Butcher Your Countertops

Butcher Your Countertops

America has a love affair with granite, the top high-end countertop choice for years, but butcher block has presented a strong option for a down-to-earth alternative. “Wooden countertops have been around for a long time, but they’ve been growing in popularity lately,” says Anthony Carrino, star of several HGTV shows. “It’s because rustic farmhouse kitchens and the restaurant chic look are getting so big. People want big wooden work surfaces to give their kitchens a functional, useful vibe.”

And it’s not just their looks that are making butcher blocks so trendy; it’s also their price tag. “Butcher blocks come in at about half the price of granite,” says Beth Veillette, author of “Kitchen Ideas that Work” (Taunton Press, 2007), and a custom kitchen designer at Hanford Cabinet and Woodworking, Old Saybrook, Connecticut. “They’re an incredibly economic way to completely change the look of your home.”

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t downsides. “Heat and water can warp the countertops and they show wear much more quickly than a stone product would,” Veillette says. It’s tempting to cut, dice and chop directly on these wood countertops, but it’s not necessarily a good idea.

“In the past, people would cut on the butcher blocks without a cutting board, but that mars the surface and can also spread bacteria. Raw chicken juice can get soaked into the wood, for example,” Carrino says. “Your countertops will last longer if you use a cutting board instead of chopping directly on them.”

Whether the counters are exposed to sharp knives or not, they require quite a bit of maintenance. “Every few months you have to scrub them down and put a good coat of mineral oil on them to keep them looking good,” Veillette says.

Still, butcher block countertops can be a great addition to the kitchen for those who understand the pros and cons. Options include maple, red oak, black walnut, cherry, and more.

Also important is the choice between flat grain (where the wood runs length-wise) and end grain (which makes the butcher block look like a checkerboard). “End grain is stronger and looks beautiful, but it’s also more expensive,” Veillette says. “It’s up to you which style you want to go with.”


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