Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation  (2023)

Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation (1)

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Gilbert, AZ

Butcher block, which is made from individual wooden strips fused together into a sleek slab, is a timeless and trendy material for kitchen countertops. But its warm tones and “country kitchen” vibes aside, there is a lot about the surface that homeowners don’t know—including real estimates on its cost and required maintenance. To find out if this material right for your kitchen, read through this comprehensive list of butcher block countertop pros and cons before committing to an installation.

PRO: Butcher block is one of the more affordable types of countertops.

The average butcher block countertop cost of materials runs just $20 to $60 per square foot. This range is far more affordable than most other popular options, including stainless steel countertops ($50 to $150), glass ($25 to $100 per square foot), concrete ($25 to $75 per square foot), marble ($40 to $100 per square foot) and quartz ($50 to $200 per square foot).

You can save even more money by choosing a do-it-yourself installation over hiring contractors to do the job. Professional installation typically adds $5 to $10 per square foot to the total cost. For handy homeowners, a DIY butcher block countertop installation isn’t tricky business, either: It involves cutting sheets of wood down to size with a circular saw, creating the necessary holes for sinks and other fixtures, then mounting the various segments over a cabinet with screws.

For context, let’s compare that to another trendy countertop material like quartz. Not only do the materials cost almost twice as much ($70 to $100 per square foot) as that of butcher block, but a quartz countertop installation is not generally a DIY project. A quartz countertop slab is too heavy for one person to lift, has to be cut with a wet saw, and can seriously damage surrounding surfaces in the home (or your feet) if you drop it.

CON: Butcher block is ultra-sensitive to liquid.

Photo: istockphoto.com

(Video) How Our DIY Butcher Block Wood Countertops Look After 1 Year

Rule number one for butcher block countertop care: Limit its exposure to moisture. You’ve likely been warned to keep wood out of bathrooms and kitchens because of how it reacts to water. Wood can absorb germs, grow mold, stains, or even warp when it’s exposed to moisture. Sealing butcher block countertops immediately following installation (and once a month or so afterward) can counteract these unwanted effects, Yes, butcher block countertop maintenance is a little more involved than it would be had you opted for a nonporous countertop made of glass, stainless steel, quartz, or ceramic tile. Fortunately, all it takes is one to two coats of food-safe mineral oil, such as Howard Products Cutting Board Oil or walnut oil (like Mahoney’s Finishes Walnut Oil Wax) applied with a soft cloth. These nontoxic sealants create barriers that keep spills from penetrating the wood, thus preventing water damage.

Every 10 years, or as needed when the countertops grow stained, use sandpaper to sand away the old sealant. Start with 80- to 100-grit, then move up to 220-grit sandpaper as the surface smooths out. Go over the sanded surface again with oil to make it look like new.

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Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation (3)

(Video) Are Butcher Block Countertops a Good Choice? 6 things to know before you install! VIRAL TIKTOK


Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation (4)

PRO: Cleaning butcher block countertops is a cinch using basic household ingredients.

While soap can streak or spot shiny glass or stainless countertops and acid-based cleaners can erode quartz countertops, both are safe to use on a butcher block. In other words, cleanup is not rocket science!

For everyday cleaning of butcher block countertops, scrape off food debris with a plastic spatula, then use a dish sponge saturated in a solution of 2 cups warm water and 1 teaspoon of dish soap to wipe away the residue. Vinegar cleans butcher block as well as soap and water, and disinfecting the countertop as well as cleans it. To tackle butcher block countertop stains, sprinkle table salt over the stains, then gently rub them with half of a lemon to remove it.

CON: Butcher block countertops ding easily.

Because they are softer and more yielding than glass, granite, and stone, butcher block countertops are more vulnerable to scratches and dents. One way that homeowners prematurely wear their butcher block countertops is by using them as cutting boards.

Despite the name “butcher block,” you’d do well to resist the urge to chop directly on its surface. Knife blades can cause uneven wear on certain regions of your countertop, so use a dedicated cutting board for cooking prep work instead.

If a wayward knife stroke dents the countertop, sand down the dent with a fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit or greater) and then apply mineral oil to the spot. You can use this same solution to remove burn marks on the countertop left by a hot pot.

Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation (6)

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Seattle, WA

(Video) All about BUTCHER BLOCK countertops | Maintenance? Sealing?

PRO: You can choose from a variety of hardwoods and grains to suit your style.

