The wooden kitchen cabinet is a standard sight in many homes. It beautifies the area while providing critical storage space. Additionally, homeowners love wooden cabinets because they are durable and cost-effective.

Unfortunately, building the right wooden kitchen cabinet isn’t as straightforward as many think. In particular, finding the right wood type for the project is a nightmare because of the kitchen’s damper, hotter, and humid conditions.

We’ve made this guide to make it a little easier to pick the best wood for kitchen cabinets.

What’s the Best Wood for Kitchen Cabinets?

The best and most popular wood types for kitchen cabinets are pine, oak, hickory, cherry, and maple. The first three (pine, oak, and hickory) are more readily available and affordable. Meanwhile, the latter two (maple and cherry) are considered luxury wood and, therefore, pricier and more difficult to find.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Wood for Kitchen Cabinets

The best wood types for kitchen cabinets share a few characteristics that you should prioritize when shopping;

Water and rot resistance

Kitchen cabinets are highly exposed to moisture, water, and other liquids, including wines and fruit/vegetable juices.

Unfortunately, excessive exposure to liquids predisposes kitchen cabinets to rotting and accelerated decay. Therefore, you should find highly water-resistant wood resistant to rot and decay.

Dimensional stability

The kitchen experiences wild temperature changes. The temperatures can shoot to 100+ degrees during cooking and fall significantly after that.

Unfortunately, rapid temperature changes can cause dry wood to expand, contract, and ultimately lose shape. Therefore, it’s wise to find dimensionally stable wood that resists warping or other shape changes.

Durability

What’s the estimated lifespan of the cabinet? 10 years? 30 years? Some wood kitchen cabinets can last much longer. However, it depends on the type of wood.

For instance, hard, strong cabinets made from wood types with exceptional wear and tear resistance can last 50+ years.

Aesthetics

There are many types of wood cabinets. Which one are you interested in? For instance, do you have a specific color and grain pattern in mind? Alternatively, you may opt for custom cabinetry.

If so, remember that custom cabinets work best with unique wood species to complement your decor style. Finally, you can opt for painted cabinets.

In this case, factors such as wood grain become less important. Instead, you need to focus on finding paint-grade wood. Read here for tips on how to paint your kitchen cabinets.

The Top 9 Best Wood for Kitchen Cabinets

With the four considerations above in mind, we’ve identified nine wood types t consider for your next kitchen cabinetry project.

The first eight are excellent candidates for solid wood cabinets, while the last one is a great choice if you are interested in manufactured wood alternatives.

1. Red oak

Oak is one of the most popular woods for making kitchen cabinets. It’s a strong, durable wood species and beautiful too. Moreover, oak is highly resistant to moisture and moisture-related damages.

So, our first recommendation is red oak, arguably the most valuable species in the oak family. Red oaks, named after their red fall colors, are deciduous hardwood trees native to North America.

The trees grow to an incredible 100 feet tall, with circumferences of up to 25 inches. The oldest known trees reach 500+ years. The main advantage of red oak wood cabinets is durability.

Red oak is a very hard wood species at 1290 lbf on the Janka scale. Therefore, it doesn’t break, dent, or scratch easily. The cabinets can last 50+ years with good maintenance.

Secondly, red oak is very beautiful. It has a light brown heartwood and dark brown or reddish-brown heartwood with hints of pink.

Therefore, red oak cabinets don’s struggle to stand out. In addition, a distinctive wide grain pattern makes it even more unique.

Pros

  • It’s hard, strong, and very durable
  • It’s easy to finish and stain without blotching
  • It’s easy to sand with a pad or block
  • A distinctive color sets red oak apart

Cons

  • It becomes stained too quickly
  • It has large pores, thus requires proper sealing



2. White oak

White Oak 3/4' x 2' x 12' - 4 Pack
371 Reviews
White Oak 3/4" x 2" x 12" - 4 Pack
  • You are buying 4 White Oak Boards
  • Each board measures 3/4" thick, 2" wide, and 12" long
  • Kiln dry, smooth on both sides, and ready to have fun with
  • These are perfect for making crafts like cutting boards

As we’ve seen, one of the major downsides of red oak wood is the extra-large powers. All types of wood have pores. However, large pores open the wood to water logging, which accelerates rotting and decay.

Water logging can also cause warping and swelling as temperatures change. Savvy woodworkers have mastered the art of letting red oak dry for a long period, typically up to 30 days, to minimize the water-logging issues.

However, white oak is the perfect fit if you’d be happy to consider a closely similar wood species from the same tree family.

The two are nearly the same. Both have light brown sapwood and dark brown heartwoods. However, white oak is a little darker. It also has a straight grain pattern with a medium to coarse texture like red oak.

However, it’s better than red oak in three areas. First, white oak is more water/rot resistant. Secondly, it’s harder (1320 lbf), thus more durable. Finally, it has a greater bending strength than red oak, meaning it’s less likely to break under load.

