How To Repair Countertops

Rob Sabo | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011

Wood countertops for the kitchen are manufactured to give homeowners as little trouble as possible. The premium planks of wood are kiln dried and straightened, and after assembly the countertops are coated with a stain and waterproof finish. However, over time these countertops can become damaged from use, and a minimal amount of curving, warping or checking in the wood--splits in the end grain--is expected.

The good news for you as a homeowner, though, is that repairing light to moderate damage usually is a simple process.

How to repair damaged wood countertops

  • Small scratches, cuts and burns: Sandpaper works wonders to remove cuts, scratches and burn marks. A light hand sanding with heavy 100- or 120-grit sandpaper usually can remove most of the damage. Make sure to follow up with a finer 180-grit sandpaper, and treat the repaired area with mineral oil to protect the wood. Keep in mind that if you sand too much, you can remove the protective finishes.
  • Stains: Deep stains can be difficult to remove because the discoloration often has penetrated deep into the wood's pores--it is not going to sand out without using a lot of elbow grease. Some professionals advocate using watered-down hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice or a wood bleach for deep stains. Treating wood monthly with butcher block dressing oil or mineral oil not only prevents your wood countertop from drying out, but it also improves the wood's resistance to staining. The oil also gives your wood countertops a beautiful and distinct patina. Dispose of oil-soaked rags properly by rinsing them thoroughly before discarding--oily rags exposed to heat or sunlight can combust.
  • Checks: Small cracks often appear in the wood grain. This is not a defect, though; most wood countertops experience slight swelling and shrinking with the seasons. Use a stick of furniture wax to fill in small cracks, and a color-matching wood glue for larger cracks. Be careful not to spread too much wax or glue around the checked area, or you might have to sand it off later. A damp cloth works well for removing excess glue before it dries.

You might have to call in a professional to restore countertops that have deeper cuts, scratches, stains or burn marks from hot pans, or warped or twisted boards. If you have any hesitation about your restoration abilities, call a professional for advice.