Types of Wood Worktops
There are several types of wood worktops. Different trees produce varying wood in terms of the grain, the colour, the ability to hold moisture and the ease of cutting and shaping. Some wood is dense and heavy. This may include mahogany. Wood used for kitchen worktops costs different amounts based on the cost to obtain i.e. rarity rather than its quality (although this can have an impact too).
Wood used in the kitchen should always be treated. Wood naturally is a porous material and there are treatments, including specialised oils that will keep the wood looking at its best for years.
Nothing looks better than a natural high quality surface. We think marble and solid wood are two of the most prestigious options. Obviously, once you have selected the ideal product, you want to fit it and maintain it correctly. See our other articles for advice on the best tools for kitchen worktops, the best worktop oil and ways to be the greatest DIY guru!
We will discuss each type of solid wood commonly used for kitchen worktops that are supplied in the UK. The list is in alphabetical order, rather than any order in terms of best quality or popularity. See the detailed page for each type (links under each subheading) for further information.
Ash Solid Wood Worktops
Ash is a great wood and one that is very popular in homes around the world. Ash is a popular species of tree in the UK and many worktops are created with staves of wood sourced from UK forestry. A stave is the slat of wood that is carved from the original natural resource. Ash is a lovely colour and when oiled produces a superb kitchen surface that can last many years. Ash has a light natural colour with a tight grain. The grain makes this very strong and resistant to bashes and knocks that can cause indents in softer wood. Ash is also a very splinter resistant wood. Although splinters are not an issue with most planed worktop surfaces, if the worst was to happen and a gouge was taken out of your worktop after a sharp and heavy object was dropped on it, ash would be a wood that resisted further splintering and wear. Although wood cannot be repaired per se, fillers can be used if damage occurs and there are many talented individuals that can repair wood almost invisibly.
Ash is used in many ways, often in handles of tools such as garden implements, hammers and axes, and in sports equipment including hockey sticks and rounders bats.
Bamboo is a very fashionable wood and bamboo solid wood worktops would look great in any home that has a modern or oriental themed feel. Bamboo can be used to create a hard wearing worktop. Bamboo is actually not a wood, it is a type of grass. The staves that are joined to form a bamboo kitchen surface are often narrower that those used with types of hardwood such as oak, ash and wenge.
Bamboo worktops tend to be a lighter colour than others, but are often stained with beautiful deep caramel coloured oils.
Beech Solid Wood
Beech is one of the most popular woods in the UK. Beech is used for furniture throughout the home. One of the uses is in marine applications. The fact that this type of wood is used for boat building clearly demonstrates its properties and how it is a very suitable natural material for kitchen worktops. Beech is hard wearing and can withstand the moisture in a kitchen, especially when treated with a high quality worktop oil. Oils help top preserve wood worktops as well as enhance the natural colour and patterning of the wood. Beech has a light colour, very similar to oak but with a slightly lighter appearance and often a tighter grain with fewer knots. Therefore, it is often picked by those looking for a very classic finish without a huge amount of rustic charm.
Beech is used for chopping boards and wooden bowls. This is because it can be treated to withstand abrasion and always look good. Beech tends to retain less water than some other woods, which is why it can be used in marine applications and for culinary products. Woods capability for being used in damp environments though usually is at least partially due to the treatments and coatings used. When used in a kitchen environment (either for worktops or culinary products such as wooden bowls), treatments and coatings must be safe and essentially non-toxic.
Iroko Wood Worktops
Iroko wood worktops are very popular too. Iroko is also known as the African teak. Teak is usually associated with furniture including sideboards and rustic kitchen tables. Reclaimed teak is often used because it provides a rustic finish that is very in fashion as well as a sensible choice in terms of longevity. Unlike what we usually associate with teak, the African teak (Iroko) is particular suited to kitchen worktops. Iroko worktops are often excellent value, especially considering their exclusivity and the naturally hard wearing nature of the timber used.
Teak can be very costly, but iroko produces a similar finish in a more cost effective way. Iroko is grown in Africa as well as some other regions. Iroko is a large tree and one tree can produce a lot of timber to be used in kitchen worktops and other applications.
