Butcher Block Counters, Are They for You?

April 23, 2015

I promised you some more info our our butcher block island countertop a couple months ago and I’m back with that today. I wanted to wait and live with the new counter for a bit before I shared more since it’s different than the IKEA butcher block we had before.

I looooooved that old countertop and knew I’d be fine with butcher again. I shared how I maintained that wood countertop  – there’s very little upkeep in a butcher block counter, but keep in mind ours was on the island and not near the sink.

I loved the warmth of that natural wood. I went back and forth on what size to make the new island but my mind was made up for me when I realized IKEA doesn’t sell the island size anymore. I have no idea why they would discontinue it!

I kept the old butcher and it’s now on the simple cubby craft table upstairs. I’ve painted and hot glued on it and it continues to hold up great. :)

The new butcher is a maple product from a lumber store called Northwest Lumber: maple butcher block counters

When I looked at it in the store it was unfinished and I planned to use Tung oil again like I did for our old counter.

But when I called to let them know the dimensions I needed it cut to, they mentioned a sealant. I went ahead with it because they recommended it and said if I wanted to, I could just sand it down and put my own finish over it instead.

At first I was a little disappointed – the sealant takes away from the natural look of it just a bit, at least the look that I was used to. If I had never had our old butcher I wouldn’t know the difference though. It’s hard to even tell in photos:

maple butcher block with sealant

But I quickly got used to it and started to fall in love with the sealant they put on it! Not much bothered our old counter but a few things did leave marks – the bottom of paint cans were really bad at that. Nothing touches this butcher, as far as stains. Absolutely everything wipes right off:butcher block island countertop

There’s zero maintenance from what I can tell so far – I would sand down the old butcher once a year or so and reapply the Tung oil. But this I will leave for some time before I do anything with it.

We did have a bit of an issue within a week or so of me finishing the island makeover. I really almost cried. I don’t get upset when things get messed up in our house because it happens all the time (cats!) and I know I can fix almost anything.

But this one really got to me because I literally had just finished this thing up. The cat knocked over a vase of flowers and my husband cleaned it all up – but there was a plastic grocery sack on the island and some water got under there that he didn’t see. It sat overnight, trapping all that moisture in there and we woke up to a nice welt in the countertop.

Here’s the thing though – I didn’t freak too bad because I now know that wood is actually pretty fantastic when it comes to water issues. Years ago after a fridge leak caused tons of damage we went with finished on site hardwoods specifically because they can be dried out. 

Our contractor who handled all the clean up from the leak explained that the wood will cup and swell at first, but then when properly dried out it will usually go back down. If there is any damage left you can sand it down and restain. We’ve had a toilet overflow and spills sit and it does exactly what he said – and then goes back down like nothing ever happened.

SO. I calmed down, grabbed a fan and left it running right over the spot on the island for two days. This is all that’s left:

butcher block care

I took a major close up to show you that so it looks worse than it is. Now we can’t even find the spot unless we run our hand over the wood. Normally even the sitting water wouldn’t be an issue – but it happened to sit right at a seam and got in there good.

It’s not noticeable at all now, you have to really look for it and most of the time we can’t even spot it:

maple butcher block

It was HUGE before – I wish I would have taken a picture.

So, yes, butcher block will not stay pristine forever. You have to know that going in. I was originally planning to do butcher around the kitchen and a solid surface on the island, but after some more research I decided against them near the sink. I am fine with the island getting some wear and tear, but I don’t want to have to worry about counters that I use around water.

Northwest Lumber is a retailer for Wood Welded, the company that produces the butcher block. They have locations listed on their site if you want to try to find one near you. They describe the finish as a “Durakryl 102 UV cured finish” that is supposed to be maintenance free. It is food safe and helps to prevent cracking or warping:

extending kitchen island

If we do decide to sand it down someday they recommend a product called Emmet’s Elixir mineral oil – again, food safe. They do mention that that will give you more of the traditional butcher block look but say to re-oil once a month.

Again, our other butcher tops never cracked or warped and I only oiled those every six months or so (or sometimes once a year). But this version is less maintenance because you don’t have to do a thing:

butcher block on kitchen island

Most wood will “warm” or darken over time and our original countertop certainly did this. I’m not sure the new ones will because of the finish.

I’m fine with that though – I think it is gorgeous as it is! I love having the natural wood in our kitchen:

natural butcher block countertops

I have always loved the look of dark wood countertop but both times in our home I prefer the natural look much more. It just helps to brighten up the space and I think the wood is so beautiful as it is.

I hope that helps to answer any questions you may have. If not, please let me know! You have to be OK with a few scratches and imperfections if you’re going to go with wood – if not you will cry often. ;) But they aren’t even noticeable to us so it’s not a big thing. It’s totally worth it to me for the warmth it brings into the kitchen:

butcher block on large island

Do you have butcher block in your home? I’ve used it many places (on our built ins and on the mud room bench) and they hold up incredibly well. Those were from IKEA – their prices are pretty amazing and I highly recommend them!

**To see how I transformed our builder grade kitchen island to this bigger, more functional one, check out this post.

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  1. Yes, please! I love this look.


  2. I LOVE butcher block, when we redid out kitchen last winter, I REAAALLLLLY wanted butcher block, but my husband talked me into granite. Ugh. Don't get me wrong it's fairly indestructible, but I really, really wanted the warmth that butcher block adds. Now I wait for something really bad to happen to the granite so I can replace it with the butcher block. Hmm, maybe an accident with a sledge hammer.....

  3. Your island is gorgeous! We have maple counter tops (bowling alley grade from Lumber Liquidators) that we sealed with Epifanes. We do have to touch them up about every 2 years, which isn't bad, but certainly isn't maintenance free. Granted, we are a family of 6 and I pretty much live in the kitchen. I think in our next kitchen we will do solid surface on the main counter tops and a butcher block island like yours :)

  4. I just bought island sized butcher block from IKEA! What size were you looking for?

  5. Oh, and I loved this post and will go back and read the other one about your butcher block since we are just about to put ours on our island! I haven't decided whether to oil it or seal it. I hope I love mine as much as you do!

  6. I would love to do butcher block in my kitchen, but I live with three people who couldn't handle it. They regularly flood the counter around the sink without noticing, and even the island is not safe from big spills.

  7. I really want new laminate on our island - something that has rounded edges. Our laminate held up so well over the years - but it's showing it's age and I don't want the countertops and island not to match. I've got a cat who likes to knock over water glasses, too!

  8. I really love the look of the butcher block and could see myself using it in a future kitchen. Two questions: 1. Could they stain it and THEN seal it? I love the seal and I think hearing that this is an option sells it for me. But if they stained it first then you could deepen the color right? Can they do both? 2. This is dumb but do you cut on it? Or do you use a cutting board on top of it?

    They really look beautiful. Classic and warm. Great choice!

  9. Your counter top looks beautiful. I can't believe how well the water damage recovered! Gotta love that household wrecking crew called The Cats, huh.

  10. It looks great. I have to say that I didn't think anyone put in new butcher block counters anymore... usually I see granite or granite type products. I have butcher block, but it's original from when the kitchen was put in. I like the look of it with the white solid wood cabinets.

  11. I have a John Boos maple butcher top (72 X 36 X 2 1/4) for my dining room table. The factory is close to my town, and they have a showroom outlet. I snagged this size for $200 as a cancelled order. I then had a base welded and powder coated, and it looks just like a table from CB2 for a fraction of the price!

  12. Love your island and butcher block!!

  13. Love it! How many inches is the overhang for your bar stools? I've got an island makeover in the works in my kitchen and am getting serious inspiration from your project!


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