staining my butcher block counters - A Life Unfolding

staining my butcher block counters

Close up of stained birch butcher block countertops with drop in sink
These are Birch Butcher block from Menards.

How do you darken a butcher block countertop?


Thanks for popping in today.

Since it has been a while since we finished staining our butcher block counters, I thought I’d share what we stained them with, how easy it was, and how they held up.

Spoiler Alert: We still love the butcher block!

A Little backstory

The butcher block install was part of our kitchen refresh project for the One Room Challenge.

We were looking to replace our 17-year-old Formica countertops.

They were worn and in dire need of replacement; you can see them here.

From the moment we bought this house, I knew that I wanted to add butcher block counters to the kitchen.

I love the warmth that wood brings to a room, and they are a very affordable countertop option.

It was a bonus that we could easily DIY them ourselves, and I wasn’t worried about the upkeep as we are empty nesters, which means our kitchen doesn’t receive nearly the daily wear and tear it once did.

Plus, you can easily sand and restain butcher block if you encounter a serious problem!

Before shot of countertops.


Installation of the countertops went pretty well (says she that did not have to cut for the sink twice).

The problem was I procrastinated (remember we were on a deadline for the challenge), and I didn’t realize it would take over two weeks to have the countertops shipped to our Lake House.

So our only options were to look at the big box stores to meet the challenge deadline.

Luckily we ended up finding the sizes we needed at Menards.

They were only available in birch (solid wood but lighter than I wanted), But I thought, hey, okay, I’m flexible.

Insert laughter here if you don’t know me well.

A side note if you are buying from a big box store, lay them on the ground to make sure they are not warped. We had to return two of ours that were horribly warped when we went to cut them. We learned to pull them off the shelf on the final visit and lay them flat on the floor to check for warpage.

Once installed, I was SOOO excited!

I had the beautiful wood I wanted (YAY), but the color of the birch wood was off.

The natural light birch color, which I usually like, was driving me crazy in the space.

I kept trying to talk myself into loving them in their natural state, but I just didn’t.

The only solution was staining the butcherblock.

NOTE: Plenty of people simply seal their countertops with mineral oil and keep them natural.

If you’d like to keep yours in their natural state, I have found the Boos Mineral Oil to be my favorite way to keep them looking gorgeous.

I knew I had to prep the countertops before going any further, so I conditioned them with Howard’s butcher block conditioner.

I simply applied with inexpensive sponge brushes and let it set.

Conditoning your countertops

Butcher Block Conditioner and brushes.

Filling in the seams

My next step was to fill in all the cracks where the countertops have seams.

For this, I used the wood shavings from where we had cut the countertops and added wood glue.

I mixed it in a plastic bag and applied it using my finger.

I then used the edge of a butter knife to scrape off any excess.

This mixture, once stained, blends into the same color as the top.

It works like a charm.

The seams are a little darker, but they have the same wood tones.

Wood filler for Butcher block using wood glue and wood shavings.
Wood Filler using shavings and wood glue.

Figuring out the stain

After several days of google research, I decided to try Dark Tung Oil to darken the wood.

I applied it right over the wiped-off wood conditioner.

I was trying to keep the counter’s food safe which is a concern for me.

Tung Oil seemed like a great solution.

And I have to admit….they were darker.

But they also pulled a bit orange (which I think is from the birch).

This is after I applied four coats here.

Butcher Block with Dark Tung Oil.
After four coats of Tung Oil.

Pretty but still not what I was looking for.

I went back to researching more options.

Staining butcher block countertops darker.

Just when I was about to give up, I must have typed a new combination into google, and this AMAZING product popped up Rubio Monocoat.

Now I am the first to admit it’s not cheap, but it works!

And once dried is food-safe.

Win, Win!



What is sooo amazing about Monocoat, you ask?

Well, for one, it’s food-safe once dry, comes in over twenty colors, and only takes ONE COAT!

I ordered two samples, the Black and the Walnut.

I ended up mixing the Walnut with just a touch of black added (I tend to mix stains to get the results I want), and here is the final color.

A Food safe way to Staining birch butcher block darker (walnut).

Excuse me for a second as I am still happy dancing.

The photo below makes them look a little more orange than the photo above it, which is the lighting.

They are slightly but not that off. 🙂

Showing finished kitchen counters with stained butcher block.
Walnut Stained


After six months of use, we are delighted with how they are holding up.

