Q+A: Butcher-Block Countertops

Last week, Emily Henderson’s swoon-worthy kitchen left many of you with questions about butcher-block counters. Although marble counters are my go to, I love the warm, organic surface of wood in the kitchen. I especially love when marble and butcher block are used together in the same space. Not only are many butcher-block countertops affordable, they are beautiful, forgiving in their use, gentle on your stem wear and pottery, and quiet as they absorb the sounds of your kitchen instead of echoing the banging of pots and pans. They fit well in both traditional and more modern designs. Today I’ve gathered my thoughts for types, tips, and care of butcher-block countertops. Enjoy!

Q: What types of butcher-block counters are there?

A: There are three main types:

types of butcher-block counters

Via Vintage South Development

Edge-Grain Butcher Block is the most popular choice for counters because it is strong and most affordable. The surface is created from the long narrow edges of the wood. Depending on the dimensions of your counter, the boards can be continuous lengths or random lengths jointed together.

types of butcher-block counters

Via Robert Stilin

Flat-Grain Butcher Block creates a beautiful, streamlined counter. The surface is created by laying 4”-12” boards flat and gluing the edges. The end finish is a seamless, plank-style surface that highlights the natural patterns in the wood. This counter top is only great for those who always plan on always using cutting boards because the softer surface of the wood with make chopping and cutting marks very visible.

types of butcher-block counters

Via Mark Reilly Architecture

End-Grain Butcher Block is made from small rectangular blocks of wood arranged so that the ends are visible on the surface. This is the most expensive and most durable type of butcher block. It is the best choice however, if you plan to dedicate your surface to cutting and chopping as it will best hide knife marks.

Where most homeowners chose edge-grain butcher block, interior designer Mark Reilly makes a statement in a simple white kitchen with end-grain butcher block.


types of butcher-block counters

Photo by Jeremy Bittermann

Tip #1: I love how in a marble-filled, white kitchen, a butcher-block topped island or kitchen cart adds organic warmth.

In an all white kitchen, wood butcher block counters become an interesting focal point for the room.

Tip #2: Butcher block comes in 40 different varieties of wood. Depending on the kitchen I’m designing, I like maple for it’s warmth and durability, ash for its light, fresh coloring, beech or birch for affordability, and walnut if the space calls for rich color.

types of butcher-block counters

Via Lucas Studio, Inc. / Photo: Karyn Millet

Tip #3: Although thin countertops are much less expensive, the thicker the countertop, the more stable the wood will be with less risk of eventually warping. I love the look and quality of at least a 1 ½” thick counter.

Tip #4: Butcher block counters are used in many homes and restaurants for their convenience; food can be cut and prepped right on the counter without permanent damage. Although using your counters in this way is convenient and acceptable, it will of course create an aged patina. If you like an aged old-world feel in your kitchen, cut on! Otherwise, I recommend always using a cutting board on top of your butcher block to keep your counters looking new and fresh without a lot of work.

** Alternative

If you like the look of butcher block, but don’t want to commit to making it a permanent feature of your kitchen, stick with natural stone counters and instead add a butcher-block topped rolling kitchen cart or island. William Sonoma and Crate and Barrel are two of my favorite sources.


choosing butcher-block countertops becki owens

Photo: Brittany Ambridge

If you take a little time to care for butcher-block counters, they can last a lifetime. The upkeep is not time-consuming or expensive, but if you do see damage or signs of use you do not like, you can simply sand down the area or entire counter with a fine-grained paper and your counter will again look fresh and new.

choosing butcher block counters becki owens

Via Carla Aston


Instead of treating the wood with a clear coat of urethane or acrylic, I like the look and natural-approach of mineral oil treated counters. Mineral oil creates a matte look that is food-safe. The oil soaks into the wood and once saturated, will stop any other liquids or odors from being absorbed in to the counter. Be careful not to use vegetable oil as it turns rancid on your counter. How often you need to oil will depend on the type of wood you have chosen, but for most woods once a month is enough. Rub on before you go to bed, let soak overnight, and wipe of with a clean cloth in the morning.

types of butcher-block counters

Blair Harris Interior Design


For daily cleaning use hot, soapy water and sanitize with undiluted vinegar. For deep cleaning, sprinkle salt on your counter, scrub with half a lemon and rinse clean. For stains or deep sanitation, use diluted bleach but be sure to rinse quickly and thoroughly.

Thank you for joining me today to learn about butcher-block counters. I hope these tips and beautiful kitchen inspirations will be a good resource for you as you are making decisions for your own projects. Below are a few of my favorite choices for wood cutting boards. For ideas on how to style your kitchen with wood cutting boards visit here. Have a wonderful Monday!


** View more of my favorite butcher-block kitchens inspirations here.

Beautiful Cutting Boards


2 thoughts on “Q+A: Butcher-Block Countertops

  1. Christy says:

    awesome post Becki! I currently have an ikea butcher block counter that we sealed with waterlox. While it has held up well, I prefer the matte finish look as well, but never quite knew how to get it. We are renovating a new house and I think I’ll try your oil technique – thanks again!

  2. sophia says:

    Very informative post Becki. it’s very helpful for me because I am in search of butcher’s block, your oil technique is also very impressive hope it works too.

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