Are Wood Countertops Worth It? Explore Their Pros and Cons

Kitchen with wood countertops, white cabinetry and farmhouse sink

When you’re considering renovating your kitchen, choosing the right countertops can transform the space. You have plenty of options to choose from too! The first thing to decide is what kind of material suits your kitchen best. For a touch of warmth or to appeal to rustic decor preferences.

Aside from appearances, though, it’s important to consider all the pros and cons that wood countertops have to offer. Here, we’ll break down everything that you need to know about these counters when considering renovations. [toc]

Key Takeaways: Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Beautiful countertop material Sensitive to heat
Many options to choose from Temperatures extremes can damage its surface
Eco-friendly Sensitive to moisture
Long lasting Requires extra care
Naturally antibacterial  
Affordable countertop  


Kitchen with light gray blue cabinets and wooden grained surfaces

Beautiful countertop material – First, let’s take a look at some of the benefits that these counters can bring to your home. Obviously, aesthetic beauty is usually among the first ones mentioned.

Many options to choose from – Given that you have plenty of types and grain patterns to choose from, you’ll rarely run out of options. This means it can fit a variety of design schemes from rustic to luxury.

Eco-friendly – Since this material is a renewable resource and takes less energy to produce than quartz or granite countertops its a great option as an eco-friendly choice. You can even find reclaimed wood countertops made from repurposed wood for a one of a kind design.

Long lasting – On top of that, this material lasts a long time. When a wood counter is properly taken care of, it can last quite a while. The ability to sand and resurface your countertops helps stave off a replacement as well.

Naturally antibacterial – It is also a great choice since it doesn’t grow and retain bacteria as much since it tends to absorb water. So, it’s a hygienic choice as well.

Affordable countertop – Perhaps best of all, wood falls on the more affordable side of things when it comes to countertop materials. We’ll take a deeper look at specific costs later on. Since it’s easy to install as well, you can even consider a DIY installation if you want to try something yourself or save a little further. 


Kitchen with rich plank countertops, white recessed cabinets, square backsplash and wood lined open shelving

Just like any other decision about renovations, not everything is positive. To make sure you know everything you need to about these, let’s take a moment to consider the cons.

Sensitive to heat – In the kitchen especially, you’ll need to be careful with the heat sensitivities of this material. For example, if you put a hot pot down on this counter, you’re likely to singe it. For higher use areas you may want to consider butcher block countertops made from strips of wood bonded together.

Temperatures extremes can damage wood surfaces – On top of that, extremely low temperatures can damage the material as well. This means that extreme climates can be particularly unfortunate for these counters as well, including severe humidity and incredibly dry air.

Sensitive to moisture – You’ll also want to be careful when it comes to moisture. We’ll take a look at the exact effects of moisture later on. In all, wood has a few caveats to its durability that we’ll delve more into in a moment.

Requires extra care – When cleaning this material, you also have to be careful what cleaners you use. Not every household cleaner is safe for use on wood. Luckily, you can use homemade solutions including vinegar as well as find wood-friendly cleaners to help reduce this con.


Modern kitchen with green cabinets, wood waterfall countertops and stone tile floors

We’ve mentioned that these counters can last you quite a while. Generally, if you take care of them, your new countertops should last you the next decade or two. Unfortunately, that comes with some footnotes.

While wood is durable, it’s easily damaged if you aren’t careful. For example, it is easy to dent, scratch, or nick since it’s a soft material. What makes this worse is that these scratches and dings can harbor bacteria in a way that unblemished wood usually doesn’t. The good news is that you can treat these spots for a better, safer countertop.

Another concept that we already mentioned is that this material, naturally, burns easily. This can cause a problem if you put your pots and pans directly on the countertop, especially compared to materials like stone.

You can avoid this by not placing hot objects directly on the surface, using a pot holder or rack to create a barrier between the hot item and the counter.


Contemporary shaker cabinet kitchen with wood surface island and pendant lighting

You might not give much thought to the construction process before this material arrives at your home. When considering these counters, on the other hand, you’ll want to pay attention to the construction of the specific type you’re considering buying.

Specifically, you’ll want to ask the company or manufacturer that you’re buying the wood from how the material is joined together. There are a few different ways to do this.

The cheapest option is also the weakest. These are called finger-jointed tops and they aren’t usually desired because these joints are sometimes visible.

This is a particular problem when it comes to areas where the counter features a cut out like the one for the sink. For a better, more durable option, you’ll want to invest a little extra in full-length strips over finger-joint tops.

