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Kitchens with Butcher Block Counters -- What's Around Your Sink?

We are redoing our countertops and originally planned on using Carrera marble for most of it -- keeping the main work-area a peninsula of butcher block. (Yes, I know the marble will etch with acids -- but I actually like the look of well-worn marble.) Now that we have the butcher block installed (but are still waiting for the marble), we are wondering if we should do the opposite -- mostly butcher block with something else (marble, most likely) around the sink. I was wondering if folks with butcher block could tell me (a) how they like it; (b) what is around your sink. And Carrera marble kitchens -- how are they working out? Thank you so much.

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  1. We have had butcher block/wood around sinks and it will basically always end up being a disaster long-term. Why? Because water eventually turns wood black and it is not just one the surface and there is no way to get rid of it, You can oil it, poly it or whatever, but the water will soak through. I know they look wonderful, but they will not last.

    1. Good friends of ours did their kitchen in Carrera marble and it is beautiful! Yes, it gets a "patina" over time, just like a good French bistro table. It sounds like you like things to age gracefully, so I would stick with your original plan ... as another poster has indicated, wood next to water may go black ...

      1. I put butcher block counters in, and I knew the sink area would be a problem, so I experimented with something. I used epoxy to cover the top in an area from front to back and about 6 inches on either side of the porcelain sink, and also the edges where the cutout for the sink was.

        The epoxy is completely, totally, absolutely wonderful! It was just standard two-part two-hour epoxy that I 'squeegeed' into the wood with a credit card (or plastic store card... something disposable). The surface is robust, waterproof, and has almost the same appearance as the remainder of the countertop, which I've simply kept oiled with mineral oil. After two years, it's still in the same condition as the day I put the sink in. And yes there has been lots of water on it, even overnight.

        My only regret is that I didn't do the entire countertop in epoxy. Seriously, it's durable and needs zero maintenance. You can buy large bottles of two-part epoxy for furniture refinishing, but you could also easily get away with just one twin-tube epoxy package per two feet of counter. Just be sure to NOT get the 5 minute stuff, the 2 hour stuff is more durable and will 'settle' better into a smooth finish.

        11 Replies
        1. re: ThreeGigs

          I've never understood epoxying all the counter--then you can't cut on it which is what I consider the reason to have BB counters. You don't cut on them?

          1. re: escondido123

            No, I cut on a cutting board, not the counter top. Why would anyone cut directly on a countertop?

            1. re: ThreeGigs

              Because it's butcher block and it's designed to be cut on. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but I loved my kitchen that had butcher block on one side, granite on the other. No pulling out boards for cutting and lots of room for prepping complicated recipes. Wish I had that now but the layout doesn't work.

              1. re: escondido123

                Hi all,

                My kitchen island is made of maple butcher block. Yes, I cut some things directly on it. It periodically gets a good scrub with Dawn, a rinse and a wipe dry.

                BUT meat or anything smelly, such as onions or garlic, get cut on a decades old wooden board that will fit in my dishwasher (Yep!!) or sit flat in my sink for super-scrubbing.

                I'm not enamored of plastic cutting boards. Guess I'm just used to wood. Less knife slippage and from what I've heard, wood is better for the blade.

                Lucy

                1. re: escondido123

                  Exactly. Why have butcher block if you're not going to cut on it? I had custom cabinets made for a kitchen years ago, and one cabinet had a butcher block top. It was screwed on from underneath, so could be replaced, if necessary. Unfortunately, I didn't stay there long enough to wear it out.

            2. re: ThreeGigs

              Epoxy is what you see often on table tops in restaurants. It's also what's used to make ceader strip canoes, so it will hold up to water very well. However it is not all that durable, it's easily scratched and if water gets under it, it can delaminate and chip, it's a major job to patch and that's not going to look good on a counter top. It probably defeats the advantages of a butcher block top, other than the looks. I put it on the bottom of Adrondac chair legs. Long term you'll probably be glad you didn't put it on the entire counter.

              1. re: mikie

                "However it is not all that durable"
                - Thousands of fiberglass and carbon fiber bodied car owners would probably tend to disagree with you, since epoxy is what holds the fibers of these things together.
                "easily scratched"
                - So is wood and formica, and epoxy is less easily scratched...much less.
                "if water gets under it, it can delaminate and chip"
                - But water doesn't get under it, as it's both pressed into the wood a bit and there's a good half-millimeter-ish cover on top of the wood too. And no cracks or crevices for water to seep through to get to the wood either. Even at the edge of my area where epoxy meets oiled wood there has been no water penetration.
                "it's a major job to patch"
                - If it needed patching or repairing, it would be as simple as squeezing some more epoxy onto whatever area you wanted. Squeeze some twin epoxy onto foil, mix and spread.
                "and that's not going to look good on a counter top"
                - It looks *EXACTLY* like the oiled countertop, except cleaner, so the counter around my sink still looks like new, whereas the unepoxied remainder has scratches, abrasions and general embedded dirt.

                Mikie I think you're thinking of the commercially applied finishes which are very, very thick (and glassy smooth, too). I put mine on about as thick as a coat of paint, and used a plastic card to press it into the wood for better penetration and durability.

                1. re: ThreeGigs

                  First I'm glad you have developed a method for your counter top that you are pleased with, that's great. Obviously you have an application method that is beyond what other people are able to do. I still have a couple of comments on the use of epoxy as a counter surface.

