What’s the Best Wood for a Butcher Block

From cottage to lodge to modern farmhouse styles, butcher blocks are more popular than ever in 2021. But as practical and versatile as butcher blocks can be, the last thing you want to do is spend money on something that doesn’t last. And knowing the best types of wood for your butcher block purchase can make a big difference. 

Stains, scratches, and dust can impact any butcher block, but some materials are more susceptible than others. While selecting a butcher block based upon style may be tempting, if you’re planning on using it heavily, quality matters too.

The average butcher block costs $3,500 for a full countertop, which equates to $40 to $100 per square foot, including installation. On the higher end, with rare and exotic woods, you could spend as much as $10,000 for a large kitchen.

For most, that’s a decent investment, and it’s easy to see why saving money may be tempting. But spending a little more– and buying the best butcher block possible– may be wiser in the long run. Even a minor kitchen renovation averages a return on investment of 73.4 to 83.8 percent, according to Zillow. 

To make sure your renovation is worth it, don’t settle for low quality. This guide will help you select the best wood for your butcher block purchase. I’ll also provide my picks for some of the best wood butcher blocks you can buy– and how to take care of them. 

How long does a butcher block last?

pregnant woman chopping produce in kitchen with butcher block counters

As you can imagine, many factors play into how long a butcher block will last. And while much of that can be accounted for by the materials and quality of your purchase, your matter even more. What you cut and what you place on your butcher block matters. With a high-quality butcher block and proper use, you can expect 20 years, and often more. 

How do you make a butcher block countertop durable?

Selecting the proper materials and using them properly, a food-safe oil to oil-finished countertops is applied about once a month. Mineral oil or tung oil is likewise used to seal the butcher block and enhance the natural wood grain. This is done by first washing the block, spraying it with white vinegar, and applying lemon juice. After the block drives overnight, oil is allowed to soak for four to six hours, then a second coat is applied after another 24 hours. Oil is applied until the block can no longer absorb it, then wiped off. 

What should you not cut on a wood butcher block?

The term butcher block has led many people to misuse them. Butcher blocks installed in residential kitchens are best suited for cutting vegetables, cheese, fruit, and bread. The problem with cutting raw meat and seafood is that wood easily absorbs odors and bacteria. I’d recommend not cutting directly on it. 

Can you put hot pans on a wood butcher block?

Placing hot pans will greatly reduce the longevity of even the best butcher blocks. All wood cabs crack, burn and warp with heat. I also recommend keeping your kitchen cool. If you live in an environment with high humidity, a dehumidifier may also be a wise investment. 

How do you avoid water stains and bacteria growth?

Finally, stains and bacterial growth harm the durability of your butcher block. Regular cleaning is important. Clean off after every use, and use coasters to avoid burns or stains. 

What’s the best kind of wood for butcher block countertops?

place setting and decor on butcher block countertop

Now that you know how to take care of your butcher block countertops, it’s important to consider what wood is best. All woods have their pros and cons and all need proper care. But generally, you should opt for harder woods over softer woods, and only buy from reputable manufacturers. 

What is the hardest wood for butcher block countertops?

Maple is commonly favored for butcher blocks, and with good reason. Maple is a beautiful, classic wood. But there’s a type of wood called hard maple. As the name suggests, this form of maple is harder than other forms of maple wood and is especially resistant to everyday wear and even abrasions. Still, hardness is just one factor. Stability is also important– that is, how susceptible a wood is to warping or shrinking.

What’s the most durable wood for butcher block countertops?

Alongside hard maple wood, other excellent materials include high-quality oak and walnut. Oak is popular in cherry and red hues, but a softer brown hue is quite versatile. The tricky aspect of both oak and walnut is that quality truly matters. Be wary of any oak or bamboo that’s cheaply priced. And, of course, there are many synthetic materials– most notably for regular countertops– such as laminate. Meant to mimic the grain of walnut and oak, these materials are not suitable for a durable butcher block. 

What’s the cheapest wood for a butcher block?

Of all wood types, perhaps the most affordable is bamboo. But the problem is that bamboo is also softer than most softwoods, and still suffers from not providing substantial heat resistance. 

Hard Maple tends to be the most cost-effective of the three. Oak is a bit pricey, but still an excellent choice for wood for your butcher block. Of course, cheaper does not always mean better. No matter what type of wood you select, make sure you aren’t simply trying to buy the cheapest option possible. 

Best Wood Butcher Blocks: My Picks

Now I’ll give you my favorite picks for butcher blocks. All of my picks are made from genuine walnut, oak, or hard maple. They can be purchased from reputable home improvement stores and stores specializing in butcher blocks, all of which have a history of quality materials and reputable customer service. I’ve also selected butcher blocks based upon style, overall appeal, and quality per price ratio. For each category, I’ll tell you some pros and cons so you can decide which wood and butcher block fits you and your lifestyle.

kitchen with butcher block countertops

Hard Maple Butcher Blocks

Hard maple is a timeless option, with natural beauty, intricate grain patterns, and perfect for rustic and traditional homes. Hard maple tends to favor lighter to blonde tones, providing an inviting touch and giving off the illusion of a larger room. Hard maple is fairly resistant to dents from dropped bowls, plates, and rolling pins. Since it’s a common wood, pricing is reasonably affordable. That said, the light color does mean that stains and scratches will be more apparent. Hard maple isn’t as stable as some woods, meaning it’s not the best choice for humid environments. 