Moisture and Wood Countertops

Kitchen with wood grain countertops island white raised panel cabinets and mosaic backsplash

Another complaint against these counters is that they aren’t naturally resistant to moisture. As mentioned earlier, wood is apt to soak up as much water as possible when there’s a spill or splash. While this helps antibacterial properties, it also leaves the material open to water damage.

The most common results of water damage to are discoloration spots. This could come in the form of a spilled drink that soaked into the material, leaving a dark spot or those pesky rings you get when you forget to use a coaster.

The best way to avoid this is to try to make sure you keep your eye on any moisture that falls on your counter. In all likelihood, splashing a glass of water and immediately wiping it up isn’t quite as harmful as forgetting a damp cloth on the counter all afternoon. Put another way, while you need to watch out for water damage, you don’t need to live in fear of it either.

Wood Maintenance

The best way to protect these counters and reduce damage to them is to add a finish. You can use a clear finish if you don’t want to cover the original coloring or grain pattern.

You can use mineral oil finishes if you want something undetectable but you’ll need to reapply them every month compared to the much less frequent option of a food-safe finish made with tung oil. You’d only need to reapply this finish every six months, so only twice a year.

It’s a good idea to reduce the harmful elements introduced directly to your these countertops too. As an example, use a cutting board to cut anything and avoid items of extreme temperatures sitting directly on your counter.

When it comes to giving beat-up wooden surfaces some TLC, few solutions work as well as old faithful home ingredients and methods. As “Forever Joint Tops” recommends, lemon juice’s acidic properties allow it to break down and eliminate many stubborn wood surface stains.

Simply apply fresh lemon juice to the damaged area, let it soak for 5-10 minutes, then wipe clean with a soft cloth for a revitalizing effect. For more pronounced scratches, dings and signs of wear, sanding with 120-grit sandpaper can work wonders.

Always sand along the wood’s grain, applying moderate pressure, to smoothly restore the surface and blend any problem spots. With this simple two-step process of targeted staining and sanding, even well-worn wooden treasures can regain their former glory.


Staining can enhance the natural beauty of a wood countertop, bringing out the depth of color and grain patterns, according to Sarah Stebbins of This Old House. However, expect to pay 5-10% more for a pre-stained top versus natural wood. A more budget-friendly approach is opting for an inexpensive pale wood species like beech then applying a rich walnut or other darker stain yourself.

To DIY, first sand the surface smooth and wipe clean. Use a lint-free cloth or natural bristle brush to apply stain, then wipe away excess. Once fully dried, add two to three coats of a food-safe clear finish for protection. But note that stained butcher block should never be used directly as a cutting surface even with a finish coat, as it obscures micro scratches that can harbor bacteria over time.

Cost White kitchen with light wood slab and tile with white grout backsplash

As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest benefits of these counters is that they’re one of the more affordable options for countertop materials. Yet, when you’re considering the budget for your project, you need to know a more detailed breakdown of pricing.

As a general rule, if you want to purchase the materials for these countertops and hire an expert to install the countertops, you can expect to spend $60 to $100 per square foot of countertop installed. Of course, taking this on as a DIY project can save you some of this cost.

Yet, there are a few concepts that affect this price range such as the type you use, whether it’s decorated, how intricate the details are, whether the material is local or imported and more.

You’ll also have the option between the more expensive solid wood or, if you want to save some money, an option with a wood-topped counter. These are usually made with a top layer of wood and a particleboard core. 

Eco-Friendly Countertops

More and more now, home owners are increasingly concerned about how their decisions affect the world around them. Because of this, it’s a good idea to consider whether the materials you’re considering are eco-friendly or not. The good news is that this is comparatively an eco-friendly option.

This might seem counterintuitive given that it is a natural material. However, it takes less energy to harvest compared to a material such as quartz or laminate. This makes the overall carbon footprint of the wood countertop smaller than many other options that you have.

All in all, there are pros and cons to adding these counters to your home. Still, they have a lot to offer homeowners, especially if they want to add a bit of warmth to their home with a lasting material.

Are Wood Counters Worth It?

As with any other option that you have to renovate your countertops, there are pros and cons to the decision of installing these counters When you’re considering a list of pros vs. cons, though, a question often arises: are these countertops really worth their cons?

Well, this question can change based on what you want and need. Yet, if you’re interested in these countertops, the odds are that they are worth it!

Sure, these countertops have a list of pros and cons to consider before purchasing but as long as they’re looked after well, they’re often worth it. After all, all that maintenance and careful use helps to add a warm look to your home.

On the contrary, environments with extreme temperatures and temperature changes can’t guarantee that wood kitchen countertops will always be the best option. With this material, you will need to take extra precautions regarding temperatures in the home and clean up any spills as soon as they happen.

For more ideas check out our live edge wood countertops gallery.

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