DIY Plywood Countertop

The laundry room.  The phrase doesn’t exactly bring up feelings of love and longing, does it?  No, for most it hearkens feelings of being buried in mountains of cotton and polyester and lost in seas of unmatched socks.  Or maybe it’s the monotony of it all that comes up – wash this, fold it, put it away, and two days later, there it is again.  Times that by a hundred and repeat it by a thousand and four and you’ve piled a nice slice of semi-despair onto your plate.  And maybe you’re one of those people who doesn’t mind doing laundry (which also means you probably don’t have kids) so I guess maybe you can’t relate and that’s ok.  Personally, I’d rather do laundry than dishes so I guess I’ll keep my cup half full with that.  But, there’s hope.  We have recently discovered that a pretty laundry space makes doing laundry a little, a little less of a chore.  You don’t even have to spend a lot to spruce up your space.  Last weekend we crossed off something that’s been our our to-do list for years – crafting a new wood countertop to be placed over the washer and dryer.  We love how it turned out and we’ve been shaking our heads at how long we waited to do it because of how easy it was.  Of course I typed up all the details for ya in case you want to make one of your very own.

Before we pull up to the new top though, let’s do a little refresher.  Here’s the laundry corner of our laundry room, sans any sort of countertop:
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And here is a glimpse (because it’s the best picture I could find) of our temporary countertop – the middle of a door we cut out last year which just happened to be as wide as our side-by-side washer and drying but six inches short of their depth.
IMG_8072 Up until last weekend, it didn’t seem like a bad arrangement.  Sure it was ugly…I was hoping to cover it with some marble contact paper one of these days.  But, it gave us a surface on which to treat stains and set stuff so I was all for it.  (I vaguely remember Anthony giving me a stink-eye when I told him to “lay that there piece of wood you just cut out of that there door on top of the washer and dryer.”)  Now that we have our new and improved version in place though, the old door slab is laughable.

IMG_8508We have successfully upped the functional and aesthetic anty all for just under $40.  Read that as WIN and WIN.

I am so very excited to share it with you because it really was so simple to do!  Your front-loaders will be begging for a top after you read this and you will too.
Let’s dive in, shall we?

First, get the measurements of the area you want to cover.  Maybe it’s just your washer and dryer or maybe you want to go all the way to the wall, like we did.  The bigger, the better in this case.

Now, write those measurements down and take them to your favorite hardware store.  We went to Lowe’s because it’s closest to our house.  Stroll over to all of the plywoods and grab yourself a nice sheet of premium birch, 1/2 inch thick.  Of course, you can go up in expense and grab a different premium plywood depending on which has the look you want.  I wanted the lightest plywood we could find so birch it was but there’s oak and pine too.  I don’t know much about different types of wood besides the fact that they’re different colors, but the oak was $15 more expensive than the birch…maybe it’s stronger?  Takes stain better?  I don’t know.  All I know is that $35 is lower than $50 and the $35 birch looked fantastic, was the lighter color we wanted, and was perfect for what we needed it to do.
Take the plywood over to the wood-cutting area, hand over your measurements to the wood-cutter dude (or lady!), and have him/her cut it to the size you need.  You could check out here and go home to start the install or you could do what we did to make the countertop look thicker.  Like I noted above, the plywood we grabbed was birch, 1/2 inch thick.  Great, but we wanted our countertop to look a little thicker than 1/2 inch.  It’s all personal preference though.  Of course we could’ve just grabbed two pieces of plywood but then we’d have had to shell out another $35 and would’ve had a ton of wasted pieces post-cutting.  Instead, we had the wood-cutter slice the long piece that was left after cutting into two equal long pieces.  This would allow us to beef up the thickness of our countertop with some strategic placement. 
Did I lose you?  Yeah, I’m losing myself.  Sometimes pictures just explain better.
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Here’s the underside of our countertop:
IMG_2416You can see the full piece on the bottom (which is actually the top) and then the two pieces on top of that full piece (that are actually the bottom pieces) are the extra length of the plywood that was cut off and cut in half again length-wise.  We glued one piece along the front of our countertop, giving the thicker look from the front, and one piece towards the back to balance everything out.  Does that make sense?  I hope so.

To attach the two strips of plywood to the underside of the countertop, we used Elmer’s wood glue:
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Anthony ran several beads of glue along the two narrow pieces of plywood, stuck them on, and then made sure they stayed put by placing a bunch of his weights on top.
IMG_2393We left the weights on overnight and by morning, we were ready for the next step.

Because the left side of the plywood was going to extend to the wall, Anthony grabbed a scrap piece of 1 x 2 and screwed it into the studs along the left wall so that that side of the counter would sit on it.
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Also, so that the countertop didn’t sit directly on top of our washer and dryer, I cut up a foam kitchen mat I found at Dirt Cheap ($1) several years ago for it to rest on (the old countertop sat on top of the mat too).  You can find foam kitchen mats like the one I used at Walmart and Target for fairly cheap or the multi-purpose foam sold at fabric and craft stores would work too.
IMG_2418We just made sure the foam mat pieces aligned with the strips of plywood on the underside of the countertop.

Later, we realized we didn’t like how that 1 x 2 support looked so we cut it back so that it couldn’t be seen from the front and then painted it the color of the wall for added camoflage.  Now it looks like the countertop is floating which is uber cool!
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Originally, I just wanted to slap some poly on top of the plywood to keep the color light but Anthony liked the idea of staining it darker more.  So, I tested both ideas on the scrap piece.
IMG_2434Without stain, it did match the color of our tiles a little too much making a little contrast sound better so I swayed to Anthony’s side.  Out came the small can of ‘Special Walnut’ stain I used on this table and this table.  I like the ‘Special Walnut’ because it’s not too red or orange and almost leans toward having a gray hue.

