The benefits of wood countertops
Wood is a natural living material, elegant and sophisticated. Combined with its warm characteristics, it has opened up a beautiful world of design options in countertops for homeowners today. Despite the versatility, timeless elegance and durability wood offers, many homeowners are apprehensive regarding the use and care. Here are reasons why you should consider a wood countertop, as well as some design ideas
Fear of salmonella has consistently been the first concern my clients have. For years, we have been told that plastic is less absorbent and, thus, safer for cutting meats, especially poultry. In my research, I found just the opposite from a study that dates back to 1993! Researchers at The University of Wisconsin first began with the intention of finding a convenient way to sanitize wood cutting boards and tops to “make them as safe as plastic.” Their studies took a much different direction as findings revealed that wooden cutting boards actually kill bacteria that survive well on plastic. The fact is that any top that is not cleaned or disinfected after use will attract bacterial growth.
Cleaning and care
For daily cleanup, use a warm washcloth with mild dish soap. If I am cutting meats, I will also use 1-part bleach to 10-parts water solution for additional sanitization.
The key to keeping daily cleanup easy is to properly seal the wood, and all you need is a cloth rag and mineral oil; there is no need to buy expensive wood countertop sealers. Instead, visit the pharmacy section at your favorite store for a regular bottle of mineral oil. If the countertop is new or you are unaware when it was last sealed, follow this timeline: oil it once a day for a week, once a week for a month, and once a month forever. And while this may sound tedious, the application is simple. Just apply the oil in a thick, yet even, coat over the entire surface. Within 24-36 hours, the oil will absorb into the wood, offering a superior stain and germ repellant.
Keep in mind that the more you use the surface, the more often it will need to be sealed, especially during the dry winter months. If you begin to see white areas, which means the wood is drying out and raising in search of moisture, it is time to seal again.
Wood countertops have such an incredible presence in a room, quite simply because they give a genuine sense of balance to nearly any space. Wood is warm and relaxing, it tempers the starkness of white palettes and it offers a universal appeal to any decor. The most popular species used today are walnut, maple and cherry, but exotics such as zebrawood, tiger wood, African Iroko and African mahogany are just a few other favorites.
In choosing wood for your spaces, give careful consideration not only to the style and decor of the area, but also how you plan to use the surface. The construction method (how the top is milled together), the finish and the thickness all define the style further, and offer different degrees of durability.
Here are some finish options:
• Waterlox is a watertight finish that is typically used on decorative countertops that are not used for prepping or chopping. If it is used near a water source, refinishing may be required over time.
• Mineral oil is the most requested finish, allowing the homeowner to use the surface for prepping food and to maintain the finish without hiring a professional.
• Many distressing techniques are available, including divots, nicks and scratches, knife marks and rounded corners—all of which can easily be achieved after a few years of use!
Construction methods, top thickness and edge profiles include:
• Face Grain – This style include planks that are fitted together horizontally, showcasing the wood grain. This is the best method for decorative tops.
• Edge Grain – This butcher-block style allows the board lay-up to be thicker—up to 5 inches. This is the most stable method because the planks are narrow, averaging a 1 ¼-inch width.
• End Grain – Also called checkerboard style, this style of countertop is made using planks of wood in vertical positions. This method provides the most durable, heavy-duty application, best for cutting and chopping work.
• Edge Profiles – Edge profiles include ogee, beveled and bull nose; selection is often dependent on the desired thickness, which can range from 1¼ inches all the way up to 15 inches. The most common thickness used today is 2-4 inches.
The bottom line: yes, wood countertops require maintenance, but the overall value and beauty are hard to beat. I have personally owned a wood countertop in my kitchen for the last five years, and I truly believe it is a luxury to own one. And my favorite part? There’s no need to pull out cutting boards!