Your Guide to Understanding Butcher Block Countertops

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Butcher block countertops have become a popular countertop option in kitchen styles of all different kinds.

Butcher block countertopView in gallery

The unique makeup of butcher block countertops creates a warm and homey look, but this doesn’t mean that these are a good choice for everyone.

Butcher block countertops have amazing qualities, but they also have some drawbacks. According to home guru, Martha Stewart, butcher block countertops require regular maintenance from each month to every day. This helps butcher block countertops stay conditioned and maintain their texture and color. Otherwise, they will dull and crack. Is the beauty of butcher block counters worth this level of maintenance to you? For some people, the answer is a resounding “yes”! For others, maybe not.

What are Butcher Block Countertops?

What are Butcher Block Countertops
Tom Meaney Architect, AIA

Butcher block countertops are individual pieces of wood that are bound together to form one large surface. Butcher block countertops are made from different species of wood. Close-grained woods are ideal for countertops making cherry, walnut, and maple popular choices. Hard rock maple is one of the most popular because while it has a tight grain, it is less expensive than cherry or walnut. There are also butcher block countertops made from oak, bamboo, and exotic woods like iroko and zebrawood.

The individual pieces of wood are joined in a couple of different ways. There are edge-grained countertops that have longer horizontal pieces finger-joined together. There is also end-grain construction which uses short vertical pieces joined together. The end result resembles a tone-on-tone checkerboard.

Cost for Butcher Block Countertops

Cost for Butcher Block Countertops
EKA Build

The price of butcher block countertops varies by species of wood, the thickness of the countertop, and overall quality. You can expect to pay anywhere from $50-$300 per square foot to purchase and to install your countertops. Butcher block counters are a popular DIY option. For those people, you are looking at just around $50-$100 per square foot to purchase a DIY butcher block countertop.


How to Care for Butcher Block Countertops

The care and maintenance of wood counters like butcher block is regular but it is not extensive. Most steps are common sense that you would apply to other types of countertops.

Choose the Right Finish

When your butcher block countertops have been installed, you need to decide on the best finish option. There are several that you can choose and each requires a different level of maintenance.

  • Natural Finish – If you intend to prepare food right on your countertops, you need to use a finish that is food-safe. Natural finishes like mineral oil, tung oil, and beeswax are good options for this. These have a beautiful look when you first apply them, but they will wear away in short order. If you like the look of the natural finishes but don’t want the constant maintenance, consider a hardened tung oil and resin product like Waterlox or Watco Butcher Block Oil and Finish. These will keep your countertops looking good for a longer time.
  • Stain – Decide if you want to change the color of the countertops. If you do, you need to apply a stain. Choose either a water-based or oil-based stain formula.
  • Polyurethane – Polyurethane is a clear coat that you can apply to your countertops. This is not the best if you plan on preparing food on your countertops and it is not food safe. It is also susceptible to cracks and scratches.

Keep Them Clean

In order to prevent large-scale damage to your countertops, clean them on a regular basis each day.

  • Clean up any spills as they happen as they can cause stains on your countertops.
  • Scrape up any food residue being careful not to allow the instrument to nick the countertops.
  • Scrub the countertops with a scrub brush using mild soap and hot water. Rinse the countertops with some water and a soft cloth.
  • Once each week, sanitize your countertops with white vinegar. Spray undiluted vinegar on the countertops. Allow it to sit for a few minutes and then wipe away.
  • Dry the countertops.

Maintain Your Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block countertops need to be maintained on a regular basis.

  • If you have a natural finish like mineral oil or beeswax on your countertops, you need to reapply these finishes. Be prepared to reapply finishes every 4-6 weeks to keep your countertops protected and conditioned.
  • Prevent damage to your countertops by not putting scalding pots or dishes on your butcher block kitchen countertops.
  • Use cutting boards to prevent cuts and scratches on your countertops.
  • Remove stains on your butcher block countertops with lemon juice, one cup of water and a tsp or hydrogen peroxide. Rub this solution on the stain with a damp cloth and then wipe dry. You can also try rubbing the stain with lemon and salt.
  • If your butcher block countertops become damaged because of scorches, stains, or scratches, you can sand them down. Take 220 grit sandpaper, sand down the damaged areas. Clean them and then reapply your finishing coat.
  • Avoid cleaners that contain bleach or harsh chemical cleaners. Do not use scouring pads with stiff bristles as they may damage the finish. Some fabricators also warm against using products like Murphy’s Oil Soap as they leave a residue on the wood.

Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons

Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons
A.Jennison Interiors

There are reasons that there are such different opinions on butcher block countertops. Consider these pros and cons to decide on which side of the argument you fall.

Pros

  • Cost – Butcher block countertops cost much less than other natural varieties of countertops like marble and granite. Yet, they still have the look of quality.
  • Versatility – Butcher block counter tops work with every style kitchen from modern to traditional. They also look amazing mixed with other countertop varieties.
  • Look and Texture – No other countertop will match the lovely tones and warm texture of butcher block countertops.
  • Longevity – With proper care, butcher block countertops will last for around 20 years.
  • Ability to Refinish – Unlike synthetic countertops, it is easy to sand down and refinish butcher block countertops if they develop damage over time.
  • Breakages – Wood is a soft surface compared to stone countertops. If you drop items on butcher block counters, they may not break.
  • Installation – Butcher block countertops are easy for DIYers to install.

Cons

  • Cost – Butcher block countertops cost more than some countertop surfaces like laminate.
  • Non-resistance – Wood is not as resistant as stone to heat and scratches.
  • Maintenance – Wood countertops require some level of regular care and maintenance. You cannot install these countertops and then forget about them.
  • Dust and Grime – Dust and grime do not disappear on butcher block countertops like they do on variegated surfaces like granite or quartz.

Butcher Block Countertop Design

Butcher block countertops work well with diverse kitchen designs. We have gathered some of the best for your inspiration.

Butcher Block Counters in a Contemporary Kitchen

Butcher Block Counters in a Contemporary Kitchen
Jaffe Architecture + Interiors

Jaffe Architecture + Interiors designed this contemporary style kitchen. They used a thick walnut butcher block countertop section to adjoin the quartzite counters. This gives the owners a striking food prep area that is close to the sink.

Butcher Block Counters in a Historic Home

Butcher Block Counters in a Historic Home
Balding Brothers Restoration & Remodeling

This kitchen design from Balding Brothers Restoration and Remodeling includes a farmhouse sink, butcher block countertops, and shaker cabinets. These work well with a historic kitchen design that includes modern conveniences.

Modern Traditional Kitchen with Dark Butcher Block Counters

Modern Traditional Kitchen with Dark Butcher Block Counters
AKDO

This kitchen design features design elements of contrast. AKDO uses the white cabinets with the dark butcher block cabinets to balance the light and dark elements to give the overall room more depth.

Light Butcher Block Countertops with a Farmhouse Kitchen

Light Butcher Block Countertops with a Farmhouse Kitchen
Michael Hospelt Photography

One popular trend in butcher block countertops is to keep the color natural. This interior designer chose a thick maple countertop for the central island. They created a substantial and central food prep and eating area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)FAQ

Are butcher block countertops a good choice?

Countertops are a personal choice. Butcher block countertops are no different. Some people love the natural beauty, layered texture, warmth and cost of butcher block countertops. People like this are willing to put up with the maintenance required to keep these countertops looking great. To other people, the regular maintenance is too much. Other people may not like the way they look.

Are butcher block countertops easy to maintain?

Butcher block countertops are not difficult to maintain. But the maintenance they require is on a regular basis. There are some finishes like hardened tung oil with resin and polyurethane which create a more lasting finish.

Where can I find butcher block countertops near me?

There are many suppliers that carry butcher block counters. These include small woodshops and large home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. In many large cities, an IKEA butcher block countertop is one of the most popular options. IKEA butcher block countertops are made using thick veneers. You can find oak, walnut, birch, and ash veneer butcher block countertops.

Which is the best kind of butcher block wood?

Maple is one of the most popular options for butcher block countertops. It is hard, has an attractive tight grain, and it is inexpensive. Cherry and walnut are other good options if you prefer a rich color.

Conclusion

Butcher block creates a striking countertop, though it is one with some strings attached. It requires regular maintenance and it is easy to damage. But if you are prepared to keep up with the care required these are cost-effective countertops that bring warmth and texture to any space.

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