Keep your timber work surfaces in top condition with these expert tips for choosing and caring for them
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Planning to install some wooden worktops in your kitchen? Whether you’re going for oak, walnut or another timber, the natural surfaces will add a beautiful warmth to your cookspace. However, they do require some extra care in order to keep them in good condition. Take a look at this expert advice to find out how best to maintain them.
Expert advice from: Pia Rosling of Sola Kitchens; Helen Munro of Finch London
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Be aware wood needs care
Before you install a wooden worktop, it’s important to accept it will need looking after. “Wooden worktops are beautiful, but they do take a little bit of extra care, so be honest with yourself,” Helen Munro advises.
Pia Rosling agrees, saying, “Solid wood is a natural product and it will require some maintenance and care for it to last well and continue to look beautiful.”
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Allow for movement
Be careful when you measure your wooden worktop, as there’s a chance its size could alter slightly. Pia explains, “Since wood is a living product, it will react to the moisture level in a house, and will naturally contract and expand when the temperature and humidity in the room change. This means the size of a solid wood worktop can shift 3 to 5mm in a standard depth of 60cm.
“This is an important consideration when deciding sizes for worktops,” she says. “You should avoid a completely flush finish with no overhang, because when the wood contracts, the top of the cabinet could become visible.”
“The key to a long worktop life is the initial preparation and oiling,” Helen says. “We like to use a Danish oil, as this can continually be added to without changing the final finish. If this process is completed correctly, it will save you a lot of refinishing in the future.
“Your worktop should be sanded to create a lovely smooth finish and then oiled until you build up a good patina on its surface,” she says. “Lots of light coats work better than thick coats, as this allows the oil to dry and soak into the timber. The oil not only brings out the rich tones of the wood, but will help to build up a resistance to water and stains.”
Pia adds, “Wooden worktops can be oiled, varnished or soaped by the manufacturer, and each finish requires a different treatment after installation. We often recommend oiled worktops because they can be maintained easily.
“When buying an oiled worktop,” she adds, “it should be pre-treated at the factory with neutral vegetable oil.”
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Keep it oiled
“The worktop should be treated two or three times a year, or as needed,” Pia says. “Be careful when disposing of the oily cloth, since some oils can cause the cloth to self-combust if not properly cleaned. Always follow the instructions provided.”
Helen recommends oiling your wooden worktop even more frequently during the first year. “At first you could oil it after a couple of weeks, then a month, then three months, then every six months. If it’s looking good, maybe leave it a little longer, but as soon as you see it’s a bit dry or worn in places, then it’s time to get that oil out.
“It’s best to do it at night,” she adds. “Take everything off the worktop, apply the oil with a soft, lint-free cloth and by the morning it’ll be dry and ready to use.”
Stick to simple cleaning
Cleaning your wooden worktop is easy, according to our experts. “Just soapy water and wipe it dry,” says Helen. “Try to prevent water sitting on its surface wherever possible.”
Pia advises you be gentle. “Don’t use abrasive cleaning agents, scouring pads or concentrated soaps and detergents, because this can damage the wood,” she says.
Remove stains and scratches
If you scratch or stain your wooden worktop, don’t fret. “Small scratches and marks can usually be removed successfully with light sanding and polishing,” Pia says. “All good suppliers of wood worktops will provide a maintenance kit with sandpaper, polishing pads and maintenance oil.”
Helen agrees. “The great thing about wood is that, even if it’s heavily worn, it can normally be sanded back to its original state and refinished.”
Protect the sink area
“The sink is the area that needs the most care,” Helen says. “However, if you’ve oiled it a lot at the beginning, and at regular intervals afterwards, it shouldn’t be a problem. We would recommend the underside of the sink is well sealed around the basin to prevent water getting in below.”
Pia reiterates these points and adds, “If you’re not having a different material around the sink area, you have to be very careful about wiping away water as soon as the sink’s been used. Also re-oil the area around the sink more frequently than in other areas of the kitchen.”
Are you planning to install wooden worktops in your kitchen, or have you had them for a while? Share your tips and tricks for keeping them in good condition in the Comments section.