Homeowners today have their choice of several materials for countertop installation. Perhaps the most popular option on the market is granite, with a proven track record of style and durability. On the other hand, butcher block countertops provide an interesting alternative to granite.
Which is better: granite or butcher block? Which option should you choose for a new installation or renovation? This article will discuss the pros and cons of butcher block countertops compared to granite.
The Pros of Butcher Block Countertops
Some key advantages of going with butcher block countertops include:
As the name suggests, a butcher block surface allows you to prepare food right on top of your countertop, without any cutting board needed. That means you can chop up your fruits and veggies, slice up your meat, and handle a variety of other food prep chores with greater ease compared to a granite countertop.
Of course, it’s important to note that you can still use a cutting board on a butcher block surface, especially since doing so will prolong its effective lifespan.
If you’re going for a “rustic” look with your new countertop, then butcher block may be the right choice for you. Butcher block countertops are available in a wide selection of wood types, including maple, cherry, walnut, oak, and birch.
You have two basic choices in terms of your butcher block countertop’s structure. An end grain countertop is where the ends of the wood fibers are exposed. In contrast, an edge grain countertop’s surface displays the side edges of the wood.
End grain countertops usually have a “checkerboard” pattern on their surface, and tend to cost more than edge grain options with planks that run in parallel lines. However, edge grain products tend to scratch more easily.
Butcher block countertops typically cost a lot less than granite countertops. For one thing, granite installation often comes with higher labor costs, since it is a heavier, more unwieldy material. Of course, granite itself is more expensive than wood.
For 30 square feet of countertop space, you can expect to pay around $1,200 for the butcher block material itself, perhaps $250 for labor, and then another $100 or so for necessary supplies like sealant. The entire project may cost about $1,600, give or take.
On the other hand, a granite countertop project that covers 30 square feet may cost up to $3,000 or more. The material alone may cost over $70 per square foot!
Ease of Restoration/Replacement
Obviously, you want your countertop to last as long as possible, whether it’s butcher block or granite. However, if your countertop does need to be restored or replaced at some point in the future, then butcher block provides a simpler, easier alternative to granite.
The Cons of Butcher Block Countertops
As with any countertop material, there are some drawbacks to using butcher block. These include:
Compared to most countertop materials, granite cannot be easily scratched, dinged, or dented. While granite is certainly not scratch-proof, it is an extremely hardy, durable material.
Butcher block wood is also durable. However, in many ways it is not quite as durable as granite. For example, butcher block countertops have to be regularly treated with mineral oils to prevent damage from resting water (which over time could warp the wood and cause cracking).
A Relatively High Level of Maintenance
While granite and butcher block countertops both call for regular sealing in order to keep working properly, butcher block needs to be maintained at a higher level than granite.
For instance, it’s important to clean a butcher block countertop thoroughly after food has been prepared on the surface in order to prevent cross-contamination, or any liquid from draining into the porous wood. In addition, butcher block countertops must be periodically refinished in order to maintain their appearance.
In contrast, granite countertops generally don’t require sealing or refinishing as often as wood. It is easy to determine if your granite countertop needs to be resealed. Simply drop just a tiny bit of water onto the surface. If the water forms a bead on the surface, then your granite countertop is still well-sealed. However, if your countertop absorbs the water, then you’ll need to reseal your granite.
Lower Water and Heat Resistance
Not surprisingly, butcher block countertops are less resistant to damage from water and other liquids compared to their granite counterparts. Butcher block surfaces that are not properly sealed could allow water to enter into the wood fibers. Over time, this could result in the development of mold on the inside of the countertop.
In addition, other liquids that penetrate the butcher block’s surface (such as juice, soda, tomato sauce, coffee, tea, etc.) can cause permanent stains to appear.
Heat is another area in which butcher block countertops are at a disadvantage compared to granite, marble, and other stones. Wood tends to hold heat rather than disperse it. That means that if you place a piping hot pan on your butcher block countertop, the heat emitted from the pan could cause the wooden surface to crack, buckle, or bubble.
In contrast, granite countertops are highly resistant to both water and heat. In fact, the properties of granite enable it to actually “cool down” items like pots full of boiling water.
Butcher Block vs. Granite: Which is Better?
The answer, of course, is that it depends on your specific needs and preferences. Butcher block offers convenience in terms of food preparation, typically comes with lower costs, and can easily be restored or replaced. On the other hand, granite is generally more durable than wood, doesn’t require as much maintenance, and is more resistant to water and heat.
While there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing the material for your next countertop, there are plenty of reasons why granite is such a popular choice. If you’re leaning towards going with granite countertops for your next installation or remodel, be sure to explore our gallery for some inspiration.