Custom wood butcher-block countertops can be both beautiful and functional. The key to ensuring they remain that way is careful attention to the details during installation and proper ongoing care once they are in place. The following tips can help you install and maintain your butcher-block counters.
Tip #1: Have the counter delivered early
Wood absorbs moisture, and that causes the wood to expand or contract depending on the relative humidity in your home. To avoid contraction and gaps after installation, have the counter delivered several days before you have it installed. It should be set inside the home so that it can adjust to the local humidity levels during the wait period. Then, before installation it will need to be measured carefully to make sure the acclimated wood still meets the dimensions necessary for proper installation.
Tip #2: Ensure all corners are secured
Like any wood product, a butcher-block countertop can warp if it isn't secured correctly. The way to avoid this is to ensure that all four corners of the cabinet are firmly affixed to the base and that the base is level. For long counters, additional supports should be attached at regular intervals.
Tip #3: Skip the caulk
With a traditional laminate or a stone countertop, it's normal to use caulk to seal the space between the countertop and the back wall. This doesn't work well with butcher block because the contraction and expansion the wood goes through will crack the caulk. Instead, install your backsplash directly to the wall behind the counter. Then use a wood trim piece screwed into the countertop to seal the gap that would otherwise be between the backsplashed wall and the countertop.
Tip #4: Reseal immediately
Usually, the countertop will need to be cut to size upon delivery. You may also need to cut out holes for things such as the sink. Whenever a cut is made, the exposed wood edges should be immediately sealed. Failure to do so increases the risks of rotting or cracking. An acrylic finish is the usual type used on butcher-block counters, but verify this is what was used on yours, as any touch-up finishing should match the original. Any time the counter is cut into, it will need finish applied. Periodic refinishing of the work surface is also a necessity to keep the counter in good repair.
For more help, talk to a countertop-installation contractor in your area.