Specialty Countertops - Butcher Block

Introduction:Butcher Block 1

Butcher block countertops are not the type of countertop that you think of when you first think of types of countertops. That’s the great thing about them. They are not the mainstream type of countertop; they are unique, warm and earthy.

They are also a great compliment to other countertops. For example, if you have a unique slab of granite on your perimeter countertops with a lot of range and variation, a butcher block countertop might be a good solution for the island top in order not to compete with the perimeter tops. It can also be a good idea to break up the island top from the perimeter top so that the perimeter granite doesn’t lose its uniqueness.

How they are made:

Butcher block is made from strips of hardwood, most commonly white oak, maple or beech. These strips are adhered together to create a thickness between 1 1 /2 “thick to 3” thick.

Styles

One benefit to these tops is that they can be made to any size and any shape. A character feature of these tops is that the wood continues to age over time and will also change with the routine maintenance of oiling the wood.

Full strips of 1.75” wide edge grain with the quarter sawn face or edge grain facing up are normally used, but some people prefer the appearance of staggered but jointed strips. This affects the longevity of the tops, but some clients would rather have the look than the longevity.

Another style you might see is end grain. This is made up of many little squares of wooButcher Block 2d with the ends facing up. This style is not very stable and has size limitations and thickness requirements. Perhaps that is why it is most often seen on cutting boards.

Before you buy:

Like laminate, wood is not a good fit for wet areas, but these tops are great for island or peninsula applications.

Contrary to the way it might seem, wood is extremely hygienic. It possesses a natural acidity that stops bacterial growth making it a great surface to work with. It is very durable and forgiving when it comes to wear and tear.

Because wood is a natural surface for cutting, there is no need for a separate cutting board with these tops. Any reason that gives you more countertop space is a good reason to use them!

Butcher Block 3Installation:

The tops are mounted by driving screws through the corner blocking in the cabinet base and into the underside of the countertop. Lag bolts are then driven are set into pre drilled holes using a washer sp the lag will not pull through and allow for movement. This method allows for the butcher block to expand and contract. The integrity of the installation method is extremely important because if not done properly the tops can crack or warp. Gluing is not an acceptable method of installation because the tops are not able to expand and contract.

There are no lips or self edges because the tops are made of solid materials. The only tops with lips or self edges are laminate tops made to look like butcher block.

Maintenance:Butcher Block 4

These tops are fairly simple to maintain. Soap and water should be used to clean the tops. This should be done frequently after food preparation because of wood’s naturally porous nature. For a deeper cleaning, a bleach and water solution of 1 tbsp. bleach to 1 gallon of water can be used to help kill bacteria.

To remove stains, soak the soiled area with lemon juice for a few seconds. Scouring cleaners should never be used on wood.

Every 6 weeks, or more with excessive use the tops should be oiled with mineral oil. This is very important because these tops are a “living” product and needs “food” or mineral oil to remain healthy and resistant. Mineral oil is used so that the top can withstand the  heat and moisture of a working kitchen environment. It will also enhance the beauty of the wood countertop and help bring it back to like-new condition. 

If you cut directly on the tops and have deep cut marks, the tops can be lightly sanded and re-oiled. However, some people find that these marks add to the natural character of the tops and choose not to sand the cut marks out.