Unlike uniform countertops of glass or stainless steel, butcher block allows you to customize the hue and pattern of your countertop through your choice of wood and wood grain. You can choose from a variety of hardwoods, each lending a distinct color and character to the countertops and your kitchen’s overall scheme. Teak and cherry wood confer a dark and dramatic effect; oak evokes a classic, colonial feel; and blonde bamboo is an excellent option for a modern sustainable home.

You can further define the look of your space through your choice of wood grain, or the pattern visible on the surface of your butcher block countertop. The two primary types of grains are edge grain and end grain. The surface of edge-grain butcher block resembles a series of long, lean strips like the sides of a 2×4. The surface of end-grain butcher block (see below) looks like a checkerboard comprising the short ends of a 2×4.

Photo: istockphoto.com

CON: Butcher block expands or contracts as the ambient temperature fluctuates.

As it does with water, wood swells or shrinks with changing temperatures. Homeowners can expect their butcher block countertops to expand by roughly ⅛- inch in summer and contract by the same amount in the winter. Now, if you don’t prepare for this fluctuation by leaving enough room along the perimeter, the wood’s expansion could cause it to warp or crack.

It’s not difficult to create enough wiggle room for your countertop to expand and contract. If you’re installing a butcher block countertop over an open cabinet top (rather than a solid underlayment), leave 1/8 inch between the edges of the countertop and the walls. If your cabinets have a solid top, mount furring strips to the top of the cabinet. Then, rest the countertop on top of the strips so that it has room to breathe.

PRO: Butcher block countertops can last for a couple of decades.

Follow the above tips on installation, sealing, and cleaning your butcher block countertops, and the surface should last for 20 years or longer. This gives it a major advantage over laminate countertops, which typically last for only 10 to 15 years, and puts it on par with ever-durable granite countertops, which also last at least 20 years.

(Video) Wood Countertops Pros and Cons - Home Remodeling, San Diego

If these butcher block countertop pros and cons leave you thinking that wood isn’t the best fit for your future kitchen, consider installing one of these other countertop materials.

Connect with a kitchen expert

Find licensed kitchen design and construction pros in your area and receive free, no-commitment estimates for your project.

Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation (8)


Butcher Block Countertops: Pros and Cons to Consider Before Installation (9)


What is the downside of using butcher block countertops? ›

Butcher Block Countertop Cons

Stains and Scratches: Harder woods might not suffer from scratches as much as softer woods, but all wood will stain if not cleaned quickly. Some people will use butcher block like a cutting board but they invite germs, mold and even warping.

Are butcher block countertops high maintenance? ›

While pretty, butcher block countertops require much more maintenance than their marble or stone counterparts. You'll have to treat the surface with mineral oil to protect the natural wood and use sandpaper to sand down and fill in any nicks or scratches that have occurred.

Do you treat butcher block before installing? ›

Finish Your Butcher Block Countertops

Seal or stain all bare wood before installation, including the underside (Side B). For a food-safe, waterproof countertop, use a blended tung oil finish. Most finishes are tung oil and additives. These blended finishes are food safe after the oil has completely cured.

Do butcher block countertops scratch easily? ›

Con: Butcher-block is susceptible to scratches, dings, and stains. If you plan on chopping directly on your countertops, you're going to end up marking things up a little (or a lot).

Can you put a hot pan on butcher block countertops? ›

Placing hot pots and pans directly on the butcher block surface is one of the most common mistakes homeowners make. It is also one of the most problematic. The hot items can burn and even crack the wood, leaving permanent damage, in most cases.

Do you put plywood under butcher block countertops? ›

A. If your cabinets have open tops: Install blocking to create a surface that you can attach your butcher block countertop to. Use a quality grade of 3/4" plywood or 1x stock boards to do this.

Can I use Clorox wipes on butcher block? ›

To disinfect your Traditions butcher block after cleaning use Lysol® or Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes. These wipes are available at Lowe's, and report to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria when used as directed.

Are butcher block countertops outdated? ›

Butcher block will continue to rise in popularity against more traditional stone countertops. Large, statement butcher block islands serve as a unique focal point in the kitchen and are a great option for those who aren't ready to commit to complete countertops.

What is the most durable butcher block countertop? ›

Types of Woods Used in Butcher Block Countertops

Hardwoods like maple, walnut and oak are preferred for their durability.

How long do butcher block countertops need to acclimate? ›

It is best to unwrap your butcher block countertop and let it acclimate to the room it will be installed in for 48 hours. This allows the wood to stabilize in the new environment, which will help to minimize the amount of movement once the top is installed.

Should I polyurethane butcher block countertops? ›

While water can invite mold to appear and grow, waterproofing your countertops is a great way to keep them clean and you'll no longer have to stress about spills! Follow these steps to easily waterproof your butcher block countertops with Polyurethane: Sand the counters until they're completely clean.