The Latin name for Iroko is Chlorophora excelsa. The colour is darker than beech, bamboo, ash and oak. Iroko does look very similar to teak. In the UK teak has historically not been as popular as it has in other parts of the world such as the US. Iroko (and teak) has a straighter and closer grain than oak. Iroko makes great types of wood worktops as well as matching floors and furniture. In West Africa, Iroko has been used in boat building for generations.
Solid Oak Kitchen Worktops
Oak is one of the first species of tree that anyone thinks of in the UK. Oak has been used in domestic applications for thousands of years – from flooring to furniture and general construction. Oak has a great look that when treated with darker oils really produces a rustic look that is timeless, elegant and classy. Oak looks great in every environment. There are several hundred species of oak. Oak trees grown mainly in the northern hemisphere and the are many species that can be found in the UK. This is why no two oak products look the same. Oaks Latin name is Quercus robur. Oak generally has a wider grain with distinguishable knots. Oak is a strong, durable, dense and heavy wood. Not only does the species of the tree and the region it is grown lead to differing colours and textures, but also the part of the tree that the wood is taken from. Branches produce wood that looks different to the trunk and the trunk itself produces several appearances depending in whether it is the inner or outer part, or the lower or upper part.
The staves of oak worktops vary in with. The wider stave worktops often being the most preferable because of their resistance to warping or splitting. Oak is a versatile wood and looks great with any other surface. Oak suites the most modern of styles through to the most traditional.
Mahogany is a very heavy and strong wood. This is usually an expensive wood because the trees are not as abundant as other species and do not grow as tall or ask quickly. Mahogany is a darker wood than beech or oak and tens to have a straight and relatively close grain. Due to its strength, mahogany is used in wood products that take impact. Due to its grain and beauty, mahogany has been used for luxury pieces of furniture. Mahogany veneers are frequently used to add a high class finish to products made from less sought after hardwoods. Mahogany is a very classy type of wood worktop that suits kitchens with a contemporary feel or those requiring a stark contrast to a modern and minimal background. Most mahogany worktops use staves joined together with a special glue. The wider each stave (the few pieces of mahogany in each length of worktop) the better the quality can be. Always stain mahogany with a good quality, dark colour oil. With a good quality oil and general maintenance, these countertop surfaces can last a lifetime.
We hope that you have found this overview of the types of wood worktops available in the UK useful and have found the most suitable tools to fit your future kitchen (or the details of the best professionals if you do not fancy doing the work yourself). As with any project, ensure that everything is safe. Always use registered, insured and rated professionals for the essentials such as plumbing, drainage, electricity and any other type of energy (including solid fuels) used in your kitchen.
Walnut is a very traditional wood that is associated with prestigious furniture, just like mahogany. Walnut is a very dense wood with beautiful patterns created by its tight grains. Walnut is heavy and often is added as inlays into other types of wood. A walnut worktop usually costs more than more commonly available woods such as oak and beech. Do not let this put you off. When the cost of a worktop is broken down over its lifespan, the extra outlay for your preference can definitely be worth it.
Walnut trees grow in most parts of Europe and several areas in Asia (mainly Japan).
Walnut is a darker wood than most others and worktops made from this type of timber tend to look great against contrasting light surfaces or jet black polished surfaces (just our opinion).
Many retailers sell American black walnut worktops, which as a very dark colour.
Wenge Solid Wood Worktops
What is wenge? This is a question we are often asked. Wenge is a superb wood that will look great in almost any kitchen. Not as popular as the likes of oak, but this exclusivity enhances its appeal as far as we are concerned. Wenge is a naturally dark wood. This can be enhanced with the use of oils.
Wenge is a hardwood that is mainly found in central Africa. There it has been used for centuries to make tools and musical instruments.
Wenge has a straight grain, which has very dark (almost black) lines. Due to this darkness wenge can often be found as veneer inside and outside pieces of furniture.
There are many types of wood worktops from oak to mahogany. These are available in several common sizes. No matter which wood you choose (or grass in the case of bamboo), you must always make sure that the wood is treated with culinary-safe oils and maintained correctly. Although some woods are naturally more durable than others, the ultimate way to keep your worktops looking better for longer is with the correct care and maintenance. With professional refinishing, a quality solid wood worktop can literally last a lifetime.