Butcher Block Countertop Pros and Cons

by decwells
Butcher Block Countertop Pros and Cons

When planning a kitchen renovation, design should complement function and nothing is such an example of this than a butcher block worktop. The material is a classic in Southern and farmhouse kitchens, but it is also extremely versatile. Butcher block adds a beautiful warmth and organic element to any space, while also serving a functional purpose in food preparation, which is part of why Ree Drummond loves it.

Ten years ago, Ree undertook an entire renovation project for The Lodge and even she admits that the worktops were the most difficult element to decide on. Of course she did a full comparison with counters. Of the many materials used, only the butcher block received this rave review: “If I could marry a table top, this would be it,” adding that she “can throw vegetables all over the place and chop them where even if they are without having to fetch a separate cutting board from under the cupboard.” Let’s just say it made cooking and prep work a whole lot easier!

The style and practicality is also why butchery islands were installed in the new Pioneer Woman test kitchen! Still, any design decision has pros and cons, says Karen Vidal, the designer behind Vidal Design Collaborative. “A butcher block counter is functional and practical, but not without some caveats; it’s not perfect and will wear!” We spoke to Vidal, along with Grothouse’s Erin Hudson, about the pros and cons of butcher block counters.

Kevin Miyazaki

What are butcher block counters?

Butcher block is a specific type of wood built for kitchen prep work that is not recommended for other styles of wood.

“A normal wood counter is not made for chopping,” explains Hudson, whose company designs beautiful, American-made wood surfaces. “The end-grain construction style of butcher block allows the fibers to act almost like a stiff brush. Microscopically, the knife edge goes between the fibers.” Butcher block is a preferred prep surface as it will keep your knife sharp and prevent knife marks from appearing.

You can use any hardwood to create butcher blocks—oak, maple, cherry, to name a few—but Paul Grothouse’s favorite is Kensington, a specially engineered species from Grothouse.

How much does a butcher block counter cost?

Butcher block is usually between $30 and $40 per square foot, but it depends on the type of wood you choose (higher-end lumber can run as high as $180 to $200). Many people take the DIY route for installation, but the labor cost for leased installation is typically between $50 and $70 per square foot.

How do you maintain a butcher block counter?

The biggest enemy of butcher block counters is water, says Karen. Although you shouldn’t put hot pots and pans directly on the surface, she’s less concerned about heat than she is about water damage and regular maintenance.

Care is relatively easy: Wash wood by hand with dish soap and warm water, and dry the block thoroughly after washing. Over time you will need to re-oil the surface with a food grade mineral oil. “You can also use a steel scraper or sandpaper as needed to keep the top smooth and free of deep cuts or any food build-up, and then oil the top again,” adds Hudson.

butcher block countertop pros and cons

Laurie Glenn

What are the benefits of a butcher block counter?

  • Style: The wood is not only cozy and warm, but it is versatile as you can choose from many different patterns, grains and colors. You can use it for counters, kitchen islands, end tables and kitchen tables.
  • Affordableity: Butcher block is one of the more affordable counters. You can choose a wood that fits your price range and it is not as expensive as natural stone countertops. Moreover, you can combine it with other materials.
  • Lifespan: Butcher blocks can last as long as 20 years with proper care and regular maintenance. This means they will outlast your regular laminate counter.
  • Utility: You can chop food right on the surface—meat, seafood, and vegetables! They are ideal for food preparation because wooden surfaces naturally kill bacteria.

What are the disadvantages of a butcher block counter?

  • Care: Okay, take it like a pro or a could Refinishing a butcher block counter is easy, but it will require regular maintenance. They are susceptible to scratches and scuffs, and they are porous. The advantage is that stains and burns, along with the necessary re-oiling, will contribute to a deep, rich patina that develops over time.
  • Not heat resistant: Unlike stone surfaces, you cannot place hot pots and pans on the wood because it will develop burn marks. These can also be sanded and oiled.
  • Susceptible to water damage: Water can stain butcher block counters or create water rings. Avoid installing near sinks, as you may cause damage from spray or leakage.
  • May dry out: As with many other types of wood, butcher blocks can dry out and need to be re-oiled.

Why choose a butcher block counter?

If you are indecisive when starting a kitchen remodel, butcher blocks are a good choice because they can be used with other surface materials. Just look at The Lodge’s kitchen island: the food prep side is butcher block and the other side is concrete.

Vidal’s favorite combination to design is soapstone and butcher block because they have a similar organic quality and soapstone is heat resistant. Since her biggest concern is water, she prefers to install it away from sinks and other wet areas. “I love using them on an island, even if the island has a built-in cooktop or range.” They are the perfect prep area choice!

“It can play in most architectural styles and is not limited to ‘rustic’ style,” says Vidal. “I think cabinetry is an important consideration when using butcher block; a painted cabinet finish offsets it nicely. Either classic white or a dark color can be a good foil against the natural wood tone. Stained cabinetry can make it look ‘heavy’ feel, ‘ which must be a consideration.”

Buy cleaning products for Butcher Block
Butcher Block Conditioner
John Taylor Butcher Block Conditioner
Sandpaper Sheets (25 Pack)
Fandeli Sandpaper Sheets (25 Pack)
Multi-purpose stainless steel scraper
Multi-purpose stainless steel scraper

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