Wood tops

Oil regularly – oiling regularly helps the worktops develop a good, water-resistant surface. Apply oil every 6 months, though areas which are used a lot may need oiling more often – you can tell when the worktops need re-oiling because the surface will start to look dull and any spilt water will spread out.

When working on the initial oiling of your worktop, use fine sandpaper or very fine, triple 000 gauge – steel wool (although some suppliers don’t recommend steel wool because of little pieces coming off into the wood grain). If the first application of oil raises the grain of the wood, sand down the surface (after it has dried) in the direction of the grain, before applying more oil. Vacuum the surface after sanding, before applying more oil, to remove dust and small particles.

Things to do / not do:

Keep the area around the sink dry when not in use; mop up any spills and don’t leave steel, copper, or (especially) iron pans on the tops for any length of time.

Don’t leave wet items like glasses, coffee mugs etc. on the surfaces as you may get ring marks.

Don’t put very hot pans directly on the surface.

Don’t chop directly on the surface or drag heavy metal pans along it, especially across the grain.

Don’t use bleach or aggressive chemical cleaners on the surface – clean worktops with a damp cloth and diluted washing up liquid and remove any excess moisture afterwards. If you do have an accident, fine sand paper along the grain until the mark is removed and then re-oil.

Don’t leave any excess oil lie on the surface; use aluminium barriers with any appliances likely to generate heat and/or moisture. Under the rims of hobs, for instance, and above washing machines and dishwashers; the timber must be allowed to expand and contract across the grain.

Hot pans – if you want to put hot pans onto your worktop, fit steel rods or a granite insert in a suitable position.

Fitting your own tops? Worktops should never be stored by propping up against a wall; always store them flat and use batons to allow air circulation between each piece. Don’t store them anywhere cold and moist. It’s best to store them where they’re going to be fitted and allow them to acclimatise for a couple of days before fitting. Don’t store them or fit them in a room with damp or wet plaster.

Don’t store them next to a direct source of heat like a radiator or Aga. Give the timber a coat of oil on all surfaces if you’re going to store them for any length of time. Before fitting, give the underside of the worktops two, or even three, generous coats of oil; oil the end grain and any cut edges even more generously; for the top surface of the worktop … you need a “little but often” philosophy … several thin coats are better than one thick one.

Put six to seven thin coats of oil on your raw worktops in the first week or so during and after fitting. The exposed ends and any drainer grooves need more.

Leave a 4 to 5mm gap to the rear of each worktop and fix each top in place with slotted brackets and washers. Fix any up stands to the wall, with a small siliconed gap, not to the worktops. Some suppliers recommend “end caps” with the grain at right angles to the main worktop wherever the tops are next to a continuous heat source like an Aga.