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Reader request - butcher block counters and sinks

Today's reader request is from Nat: I was wondering if you could help me find more inspirational images of kitchens. I want to put butcher block counters throughout my kitchen and don't know what type of sink to choose: (1) undermount; or (2) drop in. I don't like the look of drop-ins, but I'm worried that with an undermount sink I run a chance of ruining my counter edges. I've read around blogs that this should not be a problem if you seal them properly. But I'm looking for images to convince hubby that this will be worth the extra work. I haven't had much experience with butcher block (I do LOVE it) but I would guess with a good initial seal and re-sealing as required, you could go with either. I'd had an aversion towards drop-in sinks for a loooong time now but after taking a close look at the photos I found of sinks used with butcher block, I actually think I prefer drop-ins (and those in white ceramic). Perhaps you'll agree after having a look at the following photos...

design*sponge Katie Sellers
Julia Wong Designs Living Etc.
Marie Claire Italia Apartment Therapy
Hus & Hem jj Locations
The Yvestown Blog Apartment Therapy

Light Locations
The Yvestown Blog
environa studio
Sköna hem
Jake Fitzjones
Skelton Harris Interiors
jj Locations
Hu & Hem
Marie Claire Italia
Hus & Hem
Oak Management
Homes & Gardens

Reader Comments (20)

I agree about preferring drop in sinka in these pics (alert the media).
I've had only two experiences, both once removed with wood counters.
First, my grandmother moved into a house with beautiful mahogany counters in Santa Barbara and switched them pronto for stainless. This was a granny who used to "flip" houses, starting in the 1920s, so... take that for what it is worth.
The other semi experience was a friend in CA who had badly mildewed butcher block counters (she did not live near the beach) she was dying to get rid of because of the care they needed.
I think if you love the butcher block and will take care of it, it's great. If not, you might be disappointed in the upkeep.
Either way, good luck!

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpriscilla

i have a butcher-block and drop-in sink {looking mostly like the image of "living etc.}.
i LOVE it and wouldn't want any other way. once the sink is sealed properly there's no leaking or any other problem...
we try to re-seal it once a month: first we scrub it down with himalayan salt {granulate} with which i get rid of every flaw. then we seal it with linseed oil and it's perfectly new!
it really isn't that much work and it's worth the look!

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterleslie

Kim, thanks so much for this post :) I will definitely be doing a drop in sink.

Speaking of white sinks, make sure yours is porcelain and NOT acrylic. Mine right now is acrylic and I can't say I would recommend it. It looks beautiful and I was so excited to have it in my new home. But, because we use our kitchen A LOT, the sink is very impractical. It requires A LOT of upkeep to keep it shiny white. Mine is yellowing and I'm having a hard time finding a green cleaning solution that would clean it properly. Anyway, just my two cents.

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNat

I've had butcher block with a drop-in sink for the last 4 years, and plan to install some (still with a drop-in sink) in my new house too in my new apartment. I used to re-seal them with oil (don't exactly recall the brand or type) once a year, after sanding them with a handheld orbital sander and medium-grit paper (in a medium-sized kitchen an energetic person can do all this in a single evening, before going out). It stayed in very good shape even if my roommate and I could be kind of messy and never the extra mile in taking care of it, though it could have used a twice-a-year oiling (1.75'' thick oak (I think) from Ikea : http://www.ikea.com/ca/en/catalog/products/60057852).

I have a friend who installed those in three rental units he owns, and I will install similar counters in the house I just bought. Those Ikea oak ones seem to offer the greatest bang for the buck, but I'm doubtful about them as far as sustainable sourcing goes.

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Hi, I had butcher block counter in my previous home, they were Ikea( recommended by my cabinet maket brother!). I really loved them but the need to be oiled several times before they look beautiful, 8 top 10 coat of oil (light sanding, put oil with brush and wipe off the excell after 15 minutes)... after you do it at least 2 X year.

I do not recommenr undermount sink, you will ruin the wood, even if propely sealed... I had drop in stainless sink (ok)
but I do recomment porcelain apron sink, you have the looks, without the problems!

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelene B

Having had to use the white ceramic sink in the laundry for everyday washing up whilst kitchen is being renovated and having broken every crystal wine glass in my posession on said sink...can´t say I´m a huge fan - or does one have to wash up daintily??

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjulie

I love the butcher block look. Someday I hope to add a small island in my kitchen for a butcher block! maybe something old looking to add character.

P.S. I would love to see bedrooms with the window behind the bed. My bed has to be in front of the window in my bedroom and I am at a loss as to make this work..getting a new bed is obvious since it's made to fit a king, but window-treatment wise I'm sunk.

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeanne

I have had butcher block with drop in sink for about 8 years. i love it. I oil the counter now only a couple of times a year. When first installed it had to be oiled about once a month for the first 3-4 month. Now tha it's saturated, there's no need. besides the look i like that it can be sanded to remove blemishes and stains (which, by the way, rarely happen). I did once leave a wet can on it for far too long and it rusted and left a ring in the wood. i just sanded it down and re-oiled and it looked like new! taht's the beauty of wood!

