Butcher Block Countertops – Part 2

In our last post I described the process of cutting and fitting the butcher block countertops for our kitchen.  Everything went smoothly, but one issue we had was warping with both of the 12′ boards.  I am assuming this happened because we stored them in the shed during a hot and humid week. After getting the butcher block in place, we waited a week to let the wood acclimate to the dryer conditions inside.  It was difficult to tell, but it seemed like the countertops were starting to slightly unwarp.  We were confident we would be able to flatten them out when we installed them, so we moved all the countertops again and began the process of sealing the wood.  On the underside I used shellac.  This gave us a hint of what our countertops would look like.

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Once the shellac was dry, I flipped the butcher block over and began sanding…  starting with 80 grit, then 120, then 220.

It was finally time to secure the countertops to the cabinets.  I drilled 1/2″ holes through the corner braces of the cabinets and then also strategically attached L-shaped brackets to the insides of certain cabinets.  I made sure to use washers so that I could use holes that were big enough to allow for expansion and contraction of the wood.  We were easily able to flatten out the countertops and get rid of the bowing that had occurred.

The only parts that really took some finagling were the 45 degree angles and cuts but we were able to get them pretty tight.

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Butcher Block Countertops – Part 1

After finishing the installation of our cabinets and it was now time to cut our countertops.  I think we always envisioned our kitchen with butcher block countertops, but there was a brief moment when we did consider other options.  One important element that pushed us back to butcher block was the price of other typical materials (quartz, granite, and soapstone).  These were easily $80-160 per square foot. Even so, we did visit a countertop place just to discover we didn’t even really like the look of quartz and granite for our kitchen.  It just seemed way too fancy.   We only have 40 square feet of countertop, but still – there was no way we were going to pay $3000 to $6000 for counter tops we weren’t even excited about.

So why butcher block?  Every countertop has it’s pros and cons.  Butcher block is less expensive, can be installed yourself, and can bring warmth and character to a kitchen. Some people worry about the maintenance required with butcher block. It needs to be sealed, treated, or oiled regularly.  It can also absorb stains, water spots, or burn with high eat. But to me, the very nature of butcher block that can make it prone to damage is also the thing that makes it easy to use.  If something does happen to it, you can always just sand it and seal it again.  Plus, minor imperfections with butcher block just add to the character….  I’m not sure you could say that about a stain on marble.

We eventually decided on an American Walnut butcher block that we found at Lumber Liquidators. It was a nice dark color and had plenty of warmth.  We ordered two 12′ pieces and spent a total of $1000, or $25 per square foot. Still a chunk of change, but much more affordable compared to the other options.

Amy and I knew that each cut of the butcher block was going to be critical and that we couldn’t afford to make any mistakes.  This meant there was A LOT of measuring, thinking, re-measuring…

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…and even more thinking.

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The Kitchen Renovation Begins!

Our original plan was to spend the spring and summer months working on the exterior of the house.  We wanted to fix the porches, add missing trim and siding, and paint the entire house.  Well, that didn’t happen.  We had trouble finding someone willing to help with the porches, then it just seemed silly to paint if the porches weren’t done.  In the absence of a solid path forward on the exterior it occurred to me that we should get going on the kitchen instead!  I managed to convince Amy that since we spend way more time in that one room of the house than any other, we should spend the summer renovating that space instead of the exterior. Plus, we have been designing that space in our heads for several years now – we pretty much know what we want.  She agreed and we began chipping away at the prep work.

I won’t take the opportunity in this particular blog post to go way back to the beginning of our kitchen renovation.

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Well actually, this would be the very beginning…

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Nope.  This post starts with the kitchen as we have been living in it for almost three years…

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The garage shelving and stand-alone appliances have served us pretty well, but it was definitely time to move on.  We took a trip to a cabinet company that we had also visited earlier in the winter.  Turns out that the cabinets we were interested in were temporarily 20% off.  That was enough to motivate us to get moving and make some decisions a little quicker than we would have otherwise. Continue reading

First progress in the kitchen

Most people consider the kitchen to be the most important room in the house.  In the planning process, we agonized, seriously AGONIZED, over how to arrange our kitchen.  If there was ever a time in the renovation when our marriage was put to the test, it was definitely the kitchen layout that caused the most tension.  Right honey?  Good times.

[Edit from Amy: Oh yes, good times.   Let’s do it again for old times sake.]

As a result of the high stakes involved in planning a kitchen, the potential high costs, and the lingering layout uncertainty, we decided to begin as simply as possible.  We just got a few pieces of temporary furniture that allowed the kitchen to function and then assumed we would just settle in for a few years until we felt up to this monumental task.  We have survived with minimal food prep space by utilizing a small portable table and have enjoyed the easy access to pantry items, pots, pans, and plates.

[Edit from Amy: This so called “unfitted” kitchen model has really grown on me. I understand why commercial kitchens have open shelving and movable stations un-affixed to the wall. It’s efficient and flexible. I appreciate the novelty of our makeshift set up and will be sad when we have real cabinets and no garage shelving. Our current kitchen has been simple, earthy and unpretentious.]

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