Wood Countertop FAQs

We’ve been making our beautiful custom wood countertops since 2006. In that time we’ve had many questions and concerns brought up to us. We hope the list below will have everything you’ll need to make an educated decision when it comes to putting a wood surface in your home or business.

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The big one. “How do wood countertops hold up around sinks?”

A wood top with a sink is perfectly fine. In fact most of the tops we make have a sink in them. Undermount, drop-in, it doesn’t matter. It’s a myth that wood and water don’t mix. To ensure our wood tops hold up around water we do a few things.

  1. Make excellent glue joints. This is where experience, knowledge, and great equipment kick in. J. Aaron has over 20 years of experience making joints that will never fail.
  2. We use superior sealers to stop water, and virtually all other liquids, from penetrating the surface. 
  3. We use a wood glue that has been custom blended for us and meets type 1 specifications. Below are those specs. Nothing to sneeze at and nothing you’ll ever come close to in real life.

    Type I testing involves using 1″ by 3″ wood specimens, boiling them for 4 hours, then baking the specimens in a 145°F oven for 20 hours. They are boiled for an additional 4 hours, then immediately cooled using running water. The specimens are sheared while wet, and the bonds must pass certain strength and wood failure requirements to pass the Type I specification.

  4. Our skilled team have a vested interest in making the best product on the market. With a compensation structure directly tied to the net profit of our company failures are taken hard. With a lifetime warranty in play literally everyone at our company is extremally interested in how well we make our tops. 

Yes, it's perfectly fine for a wood countertop to be next to a range. Just follow the installation instructions for your range and everything will be perfectly fine. Read our blog post about it here.

It's possible, but it really depends on the finish used. During the design process we ask you what the surface will be used for. A butcher block surface designed to be chopped on will have a different finish than countertops used in a pantry. Our wood countertop sealer page goes over all the ins and outs of our sealers so please check that out. 

All the blond woods have the best price point. Hard maple, hickory, oak, ash and beach. Hickory is our favorite wood period. It is extremely hard and the color shifts make for a very attractive counter.

The plank construction style is the best value in wood countertops. It has the lowest scrap rate and it’s easier to assemble the the slab.

In this time of constricted budgets we find that many homeowners and trade professionals alike want to know how much a wood countertop or butcher block costs when compared to stone or other material. The simple answer is, it can vary.

That's a very frustrating answer to a straightforward question, we know. For example if you asked your mechanic how much to fix my car with no other information it would be difficult to estimate because there are so many variables to consider. The best way to find out is to call us at 866-583-4200 or go to our Get A Quote page and fill out the short form. We're usually very quick to turn your quote around and then you'll know exactly where you stand.

Ways to save money when ordering a wood countertop.

  • We offer three types of wood countertops and butcher blocks. To save some money the DIY and blank slab options are going to be the way to go.  
    1. Fully finished - Most expensive. This, like the name implies, is fully finished and ready to be installed. 
    2. Do It Yourself - Mid range. This is a fully cut out countertop with all holes and shapes cut but you'll need to do some finish sanding and sealing work. 
    3. Blank Slabs - Least expensive. These are blank slabs that need to be cut to size, finish sanded, then sealed. Great for a cabinet shop or handy husband.

Some woods have more knots than others but most have some. When we put together a top we remove as many of these as possible but most tops will still have a few. These are part of counter top’s character and are not considered defects. If you prefer your counter top has no knots please specify that when getting a quote.

Yes, this is normal. Throughout the year as humidity levels change glue joints may start to have a texture to them. This does not mean they are coming apart. It is simply the natural movement of wood.

Wood has texture and it will vary from board to board and even within the same board. Wood grain will be denser in some areas and more open in others. This is typical of all woods and is not considered a defect.

Wood, as you know, is a natural product. Unless requested we do not stain our countertops like most cabinet companies or furniture manufactures. This means that if you’re working from one of our samples the actual product you get can vary in color. Color consistency within a top is important to us and we sort lumber and hand select each board that goes into any given top.

Many people are familiar with a wood surface in the form of a table top or piece of furniture. Most of these, even very high end pieces, are made of laminated plywood and veneer. This is done because it is very structurally stable, meaning it moves little in changing climates. A solid wood counter is different. It is made up of large volume planks of wood that can expand and contract up to a ¼” throughout the year. This can causes glue joints to have very slight texture and can cause a top to warp if it’s not properly sealed and secured to its base. These are all natural movements which don’t compromise the structure or durability and are not to be considered defects in the top.