How do you prepare a new butcher block countertop? ›

How to Make a DIY Butcher Block Countertop
  1. Measure your counter area. Use your tape measure to measure out how large you want your countertop to be. ...
  2. Cut your wooden boards for your block. ...
  3. Glue and clamp your wooden boards together. ...
  4. Cut your countertop. ...
  5. Sand and fill your countertop. ...
  6. Seal your butcher block.
Jul 15, 2021

Why did my butcher block crack? ›

The main causes of butcher block cracks are poor construction, one side drying more than the other, one side is wet while the other side is dry and neglect. Butcher blocks are expensive and sometimes can so pricey that one may consider the purchase of a butcher block as an investment.

What is the best color for butcher block countertops? ›

Maple is one of the best and most popular for butcher block counters because it's hard and has a clear grain. Cherry and red oak offer rich color.

How much does it cost to have butcher block countertops installed? ›

You can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $100 per square foot or $3,500 on average for materials and installation of your wood butcher block countertop. Materials alone usually run around $20 to $70 per square foot. Butcher block countertops can cost between $2,000 and $5,000 for a 50-square- foot kitchen.

What floors go best with butcher block countertops? ›

Butcher Block Works With Hardwood Floors

It coordinates beautifully with the hardwood floors, and gold cabinet pulls.

Is butcher block in style 2022? ›

The most popular and trending countertop for 2022 is a marble countertop. Closely trailing behind is concrete countertops and butcher block countertops.

Should you seal the underside of a butcher block countertop? ›

Seal the bottom of your countertop as well as you seal the top. Wood needs to breath equity from the top and bottom. There are a couple of reasons wood countertops can crack and curl. Failing to seal the underside is one of them.

Does Home Depot cut butcher block countertops? ›

No, the Home Depot does not cut butcher block countertops as it does not offer wood countertop installation services. Customers will need to hire a kitchen installation service to cut butcher block countertops.

Can you chop directly on butcher block countertops? ›

Another plus: You can cut directly on a butcher block countertop, as long as the wood hasn't been varnished (think wood cutting boards). And when the surface shows marring from knives or marks from placing too-hot pans on it, you can lightly sand it to restore the appearance.

Why does butcher block need to be sealed within 48 hours? ›

They don't want that wood to absorb moisture from the atmosphere. It was probably dried in an oven just prior to being shrink-wrapped. Any moisture in the wood is going to dull the appearance of the end product. The oil in the wood is what brings out the rich texture and natural beauty of the wood grain.

Can you use Murphy oil soap on butcher block? ›

Never use soap based oil cleaners like Murphy's Oil Soap or other wood floor cleaners, as these will leave a film that will gum the surface of the finish.

What is an everyday cleaner for butcher block countertops? ›

Undiluted vinegar will clean and disinfect the butcher block without leaving behind a strong smell. Simply spray the area with white vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes. Then, return to the butcher block and wipe it down with a damp dishtowel.

Why is my butcher block sticky? ›

A sticky surface typically comes from an accumulation of dirt, cooking grease and grime. Another possibility is from the buildup of furniture polish, especially waxes or oils.

Can butcher block get moldy? ›

A well-used butcher block logs in many hours of slicing, dicing, chopping and tenderizing. Without regular care and maintenance, moisture and bacteria can build up in the pores of the wood and before you know it, mold starts to grow.

What type of countertop lasts the longest? ›

Quartz takes first place in terms of durability. Made of crushed quartz stone mixed with polymers and resin, this artificially engineered stone countertop is an extremely durable surface that resembles natural stone.

Can you put butcher block around a sink? ›

Putting butcher block around a sink is risky enough, even without the sinks being under-mounted. You definitely have to make sure to use silicone around the sink seam and also use a good wood sealer.

Can butcher block get wet? ›

With a coating of water-resistant, food-safe mineral oil like McClure's Organic Color Seal, water and moisture shouldn't be a problem for butcher block countertops. Water-resistant finishes are widely available and should prevent all moisture from seeping into hardwood countertops.

How do you keep butcher blocks from staining? ›

Sealing Butcher Block Countertops with Mineral Oil

To seal butcher block with mineral oil, you simply apply the mineral oil generously, let it soak in, and wipe off the excess. You need to do it fairly regularly at first but then only about once a month after you've gotten through several applications.

How often do you have to oil butcher block countertops? ›

While the typical or average user should apply butcher block oil or board cream monthly, if you use yours heavily or frequently, you should oil it every two weeks to prevent it from drying out and cracking.

