Choosing the right worktops for your kitchen means balancing practical considerations with style and design. Typically when choosing a worktop you have the following options:
- Solid wood worktops – using hardwoods such as oak, walnut, beech, cherry, ash, maple, iroko etc. Solid wood worktops can add warmth and character to your overall scheme, and suits all styles of kitchen. From farmhouse to sleek contemporary townhouse, there is a wood that will complement your design perfectly.
- Composite worktops – also known as ‘engineered stone’ a composite worktop is made using natural quartz crystals mixed with binding materials to make a very hard, non-porous worktop.
- Granite worktops – using natural stone such as granite or marble, these worktops are solid slabs finished to your specification
- Glass worktops – using toughened glass these worktops are non-porous, hardwearing and heat resistant. Glass can also be lit from underneath to create a very contemporary look.
- Laminate worktops – these are made by bonding multiple layers of impregnated paper to a substrate. Good quality laminate worktops are highly resistant to scratches, water and heat.
- Solid surface worktops – these are made from a blend of acrylic resins, minerals and colourings, and can be formed into any shape without a join.
- Stainless steel worktops – highly durable and strong, although prone to scratching, stainless steel worktops can be very effective as part of a contemporary kitchen scheme.
For the purposes of this guide we will focus on solid wood worktops. However many kitchen designers are mixing and matching different surfaces including worktops so you may want to consider choosing solid wood for some areas, and a different surface for others. For example, you could choose a highly heat resistant surface next to a stove, and a solid wood worktop throughout the rest of the scheme.
What wood to choose?
There is a wide range of different woods to choose from; here we list the most popular ones and their advantages.
Oak solid wood worktops
Oak has a strong grain that really adds character to your worktop. Over time it will mature and darken gradually, adding more depth to the surface. Solid oak is very durable and comes in ‘prime oak’ and‘rustic oak’.The latter option contains more features such as knots and colour variation, whereas prime oak has a more consistent finish and colour.
Wenge solid wood worktops
Wenge is a tropical hardwood from Africa. It has a very distinctive colour, rich dark brown almost black, and is very durable and tough. As well as being a practical choice a wenge solid wood worktop really makes a statement making it a perfect wood for adding a dramatic feature to your kitchen design.
Iroko solid wood worktops
Another tropical timber fromAfrica, Iroko has a yellow, gold tone that darkens over time to a rich bronze. Because of its natural high oil content it is more water resistant than some other woods, so is ideal for using round sinks and taps.
Walnut solid wood worktops
Walnut is popular because ofits distinctive grain and colour variations. Unlike other woods where consistency of colour is important, kitchen designers and homeowners choose walnut worktops because of the range of colour and depth of tone. Choose from American Black Walnut worktops with its deeper, bolder impact, or European Walnut worktops that are equally as distinctive and impressive.
Beech solid wood worktops
Beech is a very strong and durable wood that is an excellent choice for a solid wood worktop. Ranging from very pale creams, to more pink and golden tones, it will add warmth to any kitchen design. A solid wood beech worktop is also a very affordable option that will give you great service over many years.
Ash solid wood worktops
Another light coloured wood that is strong and robust so perfect for a kitchen worktop. It’s straight grain often adds caramel tones to the overall affect of an ash worktop,although ash can also be white in some places. A great option if you want to brighten up a kitchen and add a light and airy dimension to the room.
Cherry solid wood worktops
This wood will bring instant warmth to your kitchen design and also matures beautifully adding more character as it deepens. Exposure to light and oiling will deepen the colour more giving it a burnished, golden effect. With a close grain, a cherry solid wood worktop is hardwearing so a good option for a family kitchen.
Maple solid wood worktops
For a pale cream or off white colour, maple is great choice. Historically it is used as the wood for butchers’ blocks as it is highly durable and strong. Balancing practical considerations such as strength with aesthetics, a maple solid worktop is a fantastic product if you’re looking for a very pale wood finish.
Sapele solid wood worktops
Sapele is an African hardwood that is incredibly hardwearing and beautiful too. When first installed the wood has a rose hue, but as it matures more reddish tones develop. As such it will add warmth and vibrant colour to your kitchen design. A sapele worktop makes a statement!
Bamboo solid wood worktops
While not really a timber but actually a grass, bamboo is a sustainable option as it’s very fast growing and environmentally friendly. Pale in colour, a bamboo worktop is hardwearing and naturally water resistant. Starting off pale yellow, bamboo does darken subtly over time, bringing out more golden tones and depth.
How are solid wood worktops constructed?
Solid wood worktops are not single planks of wood attached to your kitchen cabinets. Instead to ensure consistency, quality and durability, they are made up of solid wood blocks(known as staves) between 40-50mm wide. These staves may be fixed together to create a ‘butcher’s block’ affect, using smaller blocks of wood, or alternatively a ‘fully staved solid wood worktop’ is made by using longer staves that can run the whole length of the worktop.
As you might expect a butcher’ block style solid wood worktop is less expensive as smaller blocks of wood are generally cheaper. However a fully staved solid wood worktop is very beautiful,you will see much more of the character of the wood, the grain and depth of colour.
Looking after solid wood worktops
Another factor when choosing the right worktop for your kitchen will be how easy it is to care for and maintain. Fortunately because of their strength and durability, solid wood is actually very easy to look after.
It also ages really well, unlike many other alternatives, becoming more unique as the wood takes on more character. However, to get the best from a solid wood worktop they do need a little TLC. Oiling is the best finish for a solid wood worktop and also makes it more water resistant.
When a solid wood worktop is first installed, if it hasn’t already been treated, give it two generous coatings of oil underneath and on the unexposed edges first. This is to ensure the areas that you won’t be able to treat again once it’s installed, are balanced with the surfaces you will see. This prevents the worktop from bowing.
The surfaces you do see can be given three to five light coats, spreading the oil in the direction of the grain. Aim for a thin, even consistency over the entire surface. Leave for ten minutes and then with the same cloth go over the worktop again to even out any areas that are more ‘wet’ than others. Each addition coat will take longer to dry as wood becomes more saturated with oil.
If after a few months the worktop is looking dry and dull, it’s time to reapply the oil and bring it back to its best. This is important as an application of oil also helps the wood torepel water, which could cause staining and damage. Generally a solid woodworktop that is in regular use will require another coat of oil every three tosix months.
Re-sanding your worktop
It is also possible to re-sandsolid wood worktops if they have been damaged or uncared for. A fine sandpaperwill remove watermarks and ground in dirt. After sanding, treat again with are-application of oil.
To explore different types ofsolid wood worktops in more detail, click here.
If you have any questionsabout installing a solid wood worktop in your kitchen, please contact our team who will be very happy to help.