1. Pick a style that suits you. Choose worktops to suit your kitchen and your personal tastes. Oak is and always will be a classic for wooden worktops. With its prominent grain pattern and warm feel, Oak is a must for traditional farmhouse style kitchens. For something bold yet beautiful, consider American Black Walnut. With its rich chocolate tones, American Black Walnut provides the perfect contrast to light units. Take a look at Maple for any kitchen where light is an issue. Pale and creamy but with a very pretty grain structure. Maple sands to a super smooth finish, readily reflecting every drop of light back from its surface.
2. Invest in quality. There are worktops to suit all budgets, from wide block style to full planked super stave, but it's worth remembering the old adage 'The quality remains long after the price is forgotten'. What seems cheap at the time may well be a false economy. If properly cared for, good quality wooden worktops will last a lifetime, and may even add value to your home should you come to sell.
3. Preparation is key. Wooden worktops require sealing before they can be used. The recommended treatment is worktop oil, such as Danish Oil or Finishing Oil. This creates a water resistant barrier on your worktops. If you are applying this yourself, it really is worth taking the time to do this thoroughly - it is the single best thing you can do for your worktops. Poor treatment now will only result in problems a few months down the line, do it well and the longevity of your worktops will be assured.4. A perfect fit. Before fitting wooden worktops ensure that any plastering which may have taken place is thoroughly dry and make sure the worktops have had plenty oil on all sides. When fixing the worktops to your kitchen units ensure a good number of fixing points, at least one on each corner. Use slotted expansion brackets to allow for small expansions and contractions with your wooden worktops.
5. Feed your worktops. As a guide, re-oil your worktops every six months or so. However, there is no 'correct' time period in which you must re-oil, just do it when your worktops are starting to lose their luster. A good test to tell if your worktops are losing their water resistant finish is when water stops 'beading' on the surface.
6. Treat your worktops with respect. Wooden worktops are pretty tough - a hot mug, for example, will do no damage at all, however, a little bit of care is needed when it comes to chopping and anything 'straight from the oven'. Hod rods are an option when dealing with hot pans. These are metal rods that sit in specially shaped grooves to act as a trivet. Hot rods can be easily lifted out of their grooves to allow for cleaning. The downside to hot rods is that their position is fixed. Another option is to use a wooden end grain chopping board. End grain is incredibly durable - it makes a great chopping surface that won't dull your knives. End grain also resists heat very well, so works great as a trivet for hot pans.
7. Gentle cleaning. A wooden worktop with an oiled finish is very easy to clean. Hot, soapy water is all that is needed. Wipe dry with a tea towel or cloth. Avoid any harsh abrasive cleaners or anything containing bleach.
8. Water water everywhere... A properly oiled surface on a wooden worktops will repel water just like a rain coat. Splashes and spills on an oiled wooden worktop are absolutely fine - just don't leave them there for hours on end. Under-mounted sinks are fine for wooden worktops. You can even have drainage grooves cut directly into your worktop - specially sloped to allow water to freely flow into the sink. A well oiled wooden worktop is water resistant but not waterproof - wipe up any pools of water as soon as you can to avoid any problems.
9. DIY repairs. Timber is a natural product and over time may be prone to slight movement. Small cracks may appear but these are nothing to worry about. They can be easily filled using hard wax fillers. Hard wax is available in many shades to suit different wooden worktops. The wax can be applied directly to the affected area by gently rubbing against the grain of the wood. You can also melt different shades of wax together to match the colour tone required, before applying. After this, gently rub the filled area back using either wire wool or sandpaper, or a combination of both, whichever suits best, and then re-oil the affected area.
10. Disaster recovery. If the worst happens and your wooden worktop become very badly scratched, dented or marked, they are very forgiving! One of the benefits of solid wooden worktops is they can be completely sanded down to bare wood removing any surface scratches and marks. Re-oil with a good quality worktop oil and your worktops will be good as new.
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