If you are considering butcher block countertops, you’re in good company. Wood countertops are a hot trend in kitchens across the country – and the perfect way to bring warmth and beauty into your home. They also create a classic look that blends in with almost any style.
You love the look of wood floors and adore the rich tones of your wood furniture.
Why not bring the same beauty of wood to your kitchen with butcher block countertops?
There are many options for kitchen countertops – from inexpensive laminate to organic stone to man-made solid surfaces and even stainless steel.
But truly nothing compares to the look of wood. There’s nothing with the same warmth that butcher block countertops bring.
Perhaps you’ve been considering butcher block countertops, but have been talked out of it by well-meaning relatives and friends. Perhaps you’ve been told they are difficult to care for, impossible to clean or don’t stand up to water.
That’s what I heard when I chose butcher block countertops for our kitchen remodel. No one seemed to believe it was a good idea. But I loved the look of wood and set out on a mission to research and learn about butcher block.
Three kitchens later (all with wood countertops), I’m still a butcher block lover! I sing my love from the rooftops and recommend butcher blocks as a great, affordable option for homeowners.
There are certainly unique things to consider when living with butcher block, but we’ve found them to be easy to care for and clean. And we think it’s worth the maintenance to have such a great look.
Maybe you’ll agree.
Some of the links included below are affiliate links, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase I will get a commission (at no additional cost to you).
Why choose butcher block countertops?
Consider your kitchen for a moment – there are typically a lot of cold, hard surfaces –
- Stainless appliances
- Metal fixtures and handles
- Stone/manmade countertops
And as is the trend, many homeowners are choosing or painting their cabinets – instead of choosing wood tones. In our three kitchens, we’ve chosen white and gray cabinetry. But all that can be a bit sterile if you aren’t careful – and who wants to live in a sterile environment?
We want home to be a warm and welcoming place. Butcher block can help.
Aesthetically, wood can be a wonderful way to break off all those hard surfaces with an organic, natural look. There’s something beautiful and natural about butcher block countertops.
But you don’t have to put butcher block everywhere – wood countertops can be a wonderful choice for an island or section of your kitchen.
Consider how to integrate wood countertops into your kitchen – there’s a good chance it will bring a new dimension to your design. (And I promise you’ll be constantly getting compliments on those beautiful countertops.)
Types of butcher block countertops?
Just like hardwood floors or furniture, there are many different types of butcher block to choose from. Your choice will primarily depend on your style and budget.
Here’s what you DON’T want – countertops with a wood veneer. These are not solid butcher block countertops and only have a strip of wood along the outside. Because you want longevity and the handy ability to sand and finish them in the forseeable future, you’ll want to choose a solid butcher block countertop.
Our experience with butcher block includes:
- Oak butcher block (sealed with Waterlox)
- Beech butcher block (stained darker and sealed with Waterlox)
- Walnut butcher block island (sealed with pure tung oil)
Where to buy affordable butcher block?
You are certainly able to buy butcher block countertops from your local cabinet store – with gorgeous, high quality options. But, we’ve found that this can be cost prohibitive when you’re on a budget. (And aren’t we all on a budget?)
Instead, we’ve focused on buying from places with UNFINISHED butcher block countertops – which you can easily install and finish on your own. And that’s what I recommend to you, too. (Don’t worry. Finishing butcher block is a DIY project anyone can do – even the most inexperienced do-it-yourselfers can tackle it.)
Here are my top three picks, all of which we’ve actually used and can recommend:
Lumber Liquidators has locations across the country, which makes this a super convenient option.
The stores carry many different types of wood species – from oak to walnut and from pine and cherry. While our nearest store doesn’t have the countertops in person to look at, you are able to order any of them to be delivered to the store.
Prices are very competitive – and I love that you can choose to buy 8 or 12 foot long slabs, which gives you lots of length for your projects. (Island tops are also available, which is a nice option with less cutting and piecing together.)
IKEA is probably one of the most popular spots to pick up butcher block. It’s nice to have the option to add butcher block to that big (overflowing) cart – especially if you are installing an IKEA kitchen and there already.
However, be aware that many of the butcher block options at IKEA have changed over the past few years – meaning that many of the countertops are veneer instead of solid wood. Only 1/8 inch of wood covers particle board, which makes it more challenging to sand and refinish, if needed. Plus, you have to add a finishing strip to any edge you cut off.
Menards is our local hardware store and lumberyard. We used an in-stock option for birch butcher block on a whim, and it was a solid option with extra points for convenience. It was actually a little less expensive then buying it elsewhere and there were no special trips to go to IKEA or even Lumber Liquidators.
Check out your local hardware store in the kitchen section to see if it carries butcher block – you may be surprised like we were. (P.S. You can also buy it when Menards runs its regular 11 percent rebate deal, saving you even more.)
How do I finish butcher block countertops?
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably wondered how on earth you will protect your beautiful new butcher block countertops from damage. After all, wood can be scratched, dented and warped.
You definitely want to consider how you can protect it from abuse to keep it looking beautiful for years to come.
The first step in choosing a finish is to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to be able to touch up the finish over time?
- Am I okay with regular maintenance?
- Does the counter need to stand up to standing water?
We’ve used several different types of finishes and can recommend two from our experiences:
Pure Tung Oil
There are a lot of reasons that pure tung oil has become our favorite food safe wood finish for butcher block.
- It’s easy to apply.
- It leaves a beautiful matte finish.
- It’s nontoxic and the fumes don’t make us lightheaded.
- If the countertops have scratches or other damage from use, you can easily sand out the damage and re-oil.
But pure tung oil isn’t for everyone:
- You must maintain the finish – you’ll need to re-oil the surface every 4-6 months. (Related: Steps to refresh a countertop with pure tung oil.)
- When cured, the pure tung oil finish does hold up to standing water for short periods. We always just wipe it off when we see it. But in our experience, it’s not quite as impervious as Waterlox (see below). If you are concerned about water around a sink, you may want to consider another option.
Please note: When talking about pure tung oil, we are talking about PURE tung oil. The only ingredient in the bottle should be tung oil. Lots of companies market tung oil, when the product may have just a small amount of tung oil – or none at all.
Please do your research before buying a product – not all are created equal. (We use and love Pure Tung Oil by Real Milk Paint.)
Another solid option for finishing your butcher block countertop is Waterlox – a resin-based tung oil finished (not pure tung oil).
- When applied, it creates a very durable finish which holds up extremely well to water and other damage. We think it is a great choice around sinks, especially if you don’t want to commit to regular touch ups of oil.
We have used it twice and recommended it. But these downfalls have made us pure tung oil converts:
- The smell is terrible – you need to basically be outside when applying the finish. Definitely can’t be called nontoxic.
- It takes a lot of coats to get the best finish, which takes a lot of time.
- It takes a bit more finesse to get a great finish. If you get any dust or debris on the finish, it creates a bad finished product.
- You aren’t able to touch up small knicks or scratches without redoing the entire countertop.
In the end, if you want something that feels like a more durable finish and are willing to put in the sweat equity, Waterlox can be a good choice.
But due to the ease to apply and reapply, tun oil is our first choice for most applications.
The bottom line on butcher block countertops
The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be when you bring butcher block countertops into your home. I hope you feel confident in your choice and to keep them looking good for a long time.
If you are anything like us, you’ll never regret the choice! (And you may even install butcher block a few more times for good measure.)
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