The Counter-top Dilemma
The old counter-tops in this kitchen were 27 years old. They were also particle board, in a kitchen where leaks had been left to just seep. They were literally falling apart (crumbling), from underneath. There were sharpie marks, and stains. In a few places, chunks had been gouged out of the edge. If you pressed on some spots, it would sink in a bit. They had to go, along with the small, rusty sink and ultra-cheap leaking faucet. After removing the old crumbling particle-board counter-tops, I really didn't want to install that type again. I also wanted to avoid as many chemical toxins and glues as I could. Most granite counter-tops do not suit my taste, and soapstone or quartz were far out of my budget. I tossed around the idea of concrete counter-tops, but eventually gave up on that idea as too messy and unwieldy to do myself. I finally came down to two options: wood butcher-block or ceramic tile. I think that tile would have been quite nice, inert, and durable. However, wood counter-tops won me over after a good look at the IKEA catalog. The tile I wanted would be a custom order, and at IKEA, I could get thick oak counter-tops for significantly less money. I was literally shocked by the price (in a good way). Installing tile would also be a messier, longer, more involved process. This is the IKEA counter-top in question.
I was still a bit nervous about it, until I read a post over at housetweaking.com, where easily removing sharpie marks was demonstrated. Sharpie, which had permanently made itself at home on the surface of the old laminate counter-top. IKEA Numerar won! Note: 1 1/2-inch thick, 8-foot long slabs of oak are very heavy to carry into the house! Be certain you have help carrying them in, or a strong trolley. Since installation, I've left them unfinished except for mineral oil rub-downs, and I'm quite happy so far that I went with these counters (about a year later).
- I do not chop directly on them. I use cutting boards.
- If you do get a little scuff mark, a quick rub with fine sand paper (and then mineral oil) erases it!
- Heat is the one culprit you must really watch out for: Have a few good trivets around on which to place hot pans.
- They are naturally antibacterial!
- The mineral oil is non-toxic, and is cheap to buy at the pharmacy, in the laxative section. It never goes rancid. Most of the other oils traditionally used on woods are not food safe (linseed, etc.), so do your research.
Big Sinks Rule
As for the long, single bowl sink: I love it! You can put an entire watermelon in there to cut. You can put an entire kettle or roasting pan in there, and have plenty of room to maneuver. You can completely submerge your grandmother's old serving platter, instead of leaving half sticking up into the air. Combined with the tall faucet, it's fabulous.