Butcher Block vs Wood Countertop: Which is Better?


Would you prefer a butcher block countertop or a wood countertop? Knowing the difference between the butcher block and wood countertop can make choosing one easier.

Although both are wooden countertops, they are not the same. The difference lies in the arrangements of wood fiber, also known as the wood grain. It is generally accepted that wood countertops are flat grain or face grain, and butcher block countertops are edge or end grain.  

A wood countertop is made by laying lumber flat and joining it at the edges. Due to their striking appearance, these countertops are popular. While on the butcher countertop, wood blocks are glued together with the ends flipped up vertically. The countertops are stronger and can withstand heavy cutting.

If we see Butcher Block vs Wood Countertops, the prominent feature that differentiates is wood countertops couldn’t bear meat cutting. Further, you would get all prospects of these two terms in detail.

What is Butcher Block Countertop?

In the past, butcher wooden surfaces were used for splitting meat into pieces, which was when they were originally called butcher block countertops. Now Butcher Block Countertops is available in different styles and varieties. It can be almost all types of wood, but mostly maple wood is used. 

It’s carved straight. Based on its structure Butcher Block Countertops can be categorized into different types, such as end grain and edge grain. 

While it can last till 20 years, the lifespan of a butcher block can be increased if it’s maintained with proper care. Butcher block countertops are usually installed in your kitchen seamlessly that fit in a stylish appearance. 

What are Wood Countertops?

Wood Countertops is the table top that is mostly made of hard maple, Brazilian cherry, or teak. They are manufactured in flat grain orientation. Most often, these countertops are used for kitchen islands, work tables, cutting boards, kitchen countertops, and bathroom countertops. The cost of wood countertops is lower than that of butcher blocks. 

It is easy to maintain these countertops. Heavy chopping is not recommended on wood countertops. In fact, these countertops are capable of handling light prep work. 

When it is coated with glue, it gains more strength and stability. The natural, solid, and smooth wooden surface gives a wonderful warmth landing look to the kitchen.

Butcher Block Vs Wood Countertop

Many people confuse these terms, but when researching these terms in depth, we can differentiate between the two terms. Here is the difference between butcher block and wood countertop:

Role in the Kitchen

The majority of food prep is done on countertops. Preparing vegetables and meat requires the use of a knife. When you don’t use a cutting board and work on your countertop, you need to know which countertops are suitable for your work.

Wood countertops are a better fit for vegetable preparation that involves light knife work like slicing, chopping, julienning, and dicing. Without proper care, these countertops can easily develop knife marks and damage.

On the other hand, butcher countertops are much more durable and thicker. Suitable for chopping meat, quartering, and filleting, the thick wood countertop is larger and sturdy enough to stay in place during meat preparation.

Wood Grain Orientation

The wood countertop has a face grain orientation, which is mostly for decoration purposes because of the beauty of the wood grain. It is made by gluing planks so that the wide side becomes the upper surface of the countertop.

While the wood orientation of the butcher block is in such a way that it shows the rings of the tree, this is achieved by cutting the lumbar into blocks and then gluing them in a way that the end grain faces up. 

Strains and scratches

A wood countertop is primarily used in the kitchen for its aesthetic appeal. Despite their ability to cut and chop, these countertops are easily damaged if not handled carefully. Scratches and strains can be visible on these countertops.

In contrast, butcher block countertops can hide scratches and are somewhat self-repairing because the wood fibers rebound after cutting. Surfaces like these do not allow knife blades to penetrate into them as wood countertops do.

Furthermore, the unique feature of self-healing can be seen in a thick wood countertop over time. It is, therefore, safe to use them for meat chopping without worrying about scratches.

Maintenance

Both wood and butcher block countertops require care. Nevertheless, wood countertops require less maintenance. It is better to wash these surfaces immediately after use. 

The maintenance of butcher block countertops is much higher than that of wood countertops. In order to protect the natural wood on the surface, use mineral oil and sandpaper to fill in any nicks or scratches. Also, it is necessary to protect these surfaces from moisture. 

Exposure to germs and insecticides

A butcher countertop is used for splitting, so these surfaces are more exposed to germs and insecticides. Contrary to this, wood countertops are free from all these germs and wraps.

Cost

Depending on how countertops are built, the price will vary. Because wood countertops are relatively easy to build, they are affordable as well.

Butcher block countertops, on the other hand, are very expensive due to their weight and difficulty in manufacture.

What to consider when choosing a Butcher Block countertop?

Thickness and Edges

The thickness of Butcher Block greatly varies from wood type and construction of the countertop. Normally its thickness lies between two inches to 12 inches. While butcher countertop also exists in a large variety of edges.

Grain Types

You can choose between end grain and edge grain when purchasing butcher block countertops. End grain is more expensive, but it lasts longer and wears better because it exposes the ends of the wood fibers. In contrast, edge grain, whose surface is the wood’s side edges, shows more marks.

