How to Build and Install Butcher Block Countertops

Have you been looking for a way to add some new beauty to your kitchen? Maybe a focal point that everyone will be in awe over when they visit? What if you could do that, all while making sure that it is also a functional part of your kitchen?

Making your butcher block countertop is a weekend DIY project that only requires basic woodworking abilities. But if you build and install it yourself, you’ll save money and get a countertop that’s safe for food and lasts for years.

What is a Butcher Block Countertop

The wood surface known as a butcher block countertop is created by joining edge grain wood planks together to create a flat surface. Homeowners can then use these surfaces to prepare food the same way they would a cutting board.

Families frequently utilize butcher blocks as cutting boards, kitchen islands, and countertops in their homes, and this utilization has become popular in recent years.

What Are The Pros and Cons of a Butcher Block Countertop?

butcher block counter on kitchen island

Much like anything else you will put in your home, there are pros and cons to butcher block countertops. Some pros include:

Looks

Butcher block countertops are available in conventional and more exotic woods. Additionally, butcher block often comes in edge grain, end grain, or mixed designs.

Price

Butcher blocks are less expensive than natural stone worktops, yet they are still more expensive than laminate counters. Price can range depending on the wood you choose and whether or not you have someone else come in and install the countertop for you.

Durability

butcher block table sanding

With routine upkeep, butcher block can endure for around 20 years, which puts it on par with granite counters and outlasting laminate.

Cleaning

Butcher block is simple to clean because it doesn’t require unusual cleaning agents. Most cleaning may be done with warm water and a little soap, and the remaining tasks can be completed with plain vinegar or lemon-and-salt solutions.

Refinishing

If you need to refinish butcher block because of nicks or scratches, all you have to do is sand it down, which may seem like a drawback to some people. This sanding will help your butcher block look brand new by removing scratches, small cracks, and stains.

butcher block table sanding

On the other hand, there are cons as well. These include:

Not Scratch Resistant

Compared to a marble or stone countertop, a butcher block countertop is more prone to exhibit tiny dings and cutting marks. Use a cutting board whenever you are using a knife to prevent this. If you see any dings, you should sand them down.

Temperature

Butcher blocks can expand and compress as a result of heat expansion Your countertop may become broken or warped if you don’t provide some extra room around the sides to accommodate this expansion and contraction.

Stainability

Your butcher block will be prone to liquid spills and stains if it’s not maintained. To protect your butcher block countertop from stains, you should treat it frequently.

What Is The Best Wood To Use For a Butcher Block Countertop?

Butcher Block Countertop

One of the best things about butcher block countertops is that nearly any wood can be used to make them, even repurposed wood, if you want to go that route.

The type and grade of wood will determine your butcher block’s intended appearance and feel, so take your time selecting the one you adore and can see in your house for the long term. The cost of a butcher block countertop will vary depending on the wood used, with more exotic woods costing more.

There is no one best wood for butcher block since different varieties of hardwood will be better than others depending on your preferences and requirements.

For instance, cheaper woods from fast-growing trees, like birch, may be used if cost is a primary concern, whereas bamboo or salvaged wood would be the material of choice for customers who value the environment. You can also decide based on the color of the kitchen’s other features, such as the cabinets, accents, and floors.

Maple, Oak, Bamboo, Birch, Teak, Cherry, and Hickory are the most common wood types you will see when looking for a species to make your butcher block countertop. Remember that each has its price point and quirks that separate them from the others, but it is up to your budget and visual preferences.

There is also the type of grain to consider. The three types of grain, edge grain, flat grain, and end grain, each have their own distinct appearances, strengths, and price points, so you will want to pay attention to that as well when selecting the wood for your butcher block countertop.

Are There Any Differences in Installation Between Butcher Block and Stone Countertops?

Wood worktops can be installed with just some wood glue or wood screws driven up through your base cabinets, unlike stone countertops, which are typically installed with silicone and are very heavy.

Installation of stone countertops often requires help, and there is very little chance most homeowners can access, and cut, their own stone. The task is straightforward for most handy homeowners, builders, and carpenters.

What Are Some Common Butcher Block Installation Mistakes?

Gluing countertops to base cabinets, limiting the top’s capacity to expand and compress, is one of the most common faults when homeowners are installing their own butcher block countertops. As a result, the top begins to fracture and distort, pushing on the other cabinets and creating a significant issue.

The other error we observe is using vegetable or olive oil instead of mineral oil. Since these countertops are made of wood, they are porous and thus are susceptible to rancidity and spoilage. The other is placing hot pans and pots outside of it, which will burn almost any type of wood and wood finish.

What Do I Need To Know Before Installing a Butcher Block Countertop?

Butcher Block Countertop

One important thing to remember before installing your butcher block countertop is to bring it into your kitchen space at least seventy-two hours before installation. This time will allow the countertop to acclimate to the temperature in the room, meaning you’ll get the best installation as the wood will be the proper size, not shrunken or expanded.

