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Our Ash Worktops from Worktop-Express (And How we Fit Them!)

Worktop Express Review

It's no secret that I love wood. I love our wooden floorboards, I love our solid oak wardrobe, I even love my rustic pallet seating. Wood is the best material to work with, it's totally DIY-able (unlike stone or metal) it can be renovated and refurbished in the years to come, and if looked after properly - it can truly last a lifetime. Just look at our wooden joists and floorboards which are well over 100 years old!

So when it came to buying a kitchen worktop, wood was the obvious choice. If I had all the money in the world, yes I would definitely have loved to have gone for stone quartz. It's sleek, doesn't really require maintenance and I think it makes a kitchen look a little more luxurious. However we're on a budget, so that was well and truly out of the question. As was laminate, which I'm just not a fan of. It just had to be wood.

Why Worktop-Express?

You may know that we actually purchased our kitchen from DIY-Kitchens, so you may be wondering why we didn't buy our worktops from them? Well truth be told, their variety of wooden worktops was really very slim and to be even more honest, their prices just weren't that competitive either. We used Worktop-Express in our old house to supply the upstands, so we have experience using them before and I knew they had a very large range of different woods and at good value too.

As well as their range of wood, I knew they also offer a bespoke cutting service. This means you can literally send them the diagrams of your kitchen with all the cut-outs required and they will cut everything to size, meaning the worktops can turn up and literally be placed straight into position, no stressing required. It meant we had options as to whether we wanted to DIY cut them ourselves or not. We actually ended up doing both, but I'll get onto that in a bit!

Choosing a Wood

Since deciding to go dark on our kitchen doors, I knew I needed to go light on the worktops. Oak is a lovely wood and something I always thought I would go for - but it has quite a country vibe to it in some ways, and against the dark doors I just wanted something a bit lighter in tone and a bit more modern. I ordered a range of samples from Worktop-Express and Ash stood out to me instantly. It was light and had a gorgeous grain - something I really appreictate in wood. It was also one of the more cheaper woods, unlike a couple of the samples which I didn't like enough to warrant the larger price tags. 

Here's a quick look at the samples I ordered but decided against - From Top Left to Bottom Right we have: Beech, Rubberwood, Bamboo, Maple and finally Ash.

Samples from worktop-express

Here's a close up of Ash, it's far more lighter that it appears in the top photo. I absolutely love the grain of this wood!

ash worktop sample


DIY Cutting a Wood Worktop

To save money, we're cutting the worktops along the left-hand side of the kitchen (the cooker side!) ourselves. The reason for just doing this side and not the other one, is because these cuts are all relatively simple - by which I mean they're all straight cuts which can be done with tools we already own. The other side of the kitchen requires a Belfast sink cut-out which needs a special tool we don't own - but I'll explain that later.

We actually cut the wooden worktops in our old house ourselves and there were no disasters, so we knew this was a DIY we were more than capable of. We purchased a 4m length of worktop and using our laser distance measurer we were able to take exact measurements to cut the worktop into the sizes we needed (one either side of the cooker). If you don't have a laser measure, I HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you get one - you just cannot get a more exact measurement than using a laser measure. It will change your life. Almost. Basically, you hold the laser flat against the edge of the end cabinet (or in our case, cooker) and point the laser at a piece of wood held on the other end (or in our case, the tall end panel) and it will calculate the distance in-between, to the mm.


How to measure worktops with laser distance measure
how to use a laser distance measure

Now do bear in mind, that if the worktop is at the end of a run, (which I mean, the last cabinet) you'll potentially want to add on an overhang to match any overhang you have at the front. For this piece of worktop, we're sandwiching it between an end panel and the cooker, so we didn't need an overhang. However, for the worktop on the other side of the cooker, we added 25mm to the measurement to account for the overhang at the end. I hope that makes sense?

To cut the worktop, Grant used a Plunge Saw which works on a track so you know you're getting a straight cut every single time. You literally can't go wrong. Unless of course, you measure it wrong. Hence the laser measure - seriously, go get one!

