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Choosing a Wood Species (type) for Kitchen Cabinets

The most common wood species offered by both custom and semi-custom cabinet manufacturers are Maple, Birch, Cherry, walnut, and oak. These woods are popular because of their hardness and durability, attractive appearance, and affordability when compared to other woods such as Mahogany and Teak. The wood species selection is used to make the cabinet doors, drawer fronts, exposed ends, and all moldings (all of the exposed parts of the cabinet) so the impact of the wood you choose is both visually and structurally significant.

Maple and Birch wood:

These are considered “sister” woods because they are similar in grain pattern and hardness. They both have a creamy white undertone and are considered some of the hardest woods. The grain pattern is relatively straight and is usually more consistent than other woods such as cherry. Any color stain can be applied to maple or birch wood, such as a golden color, light brown, dark brown, grey tones, or even green tones. When comparing the same stain color on maple/birch versus any other wood species, you will notice differences in how the stain takes to the wood. The natural undertone of the wood species, as well as the graining, make the color and overall appearance different from species to species. Maple/birch wood is almost always used to make painted cabinets (full cover with no visible woodgrain) because of its relatively inexpensive cost.


Cherry is another popular, very hard wood that has a more varied, distinguishable grain texture that many find appealing. It is more expensive than Maple/Birch wood simply due to supply and demand. Despite popular belief, “Cherry” is not a cabinet color, but rather is the wood species itself that can be stained in a variety of colors. At its lightest, cherry has a natural, slightly reddish undertone that darkens over time from exposure to natural light. As you apply darker stains to cherry wood, the red undertone is less pronounced and the wood darkens less noticeably over time. Just like Maple and Birch, Cherry can be stained a variety of color tones including blues and greens. It’s natural graining and red undertone shows through the stain to result in a unique appearance and quality.


Walnut is another very hard wood that is a great choice for kitchen cabinets. It is more expensive than Cherry, Maple, and Birch. It’s known for its very distinct and varying grain patterns and has a brown undertone that makes it appear very rich. The lighter a stain that is used on Walnut, the more noticeable the unique wood graining can appear. The darker a stain applied to Walnut is, the less the grain variation is apparent. Walnut is commonly used for wood countertops because of the beautiful rich accent it adds to a kitchen.

sawn oak was the most popular wood species for kitchen cabinetry. Even though oak is extremely hard and is long-lasting, the heavy, textured graining of plain-sawn oak has since gone out of style. However, alternative cuts of oak that produce more linear grain patterns are now gaining popularity. Rift-sawn and Quarter-sawn oak are a subtler version of plain-sawn oak. However, these more popular variations are much more expensive than the traditional oak cabinet.

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