A kitchen transformation, 5 of 8: countertops

April Dykman | Improvement Center Columnist | March 2, 2015

Choosing the right countertops for your kitchen is no easy task.

With each option, there's a list of pros and cons. And boy, are there a lot of options.

We looked at engineered stone, solid-surface, laminate, stainless steel, granite, marble, butcher block, quartz, soapstone, concrete, slate, limestone and tile. It got a bit overwhelming. So how do you choose?

3 factors for choosing the perfect kitchen countertops

There were three factors we weighed to decide on a countertop material:

  1. Budget. Our maximum price per square foot

  2. Care. The kind of maintenance required

  3. Aesthetics. What worked best with our other design choices

butcher block counters

Thanks to this list (and endless late-night hours on Pinterest), I finally decided on butcher block countertops -- beech to be exact. Here's why:

  • It's fairly inexpensive, as far as countertops go. Ours were $129 for a 6'-by-2' piece, and we needed two of those. We also needed another $165-piece to cover the kitchen island. Total cost: $423. Bonus: We had some leftover pieces that we'll make into "cutting boards" and give away as Christmas presents! (I kid. We're keeping them for ourselves.)

  • Wood is pretty low-maintenance. You can clean wood countertops with mild soap and warm water, no abrasive cleaners necessary. Scratches can be lightly buffed out with sandpaper, and you need to apply only a food-grade mineral oil twice a year to seal them. In addition, wood is naturally antibacterial -- although I can't bring myself to chop directly on my beautiful new countertops.

  • Wood warms up the kitchen. As you may recall, our kitchen has this sort of industrial farmhouse vibe going on. But between the white subway tile we had planned for the backsplash and the stone-like tile we decided on for the floor, there was going to be a lot of tile. We wanted to add some warmth in between the two.

One drawback to butcher block is that it has a tendency to sustain permanent dings. Another is that the weather can really play havoc on your freshly-cut, soon-to-be-installed countertops. Ask me how I know.

Warped countertops--and bending them to your will

warped counters

Despite bringing the wood inside to acclimate, our countertops warped before we could put them in place. So when Dad installed the countertops, he added angle irons underneath and bolted them in place, which forced the countertops back into shape and should prevent any future warping. We also added heavy weights to the end of the island to straighten out the corners. Finally, we were back to level. Actually, we're within 1/16".

We sanded down the joints where the pieces of beech wood came together, and the countertops were ready for a dance party. But we didn't have time for a dance party. After all, we're in the middle of renovating a kitchen here.

Next: kitchen transformation part 6, island


kitchen transformation part 1, planning and budgeting

kitchen transformation part 2, demolition

kitchen transformation part 3, cabinets

kitchen transformation part 4, appliances

About the Author

April Dykman is a writer who specializes in real estate, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. Her work has been featured on MSNBC, Fox Business, Forbes MoneyBuilder, and Yahoo! Finance.