Butcher Block Kitchen Countertops: Top 5 Things to Know

Kaitlyn Pacheco
Written by Kaitlyn Pacheco
Updated February 7, 2022
Family of four mixes ingredients atop a butcher block countertop island
Photo: fizkes / Adobe Stock

Everything to know if you’re pining for wood counters

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So, you’ve walked into your kitchen, and the weakest link of the room is glaringly obvious—the counters are begging for an upgrade, and you’ve got your eye on some butcher block kitchen countertops. After all, butcher block gives off a warm aesthetic and natural vibe. Plus it goes with every decor style, from modern farmhouse kitchens to sleek, minimalist cooking spaces. But is it right for you? Here’s what you need to know before you commit your time and your money.

What Are Butcher Block Kitchen Countertops?

Butcher block kitchen countertops are built from straight cuts of wood fused together to form dense slabs, resulting in a sturdy and durable surface. 

They have a timelessly warm aesthetic, work well with any decor style, are endlessly customizable, and help soften the sounds of a busy family kitchen with their noise-dampening properties. Some people even love them for their ability to double as a cutting board, though most prefer to keep them scratch-free if possible. If treated properly, butcher block countertops can be a long-lasting staple in kitchens, though they do require more upkeep than other countertop materials, meaning more of your time and energy.

How Much Do Butcher Block Countertops Cost? 

Mother and daughter enjoying breakfast in modern kitchen with butcher block countertops
Photo: xavierarnau / Getty Images

Butcher block countertops cost approximately $40 to $100 per square foot—or $3,500 on average—to install. This includes labor and materials, and depends on your location, wood and grain type, customization, etc. Compared to other popular countertop materials such as marble, granite, and quartz, butcher block is relatively inexpensive.

Installing Butcher Block Countertops: DIY or Hired Pro?

If you have any DIY skills, you may be considering installing your butcher block countertops yourself. After all, DIY butcher block countertops cost about $20 to $70 per square foot for materials and another $100 or so for tools—saving you money on labor costs. However, while installing the countertops yourself will certainly help keep costs down, it’s typically not recommended. Why? The main reason is that these countertops are heavy, and it’s very hard to move and lift the materials without someone helping you. 

DIY installation could also take more than the average time of 10 to 20 hours it takes a professional to get the job done. Another big risk of DIY butcher block countertop installation is making an improper cut to the wood. If this happens you’ll need to replace the material and start fresh, which will cost you more in the long run than hiring a local countertop pro.

Butcher Block Countertop Care

Woman cleans butcher block kitchen countertop
Photo: Brizmaker / Adobe Stock

In the case of butcher block countertops, you get what you give. Meaning, if you give the wood the attention and care needed to maintain it, you’ll have a countertop that can last 20 years or more.

Finished vs. Unfinished Wood

Because it’s a wood surface, a butcher block countertop is susceptible to bacteria and mold growth from leftover food residue. That’s why it’s highly advisable to seal a bare wood countertop using a lacquer or epoxy to make it more resistant to those unwanted germs, stains, and water damage.

Some people still choose to leave their wood countertops unfinished. This allows the countertops to be used as a cutting surface—though, again, cutting food directly on the wood counter will leave scratches that can house additional bacteria, so it may not be worth it. If you do prefer an unfinished countertop, prepare to follow a regimented sanitation schedule to combat this, especially if your goal is specifically to prepare food on it.

Cleaning Butcher Block Countertops

Both finished and unfinished butcher block countertops should be cleaned regularly and oiled with a tung or food-grade mineral oil on a monthly or quarterly basis for safety and preservation. Here’s how to care for each type: 

Finished/sealed wood countertops 

  • Wipe off all visible food residue left on the surface.

  • Clean with a sponge, 2 cups of warm water, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. 

  • Apply one coat of oil to your dry butcher block by pouring a little at a time directly onto the surface. Rub the oil into the wood using a dry cloth, and be sure to reach all corners. Once the first coat of oil has soaked into the wood, repeat with a second coat of oil.

Unfinished/unsealed wood countertops

  • Wipe off all visible food residue left on the surface.

  • Clean with a sponge, 2 cups of warm water, and 1 teaspoon of dish soap. 

