Butcher Block Countertop Considerations
When it comes to selecting a wood type for your countertop, you’ll probably want to match it to the existing kitchen decor. Common choices include maple, with a light brown color, walnut, which is darker brown, and red-tinted woods such as red oak and American cherry. Virtually any wood, however, can be used to make countertops. Exotic species like zebrawood, wenge, and bamboo are also popular.
Because wood is susceptible to water damage, drying out, and bacterial contamination, it needs a protective coating for maximum performance. The type of coating depends primarily on whether you intend to use the countertop as a true butcher block (that is, a cutting surface). If you plan to cut and chop on the surface, choose a natural oil finish (which you’ll need to regularly reapply). If, on the other hand, you intend to use a cutting board on top of the counter surface, or simply don’t want to keep up with regular maintenance, it’s possible to use a semi-gloss varnish finish (which is food safe, but not appropriate for knife work).
Butcher block grain type affects both the looks and functionality of the countertop. A face grain, aka a plank grain, highlights the natural beauty of the wood grain; it is primarily an aesthetic grain configuration. For a true work surface, choose an end grain countertop, which has a busy, checkerboard appearance and is appropriate as a chopping/food prep area. As a compromise, consider an edge grain countertop. It has a more uniform appearance than a true butcher block, but can be used as a light work surface.
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Benefits of Butcher Block Counters
- Beauty: Whether you have a country style home or prefer clean, modern lines, wooden countertops – with their timeless warmth and beauty – never go out of style.
- Function: For foodies, a butcher block countertop is an invaluable kitchen asset. Take your culinary chops to the next level with a professional grade food prep area.
- Easy Repairs: Wood, while it can get chipped, burned, and scratched, is also easy to repair. Simply sand out the damage and apply some mineral oil.
- Eco-Friendly Options: If you’re looking for a sustainable building choice, consider reclaimed wood (exhumed from old buildings), bamboo (a type of grass, technically, that grows extremely fast), and wood from responsibly managed forests (visit the Forest Stewardship Council website to learn more).
Butcher Block Countertop Costs
- Butcher block countertops start at $35 to $65 per square foot installed. Higher-quality woods and thicker surfaces could cost as much as $100 to $150 per square foot installed. If these prices seem high, keep in mind that a smaller area intended as a work station might only measure 10 square feet or so and cost $350 to $1,500.
- Additional costs might include removing and disposing of the old countertops, custom designs and finishes, and the price of mineral oil and beeswax (for maintaining unsealed counters).