A review: IKEA butcher block countertops

Back again for another episode of lots of information about the kitchen. This time, we’re talking countertops. I know that many people wonder about our IKEA countertops because I get a lot of questions and emails.

So, here’s my totally honest review of our counters after 18 months of use.

IKEA butcher block countertops

When we were renovating our kitchen, I really debated countertop options. Knowing that this is a short-timer house for us and we were undergoing a full-home renovation, expensive countertops were out. Also, they would honestly price the house out of the neighborhood.

Our last kitchen remodel used laminate and I actually really liked them. They were cost-effective, easy to keep clean and decent looking.

But my heart was really set on butcher block. I loved the warm look with white countertops. And when we went with IKEA cabinets, going with butcher block was sort of a no-brainer. I could pick them up with the cabinets and they were seriously cheap. Cheaper than laminate.

We went with the Numerar Oak Countertops from IKEA. We needed two “slabs” for a total of $338.

There were some naysayers for using butcher block for countertops. As I mentioned in this post, several smart people told us that it wasn’t a good idea, for various (and some good) reasons. Would it get stained by water? Is it sanitary? Will it be okay for resale?

I ended up doing a lot of research to figure out how to make this work for us. In addition to reading a lot of reviews posts and , I also reached out to some other people who had used them. I got some great tips from Jolie of Shopping Candy for my First Home,  Vanessa at This and That, and Aleah at Hey Baklenko.  All have beautiful countertops and really helpful posts about them.
So, we went with the butcher block and decided to seal them with Waterlox, at the recommendation of pretty much the entire Internet. Yes. The Internet speaks to me directly.

Sealing

It’s worth mentioning that I had no intentions of using the countertops as a cutting board. I wanted them sealed and sealed well. Neither Ryan nor I are clean freak and I wanted the counters to look good and be easy to keep clean and sanitary. I also wanted something that would protect the wood from water damage, particularly around the sink area. Although if I’m being honest, there’s always water on the counters from glasses, washed dishes, etc. Sealing them protects the finish and was super important.

I had read that Waterlox was the best way to go. I had to order it online since it’s not sold locally. I ordered a quart of the original and satin finish. It’s not cheap, but it goes a really long way and seems to do it’s job well.

After Ryan sanded all the edges, I got to work. (You can see more in this renovation progress report.) First, I sealed the underside of the countertops twice. (This was really important to me since we have a dishwasher and the last thing I wanted was warping.) Then, I sealed the tops of the countertops four times. (I also did about 8 coats of Waterlox around the sink for safe measure, after reading Vanessa’s post.) For application, I used old rags and cloths. I found it was pretty important to get a good amount of Waterlox on the counters when applying but not to where it was pooling. Between coats, I sanded with fine steel wool and paper bags (which oddly really works to get the counters smooth). Then, I made sure to get all the dust off with a tack cloth.

A few notes about Waterlox:

  • I used the original finish for all coats until the final coat, when I used satin because I didn’t want the super shiny surface. I much prefer the satin finish myself.
  • It’s super strong-smelling. You need to have a very well-ventilated area to work. I did it in the garage.
  • It’s very easy to get dust and debris in the finish. This was the hardest part for me to avoid. Sanding well between coats is key.
  • Each coat takes 24 hours to dry, so while the actual finishing isn’t time-consuming, the process takes a very long time. This is difficult if you are like me and very impatient.
  • And it probably goes without saying that you shouldn’t flip the counters until you are completely done with the side, or risk messing up your hard work.

Here are the counters after installation. I’m not going into detail on the installation, but suffice it to say that my husband and father handled it beautifully. The cut the corner piece straight to the wall and attached the pieces together. I do know that the cutting was a challenge because the wood was solid and thick. But they did an awesome job.

 

And the counters today.

IKEA butcher block countertops

The verdict

We’ve been living with the countertops for over a year now. What do I think? The short answer – I like them. I don’t love them.

