Wood Countertop Guide

Is wood the right countertop surface for your home? We have insight into this popular material, from installation to maintenance and everything between.


Wood: Personality

Another classic for kitchen countertops, wood is lighter in weight than its counterparts, available in a variety of thicknesses, easy to shape, and easy to blend with other design elements in the room. Most often wood is installed in one large piece. Butcher block, a common wood material, is actually a collection of small pieces of wood bonded together into a continuous piece.

Almost every kitchen guide discourages using wood for countertops -- and yet it is one of the most durable, forgiving materials around. Think about boat galleys and their tiny kitchens -- most of which feature wood surfaces. When wood ages, it changes color, usually to a deeper tone of its original hue. This gives wood a quality that all other countertop materials lack: warmth. Nothing comes close to the cozy feeling of home like a kitchen featuring warm wood tones.

Performance

Here's the deal: Either seal wood surfaces with food-safe shellac or polyurethane, or learn to live with the charm of worn, well-used countertops -- it's a look that some cooks prefer. Moisture, scratches, and stains are inevitable, but these imperfections can be rubbed with mineral oil to disguise or sanded out completely. You'll want to use a disinfectant on a regular basis to remove germs from the surface. And oil natural wood countertops frequently so that the wood doesn't dry out.

Wood does expand and contract with temperature changes, and there is a chance that it could warp if exposed to large amounts of water over an extended period of time (think leak).

Price

As with other materials, the price of wood is dependent upon the type you choose. If you're not set on a top-tier option, then wood can be an affordable choice at around $30 a square foot. Exotic woods can climb as high at $150 a square foot. Installation is around 20 percent of the materials cost, and fancy edges can add to the price.

Cues
  • Use coasters if you shudder at the thought of water rings.
  • Use a chopping board if you prefer an unblemished wood surface.
  • Butcher block countertops have a uniform pattern and smooth surface. Wood planks can be pieced together tightly, but expect a bit of irregularity in height near the seams.

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