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What Is the Best Wood for Kitchen Cabinets?

When it’s time for your kitchen remodelling project, chances are that you’re going to spend some time choosing the right cabinets. Deciding on the cabinets is oftentimes going to be one of the toughest decisions that you’ll have to make during the remodelling process. There are quite a few different factors to consider before you make a decision. In fact, doing some research on what kind of kitchen cabinets have the most amount of quality can help you make a choice as to what material will best suit your project. In most cases, these are going to be wooden cabinets, but what is the best wood for kitchen cabinets?

wooden cabinets

Various Cabinet Materials

Think about what the overall theme of your home is along with the space that you want to work with, in the kitchen. This can help you narrow down your choices as far as what kind of cabinet material to choose for your project. Each kind of cabinet material has different qualities which is why it’s important to understand the feeling you’re looking to achieve. 

There are many different kinds of materials that are most often used for kitchen cabinets. Some of the most popular include: 

  • Natural Woods
  • Thermofoil
  • Laminate
  • Stainless Steel

Each material comes at a different price point which can also reflect its durability. While laminates and thermofoil can run at a pretty cheap price, compared to the alternatives, they may require replacement after a few years. Stainless steel kitchen cabinets can be a great choice in terms of durability, but they’re on the pricer side and can lack warmth. 

Natural woods are typically considered to be the best overall option due to the variety of wood options and price ranges. Choosing all wood cabinetry can typically cost more than synthetics and composites, but they’re durable which makes them last longer, they have more versatility, and they allow for more control in terms of the design. 

There’s no denying that there’s nothing better than natural wood for quality kitchen cabinets. Solid wood kitchen cabinets can typically produce a feeling that synthetic and composite materials can’t reproduce.

Wood Cabinets Make for a More Appealing Kitchen

Modern wood kitchen cabinets are a more appealing choice for a kitchen due to their unique and distinct character. Some people prefer to have more predictable and engineered materials such as laminate and thermofoil; however, if you want a more natural look for your cabinets, you may want to consider real wood as there are many different color variations and grain patterns. 

Modern wood kitchen cabinets

Choosing the right kind of wood species for your kitchen cabinets will greatly depend on your own personal style, budget, and few other factors. 

Kitchen trends are constantly changing, kitchen tile preferences for the backsplash will shift, as will the various kitchen color schemes you’re looking into. However, wood kitchen cabinets will continue to remain a tried-and-true option. They can be freshly installed as part of a new construction project or replaced if they’re outdated or damaged. Wood kitchen cabinets are considered to be a trustworthy option. 

While wooden cabinets are a good choice for a kitchen, installing them requires first picking the type of wood which can end up being an even bigger challenge than picking a paint color. The type of wood you choose will depend on the look you’ll want your kitchen to have. 

When it comes to wood cabinets, there are typically two main styles. One of which is a stained look that shows off more of the grain of the wood and the second is a smooth and painting surface. Regardless of the kind of wood you pick, they will likely last for decades as long as the quality of wood is good and the cabinets are well-built. Plus, they also have an advantage over laminate cabinets in that the wood can be refinished and painted in order to suit any upcoming trends. 

Types of Wood Used for Kitchen Cabinets

The kind of wood species that you end up choosing for your kitchen cabinetry can change the overall aesthetics of your kitchen. You can replace your old wood kitchen cabinets with the right type of wood. There are external factors that you should also consider like chemical exposure and light which can also impact the appearance of the cabinets over time. 

With all of that in mind, you should consider the proximity of the cabinets to windows, stovetops, and other features of your kitchen’s layout that can affect the color of the cabinets in the future. Choosing more durable wood types for your cabinets and adding a quality finish to your cabinets can help extend their life. 

old wood kitchen cabinets

In general, quality wood species can improve the longevity of your kitchen while also providing personality due to the unique markings. There are no two wooden cabinets that are alike. You should consider the unique characteristics of each of the different types of wood cabinets when you select your ideal material. 

Here are some of the most popular types of wood cabinets that you can choose from for your kitchen: 

Alder Kitchen Cabinets

There are Clear Alder and Knotty Alder that can be used for cabinets. Clear Alder is considered to be a relatively softwood that has a moderately fine and uniform grain. If you’re looking for light wood kitchen cabinets, Clear Adler might be just what you need since there are many color options. The color of Clear Alder can range from light tan to a more red-brown color. It has a similar appearance to Cherry, but it’s a lot softer which is ideal for producing more distressed and/or antique finishes. Unlike Cherry, the Clear Alder wood can get lighter with age and when exposed to sunlight. 