  • I like that they still look nice, give a warm feel to the kitchen and really fit in with the period of the house.
  • I do love the price.
  • I don’t love the finish. If I were doing it again, I’d have gone with my gut, sanded them down and stained them before sealing them. I think I would like them with a deeper stained tone. And I would have been more careful with the Waterlox application. I’m not thrilled with the finish and the small imperfections and dust specks that I didn’t get out.

The longer answer - They really look nice overall and I get a lot of compliments on them, in person and on the blog. They are a great value. I’m quite happy with the Waterlox finish.

I personally wouldn’t forgo the Waterlox for tung oil or another finish if the countertops butt up to the sink or if there’s dishwasher. The water could definitely warp the wood so quickly and I wouldn’t risk it. The countertops have really held up beautifully to water.

Ryan and I are not people who are insane about wiping up water if it spills. Every time my husband does the dishes (every night), there is splashed water around the sink. The Waterlox just gives it a nice finish and the water beads up and makes it easy to wipe up. The wood is truly impenetrable to water. We used tung oil on our coffee table and it doesn’t do that. I’d just fear that it would soak up the water and ruin the countertops or make them turn greyish.

I think your personality will determine whether you like the butcher block countertops. We aren’t clean freaks and we aren’t perfectionists. I actually would say I do love them at first glance, but it’s the small imperfections that I think would cause a perfectionist to go to the loony bin and makes me not love love them.

For example, there are a few spots where dust got under the Waterlox and it’s a little bumpy to the touch. There are a few areas of paint that dripped and I cannot get off for the life of me. (I think I have to sand and refinish to take care of them.) There are a couple of scratches, but nothing major. And there are a few spots that the Waterlox has worn off from none other than hot glue – I probably should have used some sort of protection when crafting.

In other words, we’ve used the heck out of these counters in the past year. We cook, we do projects, we craft … they are hardworking counters and I think it’s to be expected.

None of this is noticeable to a casual observer, or even to me on most days. But if you are a perfectionist, it would likely drive you batty. I have considered re-Waterloxing it this summer to stain the counters and get a better finish, but we’ll see.

Until then, I am quite happy with the countertops. Are they perfect? No. But, they are a really cost-effective option and they look really nice overall. And I definitely think they make an impact in the room.

Kitchen red and aqua

What do you think?

(Anything I missed?)

Comments

  1. says

    My mum has had the same butcher block counters for about 15 years. She went with oil (no sealing) because by the time she fitted them, the youngest child in the house (me!) was old enough to be sensible with them. They’ve held up perfectly, BUT she wipes down the area behind the sink every time she washes up and is really careful with anything like lemon juice (blackens them for some reason). I think she likes that she could always sand them down if anything went crazy. She has one of these big ikea chopping boards under the kettle (to catch drips from tea bags) and we use that for chopping bread.

    On the other hand, my friend bought a house where someone had used these (unsealed) and not taken care of them and the whole sink area was black and nasty, so you definitely have to do what is right for your family and lifestyle!
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  2. says

    Thanks for this post Kim! I’m debating using butcher block counters in our kitcen remodel. It’s the home we are planning on raising our kiddos in so I may splurge on some quartz for the main counters and go with the butcherblock on the raised portion of the penninsula. Although I’m curious as to the hardness of the waterlox finish – do you think it would pick up indentations/scratches if it was used as a writing/homework surface?

  3. says

    This is SO helpful Kim! We’ve been debating putting these in our kitchen mainly because of the cost. We have A LOT of countertop space and a really small budget. I’m going to share this with my hubby so he can see how you sealed them. I really like hearing how water-proof they are. That has been my main worry in going with butcher block.
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  4. says

    We put in Ikea butcher block at our old house specifically to update the kitchen for selling. I LOVED them, but I never really got to use them (we were there for maybe two months after they went in, but I was so terrified of messing them up that spent most of my time wiping up every drop of water immediately and recoating them with mineral oil approximately every 20 minutes). I’ve always wondered how I would have liked them long term, so this was really interesting to read :)
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  5. says

    Great to know that they are holding up…still on the fence with it simply cause I do tend to be a perfectionist , and worry that seeing dust and bumps would get to me… and I have no patience and so the amount of layers to do of the waterlox…. but we will see. I may still just do tile again… which fits the age of my house and though there is grout to deal with, I can seal that and it is a quick process. That being said…. I LOVE how the butcher block works, so you never know!
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  6. says

