Butcher block counter transformation: before and after

roulieFebruary 1, 2013

For those of you considering butcher block counters, I wanted to share a before and after to show how well they clean up.

My "new" kitchen was renovated in the 1970s (the house was built in the 20s) and I don't think the counters had been oiled in years (decades?). There were so many cut marks and deep black rotted parts around the sink; the island was bare and dry looking; and the perimeter counters were covered in a yellowed varnish. They looked destined to be replaced.


THEN: I had the counters sanded to remove the gouges, years of grime, and varnish. I oiled them with mineral oil, and TA DA! While they don't look *brand* new, they look fresh and smooth and clean. I think there is still a bit of work to be done (if anyone has advice on how to remove the black lines between the sections of wood -- I have read bleach but am afraid to try?) but it was such a major transformation that I wanted to share.


Of course, now the cabinets and sink look terrible -- there's always another project!!

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Wow, that's a huge improvement. Great job!!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:48PM
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Outstanding job! Congratulations on your hard work paying off. I just got butcher block counters, so it's nice to see an example of how they can be reborn years down the road. If you decide to paint your cabs, I see darkish blue. Just sayin'.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 2:51PM
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WOW! That's hard to believe that's the same counter, BEAUTIFUL!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 3:01PM
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Wow do they look great!

If they were mine, I wouldn't worry too much about the black lines. It's an older butcher block and to me that's patina.

If you really don't like it, bleach it. Use a sponge. You'll have to reoil, but so what, right? At least that's not a toughie.

How are you sealing the edge of the sink so water doesn't get under there again? Recaulking?

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 3:41PM
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CEFreeman: the black lines don't bother me as much in person, but when I took (and posted) the pictures, they seemed to jump out more. Also, in person the counters glow more (in a good way!) and that was hard to capture in a photo.

As far as the sink, I need to replace the one that is there, so I'm hoping to find one a bit wider to cover some of the worst damage (especially at the left edge of the old sink) and then we will make sure to seal it well! I can't remember what my contractor said he'd use to seal it, but he has mentioned several times that it will need to be sealed.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:00PM
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Wow, who would have thought you could bring those counters back to life? They look lovely.

I'm with mermanmike on the navy blue paint for your cabs. BM Hale Navy. (Apologies for the unsolicited advice.) Your Mexican tile is so beautiful! The blue would really set off the tile, esp now that your counters have their mellow yellow back.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:14PM
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wow! what a transformation.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:20PM
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Wow! What a transformation!! I agree with Christine, the black lines are just patina and I think they really add character to the counter.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 4:32PM
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that looks like maple - it will last another 100 years or so. I'll bet the cabinet doors can be restored too. So many people on GardenWeb work hard to get an old look, you have the real thing!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 5:14PM
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Thanks for the kind words! Also for being supporters of the black lines/patina :) We are really trying to rehab rather than replace (reduce/reuse/recycle!) in this kitchen, and I am embracing the well-loved look.

detroit_burb: I think it is maple, and I agree that it certainly will outlive me! We are definitely keeping the cabinets, but will likely paint, as their color clashes with the counters (the cabs are sort of peachy/rose which just looks odd with the counters).

mermanmike and shanghaimom: Good idea! Others have suggested a bright blue (in person, the blue in the tile is pretty bright), but I like navy better, at least on the island. That Hale Navy is gorgeous!!! (I think I'll do the perimeter cabinets in a lighter cream/off-white color.) I have also considered lighter blue-gray or greenish gray for the cabs. My contractor wants me to look into colored stain (like a navy stain) so the grain will show through, but I think -- and others have pointed out -- that there is already a LOT of texture in this kitchen, so losing the wood grain might not be a bad thing.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:15PM
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What a great transformation!

    Bookmark   February 1, 2013 at 9:22PM
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Good job. I like the black lines, and I love your tile. If you can't find a sink with a bigger lip, you may be able to just find a bigger sink and cut a bigger hole, eliminating the stained area.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:06AM
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I suspect the butcher block of today is not near the quality of what you have in your counters of 1970 so I think it is such a good thing you were able to "reclaim" them. I think I remember reading that wood continues to "grow" (in a way) even after it has been cut and formed into furniture, hence another reason to "reclaim" rather than discard. There's a "soul" in that wood which is obvious to me when I look at your pics. Congrats!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:36AM
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Amazing! Also wonder if your cabinets could undergo a similar transformation. If the wood is in good shape, could you just "revitalize" them rather than paint?

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 1:55PM
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looks great!!

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 3:08PM
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Molly Phillips

That really looks fantastic! Nice to see a "reuse" project to inspire us all.

Looking forward to seeing those navy cabinets.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 4:00PM
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