While butcher block workbench tops and countertops offer a stylish solution for many businesses, whether they are appropriate for a specific operation depends on how they are used.
Butcher block tops are constructed using straight cuts of wood. Pieces are kiln dried and glued together, forming slabs of wood. They are often made using solid hard maple because of its strength and durability, as well as red oak and maple.
To help you determine whether butcher block industrial workbench tops are right for your operation, below we’ll go over:
- In what applications they are safe to use
- When they should be avoided
- How to determine whether your application should incorporate them
- What some alternatives are for your business so that you can ensure you meet any safety standards
When Butcher Block Is Safe
Butcher block countertops are a popular choice in kitchens throughout the world. They offer natural elements to a space, and contrast well with industrial elements like metal.
They are popular in certain manufacturing spaces, such as woodworking and basic assembly applications.
Butcher block tops can also be used in food prep areas, but must be sealed beforehand in order to protect liquids from seeping into porous areas or natural cracks in the wood.
In fact, hard maple wood offers antibacterial properties, making this type of material a popular choice in commercial kitchens and food manufacturing facilities that often require sanitary conditions to be in place.
If this is your application, it is important to make sure the butcher block tops you choose are third-party certified, such as through NSF International or SEFA, to ensure it offers the level of protection you need.
When Butcher Block Should Be Avoided
Although butcher block workbench tops are sturdy, they are also porous and can dent easily.
They should not be used in an environment where:
- There is excessive heat, which can cause warping, unless there is proper insulation between the countertop and the source of the heat
- Harsh chemicals are used, including harsh detergents for cleaning
- There is excessive water and humidity, which can cause a buildup of mold and germs, the expansion and swelling of the material, or water spot staining on the wood
- Heavy duty pieces of equipment are used since butcher block is extremely vulnerable to dents and scratches
Because of the reasons outlined above, butcher block workbench tops likely are not an appropriate choice for a laboratory setting unless used in non-work areas or in labs where abrasive chemicals are not handled.
This is because if damage occurs due to one of the reasons outlined above, it can impact the integrity of the wood, therefore negating any protection it might provide.
How To Determine Whether You Should Buy Butcher Block
It can be difficult to know which type of workbench surface is right for your application, will improve your space and ensure you meet any industry and government regulations for safety.
If you are not sure whether butcher block tops are a favorable investment for your manufacturing or laboratory space, ask yourself the following questions:
- What chemicals are used in my workspace?
- Do I need a workbench top that provides abrasive or moisture resistance?
- Do my workers use sources of heat?
- What level of cleanability do I need?
- What is my budget?
It’s also important to consider your future needs. As you grow as a facility, might your requirements change? What needs may you have in the future, and how will those needs impact your current workstations? As your business evolves, so must your workbenches and their surfaces to ensure you meet any clean room environment requirements.
Alternatives To Butcher Block
If you have determined butcher block workbench tops are not right for your industrial setting, there are several other materials that provide a safe alternative.
High Pressure Laminate tops are often used for basic, non-extreme applications. They are functional, durable and very affordable. Like butcher block, they should be used in chemical-free settings, but if budget is a concern, these tops are one of the most affordable and generally hold up better to liquids. If you use chemicals in your space, you can use Chemical Resistant Laminate.
ESD Laminate tops are used in applications where parts and materials are sensitive to static and need protection. These can be more expensive than butcher block, but if your laboratory has certain cleanliness requirements involving static electricity, this is one you should consider.
Phenolic Resin is often used in labs since these work surfaces are a solid, lightweight countertop that is durable and long-lasting. This type of material is especially popular in biological, chemical, clinical and analytical labs where experiments and tests depend on non-contamination.
Epoxy Resin is also used in labs often since these work surfaces are durable, non-porous and hold up very well under harsh and extreme conditions. Unlike butcher block, high heat can be used with this top.
Stainless Steel are resistant to bacteria, rust and corrosion. It is also stain and heat resistant, so tools with high heat and open flames can be used with this top.
You can read more about the pros and cons of some of the materials outlined above in our article, Top 5 Materials To Consider For Your Lab Countertops.
When used correctly, butcher block countertops can offer several benefits - both for your application and long-term investment.
However, if your industrial space features applications that use abrasive materials, harsh chemicals and high temperatures, it may be a wiser investment to choose one of the other industrial workbench tops available on the market that can provide a higher level of protection in harsher environments.