How To Install Butcher Block Countertops


Installing butcher block countertops can add beautiful, natural wood surfaces to your kitchen or bathroom. Butcher block brings warmth, texture, and character to any space. While you can hire a professional to install butcher block counters, with some basic skills and tools, DIY installation is very doable. This article will walk you step-by-step through preparing and installing butcher block countertops yourself. We’ll cover planning, prepping the counters and base cabinets, attaching the butcher block, finishing, caring for, and maintaining your new wood countertops. With this guide, you’ll gain the knowledge and confidence to install stunning and functional butcher block yourself. Let’s get started!

Choose Your Butcher Block Countertop Material

The first step is to select the right type of butcher block for your project. Here are some of the most popular options:


Maple is a classic choice for butcher block. It has a smooth, pale tone that lightens beautifully over time. Maple is dense, making it very durable for countertops. It’s also easy to work with. Maple butcher block will give you a beautiful, light counter surface.


For a richer, darker look, walnut butcher block is stunning. The chocolate brown tones add warm, elegant contrast. Walnut is slightly softer than maple, so it may be more prone to dents and scratches, but it’s still durable enough for most kitchen use.


Cherry butcher block has a distinctive reddish-brown color. Its semi-open grain gives it an appealing look. Cherry falls between maple and walnut on the hardness scale, making it a good middle ground option.


Teak brings unique properties to butcher block. It has natural oils that make it highly water- and moisture-resistant. So it can stand up well around sinks. Teak has an attractive tight, straight grain in a light tan-brown shade.

End-Grain vs. Edge-Grain

Butcher blocks are also made from planks oriented either vertically (end-grain) or horizontally (edge-grain). End-grain is ultimately more resistant to impacts and scratches. Edge-grain is slightly more affordable but still durable for most kitchen uses.

Consider traffic, use, and appearance when selecting wood type and grain orientation for your butcher block counters.

Calculate Needed Dimensions

Once you’ve chosen your preferred material, it’s time to measure your existing countertops and base cabinets. Use a tape measure to get accurate measurements of:

  • Countertop length needed for each run
  • Standard depth from front to back
  • Overhang amount from base cabinet face frame
  • Thickness of current countertop
  • Any special sizing needs like corners or angled edges

Having these precise measurements will allow you to order your butcher block slabs cut to the perfect size. Most suppliers can customize dimensions to fit your space exactly.

Keep in mind that standard butcher block thickness is 1 1⁄4″. Make sure your base cabinets can accommodate this, or adjust thickness as needed. A typical overhang is 1″ on the front and sides. Overhang should match your existing countertops or cabinetry.

Measure carefully and double-check before ordering your butcher block! Getting the sizing right from the start prevents headaches later.

Order Your Custom Butcher Block Pieces

Once measurements are complete, you can order your specific custom-cut pieces. Find a reputable supplier of butcher block online, at a woodworking store or home improvement center. Talk through sizing needs and material questions.

When pricing materials, here are some typical costs:

  • Maple butcher block: $60 – $75 per square foot
  • Walnut butcher block: $70 – $100 per square foot
  • Cherry butcher block: $70 – $90 per square foot
  • Teak butcher block: $120+ per square foot

Order your pieces unfinished to allow for sanding, sealing, and finishing onsite for best results. Have butcher block delivered well before installation day. You’ll need to unpack, acclimate, and prepare the wood before mounting it.

Prep the Base Cabinets

While waiting for delivery of your butcher block, start prepping your existing base cabinets and counter space. Here’s what to do:

Remove Existing Countertops

Carefully detach and dispose of old countertop pieces to clear the base cabinets.

Deep Clean Cabinets

Thoroughly clean cabinet and walls surfaces. Remove grease, grime, or any debris.

Evaluate Cabinet Strength

Inspect cabinet boxes, doors, and face frames. Ensure all is in good condition to support new countertop weight. Reinforce or repair any issues discovered.

Adjust Cabinet Height

Standard counter height is 36 inches. If your cabinets are lower, you can raise them up. Use wood blocks, adjustable feet, or have cabinet boxes extended to proper height.

Secure Cabinets Together

Make sure all base cabinets are level and attached to each other using screws through the cabinet sides.

Prepping your base units will ensure it’s ready to support and fit your new butcher block counters.

Acclimate and Prepare the Butcher Block

Once your custom butcher block pieces arrive, you’ll need to get them ready for installation.

Allow Time to Acclimate

Let the wood acclimate to your home’s temperature and humidity for 1-2 weeks. Keep it in the boxes, stacked evenly on the counters. Acclimating prevents later expansion or cracks.

Unpack and Inspect

After acclimating, unpack the pieces and inspect for any defects or damage. Contact the supplier immediately if any problems so they can ship replacements if needed.

Sand the Surface

Lightly sand using 100-150 grit paper to smooth any rough areas. Stay with the wood grain direction as you sand. This preps the surface for finishing.

Clean and Condition

Wipe sanded pieces with a clean, damp cloth to remove dust. Once fully dry, apply a conditioning oil like tung or jojoba. This nourishes the wood before sealing.

Cut to Fit (if needed)

Use a circular saw to trim your butcher block pieces to fit correctly if the pre-cut sizes are slightly off. Always cut with the grain direction. Make test cuts on scrap first.

