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Mahogany or other wood countertops

Posted by lalala (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 12:18

Hi all,

I am beginning to gather ideas for a kitchen renovation that we will begin in a year or so. I grew up among older houses in the Boston area and my favorite kitchens are classic original kitchens from the Victorian through pre-war eras. My house is a modest house from the 1930s and has its original layout and most of its original detail intact (e.g. original white subway and hex tile in bathrooms, original wood shingles, original floors, doors and windows). My ideal would be a kitchen that looks like a butler's pantry: pale painted wood cabinets with some glass fronts, wood countertops. I'd love a big square zinc sink, but that may not be practical or affordable. I would like the kitchen to look as original to the house as possible--beautiful, timeless materials but nothing too grand or ostentatious. We're lucky that we already have hardwood floors in the kitchen.

I have in mind two particular wood countertops that I remember from friends' homes growing up (one was a house from the 1870s or so and one a butler's pantry from about 1910). When I look at pictures of counters online, mahogany is the closest thing.

My question is: despite my specific design tastes, we are a normal family with kids who does not want fussy or hard to maintain materials. I can live with some patina but not constant vigilance or high maintenance. Should I get the idea of wood countertops out of my head? Are they totally impractical? Would a mahogany counter treated with waterlox be a pain to maintain, or require impractical protective measures while doing food prep/washing dishes? Would it be unappealing for eventual resale? Cost is an issue as well, though our kitchen is quite small so there wouldn't be miles of counters.

I am a purist but also a realist. I realize that the materials I love most (wood, soapstone, marble) can also require the most work to keep looking nice. So I want to get my head screwed on straight before I get too carried away with my dreams.

thanks!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

Wood bar top maybe,wood kitchen counter top never.


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

I do a number of wood top islands a year and have done the occasional kitchen with all wood tops. No problems. I use a company called Engrain and use their oil finish tops. Durable, food safe, easy maintenance and user serviceable. For undermount sinks they epoxy the exposed edges and bottom around sink area. Not inexpensive.


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

We do a bunch of wood counters as well, we use Grothouse and have them finish with their permanent type finish called Durata.....it is extremely durable, and had never once had a call back on a wood top from them.

As Jakuvall mentioned, not inexpensive


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

I have a Grothouse Walnut top finished with Durata. It is extremely durable as far as food/liquid spills. It does scratch (plates dragged across it) & you can't sand it down & repply Waterlox as the Durata is a permanent finish.


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

We have had Ikea oak butcherblock countertops for 2 years and they look like they did when they were installed. We have young children, cook a lot, and do not worry about babying the countertops. They're finished in Ikea's Behandla oil, which may not still be available. It's based on linseed oil with some kind of drying agent. I am not sure what other products would be similar, but it gives a mild sheen (not the plastic-looking finish I got from a Waterlox sample) and is a lot more water-resistant than plain mineral oil would be. It was a bit of a pain to apply but has been a great finish for us. It's a penetrating finish, not a surface finish like a polyurethane. Also it has no offensive odor; I couldn't bear the smell of the Waterlox sample I got (others may feel differently).

Some things that I think have helped make our wood countertops work well: topmounted sinks, water resistant penetrating finish, we don't let water sit on the counter, and we don't cut directly on the counter. The main sink's back deck (where the faucet is) is fairly wide, and that is a very handy place to leave wet things like glasses with ice in them or wet scrub brushes.

I love our wood counters (yes, in the whole kitchen). Ours were very inexpensive, but the Ikea ones are getting hard to find.


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

Thanks for the feedback so far! This is super helpful already, and I'd love to hear from others.

A few follow up questions:

-For those with oil finished tops, what would this scenario do to the counters: You have friends over for dinner, everyone helps clear the dishes, and you leave them on the counter for a few hours until they leave. You don't notice a few things fall onto the counter: a drop of chicken grease, a pesto-covered noodle, a drip of ice cream, a squished raspberry, some water from a glass with condensation. Let's say the wood is medium-dark brown. Can you wipe all that up in a few hours, or will you have done permanent damage?

-for those with Grothouse Durata: if you can't ever refinish them, is there nothing to be done for scratches? Just live with it until you replace the counter someday?

-Anyone know what kinds of wood would have been traditionally used for countertops in New England in the era between, say, 1850-1940?

thank you!


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

I have black walnut in my whole kitchen. I am the ONLY cook and bottlewasher, and not good at that. I don't have any complaints about my close to 3 year old counters.

Mine is finished with several coats of Osmo Polyx. One or two coats were put on by the maker, and 2 or 3 I have done. It is not difficult, and not really time consuming, and this last coat has lasted since October. I reapply if it starts to look dry.

Nancy


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

  • Posted by lalala 6b (Metro Boston) (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 17:26

sorry, duplicate post

This post was edited by lalala on Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 17:31


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

As far as I know there is no touch up available when the Durata finish is used, it has never been an issue for us....we have used Grothouse tops in several restaurants in Boston and have never had any complaints

With oil, you will have a stain...similar to a cutting board that develops stains after use, you would need to lightly sand then apply another coat of oil occasionally

95% of our work is in Boston, if I were to guess what the species would be back then I would probably go with:

Ash
Walnut
Red and White Oaks
Pine (back then the heart of white pine was not like it is today, they had nice old growth material)
Chestnut
Cherry
Mahoganies

Various mahogany species made a strong showing in the Boston area in the early 1900's, long story short Cameron Forbes was heavily involved in the Philippines at that time and he was building a major piece of property in Norwood Ma...he had many loads of various woods from the Philippines shipped in, what he did not use got sold to high end millworkers in the Boston area that specialized in monumental residential work in the city....sorry for running off track there, always found that a bit fascinating


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

The oiled tops I use from Engrain are very resistant to staining.
I have two in the studio, we eat lunch at one (walnut) daily for a few years now, no stains. I meet clients at another (ash) and have gotten red pen marks on it which were discovered a day or two later, cleaned up with household spray easily and the top is still good.

