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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 03:25 PM
Original message
Butcher Block Countertops
Someone asked me in a private e-mail about butcher block countertops. I thought I'd answer here in case anyone else is innerested.

The wood used to make them is light colored, very tight grained hardwood. It used to be all maple, but that may no longer be true for all of it. I know the commercial stuff with a name brand still is, but not as sure about other stuff. In fact, the only maker I am sure of is John Boos and Company. Their stuff is still 100% hard rock maple. (I will *not* do a hard rock cafe joke here, okay? :)) (http://www.johnboos.com /)

Other woods are sometimes used for aesthetic reasons. Cherry is seen. Teak, rosewood, some others. They all have in common a close grain. Oak, for example, is not a good choice as it has an open grain and prominent pores. And it is *easy* to get stains on it. Birch is often used in place of maple.

A note about dimensions: Your counters are more than 24" deep. They're at least 25", and maybe even 25-1/2" or 26". Make sure the counters you buy will work in your kitchen. Remember, your base cabinets are most likely to be 24" exactly. The doors add to this dimension by their exposed thickness (1/2" for semi-recessed doors and 3/4" for full overlay doors). So 25" deep for the countertop is the absolute minimum.

Wood is easy to install - just screw it from below through the webs in your base cabinets. You can do this with long drywall screws. Just be sure to predrill the countertop. The wood is probably so hard you'll have difficulty screwing into it, even with drywall screws. If you make a butt joint, say at a corner or between short runs, caulk the joint. I'd suggest clear silicone caulk or sealant. You can get that at your local home center, hardware store, or Lowe's (please don't shop at Home Depot .... they support the current dictatorship). I would also advise caulking the joint where the counter meets the wall - no matter what you plan for a back splash. Tile would make a good back splash

Your new wood counter has care and feeding needs.

Water can stain the wood permanently and irrevocably (so deep it can't be sanded out). Water stains on butcher block tend to be dark ..... black, even, and quite unsightly. They are, however, easy to avoid. First, apply some sealer to the wood. This can be mineral oil, which needs to be renewed every few months, depending on how you use the counter. The nice thing, however, is that after a few years of oiling them, the counters will be deeply protected and will need less oiling .... and then, maybe just in the sink area.

You could also apply polyurethane to them. It is more permanent than mineral oil, but will chip or wear away with time. Just make sure that any finish you put on it is food safe. I'm not sure I'd use deck water sealer, for example. But there are many concoctions sold specifically for wood counters and cutting boards.

The real problem with water almost always is confined to the area next to the sink rim. Spilled water on the counter surface will likely evaporate before it causes any real harm to all but very new wood. Older wood will have absorbed a bunch of naturally occurring food oils that are quite inert, but provide some modest protection. Of course, you'll have been mineral oiling it every month, so we really don't need to worry anyhow, do we? :)

Just make sure your sink's rim is well sealed to the counter. The usually pathology of sink rim water stains is that water stands next to the sink rim. It finds its way under them, where it is dark and quite airless. the water is absorbed into the wood long before it evaporates. The wet wood turns black deeper in the wood before it does on the surface. By the time you see the black, it could be too late. Even if you don't want to polyurethane the counter, I'd suggest applying it locally to the sink cutout and the area that will be covered by the sink rims, allowing the poly to extend a half inch or so beyond the sink rim's outer edge. If you use a matte poly, you'll never see this. But it adds what may well be all the protection you need.

Hot pots are not that much a worry. I am pretty sure a red hot cast iron skillet will scorch a wood counter, but I don't think a pot of stew will. If you want, buy a cheap-o wood cutting board and experiment on that. See what scorches it and what it can tolerate. I don't think there's any need to be religious about using trivets on the counter, but you're probably better off not routinely putting hot pots on it. It is likely better than laminate (or even corian), but not as good as stone, quartz, or metal.

Don't use it as a cutting board. I repeat, do NOT use it as a cutting board. Okay? Got that? Your "butcher block" is not ..... a butcher's block. Just look at the scars on that wood cutting board you have. Or look at a well used *real* butcher's block. Scars, indentations, cuts, total loss of wood. Do not cut on it.

