07 February 2010

Reader question: Why is my Ikea butcher block splitting?

Help! Exactly one month ago, my husband and I installed a Numerär oak countertop from Ikea. We brought it home, installed it and then sealed it with Ikea's Behandla wood sealer. I thought we were doing everything right, but last night I noticed a split in the wood on the end. Now what? Will it get worse? Should I get a new one?
Oh Lord. I just looked up Numerär on Ikea's website and you paid $89 for that counter. I have to ask, but what were you expecting for $89? Now yes, you spent $89 on a wooden counter and yes it should deliver as promised. But are you really surprised that it didn't? This certainly doesn't get Ikea off the hook. They have a warranty on that counter I'm sure and I would make it my life's work to have them deal with it. After all, $89 is $89. But still, the Numerär costs $89. A similar counter, made from real oak, from Boos will set you back somewhere around $500. Price disparities as wide as that ought to be enough to make anybody look twice.


I got smacked down here a couple of weeks ago for disparaging Ikea's cabinetry. Just ask Becky at Eco-Modernism. Hah! I'll admit, everything Ikea sells isn't automatically crap. So even though it's not crap, it's also not a substitute for the premium products Ikea's imitating either. Wood counters that cost $89 are a case in point.

So the answer your question, you need to look up the warranty on the counter you have and Ikea needs to replace it. They may be a little hesitant to do so if you've attached it to the cabinetry its sitting on, so be prepared to make your case.

If they won't replace it, your crack can be repaired, probably. If it were me, I'd shoot some wood glue into the crack and then get a band clamp and put the squeeze on for a day or so. Then oil that top and keep it oiled. Wood splits when it dries out, so don't let it dry out.

Then I'd think long and hard about what low prices really get you. I love saving a buck as much as anybody, believe me. But you'll end up a happier customer if you start looking for value instead of prices. Sometimes, the value is in a lower-priced product. Sometimes, it's not.

17 comments:

  1. IF it is not oak what is it? If edge grain, then maybe not crack but delaminating? I have a wenge 3 inch thick edge grain top from craft art. A far cry from 89dollars even at MY price. After Ivan, where it sat in non climate controlled beach house, it started splitting a bit....after we got it in proper climate, oiled the heck out of it, it was back good as day I installed it. Yes, it pays to spend the money on the "real" thing! A challenge we face each day with clients...convincing them to spend where it matters....and will it really matter that you have a 15k front door? Not if you skimp on the cabinetry to pay for it. Or the faucets. Or the countertops. This is big part of my job to help them spend wisely where it makes the most impact. And baby...you lIVE inside the house!! Not standing on your stoop gazing at your 15k mahogany door!!

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  2. I'm with you all the way Cheryl. My first thought when I read the description of this top on Ikea's site was that "oak" was the color and not the wood species. But then I started to remember that oak's a pretty generic term. That's why the Craft Arts and the Spekvas and the Booses are very specific when it comes to describing their woods.

    I rant and rail about shopping value over price all the time, and this question is a sterling example of what I mean.

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  3. My kitchen remodeling budget will only allow for IKEA cabinets, but I will sure as hell now spring for a quality countertop.

    Thanks for the post, Paul!

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  4. Sure thing Raina. I understand budgets completely and a low budget just means you have to be smarter. You get it too. It bothers me to see people who get caught up in low prices turn around and buy things with no value. If you're going for an Ikea kithen, check out Becky's www.eco-modernism.com, the woman knows her stuff.

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  5. Oh and one more shameless plug. The gracious, elegant and always demure Cheryl Kees-Clendenon wrote a post on wood tops last month. Check it: http://www.kitchendetailsanddesign.com/?p=980

    Spend some time on her blog, she's a superstar.

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  6. I'd definitely contact IKEA about it first. They need to know these problems happen! I'm curious to know as well: we've only installed one Numerar countertop & want to know if we need to keep an eye out for it.

    I agree: Craft Art has some beautiful countertop product out there!

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  7. See Becky? I can be diplomatic when I want to be. Hey, you and Raina ought to talk about her plans. Her blog is great and you can find it here: http://ifthelampshadefits.blogspot.com/

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  8. At least semi related - I went back to Ikea recently to purchase a replacement leg for a 9 year old bed. The metal leg broke when a nameless member of the family used it as a fulcrum to tip the entire bed, mattress and all, up on its side. I wasn't asking for a warranty replacement, I wanted to purchase the leg. I was at first outraged when I was told they couldn't order the part for me because I didn't have the receipt. Who keeps the receipt for a 9 year old bed that cost about $189 for heaven's sakes? On reflection I realize that Ikea simply can't afford to spend time on ordering parts for old items at their prices. Even if I had to get a whole new bed after 9 years, the thing has only cost me $21 per year so far. It does seem wasteful to throw the whole thing out just for a leg, so for now one corner rests on a perfectly servicable pile of telephone books. We call it an ecologically sound solution.

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  9. Great story Sarah, and you're right. When a company externalizes so many of its costs, things as expected as part sales have to go away. I love your solution.

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  10. You've never been anything but a gentleman & a scholar, Paul. :)

    & Raina life *is* too short to live ugly! Awesome tagline.

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  11. I am not even going to discuss Ikea products :)
    but may I tap your expertise Paul as to what you think of Silestone Quartz sinks?
    Thanks so much. -Brenda-

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  12. As the owner of IKEAFANS.com, I can't say that I'm completely unbiased in this situation, but I've seen MANY, MANY a NUMERAR counter installed over the (nearly five years now!) since I founded the site, and I don't hear this complaint often.

    When I do, it's usually because the countertop was sealed unevenly. Wood is a natural product. It wants to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. If you treat the top differently from the bottom, expect the wood to react poorly. Take the top off, seal BOTH SIDES properly and you won't have a problem. Most likely. It is, after all, an $89 counter.

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  13. Becky: Thanks!

    Brenda: I don't think they look very good and they're new. So that's strike one and strike two. I don't know the process they use to bond the sink to the counter, and if there's a chink in this armor, that's it. I suspect that they will last forever. However, if you do run into a problem you'll have to replace the counter when you replace the sink. That's the same flaw in an integrated solid surface sink. Once bonded, those materials cannot be unbonded. I'd much rather see a steel, iron or vitreous china sink any day.

    Susan: Hey! Thanks for coming by and I really appreciate your leaving a comment. You give sound advice and when cared for and sealed properly, those counters shouldn't crack. I'm glad to hear that this is the first such problem you've heard about regarding this product.

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  14. Thank you Paul. I will definitely heed to your opinion re cons and alternative choices. With much appreciation.... -Brenda-

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  15. Any time Brenda. For you, any time. Don't hesitate to e-mail me directly with this stuff. You get priority answers.

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  16. That is very kind of you. -Brenda-

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  17. You were one of my first regulars Brenda. I'm nothing if not loyal!

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