As we all know, wood is a 100% rapidly renewable resource. Pritzker Prize winning Austrian architect and AIA Gold Medalist Glenn Murcutt said “One of the few sustainable materials is timber”. In the production of our wood countertops we use wood from sustainably harvested forests with much of it certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This process is still in its infancy so not all lumber is certified due to complications in the procedures and storage of the lumber. We also offer reclaimed lumber which has been gathered from construction tear downs and  river beds.

 

Are you an architect or specifier? Would you like to learn more about the sustainability of wood? Here’s a great PDF resource from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Products Laboratory.

Many people ask us how durable are wood countertops are?  To answer this completely we need to include scratch resistance, impact resistance, stain resistance and water resistance. When you think about it, a kitchen countertop has to deal with a lot in an average day. Having a sink in the top adds to the potential issues.

Lets break this down and deal with the elements of the question individually.

Scratch Resistance Of Wood Countertops

Scratch resistance of a wood countertop is determined by a couple of things. If the wood is sealed with a sealer like the Monocoat, it’s only as scratch resistant as the wood itself. Because Monocoat is an oil finish that is absorbed by the wood it doesn’t have a “shell” that protects against scratching. It can, however, easily be re-oiled occasionally to maintain its water barrier.

If a topical sealer like conversion varnish or polyurethane is used the scratch resistance goes up significantly. Still not as resistant as stone, but if you do get a scratch it’s easy to repair with products like Howard Restor A Finish.

Impact Resistance Of Wood Countertops

Impact resistance is much the same as scratch resistance, in that a top sealed with a penetrating oil will only be as hard as the wood. You can find ratings on woods’ hardness here. Topical sealers will greatly improve this rating by penetrating the woods fibers, hardening and thus reinforcing the wood.

Stain & Water Resistance Of Wood Countertops

Stain and water resistance go hand in hand and are both dependent on the sealer used. The glue used also plays a role in water resistance.Topical sealers will always perform the best for this. Older topical sealers would occasionally peel, allow water rings to appear or, in some cases, completely smother the woods natural texture. New technology has solved those problems. At J. Aaron we use a high quality polyurethane that soaks deep into the wood’s fibers and literally becomes part of the wood. There is nothing that can make them peel, they will never be affected by water or any other common household liquid and do not smother the natural texture of the wood. There are some solvents you need to be careful of. Acetone which is present in fingernail polish remover, is one of these. Penetrating oils like tung-oil and Monocoat are great sealers as well, but don’t have quite the protective qualities as a good topical sealer. The Monocoat is superior to tung-oil. At J. Aaron we’re completely confident in it to provide a very good seal even on countertops with undermount sinks.

BIG PICTURE

Wood is not as hard as granite or quartz countertops. That’s part of its character. If you want your kitchen or bathroom countertop to look the same 5-10 years from now you do not want wood, or marble or stainless steel for that matter. Wood is unique in that blemishes form a patina. Like a leather chair, wood countertops gain character as they grow older. Time and use adds rather than subtracts from their overall appearance. Enjoy the process and don’t worry about small nicks and scratches.

No. We recommend using a trivet instead. You can damage the finish and/or the wood if the pan is too hot.

Yes. Our countertops are sealed to protect them against water damage. Check out our blog post on the subject here.

You may if your surface is sealed with mineral oil. Chopping and cutting food directly on a wood counter with other sealers isn’t recommended.

Yes. During different times of the year they will move or change dimension. This is a natural fact of solid wood. Remember that we are not talking about plywood, which makes up virtually all wood furniture. Plywood has a much reduced reactivity to climate change.

They can developed small cracks or checks. These are not considered defects as solid wood will do this naturally. They rarely become structural problems and if desired can easily be repaired by the home owner.

They can warp at times due to changes in the humidity levels. This is not a problem if you follow recommended installation directions.

No. There is no good evidence that wood harbors more bacteria than plastic. There is evidence that many woods actually kill bacteria. Have you visited a real butcher shop of late? Do you see the butcher cutting the choice pieces of meat on granite or stone? No, the butcher uses what his profession has used for centuries – wood – butcher block. And his health inspection certificate behind his counter verifies the ease of clean up and disinfecting.