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Pros and Cons of Butcher Block Countertops - Should I Install Butcher Block Countertops?


Butcher block countertops are less common than popular materials like granite, but they’re coming back in fashion as homeowners look for new and fresh alternatives. Butcher block counters provide a warm and neutral surface, and wood blends beautifully with contrasting materials in the kitchen like stainless steel.

Butcher block counters can be used to create a cottage or country feel in the kitchen – you’ll often see that look in magazines. But they can also look very modern when paired with other materials and surfaces in the kitchen. Some homeowners choose to use butcher block for only a portion of their countertops – the island for example – while others use them throughout.

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About Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block counters can be made out of nearly any type of wood – sometimes a combination of woods. The grain can appear one of three ways based on how the raw wood is cut and glued together:

  • Edge grain counters are made with long strips of wood laminated together to create a vertical (almost striped, but subtler) pattern. These are easier to produce and more affordable, but they show wear and tear faster.
  • End grain counters – perhaps the most popular for butcher block – have a checkerboard-style pattern. These are more expensive than edge grain but more durable. They’re better at hiding knife marks and scratches because the look is busier.
  • Face grain involves gluing wide planks together to show off the wood’s natural grain – kind of like a wood floor would appear. These can be beautiful, too, but they’re the worst as far as wear and tear goes.

Butcher block counters can also be either sealed or oiled. Sealed surfaces are waterproof, durable and stain resistant, requiring very little maintenance, although they are not intended to be used as workspaces – you’ll need a cutting board. Oil-finished butcher block counters can be used for slicing and dicing, but they need to be oiled regularly. Oil-finished counters can be sanded when they start to show signs of wear and tear, while sealed cannot.

With butcher block counters, it’s important to understand that while some people like to use them as a work surface or in place of cutting boards, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case, particularly if you want the counters to last. Many people choose to treat butcher block counters like any other type of countertop, not cutting boards.

Butcher Block Countertops

Pros and Cons of Butcher Block Countertops

As we’ve said, butcher block countertops make for a warm and inviting look. They’re also versatile, pairing well with contrasting materials to create about any type of look you want in the kitchen – rustic, modern, shabby chic or traditional. They’re less expensive than other natural materials like granite. Prices start at about $30-$40 per square foot for stand, 1 ½-inch think maple and $50-$90 per square foot for higher quality woods and thicker cuts.

Butcher block is also durable and long-lasting when properly maintained. The counters are easy to clean, requiring just soap and water or a mild cleaning product.

On the flip side, butcher block counters do require more maintenance than materials like granite. The counters need to be oiled or resealed periodically – depending on which type you choose – and spills should be cleaned up immediately to avoid staining. The other downside is that guests or family members may treat your counters like a cutting board – slicing right on the surface because they assume that’s what wood counters are for. If you don’t want that to happen, you’ll have to be vigilant and let people know to use a cutting board.

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