Hard Maple Edge Grain Butcher Block Countertop

maple butcher block wood

This straight edge, hard maple grain butcher block can be custom ordered. Select from a natural or mineral oil finish, and plain or with decorative edge details. This hard maple is an inviting blonder wood, with classic grain for any kitchen. Other options include angle cuts and joint prepping. Stylish especially on top of white, neutral, and light-hued cabinets, and awarded an average of 5 stars based upon 55 reviews.

Hard Maple End Grain Butcher Block Countertop

dark maple end grain butcher block wood

An end grain provides a less conventional, more rustic touch. Nonetheless, this butcher block is just as durable as a regular hard maple. Available both finished and unfinished, the striking grain look can be custom ordered and even stained to your liking. Decorative edges and options for specialty and custom cutouts make this a practical solution. Constructed with waterproof glue, this butcher block adds warmth and ambiance to kitchens.

End Grain Hard Rock Maple Butcher Block

Beautiful craftsmanship, sustainable sourcing, and gorgeous patterns are just a few bright notes for this end-grain hard maple butcher block. The butcher block countertop is handmade, all with materials sourced from Michigan. Choose from Monocoat and Everlast Satin Varnish finishes for improved durability. All orders are conditioned with beeswax and mineral oil, and you can custom order to fit your kitchen.

Oak Butcher Blocks

Oak is a popular choice for natural and rustic looks, with prominent grain patterns. Red oak provides a bolder hue, with light brown to pinkish tones and swirling patterns. White oak has tiger stripes and natural spots. Oak is excellent for durability and is also more suitable for humid environments. Affordable and widely available, it’s easy to see why it’s a great option for a butcher block. However, oak requires extra care. If not cleaned and maintained, it can crack or splinter more than some other woods. 

White Oak Edge Grain Butcher Block Countertop

white oak butcher block wood

This beautiful white oak butcher block countertop is constructed in solid strips– providing a more seamless look. The mostly straight grain is classic and ideal for a variety of kitchen styles. Available with mineral oil, acrylic polyurethane, polyester, and poured epoxy finishes, you can also custom order to fit difficult areas. Edging details offer texture and a finished look.

Live Sawn White Oak Edge Grain Butcher Block Countertop

warm tone oak butcher block wood

This live sawn white oak butcher block is highly customizable, with decorative edging and acrylic or mineral oil finishes. Live sawn is an efficient, European method of cutting for a more traditional aesthetic. It also provides a more distinct grain. Order specialty angle joints to fit about any shape and corners desired. Durable, with solid straight strips.

Walnut Butcher Blocks

Walnut is known as a strong, stable wood with striking hues and wood grains. From yellow hues to chocolate brown, the grain is stylish, classic, and even elegant. Highly resistant to everyday use, walnut can also be easily polished. It’s often more environmentally friendly as well. However, walnut can be prone to scratches, and more so than many other kinds of wood, truly needs a proper seal to extend its life. It’s also more pricey and can be susceptible to humidity, as hard maple is. 

Boos Square Walnut Chopping Blocks – 3″ Thick End-Grain

thick small square of walnut butcher block wood

Need a smaller butcher block? If you’re looking for a high-quality, walnut butcher block for a tight space, consider this option. Select a 12, 15, or 18 inches that’s sturdy and meant to withstand difficult tasks. The end grain style is especially suited for knife cuts and offers a beautiful accent to any kitchen. This small butcher block is also meant to be more forgiving for nicks and dents. The deep brown block can be ordered with oil and beeswax treatment.

Premium Walnut Edge Grain Butcher Block Countertop

This premium walnut edge butcher block is elegant and sophisticated. 1” wide edge grain strips are a classic look, improve durability, and extend the length of your countertop. Crafted by a local Amish community, this walnut grain is made in equal parts with shrink-resistant and rigid wood. Select from edge details, finishes, and stains of your choice.

Rustic Walnut Edge Grain Butcher Block Countertop

two tone walnut butcher block wood

Walnut doesn’t have to be just elegant. This butcher block provides amply rustic charm, all with beautiful and durable construction. Natural imperfections add rustic charm, but all knots are filled to ensure longevity. Ogee edge raised edges, and classic decorative edges are available. For finishes, you can leave your block unfinished or opt for mineral oil, poured epoxy, or acrylic polyurethane. This custom-order walnut butcher block is truly eye-catching.

Walnut Butcher Block Countertop

dark walnut butcher block wood

Looking for an edge grain walnut butcher block? This option from Armani Fine Woodworking is a superb choice for the kitchen. Customized with antimicrobial finishes or mineral oil and beeswax. The classic, rich beauty of the walnut is showcased with deep brown tones and full strips. All orders are made with care in Denver, Colorado, handmade, and made with sustainable materials. This gorgeous walnut butcher block is both durable and fully customizable. Buy Here.

Final Thoughts & Budget Ideas

As you can see, there is no one perfect wood for butcher blocks, but some are more durable than others. High-quality wood increases the durability and value of your purchase. That said, make sure to use– and treat your butcher block properly. Even the highest quality butcher block can only withstand so much. 

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