Q. A client wants me to glue up a hardwood kitchen countertop for him. Is this asking for trouble, or can it be done successfully? What potential problems should I be aware of?

A. Dan Vos, owner of DeVos Custom Woodworking in Dripping Springs, Texas, responds: We make a lot of kitchen countertops from a variety of hardwoods. One important thing to keep in mind is that the wider the countertop, the thicker it needs to be to remain stable. A finished thickness of 1 1/2 inches is ample for counters up to 25 inches wide; for larger tops, we'll go to 1 3/4 or 2 inches. In most cases, we use Titebond (or Titebond II Extend if we need a little extra working time) for gluing up the top, although we use West System Epoxy (866/937-8797, westsystem.com) for oily tropical hardwood. We find that biscuit joints aren't necessary, because a properly made glue joint is stronger than the wood itself.

For a finish, we use either a 50/50 mixture of pure tung oil and pure citrus solvent, or a product called Waterlox (800/321-0377, waterlox.com), which is a polymerized tung-oil-based penetrating finish. If the tung oil/citrus mix is used, the homeowners can cut and chop directly on the countertop as long as they reapply the finish once or twice a year. Regardless of the finish, a wood countertop must be finished equally on all surfaces - including the underside - or it's likely to twist and warp.

Because wood expands and contracts in response to changes in moisture and humidity, fastening a countertop to a cabinet with glue or some other "hard" fastening is a recipe for disaster. It should be attached from beneath with screws driven through elongated or oversized holes in corner blocks or cabinet bracing strips. That approach holds the countertop down firmly while still allowing it some freedom of movement.

If part of the counter will be directly above a heat- or moisture-producing appliance like a dishwasher or wine fridge, we apply a reflective layer of heavy-duty aluminum foil to the underside of the countertop with a spray adhesive to protect it.

Finally, make sure that the homeowner understands the special demands of a wood countertop. For example, although undermount sinks can be successfully used in a wood countertop, the exposed edge around the sink is especially susceptible to moisture. It's up to the homeowner to stay on top of the situation and keep the finish in that area in particularly good shape.

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