Wood Countertops: What to Know Before You Buy


Wood countertops can add natural warmth and beauty to any kitchen. With the right information, wood can be a gorgeous, functional, and budget-friendly choice for countertops. This article will provide an in-depth look at the pros, cons, costs, maintenance, and installation considerations of wood kitchen countertops. Read on to learn everything you need to know before choosing wood for your next kitchen remodel.

Types of Wood Countertops

There are several types of wood species commonly used for kitchen countertops. The wood type determines the color, grain pattern, hardness, and overall look of the countertop.

Butcher Block

Butcher block countertops are traditionally made from hard maple wood glued together in strips. Butcher block has a classic, straight-grained pattern. It stains and finishes well. Butcher block can be prone to scratches and dents from knives and needs periodic sanding and resealing.


Bamboo has a similar look to butcher block but is an environmentally friendly alternative. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that is harvested and processed into boards. It has good hardness and durability. Bamboo has a contemporary, linear grain pattern.


Walnut is a luxury wood prized for its rich, chocolate brown color and flowing grain pattern. It stains beautifully and adds a modern, upscale look. Walnut is softer than maple and more prone to scratches and dents.


Cherry has a distinctive reddish-brown hue. It has a fine, smooth grain that stains well. Cherry falls between maple and walnut in hardness. It resists scratches better than softer woods.


Hard maple is very dense and durable. It has a light tan color and subtle grain variation. Maple is the most scratch-resistant and lowest maintenance wood for countertops. It accepts stains evenly for varied looks.


Red oak has an open, porous grain pattern. It has a lighter appearance than walnut but stains to a medium brown. Oak is prone to absorbing stains, requiring extra prep and sealing. White oak has a tighter grain and resists stains better.


Teak has a coarse, uneven grain with appealing natural variations. It has a golden brown color. Teak contains natural oils that make it very durable and water-resistant. It’s a unique, exotic choice for countertops.

The Pros of Wood Countertops

There are many benefits that make wood a smart choice for kitchen countertops:

Natural beauty – The rich grains, knots, and color variations of wood create unique, eye-catching countertops. No two wood slabs are exactly alike.

Warmth – Wood adds a welcome natural element to kitchens dominated by cold, hard surfaces. The soft texture and satin sheen create a warmer, more inviting look.

Durability – Dense hardwoods like maple and walnut stand up well to heavy daily use. Proper care and maintenance allows wood to last for decades.

Easy repairs – Minor dents, stains, and scratches can be sanded out and refinished on site. Damaged areas can be replaced with custom wood plugs for invisible repairs.

Affordability – Wood is an affordable countertop choice, especially compared to natural stone. Costs vary by wood species from $50-150 per square foot installed.

Eco-friendly – Many wood species are harvested from sustainable forests. Wood is biodegradable and renewable. Using reclaimed wood has environmental benefits.

Easy installation – Wood slabs just need gluing to the substrate. No special tools or skills are required. Homeowners can often DIY wood countertop installation.

Choosing wood countertops means enjoying the one-of-a-kind beauty of a natural material at an affordable price point.

The Cons of Wood Countertops

While wood has many positives as a countertop material, it also comes with a few drawbacks to consider:

Prone to stains – Woods with open grains like oak absorb liquids easily, leading to discoloration. Diligent sealing is required, especially with darker liquids like wine.

Easily scratched – Knives and other sharp objects can dent and scratch softer woods. Using cutting boards is a must. Harder maple is the most scratch-resistant species.

Not heatproof – Hot pans and baking sheets can scorch and burn wood. Using trivets and hot pads is important to prevent damage.

Sealing required – To prevent stains and water damage, wood counters need 2-3 coats of sealant initially and reapplication every 1-2 years.

Not seamless – Wood slabs meet at seams that have small gaps and height variations. Good installation minimizes, but doesn’t eliminate, seams.

Spot repairs noticeable – While scratches can be sanded and resealed, repairs stand out against the aged finish surrounding boards.

Needs maintenance – Wood requires oiling or waxing every few weeks to maintain its luster and water resistance. It needs more regular upkeep than other materials.

Not for wet areas – Wood can warp or deteriorate near sinks or dishwashers. Other materials like quartz or laminate work better for wet countertop sections.

Understanding wood’s vulnerabilities to water, heat, and impacts means taking proper care to preserve beauty.

Cost of Wood Kitchen Countertops

The cost of wood countertops depends on the type of wood, edge details, and installation. Prices typically range:

  • Butcher block (maple): $50-100 per square foot
  • Walnut: $100-200 per square foot
  • Exotic woods (teak): $200-500 per square foot

Butcher block is one of the most economical options. Walnut costs more but remains affordable. Exotic woods like teak carry luxury price tags.

