Butcher block countertops are an excellent choice for serious chefs, and anyone who wants to add the natural warmth and beauty of wood to their kitchen. Be sure to check out our FAQ below.
Butcher Block Color Choices
Why choose Butcher Block Countertops?
- Butcher block countertops are very durable.
- Butcher block countertops never go out of style.
- Butcher block countertops are very long lasting as long as they are taken care of.
Butcher block countertops are made out of thick strips of hardwood glued together to form a solid surface. Maple is the most commonly-used material, but oak, cherry, and walnut are popular choices as well. Almost any sort of wood can be made into butcher block, and exotic varieties can be ordered to suit homeowner’s tastes. Generally speaking, however, the harder the species of wood the countertop is made out of, the better it will hold up.
The big question homeowners need to answer when considering installing butcher block countertops is whether they intend to actually use the surface for cutting. Butcher block comes in two different types of finishes, one for cutting and food prep and the other for service and display. Both have their advantages, and it is important to understand the differences before deciding. Back to the top.
Unfinished or oil-finished butcher block countertops are perfect for cutting and chopping. The raw wood is rubbed with oil to lock in moisture and protect the wood, and any stains or scratches resulting from food prep can be removed quickly and easily with a sanding block. Simply sand the stain away, rub in a dab of mineral oil, and the countertop looks like new. On the downside, unsealed butcher block can warp or turn black from excess water. It is best not to install unsealed butcher block near a sink or other water supply. Back to the top.
Sealed butcher block is easier to clean and maintain than the unsealed variety, but cannot be used for cutting. Knives could scratch the finish, leaving obvious marks that are not easily sanded away. Sealed butcher block countertops maintain a consistent color and appearance over time, and are generally resistant to water.
By far the greatest advantage of butcher block countertops, besides their good looks and convenience in food preparation, is their ability to be refinished. Even sealed butcher block countertops can be sanded down and refinished, giving homeowners a like-new countertop at virtually no expense. If well-cared for, a butcher block countertop can last indefinitely, providing countless years of service to generations of pleased chefs. Back to the top.
Pros and Cons of Butcher Block Countertops
Advantages of Butcher Block Counter Tops:
- Butcher block countertops are good for the environment. Reclaimed lumber is used for the construction of butcher block countertops for your countertops which is an environmentally conscious endeavor. Butcher block countertops are a symbol of the aesthetic sense a person has.
- Butcher block countertops are designed to be beautiful. As compared to granite and any other stone top, wood gives a more inviting appearance. Wood is warm and not as cold as any stone. Neither is wood sterile like stainless steel. Butcher block countertops add a rustic touch and a different aesthetic dimension to the kitchen than the same old granite and marble.
- Butcher block counter tops are great to use as cutting surfaces. Butcher block has the necessary expanse and sturdiness to endure chopping and cutting. Wood is known to be strong. Here, the anti bacterial nature of wood comes in handy. While thinking about butcher block countertops pros and cons, this is a significant point.
- Butcher block countertops are comparable in price to Granite. This is more so when the prices of a butcher block countertop are compared with granite. Installing Maple wood butcher blocks come are similar to the cost of granite countertops.
- Butcher block countertops do not require too much maintenance, and are easy to restore. It is not a major hassle if you make it a point to keep the butcher block top always clean. In fact it is not even that hard to clean the surface. Just plain sanding is enough to remove any signs of rough usage like dents, burn marks and so on. Thus, butcher block countertop care is not a major issue.
Disadvantages of Butcher Block Counter Tops:
- Butcher block countertops dent and scratch fairly easily. This happens especially during cutting and chopping even though it is a convenient surface for doing these things. However, it is easy to fix this by having your countertops sanded and re-sealed.
- Butcher block countertops require a good deal of clean up to keep them in pristine condition, especially if you are going to use them for preparing food. Furthermore, butcher block has to be periodically cleaned without fail. It needs more maintenance than granite or marble.
- Some butcher block countertops can be extremely expensive. If you are not using maple, the price for butcher block counter tops can get pricey, especially if you are using a wood like teak. Please contact Capitol Granite for all butcher block surface prices.
