Wood Countertop with a Drop-In Cooktop

Cabinetmakers consider the risks of putting a cooktop in a wood countertop, and discuss the best finish for that situation. August 19, 2013

My architect wants a q-sawn white oak counter top and is also specifying a drop-in cooktop. I told him I have concerns for a variety of reasons - the two most critical in my mind both pertain to heat. One, as to how much it will dry out the wood surrounding the cooktop and two, how it will impact the finish which I anticipated would be krystal. Does anyone have any thoughts or experiences on something like this?

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor J:
I don't think conversion varnish is a great choice for a wood countertop that will get much use. It's a tough finish, but it will get damaged and it's difficult to repair. Any film finish will be totally inappropriate if the customer hopes to use the counter as a cutting surface. That said, I'd also worry about iron stains on white oak from exposure to moisture and contact with metal kitchen tools. I doubt the heat will affect the wood much. The parts of the cooktop that contact the counter shouldn't get that hot in the first place, and the thin sheet metal should dissipate most of that heat before it reaches the wood anyhow.

From contributor F:
I agree with Contributor J. Heat would not be my concern at all. If that were the case you wouldn't use laminate either - paper covered wood?

From contributor R:
Didn't the early solid surface applications around cooktops use an aluminum tape to reflect heat, or maybe the same treatment around the opening in the wood? I would really like to see a high output vent system around that too. I know how the top of our stove and surrounding counter looks after a big mealís prep. Pan frying, tomato sauce spills, boiling water splashes, etc. I sure wouldn't put wood around a cooktop in our house!

From Contributor S:
Solid oak will not easily burn so I would not consider that an issue. I have dropped electric and gas cooktops into wood counters with no issues. Laminate counters have exposed plywood or particle board where they are cut out for drop in cooktops and they don't burn.

I would not use CV for the finish. I have always been able to convince the home owners to use "butcher block finish" or a wax. I always show them how I apply the oil so they can see how easy it is to do. Then I buff on a light paste as a way to give it a shine. I tell them the wax is optional but looks nice if they have guests.

In my personal kitchen I have a countertop made from a local tropical hardwood that I have never put a finish on. After a few weeks the oil, grease, fat and blood from chopping, kneading and cooking meals sealed it nicely. Wood has been proven to be safe for use as a cutting board, so I would guess it will be ok as a counter as well; even without the finish.