  • Add vinegar to the cleaning solution for a thorough disinfecting. 

  • Apply one coat of oil to your dry butcher block by pouring a little at a time directly onto the surface. Rub the oil into the wood using a dry cloth, and be sure to reach all corners. Once the first coat of oil has soaked into the wood, repeat with a second coat of oil. Continue to follow this system of oiling on a regular basis to keep the wood from drying out.

  • Remove stains by squeezing lemon over the area and adding a pinch of salt.

Are Butcher Block Countertops Durable? 

Unlike other countertop surfaces, butcher block is quite vulnerable to knicks and dents, particularly when it’s used as a cutting board. Fortunately, it’s simple to remove scratches by rubbing fine grit sandpaper over them and subsequently applying mineral oil to the afflicted areas. This solution of sandpaper and oil can also be revisited for burn marks left on the butcher block surface from hot pots and pans.

How to Deal with Expansion and Contraction 

It should be noted that because butcher block kitchen countertops are wooden surfaces, naturally they may expand during warmer months and contract during periods of cold. Failure to account for this fluctuation of surface space can lead to warping or cracking of the wood. It’s important to make sure that your contractor accounts for this possibility and leaves enough room for expansion between the countertops and walls (about ⅛ inch).

Butcher Block Style and Design Options

Butcher block island with end grain wood
Photo: chandlerphoto / Getty Images

Arguably one of the top reasons why butcher block countertops are so coveted is because they can be tailored to fit all preferences and specifications. Maple, cherry, oak, black walnut, bamboo, and teak are just a few wood species used to create these countertops, with teak being the most expensive and cherry being the most affordable. 

Along with wood type, you’ll need to choose the type of grain cut: 

Types of Wood Countertop Grain

  • Edge grain: Think long rectangular cuts of wood lined up side by side. This is the most popular due to the overall look and because it is a more affordable grain option.

  • End grain: This type is recognized for its checkerboard appearance. 

  • Face grain: While end and edge grain are common for butcher block countertops, face grain is a lesser known option. Face grain is the widest side of the wood and the most visible. 

Blended grain: Even less common than face grain, blended grain combines interior and exterior rails. It offers light and dark colored wood variations and is generally the least expensive option of the four.

Butcher Block Countertop Ideas

If you’ve determined that butcher block kitchen countertops are right for you, the next step is to decide the look you want to achieve. Here are some examples of trendy designs to inspire your creativity and kickstart your kitchen countertop revamp journey.

1. The Scandinavian

Wraparound butcher block kitchen countertop
Photo: dimasobko / Adobe Stock

If you have white cabinets, consider a lighter wood for your butcher block countertops to mimic a modern Scandinavian look.

2. Island Stylin’

Blended grain butcher block countertop surface on kitchen island
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Look beyond your counters and turn your island into a wooden paradise, too, creating a stunning focal point in your kitchen. 

3. Secondary Storage

Face grain butcher block countertop with additional storage beneath
Photo: interiorphoto / Adobe Stock

Don’t stop at the countertop, extend the wood down to the floor, and add cabinets, a built-in wine rack, or shelves. 

4. Sectioned-Off Cutting Board

Inlaid butcher block countertop section
Photo: Westend61 / Getty Images

Install a removable section of unsealed butcher block on top of your sealed countertops to create a simple, yet stable cutting board. 

5. Rollable Work Station

Rollable kitchen island with butcher block surface
Photo: irina88w / Getty Images

Like wood countertops but not ready to commit? Get a rollable mini island with a butcher block surface that can be tucked away when you want the extra kitchen space. 

Butcher Block Countertop Pros and Cons 

Still weighing out your options? Here’s a snapshot of  butcher block’s pros and cons to help you kick off your dream kitchen makeover. 

Pros

  • Less expensive than its competitors marble, quartz, and granite 

  • Easy to clean

  • Customizable with plenty of styles to choose from

  • Long lasting

  • Dampens kitchen sounds 

  • Can be a DIY project or professionally installed

Cons

  • Can easily get dented or scratched

  • Requires continued maintenance

  • Can sustain burn marks

  • Can crack after expansion and contraction

  • Prone to water damage if left unsealed

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