Does butcher block darken over time? ›

Cleaning butcher block counter tops

Over time, some parts of the wood may naturally darken, or a water spot might form that is harder to get out than others.

Can you leave butcher block unsealed? ›

While this can take weeks or even months to get going, you only need to seal them every six months. If you choose not to seal butcher block countertops, you will significantly reduce their life span. An unsealed butcher's block will wear out faster than many less expensive counter materials.

What is the best waterproof sealer for butcher block countertops? ›

Waterlox is a superb choice for finishing wood countertops because it produces an incredibly appealing and durable surface. It is waterproof, food-safe and easy to maintain. Waterlox literally locks out water and locks in the natural beauty of wood.

Does butcher block need to be sanded before staining? ›

While you can choose the finished color for your countertops, they also require some work. If you are installing butcher block countertops, prep and stain the butcher block before installation. Start by sanding the surface of the butcher block with 120-grit sandpaper.

How often do you reseal butcher block countertops? ›

How to seal a butcher block countertop. What is this? It is a good idea to do a light sanding and add a coat or two every 6 months or so. This will ensure the ultimate protection and long life of your new counters.

Can you permanently seal butcher block? ›

There are a variety of options for permanently sealing and waterproofing butcher block wood countertops, commonly used in kitchens. When considering sealers, there are two types available: penetrating and topical.

Are butcher blocks sanitary? ›

If you prepare food on butcher block – regardless whether it's a countertop, an island, a kitchen cart or a cutting board, you will benefit from wood's natural germ-killing properties.

How do I protect my butcher block from water damage? ›

If you do use butcher block throughout, consider using extra moisture protection in the problem area surrounding the sink. Mixing wax with your regular oil application around the sink area is one option, as is sealing the area with a stronger water-resistant product.

What backsplash goes with butcher block counters? ›

White and gray backsplashes are among the most preferred colors with butcher block countertops. Subway flooring forms also create timeless, classic flooring that never goes out of style. In addition, mosaic tiles and wooden backsplashes form a harmonious pair with butcher block countertops.

How do you keep butcher blocks looking good? ›

Use a combination of warm water and gentle dish soap to slow the buildup of grime. Scrub against the wood grain for a deep clean, and rinse the countertop with a clean, wet washcloth or sponge. Be careful never to saturate the butcher block with water and dry thoroughly with a soft dish towel.

Is butcher block difficult to maintain? ›

While pretty, butcher block countertops require much more maintenance than their marble or stone counterparts. You'll have to treat the surface with mineral oil to protect the natural wood and use sandpaper to sand down and fill in any nicks or scratches that have occurred.

Will butcher block countertops increase home value? ›

Butcher block tends to be less expensive than granite, but can also increase home value. This countertop material is made of wood so it also has a variety of unique styles and patterns to choose from.

Can you put raw meat on butcher block countertops? ›

Avoid cutting raw meat or poultry directly on a butcher block or wooden cutting board. Instead, place a plastic cutting board on the wooden surface and use the plastic board as the cutting surface. This will protect the wood and prevent it from becoming contaminated.

Do butcher block countertops need to be sealed? ›

Butcher block countertops are so classic. But they need to be sealed to protect the wood from staining and water damage. There are many different ways to seal your butcher block.

What flooring goes best with butcher block countertops? ›

Butcher Block Works With Hardwood Floors

It coordinates beautifully with the hardwood floors, and gold cabinet pulls.

Can you use Clorox wipes on butcher block countertops? ›

To disinfect your Traditions butcher block after cleaning use Lysol® or Clorox® Disinfecting Wipes. These wipes are available at Lowe's, and report to kill 99.9% of viruses and bacteria when used as directed.

How often do you need to oil butcher block? ›

When determining how often to oil a block, the general rule of thumb is once a day for a week upon purchase; once a week for a month; and once a month forever. The block should be oiled whenever the wood starts to look dry and chalky.

What is the most durable finish for butcher block countertops? ›

Polyurethane is among the most durable wood finishes for floors, countertops, and furniture. Water based polyurethane dries faster, doesn't smell, and is easier to clean up. The finish look and feels like a transparent film.

What happens if you don't seal a butcher block? ›

Without this oil coating, the wood will dry out and even crack. No thanks! With the proper TLC, butcher block can withstand spills and even wetness around a sink.

What is the difference between sealed and unsealed butcher block? ›

A sealed butcher block is finished with a lacquer, varnish, glaze, or other type of sealant, while an unsealed butcher block receives an oil finish. Although the sealed surface requires very little maintenance, it is not suitable for use as a work space or prep area for anything that involves knife work.


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