- Even though butcher block countertops give a nice feel to the kitchen, it easily shows heavy usage, which can give your butcher block kitchen countertops an unappealing look over time if they are not regularly taken care of.
Common Questions about Butcher Block
Whats the difference between end grain and edge grain?
End grain butcher block tops are built by fusing together the end pieces of wood rails into a classic checkerboard pattern. Edge grain butcher block tops feature parallel wood rails that span that length of the piece. Our edge grain butcher blocks feature full length wood rails with no unsightly butt ends or finger joints. They also feature a true flat surface and uniform thickness throughout. Our end grain butcher blocks are often the first choice of pro chefs because the end grain construction is the strongest and most durable. End grain butcher blocks are also easy on knives. During cutting or chopping, the end grain wood fibers absorb the impact of the knife blade; this keeps knives sharper longer and also helps prevent nicks and gouges, which extends the life of the butcher block top and also helps prevent bacteria from entering the wood. Both our end grain and edge grain butcher block tops are available in Walnut, Cherry, Lyptus and Hard Rock Maple. Back to the top.
What’s the difference between the varnique semi-gloss and natural oil finishes?
Many of our butcher blocks feature a food-safe natural oil finish that seals and protects the wood and provides an ideal cutting surface. Natural oil is the finish to choose if you intend to cut upon your butcher block directly. For natural oil finish butcher blocks, it is recommended that you re-oil the surface every 4 weeks or so using a pure white mineral oil that you can purchase at a regular grocery store or hardware store. You can easily bring the surface of your natural oil finish butcher block back to like-new appearance by sanding and re-oiling the surface. Varnique semi-gloss is a virtually maintenance free light gloss finish that also seals and protects the wood, but is not meant to be cut upon directly. Varnique semi-gloss is ideal for aesthetic applications, and it is also the finish of choice for bakers who intend to use their butcher blocks to roll dough. Varnique semi-gloss finished butcher blocks can be easily cleaned with mild soap and warm water. Varnique is resistant to most household detergents, though it is always best to avoid the use of harsh chemicals on your butcher block surface. Varnique semi-gloss finished butcher block tables, butcher block kitchen islands, and butcher block carts have a beautiful fine furniture look. Back to the top.
How do you clean a natural oil finish butcher block countertop or butcher block surface?
To clean a natural oil finish butcher block, first scrape loose with a steel scraper or spatula any heavy food particles or foreign matter that may have adhered to the butcher block surface. After brushing or scraping all loose particles from the butcher block surfaces, take a dish cloth dipped in soapy water, or water with a very mild detergent, and wash the butcher block surface as you would any other wood surface. Wash the dish cloth in clear warm water, wring it out, and go over the butcher block surface again. Finish up by taking a dry cloth and thoroughly drying the butcher block surface. Do not leave water sitting on the surface of your butcher block, as this may cause water spotting. If liquid is left sitting on your natural oil finish butcher block, and spotting does occur, you can renew the surface of your butcher block by sanding with 120/220 grit sandpaper and applying a generous coat of mineral oil. Back to the top.
How do you clean a varnique semi-gloss finish butcher block countertop or butcher block surface?
Varnique semi-gloss finished butcher blocks clean up easily with mild soap and warm water. Varnique is impervious to most household chemicals, though it is wise to avoid the use of harsh chemicals or harsh detergents that may damage the finish. Varnique, though less permeable to water than natural oil, is not impermeable; therefore, it is wise to clean up liquid spills on your butcher block counter as soon as they appear. Back to the top.
How often will I need to re-oil my oil finish butcher block countertop or butcher block surface?
For natural oil finish butcher blocks, we recommend that you re-oil all surfaces of your block every week or so. Because butcher block wood is a live material, extremes of humidity and dryness can swell and shrink your butcher block enough to cause seasonal checks to appear. This possibility, though remote, is an unavoidable condition of enjoying the beauty of a living material. Real wood with a check is still prettier than Formica without one! Cracks filled with cellulose filler of the right tint become practically invisible. Still, you can help preserve your butcher block by keeping your home humidified in winter and by refreshing your butcher block every 4 weeks with a generous coating of natural mineral oil on all surfaces. You can use pure white mineral oil that you can purchase from a local hardware store or grocery store. Back to the top.
