. Hopefully she'll get this.

    jenswrens, did you do the cutout yourself or hire someone? What is taking up the space between the countertop and the tops of the cabinet frames (the sink lip would create a space there)? Also, when you changed your faucet, did you have to drill out a new hole down through the sink for your soap dispenser? And if you switched from a pull-out faucet to a pull-down, which do you like better? Email me at nugentcn at hotmail dot com. Thanks!!!

  • denifitz

    andersons and sandyponder - thanks for the details. I'll definitely check those out.

    heart-of-dixie - do you have any pictures? That is the look I'm going for.

    Does anyone have an answer to wickedgrace's question about how to join two pieces? I was wondering about that myself. I will have one seam.

  • dawn_t

    To answer the joining question, I mitered my corner.
    My peninsula sits at a 45 degree angle, so no getting around it. I used Numerar oak and although Ikea does not recommend fastening/screwing two counter run pieces tightly together, I did anyway :)
    Purchased miter bolts from Lee Valley, which required a bit of routering underneath the counters, but they worked really slick for drawing the counters together solidly.

    If one butts the Ikea counters up together, be aware that their wood tops have a bit of a bevel on all four sides which leaves a tiny gap or depression at the join if it's not trimmed off.


  • levydav

    We are getting ready to refinish our wood counter tops. They are over 10 years old and received no maintenance during that time. Except for heavy wear areas (i.e., the outer edge in front of the sink), all the damage is from water: dish drainers to the sides of the sink, the path between the sink and the dishwasher, around the faucet (which has a very small leak), and where the counter meets the sink. The latter two have mildew rot. Notice that the sink is smaller than the cutout in the counter, leaving a lip for water to accumulate (the hole was cut using a template included with the sink - they probably use larger holes today). I would agree with riverspots and andersons: had we given it regular maintenance (recaulk, recoat, and replace faucet gaskets every 2-3 years) it is possible that it wouldn't need to be refinished now. Note that, to maintain the appearance, you have to recoat BEFORE the finish cracks. If afterwards, you'll have to settle with the visible defect or refinish the entire counter.

    The butcher block counter was original finished with an indoor polyurethane. This time we will use a marine coating. And we'll find a dish drainer that doesn't get any water at all on the counter. Also, if your installing wood, try to avoid faucets that mount directly on the wood.

  • writersblock (9b/10a)

    >This time we will use a marine coating.

    Just be aware that "marine" doesn't necessarily mean "more water resistant". There are other considerations sometimes. Waterlox, for example, will tell you that the difference in their marine finish is not that it's more waterproof, but that it's for areas that are in sunlight all day long. Check with the manufacturer for the finish you decide on.

  • MiMi

    I have seen photos of Ikea wood counter tops on Pinterest and just like the ones posted above, they are beyond beautiful... I have a question I am hoping one of you might could help me with. I have an Island in my kitchen that I am wanting to replace the top on and have the entire top be oiled butcher block so I can use it as one big dough board to make noodles, pie crusts, breads etc on. My 11 year old granddaughter is getting interested in cooking and I think it would just be a lot of fun to have this big space to share and teach her. The top that is on the island now has a big overhang which I do not want so I would guess the new top would be around 28x40 maybe, just a rough guess here. Has anyone else done this?... Also do you have any ideas where I could get one or order one? I live in Oklahoma and we do not have any Ikea stores here. I would appareciate any input or ideas where I could purchase one. Thank you..Debbie

  • thirdkitchenremodel

    Ikea countertops can be ordered for delivery. Other places I have seen mentioned but have no experience with are Blockhead Blocktops, Craftart and John Boos.

    We are getting ready to start our kitchen remodel which will include wood countertops (beech, from Ikea, finished with Waterlox). If ours look half as nice as jenswrens I'll be over the moon!

  • Jarne2001

    This install is coming up on a year old. No issues thus far. Sealed with Waterlox.

  • PRO

    As a professional wood worker with over 40 years of experience, I have strong reservations with undermount sinks and wood tops. The problem...... water, water, water. Over time, there will be failure with a caulk joint and then it will become obvious. I think with an over size farm style sink you will have the least amount of problems. If your going to use and undermount sink, never use oak as a species.

    For the record, I have no documented proof to back up my statement, but I have seen enough wet damaged wood. ps. I love wood tops, they are my favorite of all mediums.

  • PRO
    MarkJames & Co

    Wood tops with two undermount sinks- one in island and the main in perimeter. Pic is from April 2011. Counters are oiled cherry (Rubio). The sink cutout and about 4" of the underside at the sink are coated with West Epoxy (which I used when I was doing repro boats in 90's).

    I was at the clients a couple of months ago for another project. Aside from the cherry nicely aging there is no issue with the counters. Sorry I didn't take photos then.

    Counters were done by Engrain who no longer does counters. The company who took over for them doesnt' epoxy as standard but will as an option. In a recent conversation they indicate that they have had no failures.
    I wouldn't use red oak and not really crazy about the idea of maple. The oldest one I've had done with a sink is 16 years now (Iroko)

  • PRO
    Joseph Corlett, LLC

    A wood counter with a properly installed undermount sink that has been treated with epoxy on the edge and is maintained regularly should not fail.

    Water? Wood boats float in the stuff.

    Here's an easier way to cover exposed end grain.

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