                  "However it is not all that durable"
                  - Thousands of fiberglass and carbon fiber bodied car owners would probably tend to disagree with you, since epoxy is what holds the fibers of these things together.
                  * Actually, most are either polyester or vinyl ester resins and are either gel coated or painted and are rarely exposed to kitchen conditions.
                  "easily scratched"
                  - So is wood and formica, and epoxy is less easily scratched...much less.
                  * Oiled wood is easy to scratch and easy to repair, formica has a top layer of melamine with a Rockwell hardness of M115, epoxy has a hardness of M80. Harder materials are typically more scratch resistant.

                  You have the advantage of knowing and seeing what you have, but I would still be concerned about patching damaged areas, but you are the one that's most familiar with your application method and techinque.

                  1. re: mikie

                    Polyester resins *are* epoxy. And think about boats for a minute... fiberglass and epoxy hulls which are exposed to conditions much worse than a kitchen. In the two years since I put the countertop in, the epoxied area hasn't degraded one bit. The 'swirl' streaks from the plastic scraper I used to push the epoxy around are still slightly visible. And the problem with really hard things is that they're usually brittle, too. That's the best part: the epoxy won't chip. I worked in restaurants for years, and I'm familiar with the poured epoxy coatings on the tables that are available. I didn't want a thick coating like that, more like the thickness of a coat of paint. And now I'm kicking myself for not having done the whole counter in epoxy. When I did it, it was sort of an experiment. I knew it would be durable against abrasion, but I didn't know about heat, moisture wicking in from adjacent unepoxied areas, and whether or not the wood expanding/contracting would affect the finish. I was thinking the same things you were, which is why I only epoxied the area around the sink. Now that it's been in place for awhile, I can see just how good of a finish it is.

                    1. re: ThreeGigs

                      I'm glad it's working for you. But, No, epoxy and polyester are not the same thing. I've worked as a product development engineer for plastic resin manufacturers for almost 40 years, I know the difference. Boats are not made with epoxy resins, they are too expensive.

              2. re: ThreeGigs

                ThreeGigs, What kind of two-part two-hour epoxy did you use?
                Thanks!

              3. I have had a built in butcher block next to the sink for 35 years and I love it. You have to like the use of well used wood in order to like it. It is not a show piece, it is a work horse!! Personally I would never use marble in a kitchen except for a baking station, but that is me.

                1. Why have butcher block counter tops if you don't chop or cut on them?

                  10 Replies
                    1. re: escondido123

                      I dunno, 'cause with a separate board if you do a fine chop it makes it easier to transfer the ingredients to the pan? just lift the board and scrape. but I can see breaking down a large carcass or doing a rough slice of large fruits and vegetables directly on it.

                      1. re: hill food

                        Well I would just carry the pan over to the BB counter and scrape what I've chopped into it. Right now I work on a 2 x 3 piece of butcher block--not end grain and fairly thin--so that would not be easy to maneuver over a pan. But it certainly makes prep easy for stews and soups that involve many ingredients and lots of cutting.

                      2. re: escondido123

                        I'm probably going to catch more $%^& for this, but, butcher block counter tops are more for show and less for go. Hard wood butcher block counter tops are typically edge grian, this is less than the ideal surface for chopping and cutting, as you tend to cut the wood fibers and eventually cause splinters in the wood. This then creates issues with sanitation and surface appearance. On a cutting board it's easily resurfaced or sanitized, or inexpensive enough to replace, but a counter top isn't going to be that easy to resurface and butcher block counter tops are not inexpensive, so you don't want to ruin it. A true butcher block is about 18 to 24 inches thick and end grain maple, these obviously take a severe amount of abuse, my grandfather's was sadeled out on all the corners from years of use, but it was only used as for cutting meat, not a counter top.

                        With that said, there are many things you can do on a butcher block counter top that are not distructive like chopping and cutting. It's a great prep surface for baking for example.

                        1. re: mikie

                          rolling out pasta or pastry dough, yes.

                          1. re: mikie

                            I've used only edge grain cutting boards/counter tops for years and never had one splinter. And they've been used for daily chopping of all kinds--not just for show.

                            1. re: escondido123

                              You must have a very delicate touch and excellent technique. For the remainder of us heavy handed neanderthals, well, we leave behind scratches in the cutting boards when we use them. Because of the grain direction in face and edge grain cutting boards, it's possible to have nearly paralell cuts that undercut the grian and release small bits of wood fiber. Don't believe me, search the web, I'm sure you will find the smae or similar statement, I'm not just making stuff up. Our face grain cutting board that slides under the counter is very mared and has splintered in this way. It's maple, probably the best wood choice for a cutting board, it's not unusable, but it's not attractive sitting out either. This is not as much of an issue with end grain boards, the knife cuts between the grain structure not across it. This same thing is one of the issues with the sanitation of plastic cutting boards, deep scratches where bacteria can hide. If plastic boards didn't scratch, they'd be perfict for cutting boards.

                              Just wanted to add this link, there's a lot of good information on it and for the most part the statements are backed by research. http://whatscookingamerica.net/Cuttin...

                              1. re: mikie

                                Well, if you say my board must have splinters I won't argue, guess that's what adds a little texture to my food ;) As to attractiveness of a well used board, I call that patina.

                                1. re: escondido123

                                  For the longest time I thought that was adding fiber to my diet. ;) I was crushed when I found out eating the saw dust in the shop was not only tasteless, but not particularly healthy either.

                                  For what it's worth, a few wood fibers aren't going to kill you. And in a butcher's shop even an end grian board shows severe signs of wear (call it patina if you like, it sounds better), well, all that missing wood is splinters in someones hamburger. My grandfather's butcher block was so dished out it must have been missing several pounds of wood before he retired.

                                  1. re: mikie

                                    But in the old days they used to scrape the boards down all the time to keep them clean so I figure most of that went in the garbage not the gullet.