Warm and accommodating, butcher block is an affordable countertop material with a lot going for it. Maintain them regularly and butcher block countertops will reward you by aging gracefully. But without proper upkeep, they can dull and fissure. Are butcher block countertops the right material for you and your kitchen? Read our butcher block counter primer to find out.
Above: Good enough for a cook: a butcher-block countertop in the Manhattan kitchen of cook David Tanis; find A Chef’s Low-Tech, Economical, and Beautifully Soulful Kitchen in the East Village. Photograph by Heidi’s Bridge. What is butcher block?
Butcher block is made from straight cuts of wood glued together into thick slabs that provide a particularly sturdy and stable work surface in a kitchen, whether as a cutting board, tabletop, or counter.
Above: A butcher block countertop in a British Standard Cupboard Kitchen by Plain English. Are there different types of butcher block?
There are three basic building styles of butcher block: edge grain, face grain, and objective grain.
Above: Butcher block counters are a durable alternative for a mobile, outdoor kitchen; insure Stockpot and Two Smoking Barrels: A Rustic Kitchen in a Shepherd’s Hut in England. Photograph by Emma Lewis. Edge Grain Above: Edge grain is the one most commonly used for counters because it’s strong, stable, and less expensive than the others. It’s made by placing long boards on their sides and joining them so that their long constrict edges form the surface. The boards is also available continuous lengths of timber with no joints, or random-length committees that are finger-jointed( as shown above ). Face Grain Above: Face-grain butcher block is constructed from boards that are laid flat, their full widths forming a surface with a streamlined seem. Susceptible to marks when used for chopping and cutting, face grain is less suitable for working kitchen counters than the others. Objective Grain Above: End-grain construction is made from small rectangular blocks arranged so that the ends( with growth rings demonstrating) are visible on the surface. The strongest and most expensive type of butcher block, it’s great for surfaces dedicated to cutting, because it camouflages knife marks and is gentle on blade edges( they slide into the grain rather than against it ). What types of wood are used for butcher block?
Butcher block can be made from nearly any timber. Maple is one of the best and most popular for butcher block counters because it’s hard and has a clear grain. Cherry and red oak offer rich color. Butcher block can also be crafted from bamboo( it works best with end-grain construction) and sustainably farmed exotics such as wenge, zebrawood, and iroko.
Above: In a London kitchen by deVol, the designers paired iroko wood with marble countertops. Do butcher block countertops required to be sealed?
For kitchen counter applications, it’s important to use unsealed, oil-finished wood. Sealed countertops are not meant to be used as food-prep work surfaces-they’re not food or knife friendly. Mark Squire of Quality Kitchen Cabinets in San Francisco explains: “Using sealed wood defeats the purpose of butcher block, because it cover-ups up the natural warm surface with plastic.” Sealed butcher block does offer glisten and can work well as a work desk or bar top in a kitchen that doesn’t involve food.( And when needed for food prep, pair it with a cutting board .) Note that unsealed butcher block is not recommended immediately around a sink: Over hour it will likely discolor and rot.
Above: Designer Athena Calderone updated the brown laminate countertops in her rental kitchen with Karlby birch countertops from Ikea. Photograph by Sarah Elliot, courtesy of Athena Calderone. How do you best maintain butcher block countertops?
At a minimum, butcher block countertops require oiling every six months to keep the wood protected. Different woods come with different finishing petroleum recommendations and it’s best to follow the instructions of your installer. Depending on level of use, butcher block countertops may also require more frequent oiling and conditioning to prevent the wood from cracking and looking dull. N.B .: Avoid using cook oil to treat butcher block; it can damage the timber. Because butcher block is soft, it mars more than other materials, resulting some people to use it for certain surfaces only, such as work islands. Simply before oiling, you can gently remove scratchings, burns, and other surface injuries with penalty sandpaper, and your countertop will look like new.
Above: Christine wanted a warm material for her open kitchen, so she selected edge-grain countertops of solid oak treated with several coats of Danish oil for a hardwearing finish. For the full narrative, watch Rehab Diary: Sleuthing for Space in My Kitchen. Photograph by Kristin Perers for Remodelista. Can butcher block be used as a cutting surface?
Yes, unsealed butcher block works well as a large stationary work surface and has been used this route for centuries( after all, it comes by its name frankly ). That said, it’s not as easy to clean a butcher block counter as it is a movable cutting board, which explains why many owners use cutting boards on top of butcher block. And, as mentioned, cutting on butcher block over day foliages marks and scratches–character-defining to some, best avoided to others.
Above: In this kitchen by Melbourne interior architecture firm Hearth Studio, a kitchen island is segmented into American oak and Carrara marble for a run surface. What do butcher block countertops cost?
Prices vary depending on the type of wood, the grain construction, and the thickness. In general, custom-made quality butcher block countertops range from $75 to $150 per square foot. In other terms, good butcher block is more expensive than mid-range granite but less expensive than top-of-the-line natural stone.
The good news is that several manufacturers offer off-the-shelf butcher block worktops in standard counter-depth sizes with variable lengths. If your setup permits, this is the affordable style to go. And the DIY-inclined can cut butcher block slabs to fit around appliances, corners, and other obstacles–not something you can pull off on your own with stone.
Above: In her cabin kitchen, Sarah Samuel of Smitten Studio installed Ikea’s affordable edge-grain, oiled-beech Numerar Wood Countertop( now discontinued ). Ikea now offers a similar Hammarp Oak Countertop, which comes in precut lengths. Photograph courtesy of Smitten Studio. Above: San Francisco architect Mark Reilly used end-grain butcher block countertops in a kitchen in a turn-of-the-century house in Palo Alto, California. “The countertop was originally Formica, but the customers wanted a material that didn’t clink when glass or serving wares were placed on it, ” Reilly says. “After exploring several options, we decided on end-grain butcher block because of its warmth, soft feel, and vintage-inspired look.” Photograph by Mark Reilly. N.B. See how the architect generated an open kitchen in a Victorian house in Remodelista Best Design Professional Space Winner: Mark Reilly. Butcher Block Pros and Cons Pros Butcher block counters add warmth and natural colouring. It’s a soft material that’s easy on glassware and dishes: No clatter when you putting in place a stack of plates. Wood mixes well with many other countertop materials, especially marble. If maintained properly, it’s a long lasting and durable choice. Unlike laminate or solid-surface counters, timber countertops are repairable: Nicks and burns can be lightly sanded and the surface reoiled. It develops a lovely patina over time. Timber has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
Wood counters are not heat or stain resistant. Hot pans can’t be set down on the counter without a pad or trivet. Timber can swell and shrink in conditions of extreme dryness or humidity, which may cause cracking. Excessive wetness stimulates the timber susceptible to rot and discoloration. It develops a patina over time( a detail that also falls in the Pros category; it’s a matter of savour ). Butcher block requires some upkeep.
Above: Italian kitchen designers Schiffini use end-grain butcher block at the end of a kitchen island.
Researching new countertops? For more on the subject, watch our Remodeling 101 Guide to Kitchen Countertops, plus our recent posts on the subject 😛 TAGEND
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Finally, get more ideas on how to evaluate and choose your kitchen countertop in our Remodeling 101 Guide: Kitchen Countertops.
N.B .: This post is an update. It originally operated on November 19, 2013.
Read more: remodelista.com