Butcher Block Countertops For Your Kitchen

by Rachel Laurendeau on July 31, 2012

I love the look of butcher block countertops in the kitchen, they are perfect in a country or cottage kitchen but can also be used to add rustic charm that is lacking in many modern kitchens.

Not only have I seen butcher block used for countertops, I’ve also seen it used for kitchen tables tops, dining room sideboards and also on roll-away carts. If you aren’t currently undergoing a kitchen remodeling and replacing your kitchen countertops, you can also consider simply placing an extra large butcher block cutting board over a section of your existing workspace to create a similar effect.

Juxtapose With Other Types of Materials
If you really like the look of butcher block and have a small kitchen with limited counter space, you can definitely get away with doing all of it in this material. However, if you have a large kitchen, doing all of the countertops as butcher block may be a little overwhelming. Ideally, you would select a section of countertop that will be wood and choose a different type of solid material such as quartz or granite for the rest of the kitchen counters. Often, when people use two different materials for their countertops, they will use butcher block for the kitchen island since that is where most of the prep work is done.

Also consider the kitchen cabinets. Are you putting wood countertops on top of wood cabinets, which rest on hardwood floors? Might be a bit too much wood! Butcher block countertops look great with painted cabinets or with sleek laminate cabinets.

How They’re Made
Butcher block can be made out of nearly any type of wood and the pieces can either be configured with grain showing 
on the flat, on the edge, or on the end. Commonly seen are maple, cherry, oak, beech, teak, bamboo, zebrawood and wenge. Hard woods will obviously give your countertop more longevity. Using a mix of several types of wood creates an interesting effect and can also hide knife marks and scuffs.

A number of different types of finishes are available, but it is best to avoid lacquer, varnish and polyurethane. Butcher block countertops can be stained, but be sure to use a food-safe stain. Typically though, they are simply finished with mineral oil, linseed oil, beeswax or similar products.

Day to day, all you need to do is keep your counters clean with a damp cloth and mild water. You’ll want to avoid harsh or abrasive chemicals, and cleaners. Since we are talking about wood, be sure to wipe off any liquids as soon as possible to avoid staining.

According to Tom Silva of This Old House, an excellent finish for butcher block is food-safe mineral oil that penetrates into the wood. If your counter has cuts or nicks, start by smoothing the surface with a card scraper, a flat piece of metal that has a slightly sharpened edge, scraping in the same direction as the wood grain. Clean away all the dust and wipe on a thin layer of mineral oil and let it soak in for half an hour. Repeat. Once the second coat has soaked in, wipe off any excess oil with a clean towel. He also recommends rubbing in more oil approximately every month to keep the surface stain-repellent and looking it’s best.

For more information on installing butcher block or wood countertops in your kitchen, talk to your local home remodeling or kitchen remodeling experts.

Related blog post: Concrete Countertops – A Unique Addition To Your Kitchen.

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