Wood will stain. New wood is very prone to staining. It gains stain resistance naturally as time goes on (it absorbs the naturally occurring oils in foods - that oil is so small an amount that it *usually* doesn't turn rancid, but it does serve to add some modest protection). Oiled or sealed wood is not that prone to staining, but it can still stain a bit. The staining is likely to be more of a general darkening rather than glaring spots or rings. It is likely you'll see a dark area where you tend to do most of your work, even though you're not cutting right on the wood (you're not cutting right on the wood, are you?). For me, that's just patina ..... the charm of wood counters ..... the mark of a lovingly used kitchen. To others, however, its a stain. Home buyers tend to see this type of stain. So does your mother-in-law (who already knows you are completely incapable of taking care of her dear spawn and fails to understand why you even exist, but that's another story).

The cure for a stained wood counter, however, is duck soup simple. Sand it! If you're just doing a small area, use something like 100 grit (wrapped around a scrap of flat wood to you don't make the spot concave) to rough the spot out, then finish with 180 grit and reseal. If you need to do more, use a belt sander. Just be careful. Those suckers can eat some wood in a hurry! And no matter what method you use, sand **with** the grain.

All in all, wood is a pretty good choice for a countertop. The only *real* downside is the water issue,a nd even that is not all hard to prevent. Just exercise some normal care.

Tile makes a nice backsplash for it. But so does metal. Some sheets of stainless (or zinc, or copper) cut to fit and applied to the wall between the counter and the wall cabinet works well. Just glue it on with some construction adhesive and seal (very, very well) the joint between the counter and the metal.

One final note ...... NSF (the National Sanitation Foundation) has found that wood is less prone to being a pathogen harborage than some materials you'd think were very safe. Wood holds less in the way of bugs than does the ubiquitous polypropylene (white plastic) cutting boards! Yup. S'true. Look it up. You'll be quite surprised.
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 04:01 PM
Response to Original message
1. H2S YOU ROCK!!
:bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce: :bounce:


i would love butcher block tops and you answered my one question about water damage

i keep seeing a commericial on HGTV for an 8 foot maple for $175 but their website shows $184 ($9 is no deal breaker in my book)

http://www.lumberliquidators.com/cart/index.php?p=produ...

i'm glad I haven't chosen a wall color based on the icky pink laminate
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Dora Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-29-05 05:39 PM
Response to Reply #1
13. About Lumber Liquidators
My husband and I ordered an 8 foot length and a 12 foot length last fall for our kitchen (prepaid). When the countertops came in and my husband got them home and unwrapped, they didn't match. One length was made out of long, unbroken lengths of maple, and the other was made out of short, glued-together lengths of maple. Mind you, these were to be used togeter in the same kitchen.

My husband returned them, and LL didn't want to take them back, exchange them, or refund. They finally refunded (Lesson: Make sure you get the wood off the truck before entering negotiations. They'll be too lazy to load it back on the truck and they'll give you a refund just to get you gone).
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Mar-29-05 07:31 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. lucky for me, they have a warehouse here, so I can pick them out n/t
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Kashka-Kat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 05:19 PM
Response to Original message
2. some minor correx
Happen to be planning a wood counter top and have been hanging out at Kitchen forum on gardenweb.com, where this topic has been discussed every which way. polyurethane is actually not a good choice for counters bcause its just a surface film and if water gets under the film thru scratches and cuts in the finish, it will cause the staining and etc. you are trying to avoid. tung oil finish (like waterlox) is supposed to be excllellent & the most durable-- absorbs deeply into the wood-- and is food safe.

Also I believe when attaching counters to cabinets, you need to take into account the expansion/ contraction of the wood across the grain, so may need to use special hardware for attaching that allows ths movement to happen

I do agree that wood is fabulous for counters-- I love that it is renewable and also adds warmth to a room which can otherwise have a lot of hard cold surfaces.
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Stinky The Clown Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 06:10 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Thanks for the tips ..... but .....
I did not know that about the poly. I also knew about tung oil and forgot it in my original post. Thanks for that! :hi:

As to the expansion, the screws are exactly the way to do that simply. The holes in the cabinet webs do not hold the screw. Those holes are predrilled larger than the screw diameter. Only the thread actually in the countertop is really fastened. (A screw is a form of one of the four basic machines - the wedge. It can be said - and would be true- that the countertop is held in place by simple wedges.) This allows the screw to "work" in the hole in the web ... allowing the counter to expand and contract.

In actual fact, standard old laminate counters on particle board are the worst for expansion and that is exactly how they're attached.

