Countertops 101: Butcher Block

Known for their warm, rustic appearance and rugged practicality, butcher block counters are a popular choice for remodeled kitchens. And since wood is relatively affordable, you can look forward to years of life from a butcher block countertop–as long as you can keep up with its unique maintenance requirements. 

Here are some insightful tidbits about butcher block to help you decide if these countertops are right for your kitchen.

What Is Butcher Block?

The first thing you’ll notice about butcher block counters is that they’re made of wood. That already makes them unique among popular countertop materials, which tend to heavily favor natural stone and imitation stone. 

Butcher block counters are built with toughness in mind. To achieve that, they’re assembled from many straight cuts of wood that are then adhered to make sturdy slabs. The finished slab gives you a sturdy surface to cut and prep your food on. It’s a big built-in cutting board! 

Keep in mind that not all butcher block countertops are made alike. There are three varieties you should know about, since they all have different traits:

Butcher block island featuring the distinct “end grain” pattern.
  • Edge grain is used most often for counters due to its strength, stability, and lower price point. Edge grain butcher block counters are made by placing the wood boards on their sides and connecting them so that the edges create an even, uniform surface. 
  • Face grain boards are laid flat to give the counters a streamlined appearance. This material is not used as often for kitchen counters since it can easily be marked or scratched when used to chop and cut food.
  • End grain is the most expensive material of the tree but is also the strongest. End grain countertops are made from small blocks that are arranged in an almost checkerboard pattern. It’s ideal for cutting food because it hides knife marks and does not run knife blades.

Which Wood Is Best for Butcher Block Counters?

Nearly any species of wood can be transformed into butcher block counters. Maple is used often because it is strong, and the grain is clear. Red oak and cherry are also appealing choices since they offer a stunning, rich color. Butcher block countertops can also be created from bamboo, particularly for end grain counters.

Tips for Maintaining Butcher Block 

Butcher block counters need some regular TLC to keep them in good condition. If you skip maintenance, your counters will turn dull and crack, and you’ll have to replace them sooner than planned. 

Butcher block needs to be oiled or lacquered 

Without a proper finish, butcher block counters will begin to crack, warp, and lose their natural luster. Luckily, keeping them intact is as easy as applying the right finish. 

The “right” finish depends on how you plan to use your new counter. 

If you plan to do a lot of cooking and food prep, we recommend using an oil finish like mineral oil. For homeowners who plan to use the space as a dining surface, you can opt for a lacquer finish instead. That’s because oil finishes can rub off on clothing or paper, which makes it more practical than aesthetic. 

What kind of oil is best for butcher block? 

Any oil you apply to your counter should be food grade for safety. But when it comes to your oii of choice, you have lots of great options to choose from. 

Popular oils for butcher block include:Mineral oil

  • Vegetable oil
  • Linseed 
  • Beeswax
  • Paraffin 
  • Diluted varnish 

Mineral oil is a fan favorite because it’s colorless, flavorless, and odorless. One applied, it keeps out water and protects the wood from bacteria and mold.  

You can find mineral oil at a drugstore or health food store. If you buy mineral oil at your local hardware store, be sure the oil is safe to use on the surface if you prepare food on the counters. 

How do you oil a butcher block counter? 

Remove all items from the countertops and wipe the surface with a damp cloth. If there is anything on the wood, use a dough scraper to remove it. You can also use fine sandpaper to buff away burns and scratches before oiling the counters. 

Pour the oil on the counters and rub it into the surface with a dry cloth. Let the mineral oil absorb into the wood. This step can take as little as one hour, or you can opt to leave the oil on overnight. Once you’re done waiting, simply wipe the counters with another dry cloth to remove any excess oil.

How Much Do Butcher Block Countertops Cost?

The price of butcher block will vary depending on the grain construction, type of wood, and thickness of the wood. Generally speaking, you can expect to pay between $75 and $150 per square foot of wood. 

Here is a list of butcher block types and their average cost per square foot:

  • Flat grain – $60 per sq. ft. 
  • Edge grain – $85 per sq. ft. 
  • End grain – $150 per sq. ft. 

Another affordable option is to contact the manufacturer of your choice and select a butcher block worktop available in standard counter sizes and lengths. If you’re a DIY savvy homeowner, you can cut the top to fit around corners and appliances and install it yourself. For those less confident in their DIY skills, a local handyman service can assist you without breaking the bank. 

Is butcher block for you?

Butcher block is a great option for homeowners who want a practical surface for cooking and food prep. And if you don’t mind doing a little maintenance here and there, your butcher block counters will last a lifetime. 

Although wooden countertops aren’t right for everyone, they can make an excellent addition to homeowners who don’t mind a little upkeep every now and then. 

If you think butcher block countertops are the ideal addition to your kitchen, you can check out slabs at a local showroom or speak with a trusted contractor about installation options.

Inspiration Gallery:

Butcher block counters with apron sink by Clayton Homes
Farmhouse style butcher block island by Cabinets by Graber
Tiered butcher block island with built-in bar seating by Water’s Edge Woods
Waterfall style butcher block counter with live edge by Water’s Edge Woods

3 Replies to “Countertops 101: Butcher Block”

  1. A friend of mine has butcher block counters and they look beautiful! It gave the kitchen such a unique look. I even witnessed her cutting up veggies for a salad on them. It’s a counter top and cutting board in one!

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