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How To Maintain Timber Worktops

Wood is widely considered to be the greenest building material in the world. Solid timber represents a reliable, sturdy material that can last a long time without requiring excessive protection.

However, wood is a natural living material and, unlike man-made materials, it reacts to different environments in specific ways. This article will walk you through some basic maintenance instructions for solid wood worktops, island tops and butchers blocks. Following these directions will result in having a great looking, easy to maintain custom worktop that will last for many years.


Timber Worktops With A Mineral Oil Finish

The worktop must be oiled carefully on top, bottom and sides, giving special attention to the end-grain area, as this area of the wood is most likely to absorb humidity. Each cut or drill you make in the panel (either for size adjustment, sink cutout or other purposes) must also be oiled thoroughly.

Proterra mineral oil (Hesse, Germany) is a product that we recommend for kitchen tops applications given that it was specially designed to come in contact with foods. For situations where there is a great deal of humidity involved (eg. near sink) the mineral oil only will not assure the best protection and it is advisable to use polyurethane or any other similar product that cures, giving a solid protection layer instead.

With a soft brush, oil the wood generously on all sides or simply pour a small quantity of oil on the wood and then spread it with the brush. Let the wood soak the oil for about 20-30 minutes and then remove the excess with an absorbent paper towel or lint-free cloth. When the top is first installed, it is advisable to apply 2-3 successive coats of oil, after which, the oil can be applied once  or twice a year or whenever needed. Every time you sand the area to remove scratches or cut marks, at least one new coat of oil must applied.


In order to keep your wooden top clean, periodically scrape or brush away any food residues existing on its surface, wash with warm soapy water and dry it well using either a dry cloth or paper towels. Apply a new coat of oil any time needed. Alternatively, you can warm up a 1:4 combination of beeswax and mineral oil until the mixture becomes homogenized and then apply it uniformly on top’s surface, thus getting supplementary protection against both stains and humidity.

Avoid setting your wood top next to extreme heat sources like stoves unless there is appropriate insulation between the heat source and the top. Avoid spilling vinegar on a wood top having a mineral oil finishing, as it can cause cupping or cracking. Do not use corrosive chemicals or excessively harsh detergents on a wooden top with a mineral oil finish, as they can cause irreversible damage.


If properly installed, sealed and periodically oiled, there is no reason that your top won’t last a long for many years in the same good shape it was when new. Sometimes however, due to poor maintenance and improper environmental conditions, some problems might arise. If that happens here are a few tips that can help bring back your timber worktop to it’s former glory.

  • Cupping and warping
    Timber worktops are prone to cupping and warping whenever there is a significant difference of moisture or temperature between the topside and the bottom side of the panel. If possible, place the worktop on a flat, hard surface, concave side facing down. On the convex side, uniformly place some fairly heavy objects. It will take up to 12 hours until the worktop will straighten completely, after which, oil it abundantly on all sides.
    If it is not possible to manipulate the top, simply apply generously mineral oil on the concave side until the panels straightens. In this case, however, you might need to repeat this operation several times to obtain the desired result.
  • End splits
    The cut end of a timber worktop is prone to splitting whenever the panel is placed in an excessive dry environment without being properly sealed. To repair, mix wood sand with a small amount of water-based wood glue and fill the cracks thoroughly. Allow 15-20 minutes to cure, sand the area with a 120 grit sand paper and then oil the top freely.
  • Scratches, cut marks and food stains
    These be removed by sanding uniformly the affected area, brushing away the resulting sawdust and applying at least one new coat of mineral oil.

Timber Worktops With A Polyurethane Finish

A solid wood surface finished with polyurethane based finishing requires no maintenance at all. However, scratches, cut marks and other damages will be difficult to repair; therefore extra care is required.

If damage does occur the worktop will need to be sanded to remove the existing polyerethane finish before repairing and re-applying the recommended number of coats of polyurethane.

You may also like to take a look at some of these great resources.
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