Bamboo costs about $100 per square foot, on par with a mid-range hardwood. Durability comes at a slight premium.

Custom edges, inlays, intricate patterns, and special joinery add to the overall project cost. Simple squared-off edges keep prices lower.

Professional installation generally adds $10-20 per square foot. DIY installation saves significantly on labor costs.

The total cost for a 10×5 foot wood countertop, for example, averages $1,500-4,000 with installation. Ongoing sealing and maintenance adds periodic expenses.

Maintenance and Care for Wood Countertops

Caring for wood countertops is essential to preserve their beauty and function. Recommended care includes:

Sealing initially – Apply 2-3 coats of sealing oil or varnish when installed. Penetrating oil works best for an natural look that allows the wood to breathe.

Oiling frequently – Coat with mineral oil, beeswax, or butcher block oil every 2-4 weeks to maintain the protective barrier.

Sanding as needed – Lightly sand surfaces if scratches or stains occur, then reapply oil/wax to repaired areas.

Using cutting boards – Always use boards for food prep and hot items from the oven to prevent direct damage.

Cleaning spills quickly – Wipe up moisture and liquids immediately to limit absorption and staining.

Avoiding harsh cleaners – Prevent discoloration by using mild soap and water versus abrasive cleansers.

** Checking for warping** – Ensure wood near sinks or dishwashers isn’t cupping or showing excess moisture damage.

Resealing annually – Add a fresh seal coat each year to ensure ongoing water resistance and durability.

With proper first-day sealing and ongoing oiling, sanding, and cleaning, wood countertops can stay looking like new for years.

Installation Tips for Wood Countertops

Installing wood countertops involves careful planning, precision cutting, and expert joins:

Allow countertops to acclimate – Let wood slabs sit in the installation environment for 1-2 weeks to prevent shrinking or buckling.

Measure precisely – Take meticulous measurements and make templates to ensure tight seams where countertops meet walls, sinks, and appliances.

Cut cleanly – Use a circular saw with fine-tooth blade for smooth, perfect cuts that join seamlessly. Make edge cuts slowly to prevent tearing.

Create support structure – Build a secure, level base of 3/4″ plywood on the cabinets to anchor the countertops.

Attach countertops – Use construction adhesive and screws from underneath to affix countertops to the base securely without surface holes.

Fill seams – Match wood putty to the countertop color for nearly invisible seam-filling between slabs. Sand smooth when dry.

Finish edges – Router, sand, or ease edges and corners for a finished look that won’t snag hands. Apply edge banding as desired.

Seal thoroughly – Fully saturate all surfaces, edges, and seams with 3 coats of sealant like varnish or beeswax to repel moisture.

With careful planning and execution, you can DIY your wood countertop installation and end up with seamless, beautiful results. Consider hiring a pro if you lack the tools, skills, or time.


How durable are wood countertops compared to other materials?

Wood can’t match the durability of natural stone or quartz but is comparable to other common options. Hard maple counters stand up to heavy use when properly maintained. Avoid soft woods like pine that dent too easily. Stick with dense woods for best longevity.

Do wood countertops add resale value like granite?

Wood won’t increase value like high-end stone, but also won’t decrease it. Many buyers appreciate the warmth and character of wood. Opt for timeless hardwoods like oak or walnut which appeal to most buyers rather than a trendy bamboo look.

Can you cut directly on wood countertops?

Never cut or chop directly on a wood countertop. Always use a cutting board to protect the surface from knife marks. Wood is softer than stone and will show immediate damage from sharp blades.

How do you clean wood kitchen countertops?

Use a mild dish soap and warm water to gently clean wood counters. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scouring pads that can scratch. Vinegar and water works to kill bacteria naturally. Immediately dry any moisture to prevent swelling.

Do wood countertops need to be sealed?

Sealing wood counters is mandatory to prevent staining, odor absorption, bacteria, and moisture damage. Apply 2-3 coats of food-safe sealant like beeswax or mineral oil when installed. Reapply every 1-2 years for longevity.

Can you install wood countertops yourself?

With basic skills, you can DIY wood countertop installation and save significantly on labor costs. Use plywood reinforced cabinets, allow for overhang, build a support base, join slabs seamlessly, and seal thoroughly. Consider hiring a pro if you lack experience.


Wood countertops add natural charm to any kitchen. Choosing a durable, low-maintenance wood species is key. Allowing for required sealing and oiling ensures lasting beauty. With proper care, wood rivals other countertop materials in beauty, function, and cost. Understanding both the aesthetic appeal and practical considerations allows for smart selection of wood kitchen countertops.