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Spotlight On… Wood Selection for Cabinets

October 21, 2015

Cabinets doors and drawer fronts are a defining feature of a kitchen. How your doors and drawer fronts are made, and from what, determines the strength and lifespan of your kitchen investment.  There are many factors to consider when choosing a wood for your kitchen cabinets. Not the least of which is personal affinity; the one you like, that just calls to you.

Nowadays, any wood can look just about any color with the variety of stains available. It’s what’s under that color that makes each kind of hardwood distinct. Wood is beautiful and strong, and each wood is a unique blend of the two. Today we will look at the three most popular hard woods and the traits that make them ideal for your kitchen.


Maple wood is known for its very smooth grain.
Maple’s subtle grain makes it ideal to paint. It can also be a good candidate for a natural look due to its understated woodgrain pattern.


Maple is known for its fine, even grain.  Unlike other hardwoods used in cabinetry, the outer wood, called sapwood, of hard maple is used rather than the center of the tree.  The color of sapwood ranges from cream to almost white.

Due to the light color and  smooth grain, Maple takes stains and paint evenly and is the base for most painted cabinetry.  If you’re looking for solid colored cabinetry then maple is your best choice. Maple is also very strong and durable. One challenge to consider with maple is its tendency to have mineral streaks. A quality supplier should already have an eye on minimizing these inclusions.


The color of this wood is mostly a stain.
The color of  these cherry cabinet doors mostly comes from the stain.


When most of us think of Cherry wood, we often think of something like the above image. But Cherry is far more flexible than the classic shade might suggest. The natural Cherry wood itself looks a bit more like this:

Cherry wood in a natural finish
Cherry has a complex and beautiful wood grain.


Cherry has dramatic variations, contrasts and ripples in its woodgrain patterns. You can see the lines of the grain more clearly than you can with Maple wood.

It is also known for its reddish tone which becomes more distinctive with age. When freshly cut, Cherry wood is often a pale pink-brown.  This will add a red tint to most stains and will darken over time.  Cherry will naturally darken to a rich red-brown, and will develop this patina more quickly with exposure to sunlight. It is slightly softer than Oak and Maple, but is still sturdy enough to withstand daily wear and tear in a busy kitchen.


These oak cabinet doors have a driftwood stain on them to produce this color.
Oak is a strong wood with a dramatic pattern.


Oak has a strong open grain with lots of contrast and details. The dark lines of the grain are easily visible; much more so than the Cherry wood or the Maple wood cabinet doors.

While the wood can be cut to minimize the distinctive grain, why waste it? Oak is a good choice for rustic kitchens, country kitchens, or any cabinet door styles that will put the beautiful wood patterns on center stage.

While there are other woods on the market today, these hardwoods are the most popular. Their beauty, strength and flexibility have kept them a classic favorite for a long time.



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