My hi-end cabinet brand (QCCI) now offers cabinets with the same type of oil. I got sample blocks from them to abuse, and passed them out to others to try to stain, so far no one has succeeded-olive oil, raspberries, wine, ketchup- overnight- all cleaned with soap and water. I just put in a kitchen done with it.


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

Jakuvall:

Can you tell me what kind of oil it is that both Endgrain and Quality are using?

I assume they are each using something different?


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

I used 2-1/4" thick Mesquite for my bar tops. It has a similar rich deep coloring to Mahogany, but more grain character, and super hard! (2345 on the Janka scale)
I ordered the material from the William Rogers Co., and cut and installed myself. The wood came beautifully pre- finished with Howard's butcher block conditioner which they say is a "food grade mineral oil and natural waxes". In a year and a half of use, I have only occasionally treated it again with the conditioner. The 12oz. bottle that they sent with the wood is still half full...


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

Ajc- Both claim it is proprietary, and Engrain does seem slightly different. That said I believe it is Rubio Monocote or similar. Have run into same used on floors for some time and recently worked with a better builder using the exterior version on decks.
I'd originally been dubious, having done my share of oil finishes personally, hence th samples for abuse.
BTW I talked with both Grothouse and Brooks about it, both wouldn't even consider the possibility.

This post was edited by jakuvall on Wed, Jul 2, 14 at 20:06


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

"-Anyone know what kinds of wood would have been traditionally used for countertops in New England in the era between, say, 1850-1940? "

1850s ... local pine or birch or maple, scrubbed to within an inch of its life, and replaced with another slab when it wore thin from the chopping and scrubbing.

Then starting in the 1880s they went all sanitary with real linoleum counters, and then tile or laminate by the 1940s.

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Soapstone is NOT a high maintenance material

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-For those with oil finished tops, what would this scenario do to the counters: You have friends over for dinner, everyone helps clear the dishes, and you leave them on the counter for a few hours until they leave. You don't notice a few things fall onto the counter: a drop of chicken grease, a pesto-covered noodle, a drip of ice cream, a squished raspberry, some water from a glass with condensation. Let's say the wood is medium-dark brown. Can you wipe all that up in a few hours, or will you have done permanent damage?

My alder countertops, finished with Waterlox, have been through quite a bit. We use cutting mats, and clean the counter with water and a terrycloth cleaning rag.

Tomato sauce, red wine dribbles, the occasional fruit juice spill, ...so far it's all washed off.

Here is a link that might be useful: Alder counters


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

I've got put-in-by-previous owner wood countertops on the stove side of the kitchen. Couple of years ago, I sanded them down & refinished with oil. They're pine (why???), so more susceptible to scratches & stuff (it would be called "softwood" for a reason!). Permanent stains, though? No. Well, no ADDITIONAL ones. There are some I decided it wasn't worth trying to sand all the way out ;). And believe me...I can guarantee that salad dressing / oil has dripped on them & stayed there overnight. Ditto ice cream...just...well...stuff. I'm the cleaner & an imperfect sort that sometimes doesn't get the dishes done until the next day, and there are kids involved. I have more problems with the white laminate on the other side. Though often those stains kinda wear out (vanilla being a huge culprit!). You will, of course, gain patina.

Ajc--thanks for the info about what wood & why, that was fascinating!


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

Hey lalala, I think we want exactly the same kitchen except I'm in the upper Midwest where heart pine and oak were king in the early end of your era. Your era is pretty wide stylistically, and it may help if you narrow your timeline a little.

I want to build a reptoduction small cottage bungalow from the late 1920s to early 1930s. It's a very simple style because of the lack of ornamentation.

I have researched butcher block a lot and would use it in a heartbeat. I would love soapstone, but it wouldn't historically fit.

There is a good website linked below with indexed home plans from the late 19th to mid 20th century. Its run by a couple that has scanned old house plans and pictures from books and catalogues. Its an amazing resource.

Here is a link that might be useful: Antique Home Style


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

Such great information; you guys are awesome! Thanks so much, everyone!

lazygardens, I guess I was wondering what wood would I have seen in butler's pantries in the area--which probably were more formal and didn't get as much wear and tear as the utilitarian parts of the kitchen. But you're totally right. My own house's kitchen probably had linoleum counters when it was built.

ajc71, so interesting about the history of mahogany in New England! I'm obsessed with stuff like that.

IowaCommute, I would love to see the bungalow style kitchen you're envisioning! I will probably not be so precise about reproducing the kitchen exactly as it would have been in my 1930s house. "Butler's pantry" style is my favorite, though perhaps not exactly the right era or style for my more modest house. I would like to use materials that would have been generally appropriate to the era. When I said 1850s-1940s, those are just the broadest dates for which I've seen materials that I would like to use. My favorite kitchens are in Victorian and early 20th century houses, but I won't put a Victorian kitchen in my house. I also have lived in and visited dozens of apartments in the area that have pantries and built-in china cabinets--you find those in almost every two and three family house in the Boston area. Those are probably closer to the style of my own house and also inspire my aesthetic.


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RE: Mahogany or other wood countertops

From what I can tell, if people have problems with wood counters, it's generally around the sink. And even then, it's not for years and years after installation. If you're really worried about rot around the sink, then consider a standalone sink where the counter butts up against it from both sides and the faucet holes are directly in the sink. I'm sure there is a word for that kind of sink, but I don't know it.


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