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I had my mind on wooden countertops - but I will likely be a heavy duty user and so I have settled on the idea of using wooden cabinets (such as here) with a corian/marble type countertop. My partner has raised questions about the wood absorbing the grease - and so I would like to know if any of you have come across this problem, and how can we best mitigate it?

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Are you thinking of Butcher Block? –  Steven Jun 14 '13 at 2:56
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If you do a lot of frying and don't have an effective ventilation system grease will accumulate on kitchen surfaces. The key point is adequate ventilation to control the movement from the cooking area. The range hood should vent to the outside, not just filter and recirculate. The grease that does settle shouldn't penetrate the finish on the cabinets. The more ornate the surface the more difficult it will be to clean the nooks and crannies.

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Finished cabinets, those that have been treated with lacquer(best) or oil-based paints(good), will not absorb cooking oils. Urethanes (good) are also very resistent. These same oils WILL be able to penetrate unfinished woods, for the same reason that I'm sure you've heard of oil-based wood stains. Latex paints can be penetrated over time as it shrinks, is more porous, and does not create a penetrated coating on the wood.

If you are concerned you should:

  • Avoid lower-grade cabinets that make use of MDF and laminate (not laminate wood, laminated coatings over MDF)
  • Make sure that the bottoms of your upper cabinets nearest your cook-top/stove have been sealed, or use a sealer on them. The bottoms of your upper cabinets can often be skipped by the cabinet finisher and will be a prime spot for absorption -- this is especially true on lower-grade (cheap) cabinets.
  • Avoid coatings that are porous (latex) in favor of non-porous coatings (lacquers/oils)

Cooking oil will settle on the surface of the finish and will require cleaning over the years.

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I don't think the wood will absorb grease. Where would the grease be coming from?

As long as the wood is finished with something durable (as kitchen cabinets usually are), you should have no problem wiping the wood clean if they get dusty or dirty.

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my guess is he means the sort of pervading oiliness leftover in a kitchen when you cook things like bacon or salmon - glad to hear this might not happen! –  sccs Jun 14 '13 at 6:47
    
Every house I've ever lived in had wood kitchen cabinets. Never been an issue. –  Henry Jackson Jun 14 '13 at 17:41
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