Installation Guide to Solid Wood Countertops

Tips on Installing Solid Wood Countertops to Prevent Cracking, Warping and Splits

By Mark J. Donovan

Solid wood countertops are manufactured from trees that are very old, at least 100 years in age. Solid wood countertops are natural and beautiful however they are a living and breathing animal, in the extent that they expand and contract with the humidity levels within the home. For best results in manufacturing and installing solid wood countertops the raw wood countertop lumber should have been previously kiln dried to a level of approximately 6%. In addition, if you plan to install solid wood countertops you will need to ensure that the countertop is not exposed to high levels of moisture.

Consequently the normal 50 to 70% humidity levels that are found in a kitchen will need to be a bit lower in a kitchen that includes solid wood countertops.

Solid wood countertops should be screwed, but not glued to, the kitchen cabinet boxes. The cabinet boxes and solid wood countertop will typically expand and contract at different rates, thus if glue is used, you will eventually observe cracking on the solid wood countertop surface. So consequently screws, along with washers, should only be used to fasten the solid wood countertop to the cabinet boxes. How to install kitchen wall cabinets

To properly mount a solid wood countertop to the kitchen cabinets, metal support strips should first be fastened to the top of the cabinet boxes approximately every 12 to 18 inches, across and along the row of cabinets. It is important that the metal support strips be installed perfectly level with one another, as otherwise tension could form in the solid wood countertop which can cause the wood to crack, cup and warp over time.

The metal support strips will not only act as extra support for the countertop, they’ll also act as mounting brackets to help screw the solid wood countertop to from the underside of it. Three screws should be attached to the countertop at each metal support strip, two on the ends and one in the middle of the metal strip.

For best results in screwing the countertop down to the metal support strips, the screw holes should be predrilled into the wood. Pre-drilling will help to prevent splitting and cracking. Also, it’s important to not over-tighten the screws, again to prevent splits and cracks in the solid wood countertops. In addition, the holes drilled in the metal support strips should be oval in shape. The elongated end of the holes in the metal support strips should be orientated with the natural lengthwise movement in the wood.

Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet

Finally, to also address expansion and contraction concerns with the solid wood countertops, there should be about a ¼ to ½ inch gap between the joint edge of the countertop and the wall that it abuts.

For help on your kitchen remodeling project, see my Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet. The Kitchen Remodeling Bid Sheet provides a request for quote checklist section that you can provide to prospective kitchen remodeling contractors. It also includes a comprehensive kitchen remodeling cost breakdown table, in Microsoft Excel format, that allows the contractor to include his projected remodeling costs for every phase of the project.

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