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Kitchen Cabinets- Choosing the Right Wood Type

May 29, 2008
When you start shopping for kitchen cabinets, the type of wood used is just as important as the overall look or finish of the cabinets. Depending on whether you are buying RTA (ready-to-assemble), stock, semi-custom, or custom cabinets will have a big impact on the types of woods that are available for you to select from. Custom cabinets will offer the largest selections of wood types, but you will also pay significantly more for them. Here is a list of wood types that you may come across in your search for kitchen cabinets (listed in order of price)

Paint Grade
Paint Grade wood can really consist of a wide range of wood types. Most stock and semi-custom cabinet companies that apply a painted finish may even use MDF or Particleboard instead of wood. The most common paint grade woods will be Birch, Poplar, or Maple.

Oak is probably the most widely used wood for cabinets. Most contractor grade cabinets, and more economically priced cabinets will be made of Oak. Oak is available in over 200 different species and is grown all around the world. The most common finish for Oak cabinets is just a natural or honey finish. Oak is a strong, dense wood that will hold up to everyday use and can accept stain well.

Pine comes in three different versions- white, yellow, or ponderosa. White pine can be very easy to work with and will accept stain easily, while ponderosa will require some special attention because of the resin that may still be concentrated in the wood. Pine is great for creating a rustic feel for your home.

Maple is another widely used wood type and can be found in a wide variety of species. This is probably the most common wood found in RTA Cabinets, because it is grows abundantly in Northern China and most RTA cabinets come from China. There are also more than 10 species of Maple that come out of the US, so there is a wide variety of grains. Most maple is very easy to work with and will accept stain easily. Maple finishes well in any color- from a Honey Finish to a Chestnut Glaze.

Cherry is typically used in the mid-priced to higher end cabinets. The unique feature about Cherry is that with a light stain applied, it will actually get darker with time. As the wood ages and is exposed to sunlight, it will change to the reddish brown color most people associate with antique cherry furniture.

With the push towards becoming eco-friendly, more and more cabinets are being designed using Bamboo. Bamboo is a hearty plant that grows rapidly. The biggest drawback to bamboo is that it has to be veneered over another wood, since Bamboo plants do not grow thick enough to cut into planks. Right now, you will only find Bamboo being used by custom shops primarily on the West Coast

Mahogany creates a very rich look, and the wood itself is reddish-brown. Aside from exotic woods, this is going to be one of the most expensive options in the common wood types. Mahogany accepts stain very well, but is not an overly strong wood.

Whether you are building a high end kitchen, or just updating a rental unit, there are a wide variety of wood types to select from. Selecting a wood type that will hold up to the amount of use and abuse it will incurr is just as important as how the finished product will look, so keep that in mind when shopping for kitchen cabinets.
About the Author
I have been remodeling houses and rental properties for over 15 years. I have discovered the secret to saving thousands on kitchen cabinets. Find out my secret to buying kitchen cabinets at 30-40% below retail.
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