Reclaimed Wood Countertops

A Homeowner’s Guide to Reclaimed Wood Countertops

Reclaimed wood countertops help you create organic countertops. The natural patina of the aged wood, along with the natural imperfections, creates character and warmth in your home. In addition to the beauty and warmth created, reclaimed wood is also great for the environment. Rather than the wood found in residential and commercial buildings, barns, and warehouses ending up in the landfill, this gorgeous wood can become part of your home.

Countertop specialists carefully select each individual piece of wood based on appearance and quality. The wood chosen should be from the same house, barn, or commercial building to ensure consistent appearance and quality. After each piece of wood is selected, it will be joined together, sanded (if needed), stained, and sealed.

Reclaimed Wood Countertop Quality

Wood countertops have been used in kitchens for hundreds of years because of their function, warmth, and beauty. The wood countertops’ quality is determined by the species of the wood, the stain chosen, the grain, and more, which is why you need a countertop specialist that understands how to select quality heirloom wood.

Before the reclaimed wood countertop is created, the countertop specialist will need to take measurements of your space and create a countertop template. This template will be used to create your reclaimed wood countertops. Each individual piece of wood will be joined together, sanded and stained. After the entire stretch of countertop is built, the countertop specialist will make any cutouts needed. Finally, the countertop will be sealed to help protect against staining.

After the countertop is manufactured, it will be delivered to your home and installed on your cabinetry. Reclaimed wood countertops will increase the value and function of your home. Whether reclaimed wood countertops are installed in your kitchen or your bathroom, you will love them for many years to come.

Reclaimed Wood Countertop Species Options

Reclaimed wood countertops are often found in historic homes with country or rustic kitchens; however, reclaimed wood can also be found in contemporary kitchens. The distressed look of the reclaimed wood countertop adds history to your home. Several types of wood can be used in reclaimed wood countertops, including:

  • Reclaimed Oak – Reclaimed Oak ranges from pale yellow brown to light brown. Oak is exceptionally durable and has a Janka Hardness rating of 1360. The grain in reclaimed oak is straight. Throughout reclaimed oak countertops, you will find straight grain and small knots, providing you with a unique look. Reclaimed oak countertops are reminiscent of Italian kitchens where love and pasta go hand in hand.
  • Reclaimed Heart Pine – Heart pine features a pumpkin yellow color. Heart pine countertops are incredibly durable and have a Janka Hardness rating of 1225. The grain of heart pine features dark streaks and swirls. The grain in heart pine is typically straight; however, it can also have swirls running throughout it. White cabinetry works well with reclaimed heart pine countertops.
  • Reclaimed Maple – Maple wood ranges in color from light tan to pale brown. Maple is exceptionally durable, with a Janka Hardness rating of 1450. The grain of maple is typically straight; however, it can sometimes be wavy. Reclaimed maple countertops look beautiful when topped with cream colored or gray cabinetry.
  • Reclaimed Cherry – Cherry wood features a reddish brown color. Cherry countertops are moderately durable, with a Janka Hardness rating of 950. The grain in these countertops is straight and close. Reclaimed cherry countertops add warmth to your kitchen or bath. Most homeowners prefer black cabinetry with reclaimed cherry countertops.

Finish Options for Reclaimed Wood Countertops

The finish chosen for your reclaimed wood countertop should be based on the location of the countertop, how the countertop will be used, and the overall look you want for your countertops. A glossier finish will be more durable; however, if you want a wood countertop that looks more natural, you will need a more matte finish, which will not be as durable.

  • Mineral Oil – Mineral oil is easy to apply, inexpensive, and can be purchased from a variety of retailers. Unfortunately, mineral oil does not offer excellent protection and needs to be reapplied often. Finally, mineral oil is petroleum based.
  • Walnut Oil – Walnut oil is easy to apply and is a natural, food based oil, making it a terrific choice for kitchen countertops. Those with nut allergies should avoid this natural oil. Finally, walnut oil must be frequently reapplied to protect your countertops.
  • Tung Oil – Tung oil is easy to find and apply. This oil brings out the luster and color of the reclaimed wood countertops. Individuals with a nut allergy should avoid sealing their reclaimed wood countertops with Tung oil. Furthermore, Tung oil can contain petroleum based additives.
  • Polyurethane – Polyurethane, specifically marine grade polyurethane, becomes a plastic film that protects the wood countertops from stains and dents. However, if the surface of the polyurethane becomes damaged, the poly must be removed from the entire countertop and reapplied.
  • Waterlox – Waterlox is a durable finish that is Tung oil based. This finish will last between five and ten years before a new coat needs to be applied. Waterlox creates a hand rubbed appearance while sealing the wood fibers. Those with nut allergies should take caution as the sealer is made using modified plant oils. Furthermore, it takes between 30 days and 90 days for Waterlox to completely cure.

