The previous owners of our house fitted wooden worktops in the kitchen. While these look nice, they need constant maintenance (re-oiling every three months) to stop water getting in - which we don't have the time to do to the standard I'd like, as it effectively means not using the kitchen for a week every time we do it (three sections of worktop, each needing multiple coats which, when working full time, we can only do one coat a day, especially in the colder weather when everything takes longer to dry).

Can I sand down the surface and varnish/lacquer it instead, in order to better protect it while reducing the maintenance liability? If so, what properties do I need to look for in the varnish?

  • I've revised your title to what I think is the key issue. You can certainly varnish countertops, so that's not the critical point. Edit again if you like. – isherwood Oct 31 '18 at 15:39
  • @isherwood thanks, that is the issue - and how to find a varnish that's safe for kitchen use – Nick C Oct 31 '18 at 15:40
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    From my perspective, safety is only a factor if you're regularly preparing food directly on the top. If that's the case, you'll wear through varnish and it'll end up in your food. Keep the oiled wood. – isherwood Oct 31 '18 at 15:42
  • good point - no, we always use chopping boards for the food prep! – Nick C Oct 31 '18 at 15:42
  • What kind of oil do you use--mineral oil, tung oil, or something else? Why does it take so long to oil it? Could you shorten the job by doing a lighter oiling (applying less oil at each re-oiling) which might dry overnight? – Jim Stewart Oct 31 '18 at 19:03

You can apply varnish on top of oil, but the oil should not be fresh / wet. It might help to go over the surface with fine steel wool and mineral oil to prepare it. You could consider Danish oil, which is a combination of varnish and oil.

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