Wood countertops are growing in popularity because:
- The wood offers a feeling of warmth and coziness to the atmosphere in the room.
- The wood matches any decoration and offers a nice counterpoint to the metal and stone surfaces present in the kitchen.
- Like stone, wood is a natural substance and since no two pieces are the same, each wooden countertop is unique.
- Since working with wood is easy, wooden countertops are available in a large variety of finishes, shapes and designs. Because of this they match any kitchen theme from the traditional to the most modern.
- Minor damage to wooden countertops is easily repaired by sanding.
- Because wood is not as hard as stone and metal, breakable materials that land on it may not shatter.
Types of wooden countertops
It is important that the type of wood used matches what the countertop will be used for. Hardwoods like maple, oak, beech and teak are best for them functional countertops used as butcher blocks or any kind of food preparation or chopping. Soft woods, which are easier to work with, are better for them decorative applications such as kitchen islands where heavy work is not done but appearance and finish are important.
The orientation of the grain or the way the countertop is made will also affect the look and utility of the countertop. There are 2 main ways wood is used (or oriented) when making countertops.
1. End grain countertops are made using wooden boards in a vertical position so that the evenly cut edges of these boards, when fitted together, form the surface of work. This is how butcher block countertops are made. This method provides for durable heavy duty countertops and is best for cutting and shredding work.
2. In the case of surface grain countertops, the wooden plates are attached horizontally. This allows the grain of the wood to show and enhance its beauty. This method is best for decorative countertops.
The cost of wooden countertops
Wood is generally less expensive than stone and many metal and solid surfaces, but more expensive than laminates. The cost of wood depends on factors such as the type of wood, the finish applied, the size and design and the manufacturer. Prices generally start at $30 and up per square foot – and that may or may not include installation costs.
Purchase of wooden countertops
1. Wood is prone to burn, scratch, dent and moisture damage. So you may want to combine wood with another material to make your countertop more practical. The areas that receive the roughest treatment such as the cooking area and the washing area can be made of granite or quartz and the rest can be made of wood.
2. You can either go for prefabricated countertops that are available in specific sizes, materials and designs or get one custom made to a defined size, with your design and using the wood you want. You will have to send all the specifications to the manufacturer who makes the countertop and they will send it to you.
3. Keep the cabinet in mind when choosing a countertop, and make sure it complements the rest of the kitchen. Use interior design magazines for ideas and if possible, take the advice of an interior designer.
4. Wood countertops when used with hardwood floors, mantels, cornices and molding add a sense of balance to the kitchen.
5. If you need a butcher block, put it in another countertop or cover it around an existing countertop, it’s a good idea.
Installation of wooden countertops
Because wood expands and contracts it is important that a countertop is fitted by a professional, so there is no warping or splitting later. Often manufacturers advise that rather than glue, slotted screw holes should be used to fix countertops as that keeps the countertop firm but also allows for expansion.
If the countertop is not perfectly level, uneven stresses can develop, leading to splitting of the wood.
Keep in mind that undermount and country farm sinks are more likely to allow water to fall onto the countertop, this can cause damage to the wood, so self rimming sinks are a better choice. And for cutting the cooktop, insulation should be used to dissipate the heat.
Maintenance of wooden countertops
Wooden countertops, and especially butcher blocks that do not have any protective finish such as varnish, lacquer or shellac, require regular maintenance to keep them in good condition and maintain their appearance. Usually the periodic application of food grade mineral oil is enough to keep the wood from drying out and splitting.
Ask the supplier or installer for specific care advice, especially on how to seal the surface. Wood is porous and unless it is sealed, water, chemicals and other substances can enter and cause damage.
Under normal use, daily washing with soap and water should be sufficient to keep the countertop clean.
For wooden counters, be sure to place hot utensils on trivets, use cutting boards and wipe up any spills immediately. With butcher blocks you need not be concerned. You can consider sticking metal heat rods on part of the surface near the heat source to function as a permanent trivet.