The Pros and Cons of Reclaimed Wood Countertops

Homeowners around the world are wanting to go back to a time when food and family were the cornerstones of a home, which is why they are embracing reclaimed wood countertops. Reclaimed wood countertops bring a warm aesthetic into the home. Many individuals think that reclaimed wood is only used in rustic kitchens; however, when combined with stainless steel and glass, reclaimed wood countertops can create a dreamy modern kitchen.

Reclaimed wood countertops are not for everyone. Just like any other type of countertop material, they come with a list of pros and cons that should be considered.

The Advantages of Reclaimed Wood Countertops

  • Environmentally Friendly – Reclaimed wood countertops are an eco friendly option for a homeowner looking for a “green” countertop option. Wood is sustainable and renewable. Furthermore, reclaimed wood prevents wood from entering our landfills.
  • Unique – Reclaimed wood countertops provide you with an aged look, perfect for traditional homes. The wood has weathered for decades and has notches, nail holes, and other markings that are not found in new wood.
  • Durable – Reclaimed wood has spent countless hours subjected to the weather elements. Temperature and humidity fluctuations will not damage the reclaimed wood or reduce the lifespan of your reclaimed wood countertops.
  • Numerous Species Available – In the past, different species of wood were used in construction methods. Typically, the wood chosen for a project will be based on the species that thrive in the area. Many of the wood species available for reclaimed countertops cannot be purchased at a home improvement retailer, allowing you to create a unique countertop. Wood species like longleaf pine and American chestnut were once abundant but aren’t any longer.
  • Beautiful – Wood is gorgeous when used throughout the home, especially in the kitchen thanks to its warm look. Furthermore, wood feels warm to the touch. If you place your hand on a stone countertop and a wood countertop, you will notice the difference in temperature. Natural stone feels cold to the touch while wood feels warm.
  • Quiet – Unlike other countertops that are noisy when things are sat down on the surface and reflect sound bac into the room, wood countertops absorb sounds. For a quieter, more tranquil room, add reclaimed wood countertops.
  • Refinishing – Unlike other types of countertops, wood countertops can be sanded and refinished. If the wood countertop becomes scratched due to knife marks or scorched due to setting a hot pot or pan on the countertop surface, you can sand and refinish the countertop.

The Disadvantages of Reclaimed Wood Countertops

  • Scarcity – Reclaimed wood has become a popular choice to use in and around the home, making it sometimes difficult to find. Choosing a rare species of wood further increases the risk of being unable to find replacement wood should your countertop become damaged.
  • Cost – Because of the popularity of reclaimed wood, these countertops are more expensive than new wood countertops. Reclaimed wood must be sorted by species, and then prepared for use inside a home. Old structures must be dismantled carefully to preserve the wood rather than quickly demolishing a structure.
  • Previous Wood Treatments – When you purchase reclaimed wood, you do not know which pieces have been treated with potentially toxic chemicals. For example, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and lead paint could be present with reclaimed wood.
  • Bacteria – When wood is not properly sealed, bacteria and mold can develop. However, if reclaimed wood countertops are properly sealed, the risk of bacteria is minimized and is about the same as granite and tile.
  • Can Be Damaged – Reclaimed wood countertops are prone to denting and scratching; therefore, always use a cutting board. In addition to this, if your countertops are not sealed, liquids can soak in and cause staining or cracking.
  • Maintenance – In order to keep your reclaimed wood countertops looking great, you must be willing to perform maintenance like sealing. The frequency of reapplication will depend on the type of sealant chosen. For example, oils like Tung oil, walnut oil, and mineral oil will need to be reapplied three or more times per year.

How Do You Care for Reclaimed Wood Countertops?

Caring for reclaimed wood countertops is not difficult. First, you must minimize exposure to moisture and oils. If a spill occurs, clean it up immediately using an absorbent cloth. If oil splatters on your countertop or you accidentally spill oil on your countertop, cover the area with cornstarch and allow it to absorb the oil and prevent staining from occurring.

If your countertops are not sealed, you will need to oil them regularly. Oiling your countertops helps to prevent wear and tear. To oil your countertop, pour a liberal amount of oil on the countertop and allow it to soak in for thirty minutes. Then take a soft cloth and buff the countertop to increase durability and stain resistance.

If you need to scrub your countertops, always scrub with the grain using a nylon scrubber. A nylon scrubber will prevent scratches from occurring. If you rub across the grain, it can raise the grain.