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I’ve never stained anything this big before…actually, I don’t know that I’ve ever stained anything wood before so I was a little nervous.  Apply and wipe off.  That’s what I’ve seen other people do and that’s what the directions said.  How hard could it be, right?  Well, here’s what I learned about staining a big ‘ole piece of wood – you’ve got to stain in sections.  Brush on the stain in the direction of the wood grain, let it soak in (I only let it soak in for about a minute because I wanted a lighter look), and wipe off.  Then do the same thing with the next section.  After I was done with that, the section I started with was lighter than everthing else so I made a second pass on it and then it was darker than everything else.  *sigh*  Grade?  D+  I think I’ll stick with my paint and paint brush.
IMG_2420It wasn’t exactly what I had pictured in my head.  It was too dark (however, Anthony loved it) and too streaky.  To lighten some of the darker parts, I took our sander with fine sandpaper to it and, while it didn’t lighten them much, it did make things A LOT less streaky.  (Just a note, some of the wood glue we used to attach the two pieces of plywood came oozing out the front.  We wiped it as it oozed but there was still residue leftover that dried and did not take stain so the front edge of the countertop is really splotchy.  Right now I’m not too concerned but later down the road, I might grab some matching brown paint and dab it on to hide the glue a little better.) 
After sanding, I brushed on two coats of polyurethane with a satin finish, letting the first coat dry competely before adding the second.  I had a hard time deciding whether to use polyurethane or polycrylic.  Polyurethane yellows over time a lot more than polycrylic and I wanted to stay far away from that.  But, I think polyurethane is a little more durable and, for a countertop that will probably see it’s fair share of detergent spills and damp clothes, I wanted good protection.  So, I hoped and prayed the yellowing wouldn’t be noticeable and went ahead with the polyurethane.

So far, there’s no yellowing to be seen.

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I also sanded the only exposed corner down so that it was rounded vs. the pointed edge waiting for a toddler head to come crashing into it.
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Here’s what the countertop looks like from the side:
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You can definitely tell it’s not one, solid, 1” thick piece of wood BUT in our case, that’s a-ok because this side isn’t visible unless you’re getting cozy with the waterheater (behind the bifold) or playing hide-and-go-seek, so we don’t care.  Anthony offered to cut a small piece of the scrap plywood to stick in that spot on the side to make it look one inch thick all around but I figured it was pointless. 

Next on the list for this room – getting rid of that blah, crooked light fixture and adding some wallpaper to the wall above the countertop.
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I found this little chandelier at Goodwill a few years ago that will be going up in this room but I’m having a really hard time deciding what color to make it.
IMG_2387                                                                          (Special thanks to the model.)
My heart wants to sand it down to a brushed, more modern brass but my head is telling me to paint it silver to match the chandelier in the dining nook, one room away, so that everything flows.  What say you?  (Keep in mind that our plan is to sell this house in the next year or two so I have potential buyers to please.)

And, wallpaper.  I’m having a really hard time deciding that too.  Right now I’m leaning toward #1, maybe so I can get my gold in someway or another if it’s not in the light fixture.
wallpaperThese are all from Spoonflower – I’ve got a gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket.  Opinions please!  If I didn’t have the gift certificate, I’d probably grab a stencil or free hand some dots or something but I’m really dying to try my hand at wallpaper.  Stay tuned.
We’ve only had the countertop in place for a couple of days and it’s been so amazing.  I love the extra space!  If you don’t have a top atop your washer and dryer, you’ve gotta get one!  
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If you take on this project, let me know!  I’d love to see!  And seriously, I’d love your input on the light fixture and the wallpaper.  I can’t do this on my own! Confused smile
Have a great weekend!
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diy floating countertop

12 comments

  1. Nice! I'd go with either 1 or 4. They're brighter and would contrast with the wood nicely.

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  2. Replies
    1. Thanks Hannah!! I just bought some silver spray paint! :)

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  3. I vote for silver paint on the chandelier and wallpaper #2 or 5. I think they will tie together well and then tie in with the silver in the dining room.

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  4. #s 2 and 5 are my favs. If the edge bothers you, then you can simply cut and nail a 1x2 to the edges. Of course you'd have to stain and poly them and with a different species the stain might not be a perfect match but it would be fine. Also, for future projects to avoid splotches on soft woods, using wood conditioner is a must. Thinking of selling, really?

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    1. I'll keep that idea in mind if the paint doesn't work out! Thanks Lisa! I didn't know that about wood conditioner! Is birch a soft wood...I know nothing. Haha! And yes, sadly we are outgrowing this little house. :) We really don't need much more but we need a little more room to store things...we have little storage in this house. :( But, I'm excited about buying a blank slate...an old, outdated blank slate! :)

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  5. https://youtu.be/pcL3v5Qe-AI
    http://woodworking.about.com/od/finishing/p/woodConditioner.htm

    Check these out.

    Understand! Storage is key!

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  6. Since you are thinking of selling I would paint the light fixture silver. I like wallpaper #2. It reminds me of your painted concrete in your sunroom. #1 &3 are fun too.

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    1. Oooh! I didn't think of that Emma - tying the wallpaper in with the painted floor! Great idea!

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  7. Hi
    Love wallpaper number 2 and silver for the light fixture. I hope to add a counter to my laundry room this month. I just took out a chandelier light as not enough light for me. Bought a great new light at the local Restore...

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    1. Awesome Wendy! You'll love the countertop space! And don't you love ReStore? They are so great for finding used light fixtures! :)

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