I have touched them up (I don’t bother to mix the two colors; just used the Walnut) a time or two for nicks but mostly use boos mineral oil every few months when they start to look a bit dry.

I put the mineral oil on and let it sit overnight, and wipe off the excess in the am.

It doesn’t feel like a lot of upkeep, but I do make sure we have a cutting board handy at all times 🙂

Close up of kitchen countertops in butcher block

 Updated June 12, 2021:

We loved how these turned out so much we added them to the recent Airbnb renovation we renovated.

I went a tiny bit lighter in color on these (not as much black) because the entire space is light and bright, but I love them also!

Both of the countertops are holding up very well!

Until next time,


If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

How to DIY a Concrete Countertop in a weekend 

Updating the kitchen in our rental property for $500.00

A bonus pic for the cuteness factor!

Baby in the sink showing stained butcher block counters
How to Stain Butcher Block Countertops
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  1. These turned out spectacular! Thank you for sharing with us at the To Grandma’s house we go link party, I’ll be featuring you on my blog this week!

  2. susan says:

    They look gorgeous! If I had my wish, it would be for butcher block counters in my kitchen. Your kitchen looks beautiful!

  3. Sonya says:

    I love your stained counter tops they addbso much warmth.

  4. Your kitchen counters look terrific, Libbie!!! Great job finding this monocoat product. I saved to my Perfect paint and Stains board for future reference and for our readers. Love the idea of recycling the wood shavings too.

    Happy fall to you,
    Barb 🙂

  5. michelle james says:

    This turned out beautifully! Love it!

  6. Maureen says:

    Gorgeous! I too love my butcher block counters and it is nice to know there is a food safe product that actually comes in a range of colours!

    • Libbie Burling says:

      Thanks Maureen!

      The range of color made all the difference for me. It was driving me crazy until I found the perfect shade.

  7. Sharon Phillips says:

    The countertops are gorgeous. I’m about ready to do mine. But I live in a home with men who don’t care about cleaning up there spills and aren’t very careful about putting hot items on the counter. How are you managing yours

    • Libbie Burling says:


      They have been much easier than I thought they would be. My husband is the cook in the family and he is MESSY. In the 10 months we’ve had them we have one scratch (no stains) and that came from my adult daughter who was visiting (and is also a messy cook). I simply condition them when they seem dry and forget about them. I do have a cutting board left out at all times so it’s convenient. Good Luck and if you go with them send me a pic!

  8. Autumn says:

    LOVE that darker color shown by the sink!! I also just bought birch countertops. Which color would you suggest I go for to get the closest to that darker color you have there? I have conditioner but not the Tung oil. Should I just go for the black?

  9. Chelsea says:

    I have looked all over for a food safe but stained also, and glad I came across your post! I absolutely love it! I just ordered a sample of the walnut. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Michelle says:

    Hi, where did you learn that this oil is food safe? I’ve googled the product and nothing on their website says it is food safe, and it is not even mentioned for countertops. Seems like a great option if it is foodsafe but just wondering where you found that information. Thanks.

    • Libbie says:

      It is listed on an obscure part of their site. However, I spoke directly with a company rep. It becomes food safe as soon as it dries.

  11. Jennifer says:

    How does the butcher block hold up to water around your faucet?

    • Libbie says:

      It has held up better than the actual faucet! No water damage at all. The faucet however is beginning to weirdly peel (unrelated rant…lol).

  12. Brittany says:

    Hi! Do you remember the ratio of black to walnut that you used? Did you have to buy full sizes to cover your cabinets or were the samples enough? THanks!

  13. Lisha says:

    Did you sand it down before you applied the monocoat to get it back to the raw wood or did you color over the top of the Tung oil and conditioner? Its beautiful and we have been trying stain after stain including the Rubio to get it to pull nicely…

    • Libbie Burling says:

      I did sand in between coats. And it can make a difference how long you let the stain sit. If you look closely one part of my countertops is slightly darker than the other because I was doing it by sight trying to get the color where I wanted it to be.

      • Susan says:

        How many coats of monocoat did you use? I’m in the exact same boat as you- getting ready to sand off my dark tung oil bc of the orange. Also- what grit sand paper did you use?

    • kathy says:

      So do you think she sanded back down to raw wood before using the Monocoat

      • Libbie says:

        Hello Ladies!