If a stain occurs, you can try to remove it using lemon juice and salt. Cover the stain with salt and scrub using half of a lemon. The citric acid in the lemon will help to remove the stain, while the salt provides extra grit to scrub away a stain.

If you have a stain that cannot be removed using the method mentioned above or you have scratches or dents in your reclaimed wood countertop, you can gently sand the reclaimed wood countertop using a 120 grit sandpaper, followed by 180 grit sandpaper. When you are sanding your countertops, always sand with the grain of the wood. After you have sanded the countertop, reapply oil to the countertop.

Do You Need to Seal Reclaimed Wood Countertops?

Reclaimed wood needs to be sealed. Sealing prevents stains from occurring. Stains occur when liquids seep into the pores of the wood. Using a sealer helps to seal up the pores of the wood and slow down how quickly liquids are absorbed into the countertop.

In addition to reducing the risk of staining, sealing reclaimed wood countertops minimizes the risk of mold and bacteria from forming on the countertop. Finally, sealing your countertops prevents the wood from cracking or warping.

How Do You Seal a Reclaimed Wood Countertop?

Sealing reclaimed wood countertops is not difficult. With just a few simple steps, you can adequately protect your countertops. The first step is to lightly sand your countertops to remove any stains or scratches. Once you have sanded your countertops, wipe them down using a tack cloth to remove all of the sawdust.

If you are oiling you are sealing your countertops with oil, apply a liberal amount of oil to the countertop and allow it to soak into the wood for 30 minutes. Then, wipe excess oil up using an absorbent cloth. A penetrating oil not only protects against staining, but it also enhances the beauty of the reclaimed wood.

Typically, two coats of oil will provide the protection that your reclaimed wood countertops need. You should apply sealer at least two to three times per year or whenever you notice that the countertop is not repelling liquids.

If you decide to use a penetrating sealer like Waterlox, you will only need to reseal every five to eight years. To apply Waterlox, lightly sand your countertops to remove any stains and wipe down using a tack cloth. Then, using a 2-inch foam brush, apply a coat of Waterlox with the grain of the reclaimed wood countertop. Allow the Waterlox to dry for at least 12 hours.

Apply a second coat of Waterlox and allow it to dry for 12 hours. Then, lightly sand the countertop using 220 grit sandpaper and wipe using a tack cloth. Apply the third coat and allow it to dry overnight or at least 12 hours.

Sand the countertop with 320 grit sandpaper and follow by sanding with 400 grit sandpaper. Wipe the surface down with a tack cloth to remove all dust. Apply the last liberal coat of Waterlox using one long stroke the length of the countertop, following the grain of the wood. Allow the sealed countertop surface to dry for 20 minutes and go over the surface using a new, dry foam brush. Continue dry brushing every 10 minutes to remove any air bubbles or defects until the countertop becomes tacky. 

Waterlox takes a full 60 days to cure. You will be able to use your countertops during the curing process; however, avoid setting appliances on the countertop, cutting on the countertop, or setting hot pots and pans on the countertop. When your countertops are not in use, remove all items from the countertop to prevent bubbles and dents from forming as the Waterlox cures.

How Much Do Reclaimed Wood Countertops Cost?

The cost of reclaimed wood countertops varies based on the available reclaimed wood in the area, the species of wood chosen, and the size, thickness, and shape of your countertops.  There are reclaimed common wood countertops average $65 per square foot. Conversely, reclaimed rare wood can cost $125 or more per square foot. 

When shopping for reclaimed wood countertops, talk with your countertop specialist. When you tell the countertop specialist your allotted reclaimed wood countertop budget, the specialist will be able to show you the different options available that fall within your budget.


Reclaimed wood has a rich history that dates back several decades. When reclaimed wood is used to create countertops for kitchens and bathrooms, the results are amazing. Homeowners will be rewarded with a warm countertop with unique characteristics.

Reclaimed wood countertops are quieter and warmer than other types of countertop materials. Wood absorbs sound rather than amplifying sound. Furthermore, wood absorbs heat while natural stone countertops reflect heat.

Reclaimed wood countertops offer greater design flexibility. Reclaimed wood is joined together, which means your wood countertop can span large areas. Wood can also be cut in a variety of shapes. Do you want an arched bar? With reclaimed wood countertops, it is no problem!

Finally, reclaimed wood countertops are eco-friendly. These countertops use a renewable resource. Rather than ending up in a landfill, old wood harvested from homes, barns, and commercial properties is recycled and turned into reclaimed wood countertops.

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