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commentercinzia allocca

Love the pics. And they are of a great help since I was thinking of remodelling my kitchen and I don`t know what to do.
Question: how can I maximize the space in the cabinets under the sink? Any ideas?
Thanks a lot.
Regards from Argentina.

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Ummm... at the risk of horrified comments from some D2I fans, what's wrong with marine (as in for the wood bits on boats) varnish on wood counter tops? I painted some hard wood counter tops with matt varnish in a kitchen renovation some years ago, and they looked great, were easy to clean and maintain AND were very hygienic.

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

Leanne, I blogged beds in front of windows once before here

7 Apr 2011 | Registered CommenterKiM

word of warning - both my mom and my aunt have butcher block counters in their kitchens and it is incredibly high maintenance. no acids, no liquids, no staining stuff (red wine, i'm looking at you!) and all manner of do's and don'ts. i'd go with quartz and be done with it. butcher block IS economical and pretty but if you do any kind of cooking, then you'll be watching every step you take and to me, that's exhausting!

7 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpolish chick

I love the last photo with the CUISINE sign! I'm so nit-picky though... the "S" is upside down. Maybe that's what they're going for... but I adore the ceiling beams and it all just looks so delightfully French. =)

8 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelsi

i redid my kitchen last year with butcher block and a drop in sink and i love it...


i bought two of the large butcher block boards from IKEA. at first i was completely obsessed with not staining them, but now it is pretty much life as usual - and i am not a neat freak by any stretch. i do keep some straw coasters on the counter and use those when drinking red wine, for the bottle mostly. i have been terrible about keeping it oiled, but only i would know, as it looks fine. i use the IKEA behandla oil they recommended and the counters are due for another coat, especially since there is a washer/dryer, small oven and fridge all underneath, the heat from which probably accelerates the need to oil. i did install a piece of plexiglass under the counter where the w/d is though, so that helps.

as for the sink... well, you can see the fully functioning kitchen (and w/d) is tucked into a small expanse of wall... welcome to nyc. it was like solving a puzzle!! i needed a small sink. i splurged on a cast iron Kohler and i love it. someone commented on broken wine glasses with their sink, i have dropped plenty, but have not broken anything. i do keep a white wire rack at the bottom of the sink though, for both the dishes and the sink's sake - it also is employed as an extra drying rack in a pinch. kohler sells a cleaner, but in a year's time i have gotten by with dish soap and water and it still looks great. if it is in your budget, i would definitely get cast iron white over stainless. i have white appliances too. (and painted the entire apartment floor white) i know stainless is popular, but i think white looks really fresh and clean with the wood counter.

good luck with your kitchen!

9 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjd

We have a butcher block counter in our home, we've had it for 3 years now and never had any problems.

Exactly like you, I liked the look of drop in sinks but my hubby did not want to do the extra work, saying that you need specific tools etc which he didn't have...

What I did was purchase a sink that was intended to be drop in but actually put it on top (like one normally would) the result is that the rim lies completely flat on the countertop (it only rises about about 1-2 mm above the counter top). It actually looks pretty good

9 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKris in Iceland

We have butcher block countertops from Ikea and we LOVE them...we have an undermount sink and get compliments from everyone. It's a double-wide single-bowl stainless sink and it's SOOO great.

Regardless of what kind of sink you have you will need to be vigilant about oiling the counters. I don't think that the undermount sink gives us any more problems than a drop-in would. I just have to oil the rim around the sink and we put a good bead of clear silicone where the wood meets the sink so no water is leaching in underneath. I think go with what you like, but we're very happy with our undermount and wouldn't do it any other way.

9 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterlisa

Great post! We installed butcher block countertops into the kitchen of the basement apartment we rent out and totally love the look and price (super budget-friendly!). We're so smitten that we're going to install them in OUR kitchen as well once we start our reno.

ALSO- I absolutely agree with the oiling as mentioned in the comments above. If you live in Ottawa (or another Canadian city), you can get some at Lee Valley Tools.

many kitchen professionals and the famous home expert mike holmes say NEVER to use wooden counters nor concrete surfaces in your kitchen - its way too porous and will harbour major bacteria. he says imagine rubbing raw chicken over your counters... is the surface porous enough to catch all the nasty bits invisible to the eye? ick! quartz is the best. wood butcherblock style is nice to look at but just not practical. dont do it!

12 Apr 2011 | Unregistered Commenterpaul

If you want to keep the natural look and feel of the wood, I would highly recommend using tung oil. We impregnated our oak countertop three times with it and since then (one year) it has stayed perfect - without chasing every drop of water immediately!!

15 Apr 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNathalie

You CAN seal butcher block with Marine varnish (which woodworkers cry over, because it looks a little plastic-y, but can be done). Many commercial high end bartops are varnished/verathaned (my dad used to build them for a living). OR you can use a product called waterlox, which is low VOC, and is a combo of varnish and oil, so it penetrates deep and seals. That comes matte, medium sheen/satin, or high gloss. Very reputable company, highly recommended by DIY butcher block people, especially w/ undermount sinks. If you're going for a high end furniture look rather than planning to hack on your countertop, works beautifully...and the sink cutout makes a great cutting board you CAN oil and keep on your countertop.

12 Dec 2011 | Unregistered Commentermarcia

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