A Buyer's Guide To Solid Wood Worktops

December 13th 2017

Written by Chris Shelper

Choosing the right worktopsfor your kitchen means balancing practical considerations with style anddesign. Typically when choosing a worktop you have the following options:

  • Solid wood worktops – using hardwoods such as oak, walnut, beech, cherry, ash, maple, irokoetc. Solid wood worktops can add warmth and character to your overall scheme, and suits all stylesof 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 usingnatural 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 solidslabs finished to your specification
  • Glass worktops – using toughened glass these worktops are non-porous, hardwearing andheat resistant. Glass can also be lit from underneath to create a verycontemporary look.
  • Laminate worktops – these are made by bonding multiple layers of impregnated paper to asubstrate. 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 toscratching, stainless steel worktops can be very effective as part of acontemporary kitchen scheme.

For the purposes of this guidewe will focus on solid wood worktops. However many kitchen designers are mixing and matching different surfacesincluding worktops so you may want to consider choosing solid wood for someareas, and a different surface for others. For example, you could choose ahighly heat resistant surface next to a stove, and a solid wood worktopthroughout the rest of the scheme.

What wood to choose?

There is a wide range ofdifferent woods to choose from; here we list the most popular ones and theiradvantages.

Oak solid wood worktops

Oak has a strong grain thatreally adds character to your worktop. Over time it will mature and darkengradually, adding more depth to the surface. Solid oak is very durable andcomes 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 hardwoodfrom 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 foradding a dramatic feature to your kitchen design.

Iroko solid wood worktops

Another tropical timber fromAfrica, Iroko has ayellow, gold tone that darkens over time to a rich bronze. Because of itsnatural high oil content it is more water resistant than some other woods, sois ideal for using round sinks and taps.

Walnut solid wood worktops

Walnut is popular because ofits distinctive grain and colour variations. Unlike other woods whereconsistency of colour is important, kitchen designers and homeowners choosewalnut 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 anddurable wood that is an excellent choice for a solid wood worktop. Ranging fromvery pale creams, to more pink and golden tones, it will add warmth to anykitchen design. A solid wood beech worktop is also a very affordable option that will give yougreat service over many years.

Ash solid wood worktops

Another light coloured woodthat is strong and robust so perfect for a kitchen worktop. It’s straight grainoften 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 tobrighten up a kitchen and add a light and airy dimension to the room.

Cherry solid wood worktops

This wood will bring instantwarmth to your kitchen design and also matures beautifully adding morecharacter as it deepens. Exposure to light and oiling will deepen the colourmore 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 whitecolour, maple is great choice. Historically it is used as the wood forbutchers’ blocks as it is highly durable and strong. Balancing practicalconsiderations 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 hardwoodthat is incredibly hardwearing and beautiful too. When first installed the woodhas a rose hue, but as it matures more reddish tones develop. As such it willadd warmth and vibrant colour to your kitchen design. A sapele worktop makes a statement!

Bamboo solid wood worktops

While not really a timber butactually a grass, bamboo is a sustainable option as it’s very fast growing andenvironmentally 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 notsingle planks of wood attached to your kitchen cabinets. Instead to ensureconsistency, quality and durability, they are made up of solid wood blocks(known as staves) between 40-50mm wide. These staves may be fixed together tocreate a ‘butcher’s block’ affect, using smaller blocks of wood, oralternatively a ‘fully staved solid wood worktop’ is made by using longerstaves 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 aregenerally 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 ofcolour.

Looking after solid wood worktops

Another factor when choosingthe right worktop for your kitchen will be how easy it is to care for andmaintain. Fortunately because of their strength and durability, solid wood isactually very easy to look after.

It also ages really well,unlike many other alternatives, becoming more unique as the wood takes on morecharacter. However, to get the best from a solid wood worktop they do need alittle TLC. Oiling is the best finish for a solid wood worktop and also makesit more water resistant.

When a solid wood worktop isfirst installed, if it hasn’t already been treated, give it two generouscoatings of oil underneath and on the unexposed edges first. This is to ensurethe areas that you won't be able to treat again once it’s installed, arebalanced with the surfaces you will see. This prevents the worktop from bowing.

The surfaces you do see can begiven three to five light coats, spreading the oil in the direction of thegrain. Aim for a thin, even consistency over the entire surface. Leave for tenminutes and then with the same cloth go over the worktop again to even out anyareas that are more ‘wet’ than others. Each addition coat will take longer todry as wood becomes more saturated with oil.

If after a few months theworktop is looking dry and dull, it’s time to reapply the oil and bring it backto 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.