We are trying to repurpose an old work bench as a kitchen island/ table. Is the wood even safe to use?

Question

We are trying to repurpose an old work bench as a kitchen island/ table. Is the wood even safe to use?

Asked by Amy

We have two young children and in general try to lead a 'green' life.We're trying to preserve the natural dings and dents as much as possibe but have sanded down a bit. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Answers

Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP's picture

First, in order to answer this question I need to know the type of wood and the work previously done on it.

  • Most types of wood repurpose well for this use but if there were toxins used on it before, they could leech out.
  • I've personally only had that happen when the wood was previously used as a storage vessel.

Because this table will come into contact with water, you should know that woods vary greatly in stability when wet.

  • Maple and teak, when the wood is in a thick cut or slab, stand up quite well.
  • Cherry will stain and discolor but otherwise is fairly stable.
  • Teak is very sturdy but as a chopping block, might dull your knives because of the silica content.

In general I would prefer to use wood from a fruit or edible nut tree such asmaple or olive.

  • I would want to know what it had been used for before so as to determine if there were any toxins hiding under the surface.
  • Lastly, repurposing wood has to be done carefully to avoid introducing harmful insects into your home. Check the wood carefully for holes, tunnels and rot. If you can, kiln dry it.
  • Then oil it with a food approved wood oil.