Clear Alder is considered to be a common wood in the West since it’s readily available and it’s a more affordable alternative to Cherry wood. It’s popularly used for more transition and/or transitional kitchen styles. It’s also a common go-to for distressed or worn farmhouse looks. Since it’s softwood, Clear Alder is easier to distress and the grain looks incredible when stained, glazed, or painted. 

Knotty Alder is another softwood that typically has knots throughout. These are natural features of the wood that are oftentimes combined with nicks and dents from distressing which may have accumulated over time. These characteristics are what make Alder wood cabinets kitchen a popular choice for a more rustic-looking kitchen. 

Alder wood cabinets kitchen

In terms of availability, Knotty Alder is another commonly found wood in the West. Its style is a bit less popular than it once was, but it’s still commonly used to get the rustic look that people go for in their kitchens and it’s oftentimes combined with a more worn or distressed finish. Due to it being a softwood, it’s easy to distress Knotty Alder and it can also look even better when it’s stained, glazed, or painted. 

Cherry Kitchen Cabinets

Cherry woods are a lot softer and more versatile than Oaks which is what makes them easier to work with. They’re a lot more unique because over time and with some direct sunlight, they can turn from a lighter red to a deeper red. This is what allows for the natural hues of the Cherry wood to appear. In some cases, you might even get a color that appears to be close to black wood kitchen cabinets.

This kind of wood has a more striking look as it radiates its natural red hues. It’s also quite durable even though it’s easier to work with. Cherry wood is often used for high-quality kitchen cabinets which is why homeowners tend to pay more for it. It’s one of the most expensive woods out there that is used for cabinetry. 

Maple Kitchen Cabinets

Maple wood is another type of wood that can produce great kitchen cabinets with the maximum amount of quality. Carpenters also enjoy using Maple when working on cabinetry due to its adaptability. This kind of wood can be stained to any color or shade and still maintain its natural wood grain appearance. 

While Pinewood is considered to be one of the most affordable in terms of natural wood, many of the Maple wood cabinets out there are manufactured in Asia since most of the world Maple trees are found there. Due to them being manufactured so close to the source, the costs are cut dramatically which can oftentimes make them a better fit for your budget. 

Hickory Kitchen Cabinets

Hickory wood is mid-range in terms of price and it’s also durable, aside from it being another popular choice for kitchen cabinetry. This kind of wood comes in a few different species which are found in abundance and that is what makes them incredibly easy to locate. Not only can Hickory wood species be easy to find, but they’re also considered to be one of the sturdiest woods. 

Hickory wood kitchen cabinets

If you’re looking for dark wood kitchen cabinets, Hickory can be the ideal choice. The shades of Hickory woods can range from darker brown to different shades of white. The wood will typically show off its natural streaks while also promoting its accents and beauty. Similar to Oak, Hickory can take well to light and natural stain. 

Oak Kitchen Cabinets

One of the most commonly used natural woods for kitchen cabinetry is Oak since Oak trees are found all over the world. They’re not just easy to find, but also take well to stain and finish. This kind of wood also makes for highly durable cabinets. All of these qualities make Oak an incredible choice for any kitchen. 

In terms of grain, Oak wood kitchen cabinets have a strong enough grain that will show through practically any color stain that is applied. Oak woods can vary in color from dark brown to a lighter tan and since it can take easily to staining, you can achieve almost any hue that you desire.

Pine Kitchen Cabinets

Another popular wood choice for kitchen cabinets by homeowners is Pine wood kitchen cabinets. It’s yet another affordable option and typically considered to be the least expensive of all of the commonly used woods. It can often be found in American, French, or English country settings due to its ability to distress beautifully. 

If you’re looking to achieve a more rustic look in your kitchen, you may want to consider using Pine cabinets since they can provide a yellow cast and make for the perfect rustic wood kitchen cabinets. In general, Pinewood is lighter in color, but it also takes well to staining which allows for various looks to be achieved. One of the drawbacks to using Pine for your wood kitchen cabinets is that the wood can be easily nicked. 

The Pros and Cons of Different Types of Wood for the Kitchen Cabinets

When choosing the type of wood for your kitchen cabinets, it’s best for you to keep in mind a few different factors. You’ll likely want to have the cabinet color match with your existing or to-be design in your kitchen, but you’ll also want the material to be durable so that you have long-lasting cabinets. 

Each type of wood has different drawbacks and strengths which is why it’s important to keep them in mind. Understanding the pros and cons of each type of wood can help you make a proper and informed decision when choosing the best wood for cabinets. Below are some of the advantages and disadvantages of popular types of wood that are used for kitchen cabinets. 

Maple Wood Cabinets

Maple happens to be one of the most popular choices when it comes to wood cabinets. Maple wood kitchen cabinets offer a creamier white appearance and they can even have a reddish tint at times. It’s a strong and durable hardwood that can handle rough treatment and also stand up well in the long run. 

