Butcher-Block Countertops Pros and Cons
Before committing to this popular countertop material, read the pros and cons to see if it’s right for your kitchen.
A durable and attractive countertop material, butcher block is crafted from slices of wood glued together into large slabs. Although maple is the most common type of wood used in butcher block, it can be made from any wood. Incorporate butcher block to complement cozy cottage, country or traditional kitchen environments, or to bring surprising contrast to a streamlined, modern room.
Butcher-block countertops have been around a long time, and they deserve to be. When properly maintained, the durable wood takes on a heavy patina over time. Although nicks and scratches do show up, rather than taking away from the butcher block look, they add loads of character. If you’re not a fan of visible wear and tear, light sanding and re-oiling will restore the original look.
To use your countertop as a surface for cutting, be sure to choose an unsealed, oil-finish variety made specifically for food prep. Wood with permeable sealants has inherent antibacterial properties that make it perfect for cutting and chopping.
PROS: Hard-wearing; handsome finish; relatively low-maintenance; easily restored and repaired; naturally antibacterial.
Butcher-block countertops do have a few faults. First and foremost, they are prone to water damage, which makes unsealed butcher block unsuitable for areas near a sink or water source. Moisture makes wood expand and contract so irreversible warping, discoloration and rot can result from water exposure. In addition, the counters require frequent oiling so that any scratches are filled in and the surface stays protected. Repeated disinfecting is also necessary to avert bacteria. It’s important to clean up spills right away to prevent staining. Lastly, wood countertops are susceptible to extreme heat and dryness which can cause cracking, so using trivets and pads are musts for insulating hot pans.
CONS: Susceptible to stains and water damage; need repeated oiling and disinfecting; not resistant to heat; on the expensive side.
The cost of maple countertops can run significantly less than natural stone, however when you get into higher-quality custom varieties, they can cost as much as granite. On average, butcher-block countertops cost between $40 and $100 per square foot.
Cleaning & Maintenance
As mentioned before, butcher-block counters can last a long, long time when taken care of properly. While it’s always important to heed the manufacturer’s care instructions before cleaning or taking on any repairs, routine cleaning with a vinegar and water solution or mild soap after every use is generally recommended. This will help prevent any contamination problems that can occur with porous wood.
In addition, re-oiling the countertops with food-safe mineral oil at least twice a year is important. For any chips, scratches, or burns, simply sand the spot lightly with a fine sandpaper and then apply oil. Some homeowners find that limiting butcher-block to a work island or another smaller area yields the benefits of the material without the associated issues.