All About Exotic Wood Countertops
Visually rich and warm to the touch, these natural beauties are making a comeback. Here’s how to determine if they’ll work in your house.
Call them the cure for the cold of common stainless steel. After being eclipsed by showy stones like granite and marble and maintenance-free engineered materials like quartz and solid surfacing, natural-wood countertops are enjoying a real revival. Constructed from pieces of hardwood laminated together with glue for strength and stability, they provide a warm, organic landing surface in a kitchen, one that is wonderfully forgiving, gentle on dishware, and able to absorb the noise of a busy household. Wood can also be revived if damaged; if it gets dinged, stained, or gouged, you can refinish it.
The majority of wood countertops are made from traditional butcher block, and while they may see some mild meal prep, they’re rarely used for chopping these days. They’re favored more for their looks. Less expensive woods often line the kitchen as a handsome, budget-friendly surface; pricier species top islands or breakfast bars, where they provide a welcome textural contrast or a furniture-like finish. The variety of woods available is impressive, from subtly grained maple to deep, rich walnut to dramatic mesquite to exotic iroko. Yes, wood is a good choice, but it does require some attention. This Old House’s guide to buying, installing, and maintaining these countertops will ensure that the surface you select will look and perform beautifully for years.
Up until the 1880s, butchers worked on thick rounds of sycamore, which were prone to splitting. In the early 1900s, it was discovered that pieces of hard maple glued together in big blocks provided a stronger, more durable surface that better stood up to meatcutters’ cleavers.
Do they hold up?
Properly installed and cared for, wood countertops can last as long as you live in your home. Factory finishes generally come with a warranty. It can range from one year to a lifetime—and may only cover glued-joint separation.
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