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Selecting Wood Species for Cabinets

April 13th, 2012 Posted in General Design

One of the important choices when remodeling is what kind of wood to choose for your cabinets. Quality cabinets can last a long time and they are central to the overall look of the space

There are lots of choices and choosing the right kind of cabinet can seem overwhelming.

Wood is categorized into softwoods and hardwoods. Examples of hardwood are mahogany, teak, walnut, oak, ash, elm, poplar, birch, and maple. Examples of softwood are pine, spruce, cedar, and fir. There are also different grades available within each species. Stain- Grade wood products typically are made with premium hardwoods with even grain distribution. Paint Grade is the least expensive because the cabinets are mainly painted rather than stained, which hides the visual imperfections in the wood.

Wood grains define the character of the wood and are categorized into closed, medium, and open grains. Closed grain is smooth while the open grain has a raised texture. Closed grains woods are good for painting, while open grains are generally good for staining by revealing their natural texture and beauty.

Cherry, Alder, maple, and poplar are closed grain woods, while oak, ash, and hickories are open grain woods. The natural color of the wood is another consideration and varies between wood species and wood grades.

Here is a summary of the woods to choose from for your cabinets:

Oak:  very strong and dense wood, stains well, frequently irregular and heavy-grained, most oak cabinets are made with red oak wood

Maple:  strong hardwood, one of the lighter woods, straight and fine grained, usually more costly than oak

Cherry:  moderately hard and strong, usually pinkish-brown in color, darkening over time to a deep and rich appearance, smooth uniform grain, more costly than maple

Brazilian Cherry:  very strong hardwood, reddish-brown color, open grain and resists moisture, a word of caution, this type of wood belongs to the legume family and is not a real cherry,

Walnut, ash, mahogany, and ebony are among the priciest wood choices for cabinets.

Mahogany: Most mahogany comes from rain forests on the west coast of Africa. It’s very dark with a straight grain, so it fits in best with formal kitchens. It’s very durable and doesn’t expand with humidity as much as other woods.

Ebony:  African or Indian ebony are most common in the ebony category, which is a generic name for any kind of wood with very dark hardwood.

Walnut:  can be North or South American or European, very dark, open grain with apparent texture, usually available through custom cabinet makers

Hickory: amongst the hardest woods available in North America, very grainy, straight grains with lots of color variations can have rustic feel

Birch: grain is often straight or has fine swirly patterns, close-grained, pale even tones, smooth paintable surface, less expensive option, commonly used in stock cabinets

Alder:   relative “soft” hardwood, little grain, very pale, warm tone, accepts stains easily

Pine:  softwood, light colored, accepts stain well, definite grain, frequently has knots


                               Maple Cabinets with Clear Stain


                                       Stained Alder Cabinets


                                   Painted Maple Cabinets


                                      Stained Cherry Cabinets



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