Wood Countertops: The Pros and Cons

wood countertop
credit: butcherblockcountertops.com

Wood countertops add a natural, warm decorator touch to a kitchen remodel. However, you may be concerned (rightfully!) about how they’ll hold up to heat and moisture. Let’s take a close look at the pros and cons of wood countertops.

Grain Orientation

Orientation of the grain is one important consideration when ordering a wood countertop.

1. Face or Plank Grain

Face grain is most common orientation for decorative furniture and countertops. It is generally considered more decorative because it reveals the beauty of the board’s wood grain. To make a countertop, planks are glued so that the wide side creates the upper surface. One disadvantage of this grain orientation is that the wood can be more easily damaged.

2. Edge or Stave Grain

By standing the plank or board on its side, an edge grain countertop is made. Because the long, narrower edge of the board is revealed, the countertop’s design usually looks like rectangular puzzle pieces elegantly arranged for function and beauty. Edge grain is more durable than face grain but less so than end grain. One advantage of edge grain orientation is that it makes a good work surface.

3. End Grain

By orienting the cut end of boards up, smaller rectangles form the countertop surface. Butcher block countertops are made this way. End grain countertops are the most durable and withstand cutting and chopping operations, such as the natural functions of a kitchen.

A Summary of the Pros and Cons of Wood Countertops


  • These countertops present a warm, natural surface.
  • Wood may be a renewable, sustainable material -- if "green" practices are followed by the harvester or the wood is recycled.
  • Beautiful patterns and designs are available depending on the species of wood and its grain.
  • Stains and finishes can create a wider range of design choices. (For example, a checkerboard pattern can be chosen for a butcher block countertop).
  • Wood provides a solid work surface for food preparation, depending on grain orientation.

  • Wood countertops are great for kneading bread dough or rolling piecrust.
  • They won’t easily damage your dinnerware.
  • These countertops tend to look even more beautiful with age and use.


  • Wood countertops should be installed by a reliable professional to safeguard against swelling and warping due to moisture in the air.

  • Work surfaces require periodic maintenance with food-grade mineral oil or other wood treatment.

  • You must always protect the countertop with a cutting board when chopping ingredients.
  • Wood can be damaged by standing water if not properly maintained.
  • Vinegar, for example, if not removed promptly from an unprotected surface can degrade the adhesive between the boards.

  • Wood countertops will dent, scrape and chip more easily than other surfaces like stone, tile or laminate.

 Updated May 14, 2018.

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