May 28, 2014

The Wood Kitchen Countertop – Comparing the Different Types of Wood

I recently completed a renovation on my kitchen.  And by completed, I mean to the untrained eye, it looks complete, but for me, it will never truly be complete.  I’m always going to find something to modify or to make that much better.  But I digress and I’ll get to the point.  In my renovation, when I faced any decision related to counters and the floor, I found myself stuck.  I was overloaded with choices.  Since the renovation is, as I said, complete, I can tell you what my choices were.

It was mix.  The counters were both slate and hardwood, specifically black walnut, as I thought it paired nicely with the dark gray slate.  I didn’t go overboard, only installing wood on the kitchen island away from the more heavily used areas.  Arriving at walnut wasn’t an easy choice.  And in case you’re wondering, I went with a hardwood floor - oak.  Many people think wood in the kitchen is a bold choice.  Wood in the kitchen environment is going to be exposed to various temperatures, substances, and, of course, moisture.  That always concerns people.  But, it’s fine!

When faced with indecision, it’s good to have a breakdown of what’s available.  With wood, there are a number of options, with varying grains and colors, not to mention more ideal uses (some woods make better accents then counters, for instance).  Here’s what I looked at:

In most commercial grade products, the ash used is typically a lighter color, such as blond or light gold.  There are many other varieties, ranging from pale white to black, both those are less common.  It’s a resilient wood, but it can be bent and articulated when exposed to steam for a more diverse look beyond the squared edges or angles.

Birch has a similar blond color to ash.  It’s also known for having a sweeping or waving grain pattern, giving it a more unique and identifiable appearance.  If properly stained, birch wood can be made to resemble mahogany, which makes it a great alternative—if you’re a fan of mahogany and don’t want to pay the high mahogany price.

Cherry is a kitchen favorite due to the pink hues present in the grain.  The pinkish color can range from very subtle and understated to a vibrant, almost eye-popping hue.  When aged, cherry wood takes on a very deep red color and it can prove pricey for some consumers due to the very appealing red coloring, since it’s always high in demand.  While it works great for cabinets, it’s not as ideal for an edge-grain countertop or cutting board as it is slightly more susceptible to scoring.  It’s recommended as an accent wood rather than a primary work surface.

Known for is rich, deep red or reddish-brown color when matured, it also has a sweeping grain similar to birch, as mentioned.  The reddish variety is similar to cherry wood, but mahogany is harder than cherry, making it more ideal for use as a working surface.  The downside to mahogany, as you may already be aware, is the cost.  True mahogany (yes, there are varieties of wood that are referred to as mahogany that aren’t really mahogany, so be aware) is expensive, but it’s beautiful!

Typically found in a yellow or light blond variety, maple is a very hard, very durable wood that is ideal for many projects and uses.  In short, it can take a beating, so in a busy kitchen it will hold up to years of abuse and still look good.  Plus, it’s quite affordable.

Hugely popular, oak is slightly darker than maple and often a more pale blond.  Oak has a rich history, respected in Europe for thousands of years (there are even some living specimens over 1000 years old).  Oak has distinct and well-defined graining, plus it’s highly resilient and ideal for any kitchen environment.

Known for its deep and rich brown in color, walnut is similar to cherry wood in terms of its resilience.  While it’s a hardwood, it’s not nearly as hard as maple or oak, and because of that, it works better as an accent to harder woods, rather than being used independently.

Jonathon Ensor stays on top of the latest home design trends as a writer for Empire Today. He loves to search forunique furniture and decor from thrift stores and garage sales. If he can find something to put to good use, chances are he’s going to do just that!
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