Additionally, butcher block counters should not be put directly on top of solid surfaces. Since the butcher block will slightly expand and contract due to changes in humidity and temperature, there must be space for it to “breathe” on all sides.

Countertops are typically mounted by placing them over the base kitchen cabinets. Before installing a butcher block countertop in a kitchen, be sure the old countertop has been thoroughly removed. Cut big holes in underlayment like particle board or MDF to encourage airflow if it is not practicable or possible to remove it.

Also, keep in mind where your countertop is going. Placing butcher block counters close to your stove or sink can be highly dangerous if you’re not careful.

The wood readily absorbs liquids when exposed to water, which might result in mold, while heat from the stove or other hot appliances can cause the counter’s surface to fracture or bubble, in addition to burning the wood.

The best course of action is to treat wood like any other delicate countertop surface, such as marble or granite, even if you think of it as being quite durable (which it can be).

Step By Step Guide For Building a Butcher Block Countertop

Butcher Block Countertop

Step One – Measure the surface area of your current countertop or countertop space. Keep in mind that you will need to allow for about an eighth of an inch of space between the countertop and back wall to allow for expansion. With this number in mind, write down the length, width, and height.

You will then want to go out and purchase the lumber needed to make the countertop, with enough left over in case you need to rework a cut or make a mistake.

Step 2 – Cut

Cut the wood boards to the desired thickness for your countertop along the edge grain using a table or circular saw. For sanding, you can leave an additional quarter-inch just to ensure you get the right size.

Step 3 – Arrange

Once all of your pieces of wood are cut, arrange them side by side with the edge grain facing up. Using your wood glue, start gluing the pieces together, clamping the bonded boards together as you go. Keep going in this manner when you have a slab the right size for your desired countertop surface area.

Even if it is uneven at this point, do not worry. You can refine the shape through sanding later once the glue has dried, which should take a day or two. Do not remove the clamps until all of the wood has fully dried, or you could risk it falling apart.

Step 4 – Check and Trim

Check your measurements with a tape measure, then trim any uneven butcher block ends. To create a smooth surface, sand the butcher block’s surface and ends with a belt sander. Sand and smooth the top and bottom sides, then look for any exposed joints.

The top must be made waterproof so water cannot seep through. Any cracks should be filled with glue, allowed to dry, and smoothed out.

Step 5 – Finish

Applying the finish is the final stage. Choose a cured finish that is non-toxic and safe for food, especially if you want to use it actively for food preparation. A lint-free cloth should be used to apply the finish in a thin, even coat after making sure all dust has been removed using a damp cloth.

Allow the finish to dry for six hours before carefully sanding it with fine sandpaper and repainting. Before putting food on the surface, give it 72 hours to cure. Next is installation!

butcher block table sealant

Step By Step Guide For Installing a Butcher Block Countertop

Step 1 – Prep Area

Check to see if everything is ready for installation. Remove all the doors and drawers to avoid damaging your kitchen base cabinets when installing your butcher block countertop. Disconnect the water and waste disposal lines, remove any necessary appliances, and remove the sink.

Step 2 – Apply Adhesive

The top edge of the cabinets should then have construction adhesive applied. Ensure the front of the countertop is lined with the cabinets before sliding it into position.

If there is an L shape or you have more than one section, the countertop’s sections should be held together using screws, bolts, and clamps. Add brackets to support the countertop if necessary.

Step 3 – Seal

Once dry, take off the clamps and, if necessary, seal the back walls and sink with clear silicone. Replace the cabinets and drawers, connect the plumbing, install the sink, and put the appliances back in place.

Caring For Butcher Block Countertops

hand sealing butcher block table

After installing new wooden butcher block countertops, mineral oil or wax should be rubbed into the surface. You can easily prevent wear and strain by liberally applying oil to the wood surface and letting it soak in.

This oily layer is effectively the first line of defense against deterioration. After about 30 minutes, remove the excess oil with a soft cloth to reveal a more durable and stain-resistant surface. You should oil your countertops once or twice a year for best results, possibly more if you use them frequently.

The initial oil application should thoroughly coat the wood, but you don’t want future liquids to follow suit. If you accidentally drop some wine, vinegar, or other colorful or acidic liquids on the counter, wipe them up right away to prevent stains from setting in the porous cell structure of the wood.

Try using natural stain removers and sanding if you can’t clean up spills immediately to prevent them from becoming stains. Light stains and scratches can be removed using high-grade sandpaper and then oiled with a light sanding, while lemon will help lift the stain if it is already set in.

You will also want to ensure that you are not putting hot pots or cooking utensils down directly on the wood, instead, use pot holders or trivets to prevent the heat from cracking or scorching the wood.

Conclusion

If the idea of having butcher blocks on every surface of your counters seems like a lot of work, relax! You can always choose to acquire a gorgeous butcher block cutting board or simply choose to resurface a smaller area of your kitchen, such as your island.

For more kitchen and home remodeling DIY ideas, check out our articles on how to pick the best materials for your kitchen backsplash and some simple kitchen remodeling resources.