Overview

overview of how-to install a butcher-block countertop
Illustration: Gregory Nemec
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Butcher block is merely slices of wood glued together into inches-thick slabs—a particularly sturdy and stable work surface in a kitchen. However, if you plan to put food on your butcher block, make sure to choose a product that has a nontoxic finish.

Installing a butcher block starts with ordering one to fit your space. Many manufacturers will measure and install a butcher block for you, but you can save on labor by making your own template out of a semirigid material, such as cardboard, and sending it to the factory. The manufacturer will then ship the butcher block directly to you for installation.

If there are any bumps or curves in the walls against the counters, you will need to scribe the template to fit them. Be sure to include any overhang you want the butcher block to have -as little as 11/2 inches for a standard countertop or up to a foot for a seating counter—and keep it consistent and parallel to the front of the cabinets as you scribe. Then, before sending off the template, mark it up with information that's helpful to the manufacturer, including orientation, measurements, and decorative edge profile.

With proper installation, butcher block lasts many years. First, it needs a sturdy surface on which to rest. On most cabinets, which have no tops, that means installing blocking to provide support. On solid-topped cabinets, you can just add thin furring strips to raise the top enough for air to circulate underneath.

In either scenario, you should affix the butcher block to the cabinets using a flexible kitchen and bath sealant. But you must also screw it down securely while still accounting for the natural expansion and contraction of the wood. The best way to do that is to make an enlarged hole around the screw where it passes through the cabinet. That way, as humidity and temperature change, the top can shift slightly in any direction without getting ruined by cracks or splits.
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    Tools List

    • combination square
      Combination square
    • utility knife
      Utility knife
    • pencil compass
      Compass or scribe
    • hot glue gun
      Hot glue gun
    • hand saw
      Handsaw
    • drill
      Drill/driver fitted with 1/8-inch drill bit and ½-inch paddle bit Caulk gun

    Shopping List

    1. Butcher Block Must be ordered in advance; plan six weeks for delivery

    2. Cardboard to make a template for ordering the butcher block. An old packing box will do, as will poster board—as long as it's stiff enough to hold up to scribing but flexible enough to be folded for mailing.

    3. Painter's tape

    4. Scrap wood to use

    as blocking on open-topped cabinets or as furring strips on solid-topped cabinets. Blocking should be 3/4-inch plywood or 1x material, but ¼-inch plywood will suffice for furring strips. 5. Kitchen and Bath Sealant for gluing the butcher block to the cabinets. Look for a 100 percent silicone product

    6. 1-Inch Fender Washers

    7. 1½-Inch Deck Screws to attach the blocking and the butcher block to the cabinets

    8. Mineral Oil or any other FDA-approved oil for food-prep surfaces. Walnut oil is a good organic alternative to petroleum-based mineral oil because it won't go rancid like other food-based oils.