Warping and/or Twisting Butcher Block Countertop?
Slight warping or twisting of hardwood countertops may occur during transit as atmospheric and or moisture conditions cannot be controlled. The occurrence of warping or twisting in a newly constructed countertop is nothing to fret over. This is actually a typical occurrence in natural hardwoods and can be fixed easily with a little mineral oil. Apply oil liberally to concave side. If not corrected within 2 weeks, tape plastic to the convex side and oil the reverse side every day. Top will adjust to new humidity. If your countertop still shows slight warpage or twisting conditions you can lightly draw the countertop down with the use of lag bolts. Back to the top.
What are the butcher block countertop edges like?
Our edge grain butcher block counters come standard with a straight 90 degree edge. The edge is not sharp to the touch, but rather is slightly eased. Back to the top.
How Do I Install My Butcher Block Countertop?
All our butcher block counters come with installation instructions. Installation is simple. The top must be securely fastened to the base unit by using appropriate length wood screws. Most cabinet manufacturers provide corner blocks within the cabinet for attaching the counter top to the cabinet base, and pilot holes predrilled through the corner blocks into the underside of the top. Be careful that you do not drill too far into the top.
Some manufacturers of cabinets and appliances take into consideration expansion and contractions by slotting the screw holes. Where a manufacturer has not made such allowances, you should use an undersized screw with a washer or counter sink pilot holes are drilled at the extreme ends of the slots and the block has expanded, you negate the advantage of the slots.
Only minimal fixing is required, as the butcher block will be held down by self weight, plumping, etc. It is best to fix your butcher block into the same strip of wood at two fixing points. Fixing of your butcher block is best done through the underside of cabinet base framework via a 7/16″ pre-drilled clearance hole and #10 gauge screw with a washer. To allow for natural expansion, your butcher block should never be glued down.
If you were installing a back splash along with the counter top, it would be advisable to attach it at this time. The back splash is usually attached to the surface, not to the back
Note: It is important that your butcher block counter have adequate ventilation, to prevent excessive moisture movement into the wood; therefore, do not attach your butcher block counter directly on top of solid underlayment, such as particle board of MDF tops; or, if you do, be sure to cut large holes in the underlayment so the butcher block can breathe. If you install your butcher block next to a brick wall, it is best to use a moisture barrier, such as plastic, and leave a slight air gap to prevent moisture transference. Back to the top.
Can I cut my butcher block counter myself?
Yes, you can. In fact, many of our customers purchase standard sized butcher block counters and have them cut on site. If you cut your butcher block counter at home, or have your carpenter cut it for you, be sure to reseal your butcher block counter wherever youve cut it with at least 4 coats of sealer. Good sealing of your butcher block is essential to prevent abrupt and excessive moisture movement to and from the wood. Back to the top.
Can I get my butcher block counter with a sink or stove cut-out?
Yes. Just let us know when you make your order and we’ll help you choose the right cut-out for your butcher block.
Can I Create a Sink or Stove Cut-Out in My End Grain Counter Top?
We do not recommend sink cut-outs for End Grain or Commercial-Grade counter tops, due to their construction. Since the pieces on these counter tops are smaller, cutting a sink or stove cut-out could compromise the integrity of the joints. Back to the top.
Can I put my butcher block countertop above a dishwasher or oven?
Yes, you can, though it is important that your appliance be properly insulated to prevent excessive heat transfer to the butcher block. Back to the top.
Is my butcher block countertop waterproof? What happens if I get water on it?
Butcher block is a live natural material that is permeable to water. Natural oil finish butcher blocks will develop water spots if water is left standing on the surface. Varnique semi-gloss finish butcher blocks, though less permeable, will also spot and absorb water if water is left standing on the surface. On both natural oil finish butcher blocks and varnique semi-gloss finish butcher blocks, it is best to clear up water spills as soon as they occur. If water spots develop on the surface of natural oil finish butcher block, you can remove them by lightly sanding and re-oiling the surface, which will bring it back to like-new appearance. Back to the top.
How do I restore my butcher block countertop if it gets damaged or stained?