How to cut wooden worktops

You want to make sure you're using a fine blade and always test on off-cut or sample piece first to ensure the cut isn't going to be rough. We've cut the worktop whilst it's on the ground, but it's being propped up with the use of some spare insulation boards we had leftover from a previous job. This ensures the blade of the saw won't cut into the floor, obviously. And here's the first piece in place! A perfect snug, mm perfect fit! Although we have left a mm gap, to account for wood expansion around the cooker.

DIY worktop fittingThe worktop for the other side of the cooker was a little more complex as we had to do one straight cut to get it to size and then another to take the corner off where the worktop will sit around the supporting pillar. We created a cardboard template to make sure the cut was correct and we cut this using a Jigsaw. I say we, Grant was the guy who did all the cutting here, although I was fully responsible for all the measuring. A jigsaw will leave a much rougher cut, but as this is cut will be against the wall - it will be hidden by the upstand.

DIY cutting a wood worktop

Easy as 1,2,3!

How to cut and fit worktopsUntreated Ash Worktop


Bespoke Cutting Service

For the other side of the kitchen (the sink side), we used Worktop-Express's bespoke cutting service. A belfast sink cut out is quite complicated - you need a router, a template and a bit of skill. We don't have any of those and our first ever attempt at using a router definitely was not going to be on a £300+ bit of worktop. Hell no! We also wanted to have draining grooves added to the worktop, which would have been an additional template to buy as well - so, all in all, it worked out much cheaper to get Worktop-Express to do it than buying all the things we needed. Plus, there's no worry about it going wrong!

In order to use the bespoke cutting service, you need to be able to draw up a template. If you've had your kitchen designed for you, you may already have these measurements but if you've designed it yourself, you may not. Depending on the layout of your kitchen and what cuts you're after, this can either be really simple or really complex. However in both cases, it is achieveable - you'll just want to check your measurements about 1000 times before submitting the order - because if you get it wrong and it doesn't fit, well you'll have to pay for a whole new worktop.

Templating A Bespoke Cut Worktop for a Belfast Sink

In our case, we only had a relatively small section of worktop to template, however the process is going to be the same regardless. The first thing you need to establish is the overall length of worktop, which we achieved with the Laser Measure, taking the measurements from one end of the cabinets to the other and then added an additional 5cm. This is cover the overhang there will be on either side (25mm). Draw this up and make sure you label it well.

how to template a worktop


Next up, we had to position the cut out for the Belfast sink. You'll need to take into consideration any overhang of worktop around the sink as well - which I strongly recommend to ensure any water from the worktop drains into the sink and not onto the edge of it - which could cause you all kind of rot issues. The overhang we've gone for here is 1.5cm. Again, you'll want to measure distance from the edge of the inside of the sink, to the end of the cabinet. Then add on the overhangs. Is this making sense yet?

templating a belfast sink cut out

Repeat this for the other side and again for the back - remembering this time, you'll need to account for any overhang of the worktop at the front as well. You'll see I've circled the important numbers!

Diagram for worktop cut outs

If you're looking for a hole for the tap, you'll need to know the diameter of that hole - but luckily you don't need to take measurements for its position, as you can select "align with sink" when you input the diagram online and that will do the job for you. You will however need to specify how far from the back edge of the worktop you'd like it to be. Ours is 10cm down. And finally, if you're looking for drainage grooves too - good news is, these can also be automatically aligned! All you need to specify is their length, which we've gone for 45cm, apparently the recommended amount.

Once you've got all the cuts drawn up, I would then recommend cutting some large sheets of card to size to make a 'mock up' worktop. You'll be able to see exactly how it'll look and check everything's right before submitting the order. You can find giant pieces of card at most supermarkets if you ask nicely. They actually come on most pallets and are sent to be recycled daily, so you can always ask customer services to keep some behind from that day, and collect the next day. It may seem like a strange request, but from someone who works in retail, I can tell you it's actually not that unusual and is a great way to get free card.


