Worktop Express Blog

In the second part of our two-part blog, we look at some of the non-native species we use to create our wooden kitchen worktops and learn a little more about them. Last week we looked at common British trees, this week we take a look at the African trees whose beautiful and exotic timber makes great kitchen worktops.

Iroko trees (Milicia) and Iroko Wood (Source Wiki)

Credit : wikipedia

Iroko

Iroko trees (Milicia) are African trees that originate from the tropics and are found from Guinea-Bissau to Mozambique where they can reach heights of up to 45m and live almost 500 years. The tree is revered by many cultures – it has historical associations with fertility and birth, with some believing that the tree housed the spirit of the Iroko Man and would offer gifts to show respect.

Although the timbers are unrelated, iroko is sometimes known as African teak because it makes a good alternative and is less expensive in comparison. The iroko timber that is used to make our iroko worktops is very durable – particularly that of the heartwood – which is one of the reasons why we use it. The other reason is its beauty -when new, iroko has a golden colour but matures to reddish brown or rich bronze over time.

Wenge tree (Millettia) and Wenge Wood (Source Wiki)Zebrano tree (Microberlinia) and Zebrano Wood (Source Wiki)

Credit : wikipedia

Wenge

Wenge tree (Millettia) is an African tree that is found in the tropical regions in countries such as Equatorial Guinea and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They reach a height of up to 27m tall yet, amazingly, they are a relative of the garden pea. Wenge is an important tree in Africa and is used to help reforestation efforts on land that has been previously used for cultivation.

Known by some as faux ebony, wenge is an incredibly dark, almost black wood that contrasts spectacularly with Maple. It is commonly used for making musical instruments such as guitars but the wood can also be used to make a fantastic, luxurious wenge worktops. As well as colour, wenge is highly appreciated for its density which makes it perfect to use for our worktops.

Zebrano tree (Microberlinia) and Zebrano Wood (Source Wiki)

Credit : guitarbench

Zebrano

Our zebrano worktops come from Microberlinia trees which are found growing to a height of around 40m throughout the west of the African continent. This African tree is tall and straight which makes it perfect for cutting long timber.

Much like the animals found in Africa, zebrano wood looks exotic and has distinctive patterns. It gets its name from the dark grains on a light background, giving it the appearance of a zebra. This contrasting colouration makes it the ideal wood if you want to make a bold statement in your kitchen. Although chosen for its pattern, zebrano wood is strong and stiff and has a fairly high density which makes it ideal for worktops.

Sapele tree (Entandrophragma) and Sapele Wood (Source Wiki)

Credit : wikipedia

Sapele

Sapele (Entandrophragma) is another African tree that is native to tropical regions and is known colloquially as aboudikro. This is a big tree that can sometimes reach 60m in height, however more commonly grows to 40m. Mahogany is a close relative and has a similar appearance and quality and so sapele is sometime referred to as African mahogany.

Aside from musical instruments, the wood is commonly used for furniture including our sapele worktops. Sapele wood starts off with a pale rose colour but eventually develops a beautifully rich chestnut that is the perfect intermediate between iroko and wenge.

Do you have any questions about tropical African trees? Comment and share your thoughts below. Why not share some of your pictures on Facebook or Twitter showing us how you have used iroko, wenge, zebrano or sapele in your kitchen. If you prefer native timber in your home, be sure to read our blog post from last week which discusses which common British trees make good wooden worktops.


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Our recent DIY Dads competition has come to a close and a number of you nominated your DIY Dad for the chance to win £50 in Worktop Express vouchers along with a solid wood chopping board.

We have seen a variety of projects – from smaller tasks like fixing gates to bigger jobs like leylandii tree felling – showcasing the super home-improvement skills your dads have.

We also received a number of kitchens, sheds and even an extension – all built by the capable hands of your adept dads!

A winner has been selected at random from the nominations sent in and we are pleased to announce that the prize will shortly be on its way to Richard, for the fantastic work his father did fitting his kitchen worktops!

Of his father, Richard said, “such a knowledgeable man I’d be lost without him,” adding, “at 76 he’s still active and helping me out with projects.” We could not have picked a better recipient for the prize!

Thank you to all those who entered – follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be the first to know about new competitions to make sure you are in with a chance of winning!

