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Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

Having put off my kitchen remodel for several weeks, now leading into months, because I can't decide what kind of countertops I want (first choice soapstone, last choice laminate but because of budget soapstone is definitely out and will most likely go with laminate which I really don't want) I'm getting frustrated. That is until last night when someone asked if I wanted some old chestnut planks. My heart beat wildly as wood countertops were right up there next to soapstone but ruled out because of money and practicality. But now, since they are going to cost me next to nothing things have changed for the better!!

So my question to all of you who know a lot more about things like this than I do, is chestnut a good choice for countertops and if so, what is my next step? What are the pros and cons of wood countertops? I'm going to look at the planks in a few days to see what condition they are in and providing the condition is good I'd like to use them. But I have no idea how to get them from plank state to countertop state - what kind of person would I hire to do this? Is it costly? Will I end up spending so much on someone custom making countertops that it won't be cost effective in the end? Can I use wood around the sink? I really don't even know where to start with this so am hoping you can give me a little guidance. Briefly, if it makes a difference, my counter top space is L shaped and not large; a good part of one side consists of the sink.

MLB Construction
Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

i've installed some wood countertops and i've seen some houses that have had them for a while. some tuurned out good and some not so good. as long as they're properly made and sealed they can be beautiful but it's something you have to be cautious with on a day to day basis.

1. you have to be careful cutting on them
2. they can burn from putting a hot pot on them
3. getting some water on them is ok but it's best to not let it sit there for too long
4. the cutout around the sink and a few inches on the bottom around the sink cutout should be finished as well as the top is.
5. with normal use you might have to reseal or sand and redo them every few years.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

I just was looking at a blog post that used wood counters and they were beautiful, but the home owners also used concrete counters. They were very beautiful too – who would have thought that! You might want to view some pictures of concrete for another possibility or use some of both wood and concrete.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

MLB - I'm okay with most of your downsides as I rarely if ever cut directly on my counters nor do I put hot pans directly on them. If I do spill water, yes, it definitely gets mopped up right away. And if things do get a little bit distressed that's also okay because I rather like the distressed look. Your #4, well, I'm not quite sure what you mean. Do you mean both sides of the wood - top and bottom need to be finished as in the wood underneath should look as nice as the wood on top and be as well sealed?

I haven't looked at the chestnut planks yet, but providing they are in good shape this is the way I want to go. My problem comes in knowing how to make sure they are properly made and sealed. I'm not sure if this is a big major project and will add thousands to the remodel or if it really won't make a big difference so budget also comes into consideration. Nor do I know who does the work to transform them from planks to a beautiful countertop. I've talked with one contractor but that was before I knew about the planks so we didn't discuss them at all. But it's been almost two weeks and he still hasn't been in touch with me to give me his estimate, maybe he isn't even interested in doing the job.

Lily - I have seen some beautiful concrete countertops. I would never belive they were concrete. I have pretty much ruled them out though for a few various reasons - mostly price.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

Chestnut is much softer but also much more decay resistant than the maple used most often for wood butcher block counters. It would be a poor choice for a chopping block but should be fine for counter. Though narrow strip can be cut and glued up butcher block style it would be considerably easier to glue just a few wide planks together to make up the counter width. The important things are to acclimate the planks in a heated space indoors for several weeks before gluing them up. and attaching them to the cabinets in a way that allows for seasonal movement. Anything from just a coat of wax to a thick layer varnish could be used as a finish. Its best to finish the underside similar to the top.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

When you finish a counter top you need to seal all 6 sides and that includes the edges around the sink cutout to make sure water can't get into the wood.

If you are offered free wood take it, if you don't use it now store it, you'll use it later.

Might I suggest that you check for locale wood workers that build cabinets or furniture, have one go with you to see the lumber and give you a price for what will be needed. It will definitely need to be joined, sanded or planed, and glued up. The wood worker should know to check the moisture content and will probably recommend the finish he prefers to work with, run if he suggests Minwax. I my self prefer OldMasters brand poly. We've had wood counter tops for over 20 years.


Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

Building a wood counter top was the most technically challenging project I ever undertook. You need to have some plan in place to flatten the slab after you glue it up; in my case I took it to a shop with a wide thickness sander. Then I scr-aped it smooth with a cabinet scra-per, which for 25 square feet of wood was a real project. My customer is a lady who expects perfection from me, so no pressure. I could not think of a nicer possible wood than chestnut, it potentially will be phenomenal.
My cherry countertop project

It was 146"x26". I finished it with a few coats of wipe-on poly; If I had it to do over, I'd use Waterlox.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

The only reason I haven't replied is that I am not familiar with Chestnut (shame on me!). But yes, with any porous counter-tops you need to seal and finish all sides-even underneath including where cut-outs are made. This only needs to be a utility finish except where it will be visible on top, it's purpose is for sealing the wood where water may find a way to damage things when things go wrong. I've seen more counter-tops lost due to degradation by water at the sink cut-out than for all other reasons combined, yet it is so easy to prevent. I always seal there myself though most contractors don't, and I know they see the same things I do.


Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

Thank you for your helpful responses. I am glad to know that wood is a suitable choice but needs to be properly prepared. I still have not seen the planks yet and don't even know how many or how big or anything. I was told they were gray and weathered but can be sanded down and should be good as new. We'll see.

Sombreuil - yours pictures are beautiful! Cherry is one of my favorite woods and I was going to go with that for the cabinets until I found out about the chestnut planks. What a nice, nice job you have done there. You deserve a big pat on the back. Seeing them makes me want to have wood countertops all the more.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

Though most of the kitchens and bathroom counters are made from stone,ceramics or other type of solid slab but wood counters can also be a viable and attractive option.Wood counters add warmth and character to the kitchen design.Chestnut wood makes beautiful counters because it is a softer wood.But the best thing about them is that you can get the counter top made as thick and as wide as you want.You could also choose to coat it with epoxy or a thick coat of plastic to make it more durable. Therefore whether your kitchen has a rustic or modern feel,the chestnut wood counter will surely be a conversation piece.

Re: Chestnut for countertops - good idea or not?

In my experience with chestnut it is a very hard wood. It would make good tops does the person giving them to you have any idea how much American chestnut planks are worth? It is very expensive if it is American chestnut

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