    Your Butcher block counters look amazing, and I ‘ve always loved them! Can’t get over how affordable they are! We are planning to use them in our laundry room to go above our washer & dryer as a counter. Thanks for all the tips on how to seal them properly.
    Katrina recently posted…Favorite Toddler BooksMy Profile

  7. says

    I’m so glad to read they are working out for you! I too have imperfections in our finish but I know I could sand it down and get a better finish if I so choose to (which I never will). We stained ours first, but didn’t seal the underside of them (a mistake we are just noticed 3 years later where there’s a fine crack in the dishwasher area). For now, I agree for the price this was the best option and in the future if I get sick of them and want a new look, I haven’t lost much in getting new countertops. :) Thanks for the reference in your post!

  8. says

    So, true story, it’s your countertops that have me wanting to try butcher block in our next house. I absolutely adore our granite, but dang, granite is expensive, and I love how the wood warms up the room.

    I will probably call you in a total panic every 3 minutes while I’m sealing the butcher block, though. You’ve been warned.
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  9. says

    I have always wondered about butcher block counters. Thank you for the review. We have laminate and actually I don’t mind them at all. I have lived in places with granite, concrete counters and these are by far the easiest to clean and look clean.
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  10. says

    I love this post! Thanks so much for sharing! We’re starting to plan out our kitchen remodel and REALLY want butcher block. And of course, due to the price, the IKEA counters are what we’re seriously leaning towards. But I think we’ll end up trying to sand them down and re-stain them. Oh…and I never would have thought to seal the underside of the counters too…doh…thanks for the reminder! Totally pinning this for later!
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  11. Susan says

    Oh my goodness! I am so happy that I just happened across this blog today! I have been going super nuts the past few days obsessing over countertop selection for my new house. I am still not completely sold, but I just love the look so much I may just go for it. (Also, I see that you know my pal and ex work buddy Meg! Clearly the internet is sending me a sign.)

  12. Diane says

    Hi! We are considering these exact countertops. I noticed you didn’t use a drop in sink. Can you tell me what sink you purchased and why you chose it? It looks like the counter cuts would be much easier with the one you have.

  13. says

    We want to do these countertops as well, so thanks for the info. I do have the same question as Diane concerning the sink you used. Thanks!

  14. Bob says

    We remodeled our kitchen 3 years ago after a fortuitous bathroom leak ruined the wall and carpet in the bedroom adjacent to our kitchen. Since we were planning on putting in laminate floors, it was the push that led us to remodel the kitchen simultaneously (the new floor is in both rooms). We removed a peninsula in the kitchen and replaced it with an island. All Ikea cabinets. For the long kitchen counter we put laminate countertop with an integrated sink (no edges!). But for the island we wanted something to match the wood decor of the Ikea cabinet exterior we chose (the northwoods cabin look), and opted for the butcher block. We sealed it several times using the sealant we bought at Ikea with the butcher block. We don’t let water sit/pool on it, but we’re not obsessive about it either (since there is no water supply on the butcher block), and have had no stains. My only regret is that I did not sand between coats, so the grain has really raised up. I hope to resolve that before I reseal it (for the first time) this week. We always use cutting boards, not the butcher block itself.

  15. says

    Kim,

    Your butcher block countertops look great. I can’t see any imperfections so great job. I have a small condo at the beach and am combining the butcher block with granite. I am putting the butcher block on both sides of the sink. On the left side of the sink I have a similar angle that you showed in your photos where you had to cut and run the butcher block away from the piece you ran from the sink. Did you guys do anything special for the line left in between the two pieces that were cut? I think your pieces are on the left side of your sink as well.

