Wood: A kitchen’s dramatic warmth

By Francie Healy

There’s a new kid on the block at Urban Quarry in Ottawa.

Butcher block, that is.

Wood is the latest trend in kitchen counters, more and more in demand by designers, contractors and their renovation-seeking clients.

Urban Quarry, traditionally a fabricator and showroom for natural stone and quartz countertops, has recently welcomed the Canadian brand Caribou Wood Products into its lineup of options.

Customers can choose among seven North American species of hardwood, including maple, oak, walnut and hickory.

Serge Bellavance, Urban Quarry co-owner and Vice President of Sales and Marketing, says currently walnut seems to be most in demand because of its dramatic, deep colour; but it really comes down to aesthetics, because all are tough, durable, and beautiful.

“What attracted us to Caribou was their finish,” he says. The finish is called End+Edge technology, and it’s exclusive to Caribou products.

Caribou, which is based in Alberta, developed the finish as a result of demand by their commercial clients. Restaurants wanted a durable, chemical-resistant finish needing little maintenance. It had to be non-porous, National Food Safety-certified and ideal for food preparation. So Caribou enlisted a local chemical engineering firm to develop a formula that was originally created as a protective coating for the bottoms of oak railway cars.

“We have seen tests,” adds Serge. “The finish repels things like red wine, water, lemon, fish…and bacteria.”

The state-of-the-art finish doesn’t sit on top like a wax or lacquer. It is ingrained in the wood and comes with a five-year warranty against fading or other common issues with ordinary finishes. It resists impact as well as UV; but it is warm, smooth, and natural-looking.

The countertops are easy to maintain with soap and water or vinegar and water. They’re perhaps not as immune to abuse as natural stone and quartz, which can take almost anything, so Serge recommends against using harsh chemicals.

“Not a lot of people know about wood countertops yet,” says Serge. “You might see a small island or a cutting board, but now designers are incorporating them more substantially, pairing them up with stone… perhaps as a lunch counter area of an island, or a half island. Customers like the warmth of wood in their designs.”

He adds you could easily have a whole countertop of wood, perhaps in a more rustic setting such as a cottage; but he mainly sees it used as a complement to natural stone.

Can you cut directly on a butcher block countertop? You can, but Serge doesn’t recommend it, because it will leave knife marks.

“Although It’s like a large slab of cutting board,” he says, “the finish on the Caribou is permanent and it’s meant to last a lifetime. It’s best to treat it as you would any other counter.” He suggests having a cutting board custom-made out of the same (or other) wood.

In addition to the warranty of the finish, a Caribou Wood Products countertop has a limited lifetime warranty against structural issues such as cracks or warping. It is a food-safe, waterproof and maintenance-free wood surface.

Along with Caribou Wood Products, Urban Quarry has other brands such as Cambria, Hanstone, Silestone, Caesarstone, Dekton Ultra Compact Surfaces and natural stones.