Wood Countertops Part 3
Wood countertops are an increasingly popular choice for new and remodeled kitchens. Compared to all the other options out there, wood offers some really unique qualities and customization options that are hard to beat. In this blog series, we’re demystifying the wood countertop by looking at how they are made, how to integrate them into your kitchen or bar, and how to take care of them. Part 1 discussed the basics of how different types of wood counters are made and their different applications. Part 2 outlined key design features to help you select the right countertop for your space. And, in this final part of the series we’ll be looking at practical ways to maintain your countertop.
So, you’ve installed your beautiful wood countertop in your kitchen or bar. It looks fantastic and you’re happy with the result. What now? How do you make sure it keeps that pristine look for the next 10, 20, or 50 years? What happens if some red wine is spilled on it or a wet rag sits on the counter overnight? What amount of care is really needed? Here’s a list of what every homeowner should know to help you maintain your wood counters indefinitely.
1. Your Countertop was once a tree
Wood makes for a unique and highly attractive countertop in part because it was once a living, breathing tree. In other words, it was not dug up and cut from a slab of rock, and it was not manufactured in a plant. Man’s relationship with wood is as old as humanity itself. Therefore, it’s no surprise that wood invokes a warm, comforting feel that other countertop products can’t achieve. These qualities come with a few caveats, though. Most importantly, you should know that wood maintains the character it had when it was a growing tree. The grain, knots, and “imperfections” in the wood that give it such distinctive looks represent the history of the tree frozen in time. It is also a porous material, which means it will absorb moisture from spills and react with its environment. Depending on your specific climate and seasonal variations, the wood will adjust ever so slightly – contracting in dryer conditions and expanding as humidity increases. If this is news to you, don’t worry. The odds of you noticing any movement in your countertop are slim to none because countertops built properly are designed to account for this.
2.Wood Counters are easily repairable
If you somehow manage to gouge or chip your granite counter or laminate, you have to either learn to live with the flaw or replace it altogether. Not so with a wood countertop. Scratches, dings, and even more serious problems can be fixed given the right combination of sandpaper, glue and some basic DIY skills. Most common, however, is that the surface is damaged from water or food stains. In virtually all these cases, you can clean the counter by sanding the spots down until the stain disappears – even if you have to go all the way to the original wood. Then, you can re-apply the spot with oil or varnish finish to match the rest of the counter. The end result of your efforts? A countertop that looks as good as new and your money stays in your pocket. Admittedly, this is much easier to do in a counter that is unsealed (without a protective varnish or polyurethane topcoat), but it is possible no matter what finish you have on your counters. What this also means is that, should you ever decide you wanted to completely refinish your countertops and restore them so they look brand new, you have the option to do so without the hassle and cost of a new installation. This gives you the freedom to change your countertops to fit your personal preferences and the latest design trends over time- seriously maximizing your investment.
3.A little maintenance = A lifetime of Use
Taking care of wood countertops is not nearly as daunting as most people think. In fact, if your countertop has a sealed clear coat, then maintenance is virtually eliminated unless the topcoat is damaged in some way. No matter what type of wood countertop you have, there are a few things to keep in mind on a daily, monthly, and yearly basis to keep your counters in pristine shape:
Do – wipe up any spills or food left on the countertop. You don’t need to walk around with a rag obsessing over every crumb or droplet that land on the surface all the time, but you do need to make sure any kind of moisture or food that could stain the surface is wiped up before it has time to soak into the wood fibers. There should be more urgency on an unsealed surface for this, because the wood fibers are directly exposed.
Do not – place excessively hot items directly on the wood. Use a hot pad or cutting board to protect your counters and the finish. Also, any items that sweat moisture, such as a casserole that was recently pulled out of the fridge, should have a towel placed under it if you plan to leave it there for a while.
Do – clean your counters with a mild soap detergent, followed by a good rinse. Promptly wipe up any excess water. Inspect your counters for any blemishes, stains, or areas of discoloration. It’s always better to fix a stain or water spot sooner rather than later. Most stains can be removed with a light sanding (120 – 180 grit, used following the wood grain direction). If not, try cutting a lemon in half and rubbing into the stain. You can disinfect further by using a weak solution of water and vinegar.
Do not – use any harsh chemicals or detergents on your counters (especially unsealed countertops).
Monthly / Annually
If your counter is unsealed, it’s a good idea to re-apply a fresh coat of oil to your countertops. This will not only give the wood a restored appearance, but it will also help keep the wood moisture resistant. An additional layer of wax (or a mixture of wax and mineral oil such as Via Artisans Board Butter) will give you even more protection against stains and discoloration. You can do this as often as needed, but generally once a month or every other month is a good idea, at least for the first year of your countertop.
If your countertop has a protective finish on it, such as Waterlox or polyurethane, then you’re focused on maintaining the finish, not the wood underneath. Usually, this will include waxes or cleaners that are compatible with the finish. You won’t have to worry about re-application of the finish except in instances where excessive sanding was required to remove a stain, in which case spot applications are generally well within the DIY realm. Consult the manufacturer of the finish used to know what the recommended cleaners and disinfectants are.
A Final Note
Nothing else makes a statement in a kitchen or bar quite like a wood countertop. From both a functional as well as a design perspective, no other medium matches the one of a kind qualities or level of customization. When you consider the amount of investment most people put into their kitchen counters, wood is an affordable, flexible and sustainable choice. Wood counters give a homeowner the chance to enjoy a proven product that can adapt over time to the needs of the family and the design trends of the day.
If you’re interested in a wood countertop for your home or business, Via Artisans would be happy to visit with you, answer any questions and get you started down the path to designing and building a custom counter to last a lifetime. Visit our contact page to send us a note, or call us directly.