  16. nik says

    My wife and I are preparing to install Ikea cabinets and also use the Numerar countertop. I am a purist at heart but a realist when it comes to kitchen antics. Though tung oil is the proper way to go, waterlox does a superior job protecting when applied correctly. I am a luthier hobbiest and have done many fine woodworking projects. I came across this blog when searching about people’s experiences with Ikea’s counters. From observing the Numerar counters, the grain should first be filled. Wunderfil Wood Filler is the best. Ensure you buy the proper tint and dampen and resand if you plan on staining.. Then, stain as desired. General Finishes is the way to go for an easy stain. Waterlox 2 or more coats is preferable. To keep a good shine, the steel wool suggestion will get you where you want to go, but if you desire a precise finish, wet sand between coats with a 350 grit or greater. For the final 2 coats, go to 400, 600, and 800. For the 800, use a light touch because you are essentially buffing it. If you want to get really fancy, wet sand with 1200 and add a little dish soap to your water. Light touch. Easy does it. That’ll give you a flat, beautiful finish, no matter if you use a satin or gloss. Hope this helps.

    Thanks for reviewing your experiences. Buying the Numerar is much easier than making your own countertops!

  17. Hannah says

    I’m considering changing my counter top to ikea butcher block.
    I’m more concerned about grease and goo around my stove top than water. I use very
    little oil when cooking, but still end up with a mess. Are you able to clean up easily?
    I’m used to using my harsh spray cleaners, I’m sure that’s a no no.
    Thanks!

  18. Christel says

    I was wondering how you did the seems since you waterloxed before installing? We don’t know how to do the seem unless we sand and waterloxed in the kitchen..

  19. says

    These look great! We have just purchased a home where they installed an IKEA kitchen with butcher block countertops but I don’t think they have been sealed so this is really helpful.

    Wanted to paint my kitchen a pale sage green just like yours – what brand and color did you use?

    Thanks!
    Katherine

  20. Christie says

    Great post, thanks! This may be a silly question, but do you cut on these countertops – like you would on a cutting board? Or would that scratch the waterlox finish?

  21. Shannon says

    I’ve had the Ikea Numerar countertops (oiled) for about 4 1/2 years and they still look great, in fact, they almost look better with age. I cook every day and bake every weekend in my kitchen, we have big parties. Other than not leaving wet cloths on them for a long time (like overnight) I am not at all careful with them.

    With the oil finish anything you do to them can be either lightly sanded or carefully bleached out, and over time all blends together into a nice patina. The beeswax / oil goes on very nice and smooth and its a matte finish with a slight sheen. We waterloxed only around the sink and the underside where the dishwasher is, which isn’t visible.

    Every six months I give them a very light sand- which erases all of the sins and re-seal. It only takes me about 20 minutes every 6 months. They were intended to be a temporary solution, but I’m pretty confident I’ll get many more years out of them.

    • says

      Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m glad you are happy with your countertops, too. There are clearly a lot of different ways to finish them and it all depends on your lifestyle and tolerance.

  22. Cindy says

    Hi Kim-
    Thanks for an honest review! We had wood countertops put in almost a year ago. They aren’t Ikea. They are walnut, put together by a local craftsman, so the price point was much higher, although I now know that if we had explored our options a bit more, we could have saved a lot. We didn’t use Waterlox to seal them; we used something called Vermont Natural Coatings Polywhey. Very, very low-VOC, so we were able to apply four coats with the countertops already installed. A quart was more than enough for the coverage we wanted. I was skeptical, but it has held up amazingly well to hard, daily use.

    I would do it again in exactly this way in a heartbeat. Like you, I love the warmth that the wood brings to the kitchen. Because walnut has such a deep, natural color, this protective coating was all we needed: no staining necessary. And Polywhey: who knew it could be such a good sealer?

    Thanks again for entering into such honest discussion!

    • says

      Walnut – that sounds gorgeous – I love walnut. I’m happy that you are loving yours and thanks for the tip on Polywhey. The low VOC is something I’m interested in. We’re actually exploring options for our barn remodel and with such a small space I wasn’t keen on Waterlox for the fumes. I’ll keep this in mind.

