All About Full Stave Iroko Worktops: A Worktop Express® Nutshell Guide
Iroko is an exotic hardwood that is sometimes known as African Teak; but whatever you’d like to call it, it’s one of our favourite wood worktops, particularly when in its full stave form. We’ve collated all the information you’ll ever need to know about this charismatic timber, including its science, history and more.
Iroko is one of the largest hardwood trees in Africa, and whilst the wood initially has a yellow hue, it will darken over time to a rich brown. Some staves have a beautiful golden sheen that reflects the light, bringing warmth to the room.
We also stock a standard form of iroko with staves of 40mm rather than the more lavish 90mm staves of our full stave and Deluxe worktops. In the wider stave formation, iroko looks fantastically elegant and would make an excellent dining table.
To see more photographs of full stave iroko worktops up close and personal, take a look at our Worktop Image Gallery.
TYPE OF WOOD AND GRAIN STRUCTURE
Iroko is a fairly large deciduous tree that grows to over 50 metres tall. Whilst the bark is a pale grey colour, the darker hardwood hidden within has a relatively coarse texture, with open pores and an interlocked grain.
‘Medullary rays’ are present throughout the timber, which are the radial sheets and ribbons that extend vertically throughout the tree and across the growth rings. Our wide planked iroko worktops are constructed from quartersawn staves, which shows off the wood at its finest and keeps the character of the grain intact.
Poorer quality examples of iroko timber may contain deposits of calcium, which forms cavities and weakens the structure of the wood. You can recognise these deposits of calcium if the wood displays lots of small dark patches. Our suppliers only construct our iroko worktop from wood which does not exhibit these qualities.
SOURCE AND MANUFACTURE
There are two main trees that constitute towards the supply of wood commonly known as iroko. Both of the Moraceae family, Cholophora excelsa is the most common, though the very similar Cholophora regia is also frequently used.
These species of tree are found throughout Central Africa, with the largest concentrations found in wet savannah, rainforest, and low-altitude evergreen forests.
It’s our top priority to source wood that is not only hardy and attractive, but also environmentally sound. Due to its African heritage, iroko cannot be classified under the European FSC certification, but we have gone through great lengths over the last few years to ensure that our timber only comes from sustainable, legal sources. We demand a chain of custody for all timber imported, and only ever deal with suppliers that promote proper environmental practice.
To find out more about our environmental credentials, please read our Environmental Policy page.
Since the inception of Worktop Express® we’ve delivered over 150,000 worktops and are proud to now be considered experts in the field. We fabricate and deliver worktops and accessories of the highest quality at excellent prices. We only ever deal directly with suppliers, cutting out any middlemen and ensuring we always have the best relationships with the manufacturers. To keep our standards at the highest level, we visit our suppliers at least once every three months. To find out more, read our ‘Sourcing and Manufacture Guide’.
Whilst our standard worktops are constructed from a 40mm stave, our wide board wood worktops are constructed from more lavish 90mm wide staves that run the entire length of the worktop, highlighting the beauty of this African timber in an unparalleled way. They are bonded under pressure using high quality glues that can easily withstand the installation process and the day-to-day stresses a wooden worktop is subject to.
We have worked closely with our manufacturers to ensure that full iroko planks of only the highest quality are chosen, prioritising aesthetic continuity and exquisite grain pattern and colour.
For more information on the construction of our worktops, visit our ‘Construction Types Explained’ information guide.
- Tree Size: 30-50m tall, up to 1-2 m trunk diameter
- Density: 550-750 kg/m3
- Average Dried Weight: 660 kg/m3
- Janka Hardness: (5610 N)
- Modulus of Rupture (bending strength): 87.6 MPa
- Elastic Modulus (‘stiffness’ of wood): 9.38 GPa
As with any natural product, wood is full of unique characteristics that make each product individual and characterful. With inevitable changes in growing conditions (a rise in temperature, for example), timber can experience colour variation. After felling, oxidation of the wood takes place, which tends to be hastened with exposure to sunlight, and results in a gradual change in its hue. For iroko, this process is more obvious than with other species of wood, starting with golden yellow tones and mellowing to a rich and lustrous dark brown. For this reason, we display photos of our opulent full stave iroko worktops on our website, in the colour they will become soon after installation, to provide realistic representation.
It’s difficult to find as much historical information on iroko as that which surrounds European and American trees, but we do know that in West Africa iroko is often considered a sacred tree. In the past ritual sacrifices would take place underneath a solitary tree, and gifts were given to them. It was believed that spirits were trapped within the tree, and was also associated with fertility and birth.
The timber has been used for ceremonial drums and coffins, as well as masks and small carved idols. Its bark and leaves is also believed to have medicinal uses, which it is still prescribed for to this day, by native doctors who do not have ready access to modern medicines.
In more recent times, iroko has been used to create more modern tourist versions of the face masks and idols that were once more sacred to the tribes of West African culture. And, most importantly (we would argue!), iroko is also used for furniture and our rather lovely wooden worktops.
As leaders in the field of solid wood worktops, we go through great lengths to make sure that we are able to offer traditional plank iroko worktops and more at an extremely competitive price. This involves us streamlining our processes to become very efficient as well as high-volume purchasing to keep cost prices as low as possible. At any one time we have over 7,500 worktops in stock, meaning we can deliver direct to the public and trade quickly and efficiently with our own in-house delivery team.
We have specialist online stock ordering systems that help us reduce the quantity of dead stock and wastage, which in turns helps us to reduce costs. Our ‘direct-to-public’ e-commerce business model has meant that we’re able to drastically save on overheads compared to some of our competitors. We’ve also been the first in our industry to introduce various new practices and the most up-to-date products.
Our directors take regular trips to Europe to visit our suppliers – usually every three months. We never use an agent to visit on our behalf as we believe it’s very important that we see the products first hand, and so can ensure that our high standards are continually implemented. Worktop Express® are currently the largest importers of solid wood worktops to the UK, and also branched out into the German market in 2014 with the aim of becoming Europe’s leading online solid wood worktop specialist.
Full stave iroko worktops start at £250 for a 2m worktop – excellent value for such a lavish work surface.
Full stave iroko worktops are ideal for kitchens with both contemporary and classic design themes. The glorious deep colour of the timber is showcased to stunning effect through the full stave construction, meaning that this worktop is the perfect centrepiece for a natural kitchen with lacquered oak cabinets, whilst also standing up to bolder colours such as dazzling red, deep purple, or midnight black. Consider under-counter lighting to reflect the iridescence of iroko’s surface.
Plank style iroko worktops are also perfect for modern dining table surfaces and desks: indeed, here at Worktop Express® many of our workstations are constructed from full stave iroko.
Visit our full stave iroko worktops page to find out more information on the sizes available, which can be ordered online quickly and easily through our website.