If you have a home office and you don’t want to settle for a run-of-the-mill work surface, you might want to give some consideration to a custom desk or table that suits your specific needs. And if you decide to go that route, you’ll need a desktop that’s both practical and beautiful. Luckily, there are several choices of materials that combine great looks and easy maintenance, making them perfect desk-toppers.

NATURAL STONE

For a totally no-care desk top, consider one of the natural stones such as marble or granite. These tops are smooth, cool, impervious to those coffee cup incidents and, let’s face it, downright classy. They are available in a number of colors from jet-black to shades of white, in both solid colors and multiple striations of shades.

Granite and marble are available as both tiles and solid tops, but for desktops you’ll be happier with the more expensive solid top version. Once the desk itself has been laid out, cover it with a solid top of plywood, then have a company that specializes in working with these materials come out to measure it. They will typically make a template of the actual desk, and then cut, edge, and polish the granite or marble to fit.

WOOD

Wood lends itself beautifully to home office desk and counter tops. Solid boards can be laminated together to make a top of the necessary size, but more commonly these tops are constructed from plywood that has a top veneer of decorative wood.

Beautiful, furniture-grade hardwoods such as oak, maple, cherry, walnut, and others are commonly available as plywood sheets. For something a little more on the exotic side, you can also purchase veneer sheets in everything from ash to zebrawood and then apply them to a smooth, solid substrate such as A-grade plywood or high-density particleboard.

To complete the top, the sheets are simply cut to size to fit the desk, typically with at least a one-inch overhang on all sides. For L-shaped or U-shaped tops, two or more cut sheets are joined together using special countertop splicing bolts that fit into recesses that are routed into the underside of the tops. To complete the installation, use matching or contrasting strips of solid wood molding to cover the raw edges of the plywood. Both the solid wood and the wood veneer can be stained as desired, or left natural.

To protect the wood against spills and damage from desktop items, you’ll need to apply a clear finish. This can be in form of a liquid polyurethane that you brush onto the wood on-site, or you can avoid the fumes and the hard work and take the completed top to a paint shop and have them apply a clear, silky-smooth lacquer finish.

PLASTIC LAMINATE

Another ideal top material is plastic laminate, such as Formica or Wilsonart. Laminates come in hundreds of different colors and patterns that allow you to go as mild or as wild in your home office as you want. Laminate tops are clean and very smooth, and resist all of the common spills and abuses that a desktop will suffer.

You can do the laminate work yourself, but a much simpler alternative is to have a laminate shop do it for you. The desktop is measured and then cut to the appropriate size; the edges then can be trimmed with either wood or additional laminates in either matching or contrasting colors.

With any of these tops, you’ll still want to protect its beauty and extend its life by utilizing a blotter for writing on, coasters under glasses and coffee cups, and protective self-stick rubber or felt pads under lamps, computer monitors, and other desktop items.

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@direcway.com.

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