Wood Kitchen Countertops Butcher Block, Walnut, Maple, Cherry and More!

Wood kitchen countertops are a popular choice for many homeowners due to their natural beauty, durability, and eco-friendly nature. Butcher block, walnut, maple, and cherry are some of the most common types of wood used for kitchen countertops. Each has their own distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different needs and styles. This article will provide an in-depth look at wood countertop options to help you select the right one for your home.

Introduction to Wood Kitchen Countertops

Wood countertops offer a warm, organic look that is hard to replicate with other materials like stone, ceramic, or laminate. The natural variations in the wood grain and color add depth and character to any kitchen. Wood is also inherently anti-microbial, meaning it resists bacteria growth without the need for harsh chemicals.

Unlike stone, wood is an renewable resource and environmentally friendly option for countertops. Many types of wood used are harvested from sustainable forests or salvaged from reclaimed lumber.

Wood counters are fairly easy to install, repair, and change over time. Small scratches and stains can often be sanded out to restore the surface. Butcher block in particular is designed to be resurfaced multiple times, extending its usable life for decades.

The main downsides are that wood requires a bit more maintenance than other countertop materials. It needs periodic sealing to resist stains and moisture damage. Wood is also prone to dents, scratches, and burning from hot pans. Using cutting boards and trivets can help prevent surface damage.

Butcher Block Countertops

Butcher block is one of the most popular styles of wood countertops. It gets its name from traditional butcher blocks used for cutting meat in butcher shops.

What is Butcher Block?

Butcher block consists of smaller pieces of wood glued together with the end grain facing up. This type of construction makes it exceptionally hard and resistant to damage from cutting and chopping. The most common types of wood used are maple, walnut, and cherry.

Benefits of Butcher Block

  • Durable: The end grain construction can withstand years of heavy use and cutting without showing marks. It also better resists denting and scratches compared to solid wood.
  • Sanitary: The wood grain when assembled has natural antibacterial properties. Proper sealing makes it very low maintenance for food prep.
  • Aesthetic: The pattern of the end grain gives butcher block a unique, attractive look. It adds warmth and texture to modern and rustic kitchens alike.
  • Easy to Repair: Butcher block is designed to be sanded down and refinished over time. Small scratches and stains can be removed to restore the surface to like-new condition.

Considerations for Butcher Block

  • Requires more maintenance like periodic resealing to prevent water damage and stains.
  • Not heat resistant. Needs protection from hot pots/pans to prevent burning and discoloration.
  • Prone to warping if repeatedly exposed to lots of water. Proper sealing is key.
  • Relatively expensive compared to other countertop materials. Starting cost is $80-$200 per square foot installed.

Overall, butcher block is a great choice for kitchens that sees a lot of cutting and food prep. The natural beauty and longevity offset the higher maintenance requirements.

Walnut Kitchen Countertops

Walnut is valued in furniture-making for its luxurious chocolate brown color and rich grain patterns. These same characteristics make it a gorgeous option for kitchen countertops that make a design statement.

Benefits of Walnut Countertops

  • Striking, unique appearance from the wood grain variations. No two pieces are the same!
  • Softer brown color is warm and welcoming in both traditional and contemporary kitchens.
  • durable hardwood that resists dents, scratches, and wear over time.
  • Stains well allowing for custom stain colors like black for a dramatic look.

Considerations for Walnut Countertops

  • Being a softer wood, more prone to denting and showing wear than harder woods like maple.
  • Color can darken over time with exposure to light and oil. This may be a pro or con depending on preference.
  • Needs to be properly sealed to resist water damage and staining. Resealing required over time.
  • On the higher end cost-wise for wood countertops. Starts around $100 per square foot installed.

Walnut’s rich, chocolate-like hue gives it an elegant, almost exotic look. It works equally well in traditional farmhouse kitchens and sleek modern spaces. The extra maintenance is worth it for many seeking that eye-catching focal point.

Maple Kitchen Countertops

Maple is appreciated for its subtle grain patterns and evenly blonde coloring. This makes it a versatile wood species suitable for a wide range of kitchen designs.

Benefits of Maple Countertops

  • Light tan color provides a clean, modern look. Takes stain well for custom colors.
  • Harder and more scratch/dent resistant than softer woods like pine.
  • Tight, uniform grain helps hide knife marks from cutting. Easy to resurface and refinish.
  • Cost effective option compared to rarer exotic woods. Starts around $50 per sq. ft. installed.
  • Sustainably harvested with plenty of supply. Easy to find certified maple.

