Call them the cure for the cold of common stainless steel. After being eclipsed by showy stones like granite and marble and maintenance-free engineered materials like quartz and solid surfacing, natural-wood countertops are enjoying a real revival. Constructed from pieces of hardwood laminated together with glue for strength and stability, they provide a warm, organic landing surface in a kitchen, one that is wonderfully forgiving, gentle on dishware, and able to absorb the noise of a busy household. Wood can also be revived if damaged; if it gets dinged, stained, or gouged, you can refinish it.
The majority of wood countertops are made from traditional butcher block, and while they may see some mild meal prep, they're rarely used for chopping these days. They're favored more for their looks. Less expensive woods often line the kitchen as a handsome, budget-friendly surface; pricier species top islands or breakfast bars, where they provide a welcome textural contrast or a furniture-like finish. The variety of woods available is impressive, from subtly grained maple to deep, rich walnut to dramatic mesquite to exotic iroko. Yes, wood is a good choice, but it does require some attention. This Old House's guide to buying, installing, and maintaining these countertops will ensure that the surface you select will look and perform beautifully for years.
Shown: A storage island puts thick edge-grain butcher block center stage.
Similar to shown: 2-inch edge-grain maple countertop, about $90 per square foot, uninstalled; glumber.com