Engineered Counter Tops Make a Splash

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Engineered wood counter topEver heard of engineered flooring and panels?  This is the practice of using a thin layer of wood, typically around 1/8” thick, laminated to a substrate. It’s like using really thick veneer. Think about it. You want your flooring or paneling to look real and feel real and maybe you want to use a distressed finish. Thin veneer, like what’s on the plywood we buy from the lumber yard, isn’t durable enough for floors, and of course distressing is not an option. Engineering your product is the key. 

Stability is another reason engineered wood products are the talk of the industry. It doesn’t move. Solid wood is a live living thing. No, really it is, ask any woodworker.  Take a look at this example of Carbonized Bamboo Line Solid Engineered Wood Hardwood Floor Flooring.

Veneer Is Way More Profitable To Sell Than Solid Lumber

Let’s talk about yield. Did you know that the best logs go to make veneer, not lumber? The amount of square feet of veneer you can get out of a log makes it far more profitable to make and sell veneer than to sell solid. Think of it this way. Rift white oak veneer sells for around a dollar a square foot. Veneer can be as thick as 1/40” or 0.025”. A board foot of lumber is a 1×12, one foot long. Since in real life that’s only ¾” thick let’s divide 0.75 by 0.025. That comes out to a yield of 30 pieces of veneer from a board ¾” thick. So that would make that same piece of wood $30/board ft in veneer prices.  4/4 rift white oak does not sell for $30/board ft. Oh God, I’ve lost everyone!

Veneer Is Better For Mother Earth

But enough of math, let’s talk saving the planet! Use veneer, get higher optimization, need fewer trees – we’ve done it!! All right, we kinda made a dent, but as my loving and beautiful wife likes to say, “Something is better than nothing.” And I have finally matured enough to know to say nothing.

Engineered Counter Tops Are Different From Panels or Floors

Sink cutout of engineered wood counter top
This sink is set into an engineered wood counter top

An engineered counter top is a slightly different animal than a panel or floor. Counter tops can have exposed ends, and you know what that can mean.  Super thick maple butcher block tops eventually delaminate at the ends. You’ve seen ‘em.  Ugly black lines start to appear, and your trained eye says, “Not long for this world, my friend.” And then you hope that no one says, “You’re a woodworker. Can you fix this?”

An engineered wood counter top needs three things – thickness, length, sink location, faucet information, knowing which end is exposed, what kind of finish is wanted…  Uh, maybe you noticed that we’re already way over three things.

Cool Folded Mitered-Edge Counter Tops

Engineered wood counter top full view
Both ends of this island counter top appear solid with miter folded veneer.

Steve Miller, owner of Miller Woodworking, has created a method of mitering  edges and folding them down into sinks to create the effect of a thick counter top while at the same time using materials that will be stable and long lasting. While Steve is the mastermind behind this project, the hands-on dude is always a Marine – Cpl. Anthony Lopez, Shop Foreman in the hardwood department at Miller and woodworker extraordinaire. In the end grain shot of this walnut counter top, the leading edges are solid. This happens to be an island, so both ends are finished. The first piece of counter top edge is solid 3” wide walnut. Everything else is engineered veneer and miter folded using the most waterproof glue on the market. Even miter folding into the sink can be successful – with the proper prep, and only the proper prep.

My own island counter top, as meticulously as I have taken care of it over the years, has little black lines…  And no, I can’t fix it.

Photo of author

About Brad

Brad Baker is Vice President of Operations at Miller Woodworking in the Los Angeles area, designers and builders of custom cabinetry and interior millwork for the rich and famous. They make the impossible, and their work has been featured in fancy schmantsy architectural glossies more than a few times. All that high end creative stuff aside, he maintains a strong spiritual belief that the real sign of a good woodworker is all 10 fingers. He and his wife Ann Baker co-write for HomeFixated. Ann is CEO of Publicity Pros, a firm that provides “All Things Publicity” services and training for small businesses. She’s a hopeless nerd who revels in anything and everything having to do with the technology of attracting attention. And, no joke, she loves to bake.

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2 thoughts on “Engineered Counter Tops Make a Splash”

  1. I have had nothing but bad experience with veneer: it is difficult to repair and never looks good after, it is expensive to make anything from, and it does not refinish well. Nearly everyone I know prefers real wood to veneer and a number of people I know go to great lengths to obtain and use only real wood: that is, no MDF, no particle board, no OSB, no ply, no laminate and no veneer. I’ve built a number of pieces of furniture over the years, from real wood, and in comparison storing a piece of real wood furniture in a garage for three winters alongside a piece of furniture made from engineered wood, well, guess which one is ready for the land fill?

  2. We have a large American Beech peninsula counter with breakfast bar and a kitchen island with Boos Block true end grain butcher block. No way could a veneered product stand up to the abuse these counters have been subjected to. Our kids as babies totally punished the breakfast bar with forks, etc. Just sanded and refinished(oil) since they are past that stage. The Boos Block was about 30 years old when we bought it, sanded it and oiled it.
    Veneered counters would have gone in the trash. Not so green.


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