Updated: Feb 26, 2019
As we get ready for our move we are looking at different styles to remodel the kitchen in our new house. We are going for a modern rustic feeling and are evaluating different countertops and wooden countertops have been something we like but needed to do some research first.
So, are butcher block and wooden counter tops in style? Have no fear; butcher block and wooden counter tops are in style, especially if you are going for a contemporary and rustic look. The modern farmhouse trend has also popularized this classic countertop material.
Unique designs and handmade craftsmanship are the key selling points to this style, no 2 countertops are alike. We have found that the big box stores can mass-produce other types of countertops so that is what they tend to promote the most. But we were looking for something that can stand out and be a focal point in the kitchen.
Mixing a contemporary sleek cabinet with a creative and unique wooden countertop will never go out of style. The wood also comes in many different shades so you can contrast lights and darks with the cabinetry to make it pop. To keep with a blend of contemporary and rustic you should avoid using the same wood or wood color on the cabinets. Too much teak wood becomes and overload and begins to look like a hunting cabin.
Wooden countertops also seem to be warmer to the touch than a granite or stone top and have a deeper look compared to a solid or laminate countertop. This rustic warmth can be the perfect thing to balance a more modern cabinetry unit that would otherwise look sterile.
You also have a few choices to make regarding the color of stain and whether you choose a face grain, edge grain or end grain style.
End grain countertops are the traditional type that looks like a grid of many small pieces of wood. Because it takes more wood to make it and is a little more unstable, this style tends to be more costly. I would recommend an edge grain because you get to see more of the long wood grain and I believe it has a more contemporary feeling about it. A face grain is also a really nice look because it is ore of plank look so you will see even more of the wood grain.
As we were looking into stylish butcher-block countertops, we realized that a few types of wood might better fit our modern rustic look.
Butcher-Block Wood Types:
Walnut is one of my favorite types of wooden countertops. The darker finish has elegant warmth to it that many other types of wood do not naturally have. Picture this with a lighter color cabinet and you can envision a very pleasing kitchen. Quality American black walnut is grown in the Midwest and Eastern regions in the US. You can expect to pay a little bit more for walnut depending on the thickness and length, but they are extremely durable and will last a long time.
Another thing to take into account is a scientific measure of the wood’s hardness, called its Janka score. The higher the Janka score the harder the wood. Walnut comes in at 1,000, making it the middle of the road guy when it comes to hardness and durability.
Hard maple is a standard go to when it comes to durability due to its hardness and tight grain structure. The Appalachian region has a more yellow colored hard maple but the Michigan area seems to have a more premium grade of hard maple. Lighter in tone overall compared to the walnut, this may be a great option for someone looking to brighten the kitchen area a little. Maple is also often a bit more inexpensive than the walnut.
The maple Janka score comes in at 1,400, making it one of the most durable and appropriate wood to use on a kitchen countertop, however the grain is more uniform and clear compared to the walnut, giving you less variety in color.
White Oak and Red Oak Countertops:
Both the white oak and red oak fit well if you are going for more of a rustic look. White oak is a solid wood that has been used since colonial times, imparting a familiar and classic feeling to it. Harvested in the Eastern and Central regions of the US, this has a straight grain that is very durable and suitable for Kitchen countertops, furniture, islands etc. Red oak is also a great option if you are looking to stain or finish your countertops. These oak countertops are stunning and durable and are usually comparable in price to maple countertops.
The red oak’s Janka score is 1,200 and the White oak is 1,300. The white oak is very close to the maple in hardness but has a much nicer grain patter, not as nice as the red hue that the red oak has, but still interesting.
Live Edge and Slab Wood
Another very popular style of tabletops right now is a live edge or slab wood. It is often thicker and is cut to really show off the beauty of the wood. I wouldn’t really recommend this style for a kitchen counter top though. You need more of a durable workhorse of wood in the kitchen so I would try to stay with slab wood on a coffee table of bar top. We have many live edge table tops at our restaurant and many of them have had issues with warping or chipping on the sides, even though there is a steel bolt underneath to prevent cracking and warping.
I would encourage you to find a quality craftsman that sources their lumber sustainably. Many of the big box stores are sourcing cheaper lower grade lumber at the detriment to forests.
Are Butcher Block Counters Easy to Maintain?
Wooden countertops are much easier to take care of than you think. They are naturally antibacterial and basically self healing. Main issues you will have all have to do with moisture. Therefore a proper sealant is needed to keep the surface as a barrier of moisture getting in or out. I recommend an oil and beeswax mixture.
Scratches are another issue. You can leave them, lightly scrape them with a razor blade, or sand it down. Some people use the butcher block as a functional product and a workhorse in the kitchen, but other people may want to keep it looking more pristine. If it is not a deep scratch then you may be able to get away with a light scraping of the surface with a razor. A hand sander will definitely get the job done but the general area will most likely become lighter. Sand with a few different grades starting at 180 and moving up to a 220 grade. We choose to just do a general resending and oiling about every 3 years so everything stays more of a unified color.
That being said, being able to take care of scratches is another benefit of a wooden countertop because other surface are much less forgiving when it comes to scratches and chips.
How Often Do You Have To Oil A Wooden Countertop?
In general I would recommend using an oil and beeswax combination once a month. This all depends on how often you use it and the time of year, but basically you don’t want the wood to dry out.
Can You Cut Directly on Butcher Block Countertops?
One of the major advantages of a wooden counter top is that you can cut directly on the countertop. The more you do cut on it though the more you may need to sand down the knife marks later, if that is something that bothers you. Applying a food grade mineral oil and beeswax combination will keep your butcher block clean and looking good.
Overall I believe that butcher blocks and wooden countertops are in style and they are never going anywhere. They can be brought back to life every few years and are a great way to achieve a contemporary and rustic look.
If you are thinking about some of the costs to renovate your kitchen have look at this article.
If you’d like to see more ways to create a modern rustic lifestyle with other kitchen and dining ideas, as well as see what craftsmen I recommend then please visit us at ShizenStyle.