Wood Countertop Construction and Care

Advice on building and maintaining butcher-block countertops. June 28, 2007

I was asked to give an estimate for a wood countertop for a kitchen. Butcher block comes to mind as the best thing. But I'm concerned with how the wood is going to react, especially around the sink, and how the finish is going to hold up. What would be the best wood (not too expensive) to use for this application and what would be the best finish?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor B:
Maple. They make a special food safe finish for butcher block tops. Worry about the water! Seal the cutout for the sink and anywhere the water can go. Make sure the client knows the plumber is supposed to lay plumber's putty around sink.

From contributor D:
I helped install solid maple tops in a friend's kitchen about 5 years ago. These have held up fairly well, although he has asked me to help him take them out and refinish. As contributor B said, worry about the water!

From contributor L:
Check out www.ballyblock.com. They sell factory made counters with an excellent finish. I have installed several in different kitchens and my customers love it! Still, listen to the others and seal all exposed wood, especially end grain around the sink opening.

From contributor V:
About a year ago I had a request for a countertop made of wood. The designer did not want a maple top. I ended up using Santos mahogany, 2.5 inches thick (only the sun is heavier). The most important thing I found was having perfect s4s stock, no snipe. We glued it up in 12 inch sections on a Taylor clamp and then joined each section. Some tops were 42 inches wide. We used about 15 gallons of Titebond 3. The top was finished with a food safe wipe-on sealer. I saw them not too long ago and they look good - even the end grain around the sink area. I think that the Santos was a good selection. For one, it is darker than maple and doesn't stain as much. It also has a lot of natural oil in it. As for the cost, the labor is the most costly part on a job like this. If you use crappy material to start off, it will only come back to haunt you later.

From contributor C:
All very good advice and experiences. Many similar to mine. I live with maple kitchen tops. Most durable finish from years of use is several coats of good polyurethane, block sanded and well brushed. Super caulk the sink in with 5200 it's the first place any discoloration will appear. I like my cherry plank top on my kitchen island best. It's taken the most wear but has the nicest patina. Light steel wool once or twice a year and a good rubbed-in coat of oil, boiled linseed or tung, whichever is under the sink.