Considerations for Maple Countertops

  • Pronounced grain patterns emerge over time with staining/sealing. Can appear busier.
  • Lacks the dramatic visual impact of walnut, cherry or other exotic wood species.
  • Still requires proper sealing and reasonable care to prevent water/heat damage.
  • Won’t develop the richer patina or aging of other woods. Retains a relatively uniform appearance.

Maple offers a safe, attractive choice for wood counters suitable for a range of home styles. While it lacks the “wow” factor of some pricier options, maple offers enduring quality and value.

Cherry Kitchen Countertops

Cherry is prized for its luxurious red undertones and elegant grain patterns. When finished, it develops a patina that only improves with age. These characteristics make cherry another excellent wood for kitchen countertops.

Benefits of Cherry Countertops

  • Ages beautifully over years of use, developing a richer color. No two pieces age exactly the same.
  • Stunning wood grain patterns catch the eye. Provides visual interest.
  • Starts with a reddish-brown color perfect for traditional or farmhouse kitchens. Takes stain well.
  • Resists moisture, warping, and mold when properly sealed and maintained.

Considerations for Cherry Countertops

  • On the higher end cost-wise like walnut. Starts around $100 per square foot installed.
  • Develops a deeper, darker color over time that won’t be to everyone’s taste.
  • Softer wood more easily scratched/dented than maple. Requires more careful use.
  • Resealing and refinishing required periodically to maintain its beauty. Higher maintenance.

Cherry’s naturally attractive grain and color give it standout visual appeal. While it requires a bit more upkeep, cherry develops a depth of character unmatched by other wood species. Those seeking a unique, eye-catching focal point will appreciate cherry counters.

How to Choose the Best Wood Species for Your Kitchen

With the wide range of wood species and grain patterns available, how do you determine which is best for your kitchen? Here are a few tips:

  • Consider your design style: Rustic woods like walnut or cherry fit better in traditional spaces, while maple works well for contemporary.
  • Think about your lifestyle: If you cook often and hardiness is key, maple or bamboo butcher block are best. For more luxury appeal at the cost of some durability, walnut and cherry are ideal.
  • Factor in your budget: More exotic woods cost more. Maple and bamboo are the most budget-friendly options.
  • See the slabs/samples in person: Photos don’t capture the full depth and variation of real wood. See planks firsthand before deciding.
  • Imagine the long-term look: Some woods appear quite different after years of use. Consider both their starting and aged color/grain.
  • Confirm sustainability: Seek wood verified as sustainably harvested, especially for exotic species. Maple and domestic walnut are abundant.

The “right” wood depends on your priorities and taste. By carefully weighing the different factors above, you can select the ideal wood to bring warmth and beauty to your kitchen for years to come.

Common Questions About Wood Kitchen Countertops

Wood countertops offer unique benefits but also come with questions about durability, maintenance, and more. Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions:

Are wood counters durable enough for everyday kitchen use?

Yes, when properly sealed and cared for, natural wood can be very durable in the kitchen. Butcher block in particular can withstand decades of regular use. Avoid excessive moisture and use cutting boards to prolong the life of any wood top.

How stain and water-resistant are wood counters?

With routine reapplication of sealing products, wood can strongly resist stains, moisture, and warping. Penetrating oil-wax blends provide the best protection. Promptly wiping up spills also helps.

Do wood counters require special cleaning methods?

General all-purpose cleaners or soap and water are fine for regular cleaning. Avoid abrasive scrubs and cleaners that can damage the sealing over time.

Can you cut directly on wood countertops?

It’s best to use a cutting board to protect the surface, especially for softer woods like walnut that can show cut marks over time. Butcher block is an exception designed for cutting if properly maintained.

How difficult is it to install and replace wood counters?

Wood counters are relatively easy for an experienced DIYer to install following standard building practices. They can also be removed and replaced down the road if needed.

Do wood counters need to be resealed frequently?

Reapplication every 1-2 years is recommended for top durability and stain resistance. Natural oil finishes may need reapplying every few months for optimal performance.

Are there health concerns around bacteria with wood counters?

Wood’s natural antibacterial properties actually make it very sanitary. Proper sealing and maintenance prevent issues. Studies show it’s safer than plastic cutting boards.


Wood countertops like butcher block, walnut, maple, and cherry add unique, eco-friendly beauty to any kitchen. Each wood species offers different benefits spanning aesthetics, durability, ease of care, and cost. Consider your lifestyle, design style, and budget to select the right material for your space. With proper sealing and care, you can enjoy beautiful, functional wood countertops that will last for decades to come.