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Meeting Demand for Vermont Maple Countertops

The Tree House Hardwoods

by Laura Hardie, Red Barn Writer

When The Tree House Hardwoods opened its doors in South Burlington, Vermont, in 2014, the mission was to keep it simple and sell lumber with basic services like planing boards. 

Nearly a decade later, the operation has expanded three times to accommodate complex wood projects, like ornate replica column bases for historical buildings and custom molding. Most of their growth, though, comes from the increasing demand for butcher block countertops made from Vermont maple. 

"We have more demand than we have production capacity. We just can't produce butcher blocks as fast as people want to buy them no matter how much we do," said Adam Claussen, who works in the mill shop.

  Tree House

Owner Lucas Jenson says they've found their audience among buyers who understand the value of integrating wood into their homes.

"There is a butcher block mentality or butcher block state of mind," Jenson explained. "Some people are totally fine with a Corian or a laminated countertop. People interested in a butcher block countertop…there's something about the quality of the environment they've chosen to live in."

One thing is immediately evident upon seeing the quality of craftsmanship and passion The Tree House team brings to their work: wood is their art form, and it's anything but simple. Their signature Vermont Butcherblock Company countertops are made in a multi-step process that normally takes eight to ten weeks to deliver after a customer orders.

It's a process they say will soon be cut to only two to three weeks as part of their most recent facility upgrade, made possible by a $75,000 Working Lands Enterprise Initiative (WLEI) grant. 

"This equipment has been transformative. It has transformed this shop more than anything else we've ever done since we started," Jenson said.

In the fall of 2022, three new pieces of equipment were purchased with the grant funds, and the workshop space was expanded to create room.

Within just a few months of the upgrade, the team saw a 50 percent reduction in the time it takes to produce a butcherblock countertop. The impact is evident in every area of the business, including their retail store, where butcher blocks can be purchased off the shelf for the first time.

"This equipment has allowed us to leap forward from a wood shop into more of a manufacturing and production facility," workshop manager Jeremy Ravelin said. "We still do customized work, but this allows us to have butcher blocks in stock and not have every single one be a special order."

Their new gang rip saw cuts a board into multiple butcherblock strips with one pass rather than three to four passes.

"It's easily seven or eight times faster than the way we were doing it before. This week, we ran about 3,000 board feet of maple into strips in three hours. Before, it would have taken us three or four days," Claussen said of the process. 

Tree House

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Grant Details:

  • Grant received: $75,000
  • Project: Purchasing equipment to increase butcher block production 7x over
  • VT Maple Lumber Purchased: 7,000 more boardfeet per year

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