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I have made some kitchen-style cabinets for my office and have done it in a cost effective way. I am now wanting to adorn it with a worktop that is reasonably hardwearing.

I am wanting it to be a reasonable thickness of about 38-40mm.

I know there are multiple choices for this, such as:

  • Buying a kitchen countertop - particleboard style from a kitchen supplier - These tend to be about 40mm
  • Layering multiple sheets of 18mm mdf/ply - I have in the past made a desk out of 2 layers of birch ply.

I would prefer a real wood finish that I can wax/protect etc. so if I were to go the multiple layers of mdf/ply, I would like something birch or perhaps oak veneer.

If I were to go down the layered route, how viable would it be to layer a more expensive veneered sheet (mdf or ply) on top of a cheaper regular sheet of plywood?

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    I would look for a recycled ply-faced solid core door.
    – Jasen
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 21:09
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    @Jasen A door is the classic cheap/easy counter solution. But whether it is practical or not depends on the dimensions. Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 21:21
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    You might also try the woodworking site.
    – JACK
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 21:32
  • You can buy plywood with a finishable hardwood top ply on one side. Layer that on cheaper plywood to get the thickness you want. That's probably the cheapest approach that resembles what you want. 40mm is very thick. Another cheap approach at that thickness is to use 2x4s in a rustic style with a heavy layer of poly for durability.
    – jay613
    Commented Mar 16, 2022 at 21:44
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    Be aware that modern veneers (both on sheet goods like plywood and solid core doors) are extremely thin. If you are looking for a surface that can take a bit of abuse, the finish you apply will be important. Commented Mar 17, 2022 at 0:48

3 Answers 3

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Go visit Habitat for Humanity ReStore, or local equivalent.

Buy a wood-faced solid core door (you can also buy one somewhere else brand new, but if you can get a used one, far less expense.) Sometimes they even have ones that were never actually used but end up there as surplus. Usually with nicer veneer than what you can buy for the price of the whole veneered door.

Done. Thousands of times over, done - and works well.

Butcher-block countertop is another relatively cost-effective way to get (laminated) solid wood, if you want solid wood.

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Can I put a high-quality hardwood plywood on top of a cheap plywood/MDF to make a nice counter top?

YES

There is absolutely no reason you cannot or should not do this. It's perfectly acceptable and very traditional. Often, high quality antiques are made out of a cheaper wood like pine then veneered in a layer of oak or maple or other very expensive and exotic wood.

As a matter of fact, that's exactly what your high-quality hard-wood plywood is - one thin layer of oak or maple (or whatever) over layers of cheaper wood like pine. Since nobody sees the cheap wood underneath, it doesn't matter what it is. (TBH, hardwood plywood is made of higher quality inner layers so there aren't any voids or knots for when you cut into it, but it's still much cheaper wood).

The one thing you'll want to do is get matching edge banding to hide the edge of the plywood and whatever is underneath it. You'll apply this with an iron (if it's pre-glued), or with contact cement (if it's not). For questions on how to do edge banding, I'd suggest jumping over to the Woodworking sister site and searching over there. It's probably already been covered, but if not (or you still have questions), feel free to ask one there. This is the type of thing that's well within their remit.

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I would consider using laminated flooring as a worktop. If it gets damaged it is easy to replace.

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