Preparing the butcher block well will mean an easier and better final installation.

Attach the Butcher Block Countertops

Once your base cabinets and butcher block pieces are prepped, it’s time for installation. Here’s how to securely attach your new counters:

Position Countertops

Place each butcher block piece in position on the cabinets, with overhang aligned evenly. Use wood shims under sides to adjust until the counter is level.

Mark Overhang

Make pencil marks along the front and sides of the counter on the cabinet face frames. This indicates where brackets will attach.

Apply Adhesive

Run a zigzag bead of adhesive like polyurethane construction adhesive along the top of the cabinet boxes where the countertop will sit.

Install Support Brackets

Attach L-brackets and other supports at every shim location and at stud points on the face frame marks. Tighten brackets securely.

Seal Edges

Seal all seam edges between countertop pieces with waterproof wood glue. Rub excess away with a damp cloth for an invisible seal.

Allow Drying Time

Let adhesive fully cure overnight before using counters. Keep foot traffic away during drying.

Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the adhesive product you use. Take care to keep alignment straight and overhang consistent as you secure the butcher block.

Apply a Protective Finish

Once mounted, your wood countertops need a tough, protective finish suitable for food surfaces. Here are some top options:

Food-Safe Oil

Apply a regular coat of mineral oil, walnut oil, or a proprietary butcher block oil formula. This nourishes the wood and builds resistance to stains and spills. Reapply monthly.

Water-Based Polyurethane

For more protection, wipe on multiple thin layers of water-based polyurethane with light sanding between coats. Avoid oil-based versions. Water-based polyurethane is non-yellowing and food-safe when cured.

Beeswax Finish

For a natural finish alternative, melted beeswax can be kneaded into the wood. Multiple applications are needed for a protective film. Refresh annually.

No matter the finishing method, take time to seal all surfaces of your new butcher block installation thoroughly to prevent damage and mold growth.

Care for and Maintain Butcher Block Counters

Once your butcher block counters are installed and sealed, proper care will keep them looking beautiful. Follow these tips:

Hand Wash with Mild Soap

Use a soft sponge and mild soap and water to clean. Avoid harsh detergents which can break down the finish. Rinse and dry thoroughly.

Oil Weekly

Frequently re-apply a thin layer of mineral oil or butcher block oil to maintain the protective coat.

Avoid Standing Moisture

Quickly dry counters after spills or cleaning. Allowing water to pool can warp or crack the wood. Use a fan to dry.

Protect from Direct Heat

Use trivets, hot pads, or cutting boards when setting hot items on the butcher block. Heat can scorch or split the wood.

Knife Scrapes vs. Cuts

Limit cutting directly on the counter’s surface. Use a cutting board to avoid deep knife cuts in the wood. The finish helps resist light scrapes.

Sand Out Stains

For stubborn stains, you can lightly sand away the discoloration and reapply a fresh coat of finish.

Refinish Annually

Sand and reapply protective sealant yearly to retain counters in top condition. This will refresh the surface.

Properly cared for, your butcher block counters can provide many years of utility and beauty in your kitchen or bathroom. Maintain the finish and address any damage promptly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block countertops bring classic style to kitchens, bars, and other spaces. Here are answers to some common questions about installing and caring for them in your home:

How long does butcher block countertop installation take?

Plan for the installation process to take 2-3 full days. One day for prep work, one day for installing the counters, and another day for finish application and drying time. The butcher block pieces also need 1-2 weeks before installation to acclimate to your home’s conditions.

Can I install butcher block counters myself?

Definitely! Butcher block installations are a very DIY-friendly project for an experienced homeowner. With some basic tools, patience, and the steps outlined above, you can handle this kitchen upgrade yourself and save on installer fees.

What’s the best way to cut and fit butcher block pieces?

Always make drip-free cuts along the length of the wood grain using a circular saw with a new fine-toothed blade. Make test cuts first on scrap wood. You can sand cut edges smooth.

How do you attach butcher block to cabinets securely?

Use construction adhesive for the best bond along with L-brackets at stud points and shims. Tighten all brackets firmly. Also screw counter pieces together at seams. Allow adhesive to fully cure before use.

Should I finish butcher block before or after installation?

It’s best to finish butcher block onsite after it’s installed. This allows you to sand any cut edges and ensures all surfaces are fully sealed. Applying finish beforehand can make positioning tricky.

What are good waterproofing sealers for butcher block?

Top options are pure tung oil, boiled linseed oil, mineral oil/beeswax blend, or several coats of water-based polyurethane. Always use food-safe sealers rated for cutting surfaces.

How often do you need to refinish or reseal butcher block counters?

Plan on a full sanding and reapplication of protective sealer every 12-18 months. For ongoing maintenance, re-oiling weekly is recommended. Regular oil nourishes the wood and maintains the finish.


Installing your own butcher block countertops creates a beautiful focal point and adds value. Following the steps outlined here for accurate measuring, proper preparation, seamless installation, and finishing sealing will ensure you get professional-looking results. Put in the time for careful prep work. The hands-on process allows you to customize your counters exactly as you envisioned. Your efforts will pay off with stunning butcher block countertops you’ll enjoy showing off and using daily for years to come.