Conversely, solid countertops (stone, quartz, etc) are held by "glue" (a silicone sealant/caulk type material, actually). That completely limits movement except the kind that makes the entire cabinet "work". But since these materials do very little expansion, that bit of "give" the glue has is enough.

Corian is kinda in the middle. It is really a laminate in some installations, with plywood (*never* particle board) as the substrate. And that's screwed in place. Solid corian is fastened like stone, with "glue". Stainless steel (which is what I have in my kitchen) is in the same category. It is glued (with construction adhesive) to a plywood (again, *never* to particle board) substrate, which has a wildly different expansion coefficient. The glue line acts as the slip plate between the top and the substrate, and the screws allow the substrate to move. A butcher block counter is really no different than any other wood counter. Admittedly plywood's cross grain laminations minimize expansion, but it is still there to some degree. The laminated nature of butcher block is also an inhibitor of (but does not eliminate) expansion.

The fact is, all materials expand and contract ... either from temperature or humidity - or both - and need some level of compensation.

Last point on expansion ....... the fact is, base cabinet webs are set below the actual top of the cabinet. There's a gap that may be an inch or more between the top of the web and the bottom of the counter. The fastener (the screw) is able to bend (the minuscule amount needed to allow for expansion/contraction) in this unsupported/unconstrained length and thereby allow for expansion. The real issue is the friction between the countertop's underside and the upper edges of the cabinet base. Even if unfastened, the friction that results from the combination of the nature of the mating surfaces (relatively rough) and the weight of the countertop (heavy!) along all these square inches of contact area will limit movement at least as much as any fastener, and maybe even more! The hardware has little effect, really.
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Longhorn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-26-05 06:34 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. This is the product my husband recommends:
it's called "Good Stuff."

http://www.mapleblock.com /

You should be able to find it locally. :hi:
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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 08:20 AM
Response to Original message
5. I am considering butcher block for the island in my dream kitchen.
It looks and feels warm and will give the island a kitchen table feel. I am worried about keeping it clean with all the grubby little paws in my house. How do you clean it from day to day?
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 08:46 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. a damp cloth, or if it's really bad hot soapy water
just like your cutting boards :)

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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 09:46 AM
Response to Reply #6
7. It will be bad, no doubt.
But by the time I can actually afford this project, my kids should be nearly grown, so it won't be as much of an issue ;)
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 09:50 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. i am figuring about $500 for mine, so the dishwasher is getting put on the
back burner. I'm saving my tips (except what I sent to Andy) and am a fifth the way there already.... look for pics in May :bounce:

then we can finally decide on a paint color :)

so far we have discussed:

gray
cranberry
cafe au lait
russet red
colonial blue

but at least Mr Ketchup is all about color now heheheh :evilgrin:
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wildeyed Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 12:39 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. With the new counter tops you will have so many color options :)
The pink was kind of limiting, even though I was into the retro pink 'n gray thing.

My renovation is a dream. It involves demolishing two walls, new lighting, cabinets, counter tops and a flat screen TV. Hey, it is free to dream :) And I spent ALL my money on the landscaping so dreaming is all I will be able to do for awhile.

I am really happy with the feng shui kitchen makeover we did a few months ago. The kitchen is very functional. It really feels like mine, finally.

We are off for a few days of spring vacation. Enjoy your Easter!
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 01:22 PM
Response to Reply #9
10. happy easter to you too! we only need one new cabinet which I will
make a pull out garbage/recycle bin.

the old owners redid the kitchen and used some existing cabinets that weren't the same depth and were a bit longer than the upper cabinets

i can get a standard 27" cabinet to match the existing ones and staining to match with one side a garbage bin and the other a pull out foil/clingwrap/stuff cabinet to take the place of the drawers I use now
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mike_c Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 02:29 PM
Response to Original message
11. I have a 24 x 26 inch piece of 1.5 inch thick rock maple countertop...
...that I had cut 10 years ago as a cutting board-- it'll easily outlast me. I put rubber feet on the bottom, and I treat it with mineral oil occasionally. It is an awesome cutting board-- more of knife friendly work counter. Folks who can't redo their kitchen counters but want a functional rock maple work surface they can cut on might want to consider this alternative.
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NMDemDist2 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-27-05 06:32 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. i have this that I love and move all over the place
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