I love the warm look of wood in any room, but I especially appreciate it in the kitchen where it lends a casual, informal feel that softens the formal hardness of granite and stainless steel materials that are so popular in kitchens today. With that said, although I often see wood countertops on islands in the homes I view, it doesn’t seem to be as common for general countertop use. I suspect that this is in part due to the general [mis]conception that a softer surface like wood is likely to harbor bacteria and, thus, isn’t an ideal surface for food preparation. However, after doing some research it turns out that if properly cared for, wood surfaces don’t absorb or harbor bacteria any more than harder surfaces do. In fact, studies have shown that wood actually has natural antibacterial properties.
With this knowledge in hand, I headed down to Greenhome Solutions to learn more about options for butcher-block countertops and to view some samples. I met with Tess Robins, who showed me a wide array of wood types in a kaleidoscope of earthy colors including madrone, laurelwood, maple, fir, walnut and a unique combination called NW Blend. Tess explained that all of these woods can be purchased both in a side grain format, which is good for general use, or an end grain format. The end grain format is more expensive, but is much harder and allows for heavy use as a cutting surface. In all of my research, one of the key points I found is that there are basically two main options for finishing wood counters. If you want the wood countertop to serve as a typical countertop, and you intend to use a cutting board on top of the wood surface, then you can seal it with a water-proof glaze or lacquer and it will be virtually maintenance free. If, on the other hand, you want the countertop surface to serve as an actual cutting surface, then you will need to finish it with a natural oil finish and be sure to clean and oil it on a regular basis (just as we all should be doing with our smaller wood cutting boards). You can, of course, vary areas with different finishes for the best of both worlds—larger areas of sealed wood for a warm, inviting look and perhaps a smaller area of oil finished wood that you can actually chop on. Just be sure that when planning the placement of wood countertops to avoid high water areas, such as around the sink, as regardless of the finish, standing water is wood’s enemy and will inevitably do damage to your beautiful wood surface.
1210 W Nickerson St.
Seattle, WA 98119