How to template a worktop for worktop-express

So I'm afraid if you have any other cuts I haven't mentioned, I can't help with how to measure those - but generally speaking the process should be pretty much the same. Once you've got it all drawn up you're ready to use the online bespoke tool to input your measurements! Once the order has gone through, you'll then be sent a final drawn-up diagram to reconfirm before the worktop is cut. At this stage you can still make alterations or request any extras.


Drip Groove?
One thing I added as an extra, which wasn't available from the order page was a drip groove. This is basically a groove on the underside of the worktop, which sits around the perimeter of the sink. It means any water that splashes up whilst the sink is in use, or when the draining grooves are being used, will therefore drip off the worktop once it's run down to the groove. If you don't have them, that water will just run along the underside of the worktop and could just 'sit there' - which is ultimately bad for the worktop. A drip groove, as the name suggests, makes sure that water actually drips off. So our drip groove is 5mm wide, cut in 5mm away from the edge of the sink cut out, and not forgetting to leave a gap from the front of the worktop, otherwise the cut will be shown. Basically, like this.

What is a drip groove
Drip groove around belfast sink

I actually think this should be something you can select on their online tool, because from everything I researched online - every single carpenter out there recommended putting a drip groove in. It only added £20 extra to the order, so I think - well worth it!

Here's the final diagram they sent for us to confirm. I love that you also get to keep all the off-cuts as well, as I definitely have some DIYs planned for ours.

Worktop-Express Fabrication Diagram

We had all our fingers and toes crossed for the worktop to fit when it arrived and it did! Perfect to the mm, thank the lord! Although we weren't quite jumping for joy too soon, as annoyingly the drainage grooves had been cut too short. Which yep, meant begrudgingly having to send it back to be re-cut. Customer service was a little slow on this and it seems you can only contact them through email (I did try to phone, but no one ever called me back and I phoned no less than three times!) It did get sorted in the end through email, but it meant going back and forth through emails responses and in my opinion would have been much faster over the phone. Basically, I was being super impatient and just wanted the damn worktop in the kitchen! However once it was recollected, it was back to us within days! So I was pretty pleased about that ;) Here's Grant celebrating the last length of our kitchen renovation!

Bespoke Cutting Service from Worktop-Express Review

Getting the tap on was a little awkward as we had to prop the worktop up and work in a tiiiiiiiny space to get it all connected up. With a normal sink, you can get access underneath the sink right to the worktop - but that's not the case with a Belfast sink. Anyway I'm not sure how else you're meant to do it - but this was our solution.

How to fit a wood worktop around belfast sink
Fitting a tap on a belfast sink
DIY worktop fitting

Creating a Window Sill

Because of our wonky walls, we actually had quite a large gap between the back of the worktop and the wall at one end of the kitchen. Having done the measurements for the worktop, we knew this was  going to be an issue and we thought long and hard about how to resolve it before placing the order. Eventually we decided to create a window sill from some leftover upstand to hide most of the gap and with the part we couldn't hide with the sill, we screwed a very small section of extra worktop onto the back. Yes it's a little makeshift, but it saved us a fortune doing it this way, rather than ordering an extra wide piece of worktop. Plus, now it's all together - you literally can't tell! I think the window sill sitting on-top of the worktop actually looks quite smart too.

How to create a window sill from leftover upstand
DIY cutting architrave
How to hide gap at back of worktop
Adding extra section to wood worktop
How to create a window sillWindow sill made from upstand

Oiling the Worktops

The bespoke cut worktop comes pre-oiled, but the other worktops don't, so before we could screw them into position, we needed to oil them. We used Rustins Danish Oil on recommendation by Worktop-Express and oiled all four sides of the worktop with two coats using a lint-free cloth to rub it in, making sure to only use a light application each time.

The oil definitely darkened the wood slightly, but it really brought out the grain and gave a beautiful shine to the worktop. Having used the worktops for a while now, I think the oil is really quite good and it lasts a fair amount of time (with the exception of around the sink, which does need a fair amount of upkeep!) so I definitely do recommend it. 