When choosing your kitchen worktop one of the factors that you might consider is whether the wood comes from a native or non-native tree. To make our worktops, we use wood from common British trees although we source the wood from across Europe. In this two-part blog, we look at some of the native and non-native species we use to create our wooden kitchen worktops and learn a little more about them. Let us start with common British trees whose wood can be used to make both beautiful and hardwearing kitchen worktops.

Ash

Ash trees (Fraxinus) are found growing throughout Europe and the UK and can live 400 years or more. In the wild, they grow up to 35m in height and have a certain elegance which they also bring into a kitchen when used as a worktop. Ash timber has been used for many years and is especially prized for its versatility, hardwearing quality, and the ability to absorb shocks without splintering. For this reason, it was used to make handles for hammers, axes, spades, and oars but nowadays it makes the perfect timber to use as a kitchen surface.

Fortunately, as well as being functional, ash worktops are also beautiful. Almost white in parts, this attractive, light timber is packed full of characterful grain formations and distinctive shades. Its light colour makes it a great choice for a small kitchen that might not have a lot of natural light, brightening up the space and giving it a welcoming feel.

Beech

Beech trees (Fagus) are another native British tree that can be found throughout Europe. Reaching 40m in height, their huge domed canopy is certainly impressive, creating dappled shade on the woodland floor that encourages a range of important woodland plants including red helleborine orchids. This canopy also offers an invaluable habitat for insects and birds, whereas underground, ectomycorrhizal truffles attach themselves to the roots and form a beneficial symbiosis.

Slightly darker than Ash but no less beautiful, beech wood worktops have a timeless appeal. It is a pale wood with a good range of brown hues and a straight and uniform grain texture that lends itself perfectly to a more formal, rather than rustic, style of kitchen.

Birch

Birch trees (Betula) have a long history within Britain and are surrounded by symbolism and mythology associated with purification and renewal. A common tree that is often one of the first to become established in a new woodland due to its rapid growth, birch is very useful. Historically, the bark has been used for tanning leather whilst the wood was used to make reels for the Lancashire cotton industry.

Birch timber has always been used to make furniture because of its hardwearing quality, which is exactly what makes it so well-suited for our kitchen worktops. Birch worktops can be used in both traditional and contemporary kitchen designs and their attractive honey hue and subtle iridescence give your kitchen a warm and welcoming feel.

Oak

Last but not least is the mighty oak (Quercus). This is the tree that most people associate with Britain and there is nothing quite so majestic as a tall and gnarly English oak stood alone in a field. Much like beech trees, oaks also have an open canopy that lets through the perfect amount of light to reach the woodland floor allowing other quintessential British plants, such as bluebells and primroses to flourish.

Durable enough to stand the test of time, an oak worktop is ideal for a well-used kitchen. Beautiful and robust, with distinctive grain textures that deliver a classic charm, it is no surprise that oak is one of the best-selling timbers in our collection.

Comment below and share your thoughts about using timber from common British trees in your home. Perhaps you could share some of your pictures on Facebook or Twitter showing us how you have used ash, beech, birch or oak in your kitchen. If you prefer more exotic timber in your home, be sure to revisit the blog next week to find out more about non-native species.

If you have been following the football, you may be interested to know that we are offering you the chance to win a solid wood chopping board when England play.

All you need to do is correctly predict the score at the end of the match and comment on our Facebook post to let us know what you think the outcome will be. If none of the answers are right, we will simply go to the closest guess – but if more than one person guesses the right result, a name will simply be drawn at random.

Tonight’s match will see the England team pitted against Tunisia and kick off is at 7 pm. The full game can be watched live on BBC1 throughout the UK. We will be offering you the chance to predict and win every single time that England play – so make sure you like our Facebook page to be in with the best chance of winning!

Tiles are a fantastic way to ensure your kitchen walls can be wiped clean and can be used to add colour, texture and flair to your cooking space. Kitchen tiles come in a wide range of sizes, shapes, styles and colours, and can provide a striking finishing touch to your kitchen. With such a selection on offer, which tiles are best for your home? We have compiled this list to help you choose.

Neutral Kitchens

Many different types of tile suit a neutral kitchen, as the tiled area can become the focal point in the design. A neutral tile will work well to complement this kind of look, but a pared-back colour scheme can be used to create a fantastic backdrop for a more striking tile design – either using a pop of colour or an intricate pattern. This customer chose a mix of green and white subway tiles for their kitchen, arranged in an original layout, which adds interest and brightness to the cooking area.

