Here are three “bio-based” countertops that merit attention.
TorZo’s “Tiikeri” is most aptly described as “a playful look that could be a kid’s version of a street map” or “a cross-section of raw amber.” Its humble origins are as unusual as its look — it’s made from shredded sorghum stalks. To produce the look, the stalks are mixed with a resin, carefully placed in a press and heated to produce a board, which is then infused with an acrylic polymer to increase its hardness and durability.
TorZo’s “Orient,” with its “depth and iridescence,” is equally unusual and definitely a case of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. In this case the sow is one that home builders and remodelers know well. TorZo’s Orient countertop is a jazzed-up, color-and-acrylic impregnated version of the same oriented strand board, commonly called OSB, that is used as a framing material throughout the United States. TorZo’s OSB boards are made with recycled wood waste from the manufacture of other construction materials that are made with wood.
Because of the unusual hardness and durability of TorZo’s countertops, the firm initially marketed them to restaurants as tabletops. Now, it is available for residential applications through distributors. Tiikeri was designed to resist the bumps and banging of boisterous diners and not the hurried movements of a restaurant’s kitchen crew. It’s more suited to a kitchen serving island than a high-use food prep area, but the Orient could be used anywhere in a kitchen, said Max Letsz, a TorZo distributor with Stone Source in Washington, D.C.
With a polyurethane finish, no maintenance is required. Depending on the size and counter configuration, the installed cost would range from about $30 to $80 a square foot, Letsz said.
Teragren’s “Chestnut Strand Bamboo” could be mistaken for a great-looking, unidentifiable tropical hardwood. It has proved to be popular with homeowners for this reason, winning over many who claim a strong dislike for bamboo until they see it, said Mark Melonas, a countertop fabricator with Lukeworks in Baltimore, who works with Teragren products.
The manufacture of this countertop is as unusual as its look. The bamboo is shredded and then boiled. The darker “Chestnut” color is cooked until the strands turn brown, just as you would caramelize onions, explained Paola Rutledge, Teragren’s national sales manager.
The millions of tiny dots on the surface of Teragren’s “Bamboo Parquet Butcher Block” that make it appear to be three dimensional are a natural phenomenon; they originally formed part of the bamboo’s vascular system, Rutledge said. For most homeowners, however, the most unusual aspect of this countertop is that it can be used as a cutting surface. In describing the one he uses in his own home everyday, Melonas said, “It has a good knife feel, it feels good to cut on, and it doesn’t dull my knives.”