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  • Neyir Urminsky

Why choose butcher block for your countertops

In addition to why choose butcher block for your countertops alternate titles for this post could be ‘why choose natural materials for your kitchen whenever possible’, ‘why I don’t like laminate’, ‘why I thrift’ and generally ‘why we need to think about the next life for our materials’.

Unfitted cluttered homey kitchen
A reminder of this space 7 weeks ago

This is going to be a short and sweet for the penultimate post of this go around of the ORC because I still have A LOT to do! Still I could not be more excited by the progress so far and I cannot wait to wrap up the major kitchen projects and start fully using the space!

The ORC is a wonderful event in which anyone can participate! The challenge of the ORC lies in completing a space within 8 weeks and we are halfway through! Be sure to click on the link and learn about all the wonderful projects and participants!! If you want to catch up on this year's project my first post is all about the overall plan & mood board, the second Freestanding Kitchens, third getting started planning an IKEA Kitchen, and in week four we tackled whether or not to install a Kitchen Island and week 5 was How to Remove Marble from a Backing and last week How to DIY cut Marble with a Circular Saw. In previous years I have completed A DIY Limestone Patio, A Colour Saturated Vestibule, and a Bedroom for Busy Boys.

One Room Challenge logo

As I have already discussed when I was approaching this kitchen I spent a fair amount of time thinking about how I could accomplish my goals of a functional but elevated design that was also ecologically responsible. I started with two fabulous reclaimed cabinets for either side of the stove and topped them with reclaimed marble, all from FaceBook Marketplace. Then I reused a kitchen table (also topped with reclaimed material) and two antique cabinets I already had. Then after spending a good amount of time trying to source the 4 built-in pre-owned cabinets I needed to finish out the kitchen I broke down and bought them new at IKEA. Not ideal but the right solution for us. That left one final major material selection and while I would have loved to use reclaimed marble for the 8+ foot run of cabinets It wasn’t feasible.

Stainless stove with 2 freestanding kitchen antique cabinets and square range vent hood
My FBMP cabinets and reclaimed marble

That left me in a position so many others have been in before. Buying stone or solid surface counters were out of our budget and I really, really don’t love laminate. I’ve had laminate before, solid surface and worked around stone. As I’ve discussed before I struggle with the notion that laminate is simply not reusable. It feels like the minute you install laminate it is final, you aren’t going to be able to refabricate it into anything else, it is like the fast fashion of countertops!. I know that there are different types and levels of quality and I have seen many beautiful options but they just aren’t for me. One of my biggest beefs with them is that they aren’t self edging. Meaning that if you cut the end off a stone, wood or solid surface counter you simply need to sand/buff and you are done. With laminate you need to have the edging for that particular style which means that 5 or 10 years down the road you are out of luck.

So as I pondered I kept coming back to butcher block, in fact I realized I was essentially stuck with butcher block, it was really the only material in my price point that fit my needs. Alas I don’t really like butcher block unless it is a really beautiful walnut, which was still outside my budget. In my late 20’s, one of my closest friends had a traditional butcher block as her counters and I remember it needed extra TLC. I was really not looking for a counter that needed up keep, unless it was marble - as I’ve already clearly shown this girl will work for marble! My other issue with butcher block was that I wanted an undermount sink. But butcher block is too temperamental for undermount or requires a ton of upkeep to make it work. Again not my wheelhouse.

Butcher block counters in unfinished kitchen
Acacia butcher blocks unfinished

Then one day I stumbled upon Acacia. Acacia, also known as asian walnut, is one of the hardest woods, significantly harder than oak. It is also naturally water resistant and some claim it can be used outside untreated for up to 40 years (not going to chance it with my 4 boys!). It also has an even grain and takes finishes well. Another quick search showed me that there were a number of acacia butcher block options available and after some further thought I chose an unfinished material as we needed to seam two counters together. Also due to the natural water resistance I was able to get my undermount!!!!

Light blue kitchen with wood cabinets, walnut colored butcher block and marble counters with stainless stove
Acacia counters stained before final cleaning

After installing and seaming the counters I finished them with 2 coats of Watco Butcher Block Oil + Stain by Rustoleum. As I wanted the counters to repeat the colour of the table base I custom mixed 2.5 parts of Hazelnut to 1 part Ebony. For my needs ½ cup + ⅛ cup of Hazelnut with ¼ cup of Ebony was exactly the right amount for my 2 coats. It is important to note that you need to use oil based not water based finishes with acacia so this non-toxic product was an ideal solution!

Light blue kitchen with wood cabinets, walnut colored butcher block and marble counters with stainless stove
1 week to go!

1 week left to finish up the lime wash on the walls and all the finishing details!

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