The type of wood you choose is also upto you, such as oak, birch, maple, and others. You should choose wood with a larger grain if you want hard and durable wood, such as oak.  

Preparing food

Most users do not use butcher block countertops as cutting boards because of the intense maintenance involved. If you cut against these countertops, it requires sealing and refinishing more often. 

Furthermore, cutting meat on these countertops without proper cleaning may cause bacteria to accumulate in the crevices.

Butcher block countertops can also be used as cutting boards if you are comfortable with the maintenance.

Maintenance

Butcher countertops require more maintenance and care than other countertops. The natural wood should be protected with mineral oil, and scratches and nicks should be smoothed out with sandpaper.

Re-treating your countertop once a year is generally recommended, depending on its use. It is possible to extend the life of these countertops significantly if they are properly maintained.

Heat and water sensitivity

You should be very careful when installing butcher block countertops near your sink or stove. In the presence of water, wood absorbs liquid very quickly, which can result in mold growth. 

In addition, because of the countertop’s porous nature, spills such as coffee or tomato sauce are likely to stain it. Furthermore, placing a hot pot on the countertop may cause the wood to crack. Therefore, it is advised o protect the surface against heat. 

What to consider when choosing a wood countertop?

Performance and Care

The performance of wood countertops is different from that of other counter materials, and they have a number of advantages and disadvantages. The softness and flexibility of wood prevent fragile items and dishes from breaking. 

Moreover, wood surfaces are excellent sound absorbers. Therefore, noises such as chopping are muffled. Wood counters need more maintenance because they can become scratched and dented over time. As wood counters age, they may require sanding and refinishing to smooth them out. 

Wood Countertops Move and Change

Wood countertops condense in the winter and expand in the summer. Size changes should be taken into account when installing and caring for wood countertops.

To ensure equal expansion and contraction of the wood, it is recommended to seal the bottom and top of the counter. If you fail to seal the entire piece, your counters may curl and crack.

Wood types

It is one of the best features of wood countertops to have so many options and style upgrades to choose from.  The most common types of wood used in countertops are eastern hard sugar maple, western maple, walnut, cherry, and a few other types. Each of these varies in price and size.

Furnishing

The wood countertop without a furnishing coat is incomplete and insecure. So, do check whether the countertop has a furnishing coat on it or not.

Furnishing countertops might be done with oil grease, wax, urethane, acrylic, etc. The coating of these materials will protect countertops and moisture. You can also keep furnishing wood countertops by yourself after some time interval whenever you see countertops in the worst condition.

Stains and Wood Countertops

A wooden countertop may stain over time. You can sand out these stains on a wood countertop, but you will remove the wood finish, and some finishes can be difficult to blend. 

Make sure to wipe dry any standing water and sand out any discoloration that occurs if you plan to use the top as a cutting surface with a sink. Also, frequent re-oiling is necessary.

Beauty

The wood countertop is an amazing and attractive smooth surface used in kitchen cabinets. You need to choose that wood for your countertop that fills the charm in your kitchen. Live-edge is considered the best in respect of its beauty. So, you can consider this live-edge wooden countertop.

Are wood countertops outdated?

Real wood countertops are indeed out-of-date, but for the time being, new styles are added to original wood countertops. It’s a classic term that remains fresh when we keep adding new styles and features to present wooden countertops. Due to its warm touch, they are making a comeback towards new trending styles.

Types of wood for butcher block countertops

Butcher block countertops are categorized into numerous types depending on their texture, structure, and Wood type used. Here are four types of wood for butcher blocks that are most famous and used are discussed:

Maple

This is the most common and famous wood type used in butcher blocks. Maple further comes in variations like hard and soft maple. Hard maple is most famous for its usage it’s very comfortable for daily usage in the kitchen and can be used as a cutting board.

Walnut

Walnut butcher blocks are most famous for their attractive appearance but are not used for multi-functionalities. But if you want a dark appearance butcher countertop, then walnut would be preferred.

Cypress

An anti-bacterial substance is used in cypress butcher blocks that make it exceptional from other types. This substance provides resistance and removes unwanted odor.

Teak

Teak is the best material that provides decay resistance as it contains high oil content. Teak has resistance power against wet conditions. So, this is also the best choice for making butcher block countertops.

Conclusion

The traditional butcher block term is always confused with wood countertops. But on the research, you would see the difference between butcher block countertops and wood countertops. 

Adding new styling features to traditional block make them evergreen to buyers. Butcher Block is one you mostly see in your kitchen as attractive shelves. It would also be seen in bathroom countertops, providing a smooth and hardwood surface.

Wood countertops contain grain edges and give them a finishing look. Both countertops’ costs vary depending on size, measurements, extra grain as furnishing, and type of wood used. 

If you keep working on maintenance regularly, you can increase the lifespan of the butcher block countertop. So, just research when you will consider these countertops and are interested in buying kitchen cabinets and shelves.

Sink Formula

Hi, I'm Lisa Burks, founder of the Sink Formula blog, and plumber of 5 years experience.

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