The grain in Maple wood has less variation when compared to other woods. If you’re looking for more swirls or an abundance of waves, Maple won’t be the ideal choice of wood for you. A downside to Maple is that when staining, it’s important to seal the wood first as it can end up looking a bit blotchy since the wood tends to absorb unevenly. 

Pine Wood Cabinets

With an abundance of Pine Trees in North America, this wood is widely available. However, it’s used less-frequently in kitchen cabinets than one might think. It’s a softer wood which makes it more prone to dents, gouges, and scratches. 

Pine Wood Kitchen Cabinets

However, many homeowners choose Pine for their cabinets due to the aesthetic value. The Pine offers a cream-like color which can vary from white to yellow. It also has a rustic appearance which can enhance as it ages. Even though it’s a softer wood, it’s moisture resistant which means that it’s less prone to shrinking or swelling. 

Cherry Wood Cabinets

This type of wood is commonly picked by homeowners because of its rich color palette that tends to range from a deep red to more of a red-brown. The color can also darken over time which is both an advantage and disadvantage to some. 

Cherry wood kitchen cabinets

With the rich aesthetic, the price of the wood isn’t cheap. It’s what can often deter many homeowners from choosing Cherry as their wood for their kitchen cabinets. 

Oak Wood Cabinets

Oak is a more grainy hardwood that works great in rough or more rustic-looking kitchens. Even when highly-finished, the grainy look tends to stay. The colors can range quite a bit with Oak; however, they commonly have strips of white, brown, red, and even some pink. 

Oak solid wood kitchen cabinets

It’s an incredibly durable option, but staining Oak can result in an overly darkened or exaggerated grain which can give off a two-toned appearance. 

Walnut Wood Cabinets

As another strong wood, Walnut tends to range in color from brown to yellow. It also has a canvas that can be perfect for carving intricate designs. Walnut wood kitchen cabinets are oftentimes used for antique-style aesthetics and are on the more expensive side with Cherry. 

Walnut wood kitchen cabinets

Walnut is considered to be a premium wood which means that it’s not readily available like other choices, but it’s easy to work with. 

Alder Wood Cabinets

This kind of wood is sometimes referred to as the poor man’s Cherry since it can have red tones to it. Aside from that, Alder wood has a soft grain pattern and can very closely resemble Cherry. It’s a more affordable option compared to Cherry and doesn’t darken as much. However, it’s a bit of a softer wood, but durable nonetheless. 

Birch Wood Cabinets

Birch wood kitchen cabinets

Birch wood kitchen cabinets are on the less-expensive side when compared to Maple and other hardwoods. They have uniform appearance and also lack a distinctive grain. The surface of Birch wood is non-porous which means that it can be painted and also paired with other treatments easily. 

Different Types of Wood for Kitchen Cabinets

Species

Advantages

Disadvantages

Maple

  • Readily available
  • Easy to work with
  • Versatile style
  • Can be stained and painted
  • Less variation in the grain
  • Has to be sealed before staining

Pine

  • Inexpensive
  • Ages well
  • Moisture Resistant
  • Dents and scratches easily

Cherry

  • Rich in color
  • Color can darken over time
  • Color can darken over time
  • Costlier wood choice

Oak

  • Extremely durable
  • Various colors available
  • Very grainy
  • Doesn’t stain well

Walnut

  • Strong wood
  • Great for carving
  • Durable
  • Costly
  • Not readily available

Alder

  • Affordable
  • Darkens less over time
  • Not as durable as Cherry

Birch

  • Less-expensive
  • Non-porous
  • Durable
  • Lacks grain
  • Perishable wood

It’s important to keep in mind that the different wood types and their colors, grain patterns, and more are affected by the environments in which they grow in. Due to these naturally occurring features, it can be practically impossible to guarantee that all of the wood pieces in your kitchen will match in terms of grain pattern and color. However, this is also what makes natural wood kitchen cabinets so appealing. 

 

Article by:

Valentina Melnikova - Lead Designer at Cut2Size

valentina@cut2size.ca

Office 403.366.7411

Hi there! I’m a millwork designer and an owner of a kitchen cabinet manufacturing company. With a team of professionals, I work on designing and manufacturing high-end millwork. Combining professional designing and manufacturing skills is what allows us to develop and translate our plans into a reality through our uniqueness and exclusive ideas. Our employees are highly skilled and creative thinkers that also utilize their professionalism and experience to take millwork to the next level. I’m very familiar with the industry and I take on each project from the design to the final product. With that said, if you’re looking for design advice or technician help, you’re in the right place.