Traditional Kitchens

A traditional kitchen looks great with subway tiles – as the image here illustrates – because the classic style blends well with the rest of the design. Choosing off-white tiles to match the kitchen cabinets is a stylish option for a cohesive look and the darker grout used ensures all the elements stand out individually. The oak block laminate worktop adds to the traditional farmhouse style. For a more contemporary twist, this style would work well with a herringbone pattern.

Contemporary Kitchens

A modern kitchen with teal-coloured tile splashback

Credit : Pinterest

Geometric tiles are a popular option for contemporary kitchens and are a fantastic way to inject colour and personality into a room. The sleek, glossy cabinets in this design provide the perfect backdrop for this vibrant kitchen tile design. Hexagonal tiles can be used to create an almost 3D effect, whilst there are a number of square tiles with intricate geometric designs available for those looking to create a bolder look.

Transitional Kitchens

A transitional kitchen blends influences from both traditional and contemporary styles. Often, this lends the space a timeless feel and can be more versatile than sticking to just one period. In this picture, a neutral colour scheme is reminiscent of a traditional kitchen, but the stainless-steel tap and stunning iroko worktop provide a more contemporary look. The tiles chosen here take inspiration from current trends as well as more timeless designs, ensuring they work well in the setting shown.

Which kitchen tiles have you chosen for your new design? We would love to see your photos – attach them in the comments below or share them on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

High-gloss surfaces are often associated with contemporary kitchens, but with the increasing popularity of farmhouse looks means less polished finishes are back in favour. Wooden worktops suit contemporary styles well, and we have selected a few of our customers’ kitchens to show you how fantastic timber can look in an up-to-date kitchen. Which is your favourite?

Wooden worktops complement any kitchen – they are timeless, beautiful and incredibly durable. In this kitchen, our customer has chosen a fairly monochrome scheme with light grey cabinets, dark grey tiles and dark appliances. The worktop provides a dash of colour and warmth to lift the space – it is sufficiently lit to allow the grain pattern and colour to take centre stage.

This kitchen really stood out in our #WeekendWorktops competition on Twitter. The sleek, handle-less cabinets are incredibly modern, whilst the two-tone finish keeps the kitchen bright and airy. Smart navy blue base cabinets and the honeyed tones of our oak worktops are a simply stunning combination, giving the kitchen a premium appearance.

This customer’s kitchen is a perfect combination of traditional and modern. The lights are eye-catching and make it look like the wooden worktop is floating above the stylish base cabinets. A kitchen of this size is perfect for entertaining guests and hosting parties, and the island is an ideal gathering area which also provides a space to put drinks or snacks.

Whilst the other kitchen images we have featured showcase our solid oak worktops, this kitchen uses one of our solid black American walnut wooden worktops. We really admire this kitchen – in fact, we awarded it first place in our ‘Worktops Win Prizes’ competition earlier this year. A particular highlight for us is the way the expansive kitchen island flows out to the garden. The bar stools make the island a welcoming place to sit and spend time, ensuring the chef is not isolated when cooking.

Our exotic solid iroko worktops take centre stage in this stunning, neutral kitchen. The subtle green and muted tiled splashback allow the iroko surface to steal focus and adds warmth into the room. The overall effect is both luxurious and calming – perfect for the heart of the home.

Have you created a contemporary kitchen with our wooden worktops? You can share pictures in the comments section or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Is your dad a superglue superhero or is he capable of fashioning a stunning product out of basic materials and his bare hands? Perhaps he has fitted our gorgeous worktops by himself and a few tools? Whatever his skill level, you can enter him into our ‘DIY Dads’ competition for a chance to win £50 to spend at Worktop Express and a beautiful solid wood chopping board! This prize is a fantastic gift for Father’s Day, and it could not be easier to enter.

To stand a chance of being top daughter or son and winning a great prize for your father, all you need to do is follow us on Facebook or Twitter and send us a picture, video or story of your dad’s proudest or best DIY project. Alternatively, you can email your entry to Win@Worktop-Express.co.uk if you are not on social media.

We will select the winner at random from all the entries received. This competition will run until Sunday 24th June, so make sure you send in evidence of your old man’s DIY before then to be in the draw.

This is a great opportunity to show your father your appreciation for his wonderful workmanship. The solid wood chopping board will look fantastic in his kitchen or workshop, while the Worktop Express voucher will be very useful for any future home improvements!

Please see our current offers page to read the terms and conditions of our DIY Dads promotion, and good luck!

