Wooden Countertops: Decorative or Functional?

Perhaps you’re tired of the granite counters that seem so common in kitchens nowadays.

Or maybe you never liked them to begin with.

Wood Countertops

One option that may be better suited for you is wooden countertops. These are warmer to the touch, can be as deep or light colored as you wish and can even be eco friendly depending on the wood you choose.

However, special considerations need to be made when it comes to wood countertops.

First of all, you must decide whether your wood countertops will be more decorative rather than functional.

A more functional countertop where you plan to do a lot of chopping and food preparation will require more of a butcher block type wood than a countertop that is more for decoration or light kitchen use.

Three Types of Grain

You need to think about your needs prior to choosing the type of wood for your countertops. First of all, you need to consider the kind of grain you want. There are three to choose from:

Face Grain, where boards are side by side. This type of wood grain is more decorative because it is not hardy as the others. It is softer and not as resistant to dents.
Edge Grain, where boards are on their side. This kind of wood grain can be used on countertops that you use more.
End Grain, where boards are upright. This kind of wood grain is perfect for butcher blocks.


Next, you want to consider the hardness of the wood. Pine wood is rather soft compared to red oak, which is much harder.


The kind of finish you choose depends on what kind of use and maintenance you prefer for your countertops. Some are temporary and you have to regularly reapply them. Others are permanent.

Here are among the most common ones:

  • Mineral oil or tung oil – Temporary
  • Wax, beeswax, or a combination of oil and wax – Temporary
  • Polyurethane or similar permanent finish – Permanent

Consider How You Will Use Your Countertop

Wood countertops that will serve as food preparation areas typically have a non-toxic oil like mineral oil or tung oil to help protect the surface and keep it from drying out or crackling.

Mineral oil provides protection but doesn’t offer much protection from the water. Tung oil offers more resistance to water and moisture.

Finally, a polyurethane finish is usually a permanent coating that doesn’t require periodic reapplication. This type of finish is usually used on more decorative countertops.

As for the type of wood, you have a nearly limitless range of woods to choose from. We’ll talk about some options in our next post.

Photo: FloFlorm Countertops

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