Backsplash for Butcher Block Countertops Natural Texture of Wood


Butcher block countertops are a popular choice for kitchens and other spaces thanks to their natural beauty and durability. Made from strips of hardwood arranged in a block pattern and glued together, butcher block offers a warm, organic look that pairs beautifully with a variety of design styles.

When paired with the right backsplash, butcher block countertops can really stand out as the focal point of your kitchen or workspace. The backsplash serves as the perfect decorative accent, adding visual interest while also protecting the wall from splashes, smudges, and stains. With so many backsplash materials and styles to choose from, it can be difficult deciding what works best with the rugged yet refined butcher block countertop.

In this article, we’ll explore how to choose the ideal backsplash for butcher block countertops, taking into account the wood’s natural patterns, textures, and colors. We’ll provide tips on materials, style matching, installation, care, and maintenance. Read on for everything you need to know about choosing, designing, and installing the perfect backsplash for your butcher block countertop.

Complementing the Wood’s Natural Patterns and Textures

One of the standout features of butcher block is the dynamic, varied patterns and textures created by the wood grain. When selecting a backsplash for butcher block, it’s important to consider materials and styles that complement (rather than compete with) the wood’s striking visual details.

Clean-Lined Tile or Stone

Tile or stone backsplashes with relatively straight, simple grout lines allow the varied wood grains and patterns of the butcher block to take center stage. Neutral colored natural stone like marble, travertine, or limestone works well, as do ceramic or porcelain tiles in soft whites, beiges, blacks, or greys with little veining or variation. Keep grout lines minimal for seamless transitions between the backsplash and countertop.

Coordinating Metal Backsplashes

The rich, warm hues of wood butcher block pairs nicely with the sleek, cool tones of metal backsplash tiles or sheets. Brushed stainless steel, nickel, copper, and other metals make an attractive complement. Match the metal finish to other fixtures and hardware in the space for a cohesive look. Keep textures relatively smooth to maintain the focus on the butcher block’s grain.

Textural Stone or Brick

While busy backsplashes can distract from butcher block counters, some naturally textured materials like travertine, brick, or textured ceramic tile work well if colors are kept neutral. The stone or brick backsplash adds subtle visual depth and dimension that complements the varied wood textures without overwhelming.

Avoid High-Contrast Patterns

Small, multi-colored mosaic tiles, boldly veined marble, or heavily textured and patterned backsplash materials compete too much with the striking wood grain of butcher block. Stick with solids, subtle patterns, and smooth textures for backsplashes to get the best visual impact.

Selecting Colors that Enhance the Wood

Butcher block counters are available in a range of warm wood tones from light maple to rich walnut. Choose backsplash colors and materials that enhance the color and pattern of the specific wood type for optimal appeal.

Light Color Woods

Light colored maple or oak butcher block looks best with white, cream, gray, or tan backsplash tiles or panels. Cooler tones like light blue, green, or silver metal tiles also work well with the lighter wood colors by creating contrast. Use a matching light-colored grout as well.

Medium Wood Tones

The range of mid-tone woods like cherry or hickory offer versatility in backsplash colors from neutral creams and grays to bold navy blue, emerald green, or even black. Browns, beiges, and white marble, ceramic, or porcelain tile make a nice complement as well.

Dark Wood Finishes

Deeper walnut, mahogany, and exotic wood butcher block counters call for backsplash colors that won’t get lost against the dramatic dark wood. Bright white, light grays, cream stone, stainless steel, and black metals allow the wood’s rich colors to take center stage.

Matching Wood Backsplashes

For a coordinated, natural wood lover’s kitchen, use butcher block styled wood planks for the backsplash as well. Match the wood species and finish of the countertop and backsplash for a seamless look. Use wood panel backsplashes behind cooktops with care, as heating and staining may be issues.

Installation Tips for Butcher Block and Backsplash

Proper installation techniques ensure your beautiful butcher block countertop and stunning new backsplash work together for years to come. Follow these best practices for installing and integrating the two elements:

  • Leave a 1/8″ gap between the backsplash and countertop at installation. This allows for the natural expansion and contraction of the wood without interfering with the backsplash.
  • Seal edges of the butcher block with waterproof finish or sealant before installing the backsplash. This prevents moisture from penetrating the wood edge.
  • Use tile spacers when installing the backsplash tile or panels to maintain even grout line spacing. Remove spacers before grouting.
  • Grout carefully using a grout float, wiping diagonally across grout lines to pack joints. Avoid getting grout on the butcher block.
  • Allow proper cure times for grout and adhesive before sealing or using. This prevents damage.
  • Apply a bead of caulk in the gap between the backsplash and countertop after installation is complete. Use a matching color.
  • Consider end grain orientation of the butcher block during installation. End grain is more prone to moisture penetration.

With proper planning and careful technique, the butcher block and backsplash will unite beautifully for an eye-catching kitchen focal point.

Caring for and Maintaining the Backsplash and Butcher Block

While beautiful, butcher block and certain backsplash materials require proper care and maintenance to look their best and avoid damage. Follow these tips:

  • Reseal the butcher block 1-2 times per year with food-safe mineral oil or beeswax to keep it looking great.
  • Avoid harsh cleaners on the wood counter. Use mild soap and water only.
  • Clean backsplash grout regularly using a general household cleaner or diluted bleach solution.
  • Check for loose tiles or grout cracks in the backsplash and repair as needed to prevent moisture damage.
  • Limit direct heat exposure from cookware on butcher block or backsplash. Use trivets and hot pads.
  • Wipe up spills quickly to prevent stains, especially oils and acidic foods that can damage finishes.
  • Clean and reseal natural stone backsplash as needed to prevent etching or staining.

With proper care for both materials, the butcher block counters and stunning backsplash will maintain their beauty for many years. Keep them looking like new with routine cleaning and maintenance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best backsplash for light maple butcher block counters?

For light maple butcher block, good backsplash options include white, cream, light grey, silver, or blue-toned tiles or panels. Natural stones like marble also pair attractively with light maple wood.

Can you use subway tile as a backsplash with walnut butcher block countertops?

The classic, clean lines of white subway tile make an excellent counterpoint to dramatic darker walnut butcher block. The high contrast creates a striking, eye-catching combo. Use a matching white grout.

What about using brick backsplashes with medium oak butcher block counters?

Brick backsplashes can work with oak butcher block depending on the brick color. Stick with neutral, earthy reds, tans, greys, or natural unfinished bricks. Avoid bold, varied colors, which compete with the wood tones.

Should you seal the butcher block before or after installing the backsplash?

It’s best to seal all sides of the butcher block prior to backsplash installation. This prevents moisture penetration through the exposed wood edges and ends during the installation process.

Can you use wood planks for the backsplash to match a wood countertop?

Definitely! Matching wood backsplashes are a great way to complement and coordinate with a butcher block or other wood countertop. Use the same wood species, finish, and orientation for a seamless look.


The pairing of natural butcher block countertops with a decorative, protective backsplash creates a stunning focal point in any kitchen or workspace. By choosing backsplash materials, colors, and styles that complement the organic beauty of the wood grain, patterns, and textures, you can create a perfectly coordinated look. With proper installation techniques and care for both the wood counters and backsplash, this eye-catching combo will maintain its good looks for many years to come. The rich, warm wood tones coupled with the sleek lines of tile, stone, or metal backsplashes result in a look that is both rugged and refined. For any space calling for a dose of natural charm, butcher block and a well-matched backsplash are a winning combination.