How to oil worktops
Oiling upstands
Rustins Danish Oil on Worktops


Fitting Upstands

Along with our worktop order, we also purchased some matching Ash upstands. I prefer the look of upstands rather than tiles personally, and because upstands are thicker they're also great for covering up any gaps at the back of the worktop between the wall. If you have any large gaps, you may find tiles are just too thin!

We cut the upstands to size using a mitre saw and I then oiled three sides of the up stand (leaving the back un-oiled), prior to fitting. I was worried if I oiled the back, it wouldn't stick the wall properly, hence why I left that side. To fit the upstands, I simply used adhesive with clamps attached to the worktops to hold them into position. This is particularly necessary if you don't have straight walls or the wood has a slight bow to it.

how to attach an upstand diy
How to hold upstand in position

I actually used Screwfix No-Nonsense adhesive for the first upstand I did and it popped straight off the wall a few days later - the horror! So I researched again and switched to a different adhesive, this one by Gripfill which is much stronger and much more potent smelling too. The second time around, I leaved the clamps on for more than 72hours (and no less!) to ensure it was really properly dry before removing them. Since using that, we've had no problems with them and they've been firmly attached for a few months now!

Applying Sealant & Caulk

The last thing to do was caulk any gaps at the top of the up-stands and use a clear sealant between the upstand and the worktop, so that no spillages can run underneath. I also used a flexible nozzle and put some sealant in-between the sink and the worktop too. This just provides a proper seal, so should there be any water splashing - it won't get through there either.

flexible caulk nozzle

A Few Months On...

And that's it! I absolutely love the Ash worktops and I'm so glad with my wood choice. With wooden worktops you do need to be careful not to burn them and also not to leave any spillages that could potentially warp or stain the surface. So far we've thankfully had neither (touch wood!) and I find the worktops generally quite easy to maintain. I try to re-oil around the sink monthly, otherwise I think the rest of the worktops will just be a 6-month or yearly affair.

I will say that the draining grooves aren't actually very good - by which I mean, they don't really drain. The water just kind of sits in the grooves and it doesn't run out properly, so I actually end up having to manually force the water down and into the sink. I don't know whether they just weren't cut properly when we sent the worktop back, but I'm definitely not overly impressed by them and I now use a draining mat instead. Obviously standing water on wood worktops is never a good thing, so if they're not draining correctly then they're likely to warp or even split over time. I'm still glad I went for them, as I do like the look of them - but yes, they're kinda pointless!

Cost-wise, these worktops were still fairly pricey, but a heck less than the cost of stone. We saved a bit of cash by keeping the edge of worktops square (as opposed to being rounded which added additional costs) and of course we saved money by DIY fitting the whole lot too.

So here's some shots of the worktops all nice and finished, in their full beauty!

Ash Wood Worktops
Belfast Sink Cut Out Worktop-Express
Ash upstands
Ash Worktops from Worktop-Express
DIY Worktop Installation
How to fit a worktop yourself
Drainage Grooves next to belfast sink
Worktop-Express drainage grooves
ash wooden worktops
Kitchen worktops made from ash


So I hope this helps anyone thinking about going for wooden worktops and whether you should DIY or not. I would definitely recommend Worktop-Express and especially their bespoke cutting service too. I can't tell you how relieving it was not having to stress out over cutting the Belfast sink - I mean, that's not a DIY you want to get wrong, I can assure you.

I'd love to know what you think - is DIY worktop fitting something you'd consider?

Costs

(rounded to the nearest pound)

New Tools Purchased:
None

Materials Used:
Upstands £75
Worktops £553
Danish Oil £25

Total: £653

1 comment

  1. Cutting your own worktops is definitely a good idea if you trust yourself with measurements, and you feel that there is a decent enough saving to be made. It also means you'll have a unique finish with your needs in mind, which is obviously perfect. Of course, you will need to have the tools at hand which probably isn't that common in households nowadays. But needless to say, yours look perfect and the ash certainly was a good choice.

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