  23. says

    We have had our Ikea butcher block counters for about 7 or 8 years now. Personally, I love them. I use only the countertop oil I purchase at Ikea and apply about 2 coats every 8 months or so. Although we use cutting boards for heavy duty chopping, we have sliced bread and did quick chops on it now and again, we sit hot pots on it, water spills on it, and I still love it. I prefer the patina it has acquired over the years of use. I have had a few juice stains which I have just sanded out.
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  24. patri says

    I so appreciated your review and loved your honesty. It seems to me, however that this is more of a review on Waterlox than it is the IKEA countertop. This is just merely an observation and not meant to come across as snide. I think the countertop has held up beautifully and does warm up the kitchen. As for the price, well…that just can’t be beat!

    • says

      You are probably right, patri. I would argue it’s a review of both. We love the countertops and the price and are thrilled with the Waterlox, too.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment!

  25. says

    Wish I had read this before. We purchased a large islands and it had a butcher block top. I loved the way it looked. Ikea told me all I needed was the Tung oil. I was super faithful in treating it daily. It didn’t matter. Even if i wiped up spills quickly, liquid would seep between the seams. I have warped pieces. Now I am planning on replacing it with a large piece of stainless steel. I also have the black stains, didn’t realize it was lemon juice.
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  26. Lindsey says

    Hi there,
    I love your countertops and am considering putting these in the house we are building. I am hoping I can convince my husband we can buy a farm sink with the savings! I am not close to a ikea so I was hoping you could answer a question for me. I am a walnut stain fan so I will sand and stain the countertop. Will it matter which color of countertop I pick? I notice there is a price difference from what you picked and others that are offered. Is there a grain difference?

    • says

      The grain will be different based on the type of wood. The color won’t really matter (although oak will still have more reddish undertones if you stain). But the grain is different and some woods are more “soft” than others. For example, pine is a soft wood. Oak is pretty hard. Google the different types of wood and you’ll see. You’ll want something relatively hard since it will be used daily.

      Best of luck!

  27. Rhoni T says

    Thankful for your review!! Countertops and floors are the last thing on our whole house remodel. Still flip flopping on the floors, but I have totally been sold on wooden countertops from day one. I needed an honest oppion. Thanks!!

  28. says

    Hey there,
    I absolutely love the look of these counter tops. We are looking for houses right now with some of the kitchens redone with Ikea countertops like these. I’m really concerned that they probably didn’t seal underneath. Have you experienced resealing or restaining the countertops once they are installed? Also, I’ve noticed that the two blocks (like near your stove) have a separation so I’m wondering if that was caused by moisture. They put a seam in there but it doesn’t bridge the gap. Not sure if that’s even fixable. Doesn’t look like you used a seam. Have you noticed separation between yours?

    • says

      Leah – I’m sorry that I can’t be more help. This is the only time we’ve used the Waterlox and haven’t had any issues. My gut is that you could sand down the corner and re-align the seam. But, I can’t be sure. I haven’t had any issues with separation on ours. Best of luck!

  29. Kay says

    We have butcherblock and want to add subway tile backplash, but the wood expands and contracts leaving a gap of 1/4″ sometimes. Sine caulk does not do the trick, what did you do about the gap at the wall? It looks like you have something different at the wall between the tiles and countertop. What do you recommend?

    • says

      We used the tile grout.It seems to be holding up, although there are a few spots that need to be re-done because of the contracting you speak of. Hope this helps.

  30. says

    Our new wood countertop (sealed with waterlox) is adjacent to painted (white) tongue & groove beadboard walls/backsplash. Would we apply anything, like a caulk, between the wood countertop and the painted tongue & groove beadboard walls/backsplash?

    • says

      We used sanded grout in this area, but we have tile. You could do caulk, but it will probably need to be fixed every so often because the wood will expand and contract.

  31. says

    If it’s latex paint drips on your counters, you could try dabbing rubbing alcohol on the paint and see if that helps remove it. I found that tip recently and used rubbing alcohol to get latex paint off of fabric. It worked great. I’d like to build a rolling cart with combo of butcher block and marble left over from our counters. Have considered the Ikea butcher block for that so your info about wanting to have stained it first, after living with it for awhile, is good to know. I think I’d want to stain it too.
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  32. says

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