If you have been researching kitchen countertops, it’s likely you’ve come across IKEA butcher block countertops as an option.
There are a lot of reasons they could be a great choice – including cost and looks. But there are lots of people who warn against using wood butcher block for counters. And I constantly get questions about how we like IKEA butcher block after living with them for 18 months.
So, here’s my totally honest review of our counters after a year and a half. (This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.)
The background: Why IKEA butcher block?
When we were renovating our kitchen, I 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 price the house out of the modest neighborhood. We’d never make that money back.
Our last kitchen remodel included laminate countertops and I actually really liked them. They were cost-effective, easy to keep clean and looked nice. Plus, the cost was good and we got our money back.
But my heart was really set on butcher block this time around.
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 insanely cheap.
They are even cheaper than laminate.
We went with the Numerar Oak Countertops from IKEA. (While oak counters are no longer available at IKEA, you can still buy birch countertops in the solid wood variety. Other options are not solid.) I think the information is still basically the same.
At the time we purchased, we needed two “slabs” for a total of $338. The prices for other options have remained fairly similar.
When we chose it, there were some naysayers for using butcher block for countertops. As I mentioned, 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?
Sealing IKEA butcher block with Waterlox
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 freaks 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 a quart of 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.
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 tips and tricks for sealing countertops.)
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.
They 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.
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 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, instead of the orange tones. 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. (Edited: We learned from our mistakes and had a beautiful, darker finish on the butcher block the second time around.)
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.
(We actually liked the countertops well enough to do it again. We actually went with birch countertops stained and sealed with Waterlox in the barn apartment.)
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.
How the Waterlox finish has held up.
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 gives it a nice finish and the water beads up and makes it easy to wipe up. The wood is truly impenetrable to water.
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 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 would 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.
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.
Would you go for butcher block?
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
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