Butcher Block Countertops Have One Major Drawback

updated Jul 17, 2020
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(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Butcher countertops are still having their moment. They can add warmth and character to an otherwise sterile kitchen, and the natural and classic look of wood can simultaneously upgrade a kitchen and give it a timeless feel. But as with any trend, you should be wary of adopting it unless it’s a style that truly and personally brings you joy. When it comes to butcher block countertops, which require extra maintenance and can pose unique challenges, this is especially true.

Many people initially shy away from butcher block countertops because of the maintenance they require. And unlike other countertop materials that don’t necessarily show the effects of being less-than-ideally maintained, butcher block countertops can start to look bad quickly if they aren’t properly cared for.

The main and always-looming concern with butcher block countertops is their susceptibility to water damage, and the sink area poses the biggest challenge. Because it sees the most water, even with meticulous wiping (which itself could turn you off from the material), moisture around the sink—and especially the faucet area—can cause a ring of distortion and discoloration.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

A properly oiled wood surface should resist water, but being vigilant about spills will help prevent most serious water damage.

Regular maintenance for butcher block countertops includes oiling, waxing, and occasional refinishing. While this may sound daunting, consider the fact that most other countertop materials require some amount of regular maintenance as well and, more significantly, when they sustain damage, repairs are difficult and costly. Repairing butcher block countertop damage, on the other hand, whether from stains or burns, is a relatively simple DIY task of re-sanding.

How to Revive Your Butcher Block Countertops: To revive your tired wood surfaces, first clean and remove any stains using salt and some lemon. Sand if necessary, then apply a combination of food-safe mineral oil and conditioner. The beeswax in the conditioner helps repair knife marks and other damage, and protects the wood in the future.

(Image credit: Sandra Rojo)

If you are remodeling, here’s one way to circumvent the issue. Don’t use butcher block countertops in the sink zone. If you love the look (and price), mix countertop materials and put something more durable, like quartz, in the sink area and adjacent counters. Use butcher block only the island.

If you do use butcher block throughout, consider using extra moisture protection in the problem area surrounding the sink. Mixing wax with your regular oil application around the sink area is one option, as is sealing the area with a stronger water-resistant product.

(Image credit: Minette Hand)

Remember that if all else fails, refinishing water-damaged butcher block counters is well within reach. If butcher block counters are part of the kitchen of your dreams, definitely be aware of the drawbacks, but don’t let fear stop you from bringing your vision to life.