You can easily restore your natural oil finish butcher block by sanding with heavy duty grit sandpaper and re-oiling with pure white mineral oil, which you can purchase from a local hardware store or grocery store.
Can I use part of my butcher block counter as a breakfast bar? How far can my breakfast bar extend over my counter? Yes, you can have an overhang for a breakfast bar. On edge grain counters, the permissible length of overhang depends on how you install your butcher block counter. If your butcher block counter is installed so that the overhanging portion runs along the length of the piece, parallel to the wood rails, the maximum allowed overhang without additional bracket support is 8 inchesï¿½; if placement that results in an overhang greater than 8 inches, the overhang must be supported underneath by brackets. If, however, your butcher block counter is installed so that the overhanging portion runs perpendicular to the length of the wood rails, the maximum allowed overhang is 12 inches, in this case, placement resulting in an overhang greater than 12 inches must be stabilized underneath by brackets. Back to the top.
Types of Butcher Block Cutting Boards
End-Grain Cutting Boards:
The best to be found and will meet the needs of the most discerning customer. More durable than regular cutting boards, these end-grain boards look beautiful on your countertop. An end-grain is a much harder surface and has a greater tolerance for the chopping motion. These boards give a truly resistant cutting surface while being kind to the bladeâ€™s sharp edge.
The old fashioned cutting boards were always end-grain design (the chopping block) for a reason, it keeps the knives much sharper. Instead of crushing against the wood fibers the blade goes between them much like cutting into a firm brush. You will find that your blade edges last much longer, and you’ll see no knife marks on the board. When the individual boards of wood are arranged so that the grain of the wood runs vertically (up and down), this puts one end of each board up so that the cutting surface is actually the end of many individual pieces of hardwood. With the grain aligned in this manner (up and down), when the knife strikes the surface during cutting, the grain of the wood actually separates and then closes when the knife is removed. This accounts for the self-healing aspect of the end-grain surface. The wood itself is not cut, but instead you are cutting between the fibers. Back to the top.
Edge-Grain Cutting Boards:
One of the best-selling cutting boards for the kitchen – excellent value chopping board and the perfect companion in the kitchen. The majority of wood cutting boards you can buy today are flat grain design. The main reason for this is that they are significantly easier to manufacture. Back to the top.
Care and Maintenance of Butcher Block
How to Season A Cutting Board:
Before using a new butcher block, season it to prevent staining and absorption of food odors and bacteria. Proper surface treatment is important to guard against germs and/or mold growth on both new and older boards. The wood surface needs an oil that can be repeatedly applied to fill the wood pores and repel food particles, liquids, and oils. Never use any vegetable or cooking oils to treat or finish a cutting surface, as in time the wood will reek of a rancid spoiled oil odor.
USP-grade mineral oil is a popular choice as it is the cheapest pure food-grade oil you can buy (do not use vegetable oil or olive oil because they can turn rancid). Mineral oil remains safe throughout its life. There are various oils available for cutting boards and butcher blocks. Some are called “Butcher Block Finishes” or “Mystery Oil.” Save some money by visiting the local hardware or drug store and purchasing Mineral Oil. (not mineral spirits – that is paint thinner).
When you see the words “food safe finish” in a description of a wood product, this generally means mineral oil has been used. Simply wipe mineral oil on the surface of your board and watch it soak in. When the wood won’t take any more oil, you can wipe off the excess with a clean dry cloth. Don’t worry about applying too much oil – more is better.
Beeswax is often added to mineral oil and walnut oil to give a tougher finish. The wax of bees has been used for centuries for waterproofing and sealing materials from baskets to cloth and for preserving foods and other perishable materials, including wood. It will make wood water-resistant (though not water-proof) and will help protect the wood surface from use and wear. It will also give a wood surface a nice smooth feel to the touch and leave a gentle, sweet fragrance. Simply shave about 1/2 teaspoon beeswax into a microwave safe dish with a cupful of mineral oil; microwave on high for about 45 seconds. Apple to the cutting board or butcher block while still warm. Save or dispose of the remainder of the oil.
