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The kind of wood and its grains and finishes are what make for different kinds of wood countertops. The type of finish determines whether the wood countertop serves a functional or decorative purpose. Some finishes require replacement after a period of time and cannot withstand exposure to moisture. Environmentally-conscious individuals can consider recycled wood or countertop materials obtained from certified sustainable forests.
For durability and performance, consumers generally choose lumber from fruit or nut-bearing trees. Cherry, oak and walnut are some of the harder woods, having greater resistance to dents or scratches. Cone-bearing trees, like pine and redwood, produce softer wood that provide more of a decorative effect but may not stand up to normal daily use.
Designing a specific décor is not difficult since manufacturers make wood countertops in a variety of woods that complement floorings and furnishings. Lumber comes in a wide range of colors — from the off-white of pine to the dark, rich browns of walnuts and black oak. If redesigning a kitchen is a do-it-yourself project, consumers might consider staining a wood countertop to match a specific color scheme.
Manufacturers typically create wood countertops by joining planks of wood. The wood grain varies between the kind of wood and the way the lumber was cut. The most common means of creating a wood countertop is to arrange wood planks side by side. A butcher-block effect is achieved by placing planks on their sides, one next to each other. Achieving a close, highly-grained parquet effect comes from stacking and cutting lumber in such a way that the ends of the boards face upward.
Oils, waxes and oil-based polyurethanes are some of the typical finishes used on a wood countertop. An oiled wood finish usually requires additional oil applications every couple of months and is not the best at water resistance. Over time, oil and wax finishes will become scuffed, requiring sanding and refinishing. Though polyurethane finishes have the most moisture resistance, these coatings may not provide enough protection around sink areas. Finishes and adhesives exposed to acidic foods may also deteriorate.
Consumers should weigh the pros and cons of wood countertops before arriving at a final decision. Wood countertops are generally less expensive than products made from natural stone. A wood countertop may also be an easier home improvement project, especially when manufactured in sections. Wood naturally contracts and expands, and if not installed properly, countertops may incur damage or warping. Placing hot items on wood countertops or improperly insulating around cooktop stoves may also produce damage and warping.