Why Wood Butcher Block Tops Warp

12We field occasional calls from customers complaining of warp in their butcher block tops. While it may appear that a warped top is defective and unusable, the truth is warp is often a symptom of the environment and a problem that can be easily remedied.

Wood is a living material and hygroscopic, meaning it gains moisture in a damp environment and loses moisture in a dry environment. When moisture is gained or lost in an unbalanced manner, wood warps. The Wood Welded Companies carefully dry our lumber so that we can reduce the potential for warp. Unfortunately, that potential is still there in every top.

When you realize that warping (and cracking which can be a symptom of warping) is caused by a moisture imbalance, it becomes easier to diagnose the problem.

There are some common conditions that may cause warp:

Did you order top oiled? Tops that are oiled or unfinished are highly susceptible to warping, especially during the humid summer months. If butcher block tops are not oiled regularly, they will warp and eventually crack. So how often do you need to oil your top? Once a day for the first week. Once a week for the first month. Once a month forever.

Did you cut the butcher block top? It is extremely important to ensure that all sides and edges of a finished butcher block top receive an equal coating of finish. Often, customers will cut out a sink or range and leave the cut edges exposed. Those exposed edges allow for moisture to penetrate the top, thus causing warp. After any cutting, apply a few coats of the Good Stuff to cut edges after sanding.

Is the top installed on a substrate? Butcher block needs exposure to air on both the top, and the bottom. If you are planning on installing your top over a substrate of any kind, please be sure to add a few washers so that air can move freely beneath the top.

Has your top recently moved from one state to another? There is a chance that humidity levels in the air has caused the top to gain or lose moisture. Place the butcher block indoors on a pair of sawhorses, with the warp faced down. As the wood acclimates to its new environment, it will straighten.

While these are all common conditions that may cause warp, there are others. In the end, an imbalance of moisture from top to bottom is the cause of warp. Bringing the moisture levels back to normal will return the top to flat.

Cutting Board Care

123Wooden cutting boards are one of the most used and beloved of kitchen tools. If kept clean and maintained, a cutting board can last for generations.

  • Never soak your boards in water or put them in a dishwasher, or they will crack or warp. Wood is naturally antimicrobial, meaning that the wood will naturally kill the food-born bacteria that make you sick. If you feel the need to clean your board to ensure against contamination, try a weak bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide after using your board instead of the dishwasher.
  • Wood boards need oil to keep them from drying out. Boards should be oiled on a weekly basis until they are ‘seasoned’, then bi-monthly. Most oils, however, are prone to rancidity. Stick to mineral oil, a food-safe product that can be purchased in almost every kitchen supply store. You can also our Emmet’s Elixir (see sidebar).

Refinishing an old cutting board is simple. Allow the board to completely dry before sanding with a 50-grit sandpaper. Once all the top layer of wood is removed and the scratches are buffed out, follow with a 100-grit sandpaper to smooth the surface. Oil your cutting board and you have a brand new cutting surface.