Beeswax Top Coat – A beeswax top coat is an optional addition to the re-finishing process, but is well worth the time. The beeswax sits on the surface of the wood in contrast to the oil that soaks into the wood. As a result the beeswax fills in pores and gaps that thin oil can’t bridge. This helps to keep moisture, bacteria, and other contaminants from getting into the wood surface. To apply the finish, simply wipe it on with a clean cloth. The beeswax is a soft paste that has a similar consistency to that of a shoe polish. Excess finish can be easily buffed off with the cloth. Once the finish has had some time to dry it can be buffed to a shine.
Walnut or Almond Oil. These are all-natural oils and are one of the few oils that do not turn rancid as easily as other oils. However, all vegetable oils will go rancid eventually. I, personally, don’t recommend using these oils. These oils are available in grocery stores and some mail order woodworking supply stores. NOTE: If anyone in your family has an allergy to nuts or nut products, do not use these oils.
Apply oil with a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain, allowing the oil to soak in between each of the four or five coats required for the initial seasoning. After each treatment, wait about four to six hours and wipe off oil that did not soak into the wood (oxidation or hardening of the oil will take approximately 6 hours). Re-oil the butcher block weekly or as often as needed. Back to the top.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Caution must be taken when using any type of cutting board. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind. Whichever kind of cutting board you use, all cutting boards should be cleaned and sanitized frequently. Some of the various techniques recommended for cutting boards are as follows (you decide which is best):
Hot water and soap: Scrub board with hot water and soap. Rinse and dry thoroughly. NOTE: NEVER submerge cutting boards in a sink of water! Wood is porous and will soak up water causing the cutting board to crack when it dries.
Vinegar:To disinfect and clean your wood cutting boards or butcher block countertop, wipe them with full-strength white vinegar after each use. The acetic acid in the vinegar is a good disinfectant, effective against such harmful bugs as E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Vinegar is especially good for people with chemical allergies. Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for easy cleaning and sanitizing.
Hydrogen Peroxide: 3% hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a bacteria-killer. To kill the germs on your cutting board, use a paper towel to wipe the board down with vinegar, then use another paper towel to wipe it with hydrogen peroxide.
Bleach: Sanitize both wood and plastic cutting boards with a diluted chlorine bleach or vinegar solution consisting of one teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach in one quart of water or a one to five dilution of vinegar. Flood the surface with a sanitizing solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry or pat dry with paper towels.
All cutting boards, and other food surfaces, should be kept dry when not in use. Resident bacteria survive no more than a few hours without moisture. Keep moisture of any type from standing on the block for long periods of time. Beware of moisture collecting beneath the board if you leave it on the counter. If you can, prop one end up when not using your board. Back to the top.
How to eliminate odors from your cutting board
Cooking odors like garlic, onion, or fish can make your butcher block smell funny occasionally. Follow these tips to eliminate odors.
Coarse salt or baking soda: Rub the board with course salt or baking soda. Let stand a few minutes and wipe salt or baking soda from board, and then rinse. You may need to re-season after rinsing your cutting board/chopping block.
Lemon: Another very easy technique is to rub fresh lemon juice or rub a cut lemon over the surface of the cutting board to neutralize onion and garlic odors. You may need to re-season after rinsing your cutting board/chopping block.
Vinegar: Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for easy cleaning and sanitizing. You may need to re-season after rinsing your cutting board/chopping block.
Use a good steel scraper or spatula often when using the board. Scraping removes 75% of the moisture that builds up on a wooden cutting board. An occasional sanding will return a wooden board to a smooth luster. But never scrub a wooden board with a steel brush (a steel brush will ruff up the finish and should be avoided). Back to the top
How to oil your Butcher Block
Wooden boards need oiling or reseasoning once a week to seal the grain against bacteria. An oil finish helps to prevent the wood from cracking or pulling apart at the seams.
Before applying oil to butcher block, warm the oil slightly. Apply oil with a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain, allowing the oil to soak in. Allow oil to soak in a few minutes, then remove all surface oil with a dry, clean cloth. When applied, mineral oil seals the pores of the wood blocking the penetration of moisture.
When refinishing a butcher block, you may wish to sand the surface of the wood to remove old stains, scratches and marks. When sanding out kicks and scratches, remember that if you don’t sand the top evenly you will end up with “hills” and “valleys” in the top. Back to the top.