Butcher Block and Wood Countertops
A warm alternative to cool stone, character-rich wood countertops are staging a comeback. Traditional wood surfaces often are reserved for lower-traffic applications, such as islands that double as eating areas.
True butcher block, made from strips of wood bonded together, serves as a work surface. It is the only countertop material appropriate for slicing and chopping. Most wood countertops are made from maple, though oak, cherry, walnut and teak are also used. Eco-friendly bamboo is gaining popularity.
What Is It? Butcher block countertops consist of strips of wood glued together to form a slab.
Durable Maple Countertops
Wood countertops are ideal atop an island where families gather for meals, homework and crafts. Maple is a popular species due to its durability. Shown: Kosinski Maple. Photo courtesy of The Butcher Block Top
Exotic Bamboo Countertops
Bamboo countertops are a durable, exotic alternative to traditional hardwoods. Available types include parquet butcher block, traditional and strand. Shown: Vertical Grain Caramelized bamboo face with Chestnut strand bamboo core. © Teragren LLC
Wide-plank hardwood countertops add natural beauty. Each plank runs the length of the countertop, and the surface can be stained in a variety of colors. Photo courtesy of Brooks Custom.
Considerations When Choosing Wooden Countertops
Thickness and Edges. Wood countertop thickness generally ranges from a three-quarter inch to six inches, and butcher block from two inches to 12 inches. A wide variety of edge options exist.
Grain Types. Choose from three grain options depending on the desired function.
- Face Grain. Also called "plank grain," this orientation contains wood planks adhered together with the wide surface positioned upright. This surface, which showcases the beauty of the wood grain, is considered more decorative.
- Edge Grain. The edges of the boards are assembled in an upright position to form a light work surface. It appears less busy than the squares of butcher block.
- End Grain. The ends of the boards are positioned upward, forming a distinctive checkerboard appearance, for a heavy-duty work surface that withstands chopping. This is considered true butcher block. It is usually reserved for small prep areas.
Eco-Friendly Options. If you love wood countertops, why not consider a greener option? Reclaimed woodfrom old homes and barnsis a popular option, as is domestic wood from managed forests. Another popular alternative is bamboo, which is technically a renewable grass. The surface is extremely hard and sturdy, making it ideal for countertops.
Maintenance. Wipe the countertop with a soft cloth and warm water daily. Mild household cleansers are suitable. Wipe up spills immediately. Generally requires regular applications of mineral oil or beeswax or sealing with food-safe varnish.
The Bottom Line. Wood countertops cozy up a traditional or country kitchen. They're often reserved for a smaller work surface, such as an island, and aren't the best choice above a dishwasher or near a sink.