Sustainability is a priority for Worktop Express, from the wood that is used in our worktops to the practices we employ throughout our operations. Today is World Environment Day, which focuses on how we can reduce our impact on the planet. We have taken a look at the different options we have available and the environmental effect of each below.

Solid Wood Worktops

We will always do our utmost to ensure that your solid wood worktops have minimal environmental impact. Most of our timber species are harvested from European forests, and the majority of the wood we use wood comes with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certification. This means the forests we buy from are responsibly managed and have stringent replanting schemes in place. A similar certification, from PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), is available on our Black American Walnut worktops.

Some of the more exotic timbers in our collection are indigenous to Africa and China and, whilst certification for these species can be hard to come by, we only deal with reputable forestry schemes and visit each supplier at least every three months. Our bamboo and caramel bamboo surfaces are among our most environmentally friendly, as they grow far quicker than other types of wood, so stocks are replenished much more swiftly.

Laminate and Earthstone Worktops

A wooden worktop is not your only option if you want to limit your impact on the planet. Our extensive ranges of laminate and Earthstone worktops are made to the highest quality to ensure they last for a long time – ensuring a lower volumes of these worktops will need to be manufactured. The wooden particleboard core of these products is recyclable and made from sustainable timber wherever possible.

Our Environmental Policies

World Environment Day highlights what can be done to protect the environment, which is something we consider on a daily basis. Alongside the aforementioned supplier visits and certification programmes, we work hard to be as efficient as possible. Wood worktop offcuts are used to make our samples and chopping boards, or used to power our biomass boiler. Our warehouse roof features 400 solar panels – in time, we will be relying on these for all our electricity. The paper we use is FSC approved, and our worktops are transported in reusable packaging. Delivery routes for our transport fleet are worked out based on the deliveries we are fulfilling on any given day to ensure we are using the most fuel efficient path, reducing our carbon footprint.

We also support a number of responsible forestry schemes through the International Tree Foundation. If you would like to read more information about our work, please visit our environmental policy page.

How are you celebrating World Environment Day? Let us know in the comments section below or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

The recent hot weather has, for many, signalled the start of summer. Make the most of the rising temperatures with these kitchen gadgets, which range from barbecue must-haves to cooling ice cream machines.

Weber Chimney Starter Set

If you have ever had a barbecue, you will probably know that getting it lit – and keeping it lit – can prove difficult and time-consuming. This Weber Chimney starter set is one of the fastest ways to get your charcoal heated up, meaning you can start cooking with no fuss or mess. Once the coals are burning, simply transfer to your barbecue. Weber BBQ items are popular and high-quality, so are worth the initial investment as they should last.

Sage Boss to Go Blender

This Sage Boss to Go Blender could be one of the best kitchen gadgets for smoothie aficionados! Online reviews praise this model for its durability, ease of use and, perhaps most importantly, its ability to blend a variety of foods without leaving bits or large particles. The 500ml cups are impact-resistant and as smooth as your kale boost drink, while the product also comes with a recipe book for you to try out its different uses. This blender is the most expensive item on this list, but could be worthwhile if you plan to regularly have a smoothie in your hand over the summer.

Watermelon Slicer

One of the more niche kitchen gadgets on this list is one that you might not have realised you needed. This watermelon slicer actually cuts any type of melon into neat, evenly sized segments using stainless steel blades. Its ease makes it very useful for parties, sports teams or families. The product in this photo costs a reasonable £5.98, so you might not mind too much if it spends most of the year sat at the back of the cupboard.

Herb Scissors

These herb scissors make chopping fresh herbs incredibly simple, allowing you to quickly and easily add extra flavour to salads, dips or meals. The blades are sharp enough to cut through bunches of herbs, and this sharpness also ensures that no bruising occurs. These scissors are also easy to clean and have non-slip handles.

Ice Cream Maker

As temperatures soar, a cone of delicious homemade ice cream is one of the best ways to cool off. You can also make sorbet or frozen yoghurt in this Cuisinart Deluxe ice cream maker, with the added benefit of being able to add in ingredients such as chocolate chips or nuts halfway through. To use, you will need to freeze the bowl for 12 hours or more, but it has been rated one of the best ice cream makers on sale. Its price is mid-range – you can spend upwards of £250 on a model with an in-built freezer – providing a more affordable option for those on a more modest budget.

Which of these summer kitchen gadgets are you itching to try out? Let us know in the comments section below! You can also follow our Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up date with our latest blogs, news and promotions.