        Sorry, I just saw this question. I did not sand down the Tung oil. I applied the Monocoat about 4 weeks later (It took me a while to find it) and the Tung oil had thoroughly soaked in so I wiped it well with a tack cloth and applied the stain. I let the stain sit until I felt it had pulled the color I was looking for. Hope this helps!!

  14. Kathy says:

    Did you put the stain right over the Tung oil

    • Libbie says:

      No, but if I had to do it again, I would have.

      • Melissa says:

        I am having a harder time than I should with treating our new butcher block counters. I can’t believe I found this blog as it’s exactly what I’m dealing with. You’re saying you didn’t stain over the oil application? We have oiled and the color is just a bit too vivid. I’m wondering if staining on top of the oil will take. The sample I tried on a piece of text butcher block did not turn out well!

  15. mary kate says:

    hello! i’m about to install a butcher block counter top on some cabinets in my laundry room. planning to do a white wash stain. i was wondering i should install first, then condition/stain/seal, or condition/stain/seal and then install. i can you see you installed first; were you happy with that? also, did you condition/stain seal the underside at all? thx much!

    • Libbie says:

      Mary Kate, I would do it before installation if you can. It is easier not to have to be so careful and tape off things around the counters


  16. Hello!

    We are buying birch butcher block countertops and are ordering the Monocoat per your recommendation. Did you put any sealer or oil finish on top to ensure the counters were water-resistant? Thanks!

    • Libbie says:

      Hello Jennifer!
      I used the Boos Mineral Oil. I put on a thick coat (didn’t wipe it off until the next morning) wiped it down with a soft rag and reapplied. Repeated the same thing the next day. Water beaded and they looked gorgeous. I repeat every few months paying extra attention around the sink and faucet. Good Luck!!!

  17. Katie S says:

    Love how these turned out! I just bought some Rubio Monocoat in walnut and black. Do you remember how much of each you used…was it 50/50 of each color?

  18. Amanda says:

    Hello. Beautiful counters! Installing ours this weekend. Did you sand before the conditioner? Or only between coats of the stain? Thanks so much!!

  19. Josh says:

    I just came across your blog as I’ve been researching how to finish our Butcher block counter tops that we’re going to be buying from the big box store. I am definitely going to spend the extra money on some Rubio. I’ve heard great things about it. As well as Osmo. I would much rather have an oil finish without worrying about a poly finish scratching and chipping.

  20. Jennifer Jarrett says:

    Hi there! Just like everyone else…this process and all my research keeps getting me more confused! I am using a birch butcher block top from the home depot for my bathroom countertop. Would you recommend using the regular tung oil (not tinted) or minwax pre-conditioner before the Rubio? And do you need to have a sealer like Waterlox or Spar to make it more waterproof after? Thanks in advance!

    • Libbie says:

      I used pre conditioner pre-stain and the Boos after and found I didn’t need the Waterlox.
      I hope that helps!

  21. Jean says:

    We just replaced our old outdated ugly countertops with butcher bloc from menards and stained them with Durbin Monocoat chocolate and let me tell you they are gorgeous, we applied the product rather thickly and let it sit for about 20 minutes and then I watched as my husband wiped it odd telling him which spots needed more and which spots he was wiping too hard on. Bam they were done in no time we were very careful for 3 days didn’t set anything on them we wanted them to cure completely. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

  22. Sandra King says:

    Checking out the Rubio Monocoat and I see that they sell it with the hardner ( B), did you mix the “A” & “B”? Or did you just used “A”?

    • Libbie says:

      I just used "A" on these countertops, but I have you the combo on a recent project, and I did like the hardner. It has only been 8 weeks, so I am waiting to see if they hold up better with or without. It did not change the color.

      • Kristy says:

        I am fixing to do a table using the Rubios Monocoat 2C. Every other site I have looked at says that you have to totally wipe off the excess within 15 minutes of application or it give an uneven finish as it dries too hard to buff off well after that amount of time.

        When you tried the combo, did you still let the stain sit for 20 minutes or longer? I am having trouble with my samples getting the color very dark at all. Since I am trying to refinish my Amish tabletop so the color blends with the matching chairs, this is a problem for me. Thank you.

        • Libbie Burling says:

          Hello Kristy,

          I did 20 minutes without any problem at all. I was looking for color so I just went for it. I would suggest putting it on the underside of the table to experiment a bit. I have used Rubio several times since this post and I LOVE it!

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