Pros

  • It’s beautiful and highly desirable
  • White oak is strong, hard, and durable
  • It’s more water and rot-resistant than red oak
  • It’s a fast-growing, highly sustainable wood species

Cons

  • White is less accepting of stains than red oak
  • White oak is more expensive than red oak



3. Hard maple

Pack of 2 Hard Maple 1/4' Thick, Up to 7' Wide, 24' Long. You Choose Width. Thin Solid Wood Lumber Made by Wood-Hawk (1/4 x 4 x 24)
23 Reviews
Pack of 2 Hard Maple 1/4" Thick, Up to 7" Wide, 24" Long. You Choose Width. Thin Solid Wood Lumber Made by Wood-Hawk (1/4 x 4 x 24)
  • Kiln dry and ready to use.
  • 2 boards of Hard Maple. Each 1/4" thick and 24" long. You choose the width of the 2 boards.
  • Sanded both sides with clean, straight edges.
  • No knots. No cracks. No chipouts.
  • Photos are examples of our Hard Maple, not the exact boards you will receive.

Maple is another darling among woodworkers. It’s a durable wood that resists scratching and everyday wear.

Additionally, maple wood has a beautiful color and attractive uniform grains that blend well with modern kitchen styles hence the best wood for painted cabinets.

However, not all maples are ideal for kitchen cabinetry. So, we specifically recommend the sugar maple. Sugar maple is hard maple. Hard maples are generally harder than soft maples.

The sugar maple, for instance, is rated 1450 lbf on the Janka scale. Therefore, it resists scratching and damage more than soft maples.

Interestingly, sugar maple is very easy to work with. It’s easy to cut and nail, and takes stains, and finishes exceptionally. Another key advantage of hard maple is aesthetics.

Sugar maple is available in various warm colors, from neutral beiges to reds, browns, and chromatic grays. More importantly, it boasts a softer texture than most hardwoods, resulting in smooth cabinet surfaces that easily sand and stain.

It’s also notable that maple has a very consistent grain pattern. Although it comes with figured grains, including birdseye, rippled, wormy, and tiger patterns, it has few imperfections.

Pros

  • It’s easy to customize and personalize
  • Hard maple is strong and highly durable
  • It has a beautiful color and consistent grains
  • Maple cabinets are low-maintenance

Cons

  • Maplewood comes with a higher price tag
  • It is sensitive to extreme temperatures



4. Cherry

Forest 2 Home Cherry Wood Lumber Bundle - 1 X 5 X 24 inches - 4 Board Pack - Kiln Dried Hardwood - Includes Carpenter Pencil
83 Reviews
Forest 2 Home Cherry Wood Lumber Bundle - 1 X 5 X 24 inches - 4 Board Pack - Kiln Dried Hardwood - Includes Carpenter Pencil
  • These board’s nominal measurements are 1 inch thick (actual: 15/16th inch), 5 inches wide and 24 inches long.
  • This hardwood is kiln dried and surfaced-2-sides. You can expect NO unsound defects on one face.
  • Each board goes through a strict, hands on quality control process from the forest to your home without the use of harmful chemicals.
  • The hardwood isn’t a finished thickness (hit or miss) and may still require you to flatten, plane, shape or sand your boards to fit your project.
  • A carpenter pencil is included with each order.

Cherry wood cabinets are popular in high-end homes – and for a good reason. First, it’s one of the most beautiful types of wood. Moreover, cherry wood is strong (950 lbf on the Janka scale), durable, and rarely scratches or dents.

Cherry wood colors range from blonde to reddish-brown. However, the wood darkens over time, especially when exposed to light. The good news is that you can stain and restain cherry cabinets whenever you wish to restore the original color.

It has a closed, fine grain pattern, much like maple. However, two things that particularly stand out about cherry wood are its customizability and shock resistance.

Cherry wood steams easily, making it easy to bend, personalize, and customize. It’s also easier to carve than many hardwoods. It is also high shock-resistant. Therefore, it doesn’t dent or break easily.

Unfortunately, cherry wood is very expensive. So, you should be prepared with a sizeable budget if you desire cherry cabinets. Additionally, cherry color variations are a big headache for woodworkers.

Pros

  • Cherry cabinets are strong and durable
  • It’s a beautiful wood with attractive grains
  • Cherry wood is highly shock-resistant
  • It is highly customizable and personalizable

Cons

  • It is expensive
  • It is difficult to clean



5. Birch

Baltic Birch Plywood, 3 mm 1/8 x 12 x 20 Inch Craft Wood, Pack of 20 B/BB Grade Baltic Birch Sheets, Perfect for Laser, CNC Cutting and Wood Burning, by Woodpeckers
3,757 Reviews
Baltic Birch Plywood, 3 mm 1/8 x 12 x 20 Inch Craft Wood, Pack of 20 B/BB Grade Baltic Birch Sheets, Perfect for Laser, CNC Cutting and Wood Burning, by Woodpeckers
  • STRONG, DURABLE, HEAVY-DUTY - These craft wood pieces of multi-coated Baltic Birch plywood offer exceptional durability, rigidity, and stability for all your woodworking needs. The surfaces provide excellent holding power for glue and screws and the birch edges create cleaner joinery.
  • BEAUTIFUL WOOD, BEAUTIFUL PROJECT- Baltics-grown birch plywood is prized by woodworkers everywhere. Manufactured using the latest methods in wood production, this hardwood from the snowy forests of the north is extremely durable and creep resistant. It has a beautiful lengthwise grain and takes stain well. TRUE SIZE: 11-7/8" x 19-7/8".
  • CHOOSE LASER CUTTER WOOD - The layers of the Baltic Birch sheets of thick plywood are designed to smoothly glide through laser cutters and scroll saws, making it the ideal thin wood sheets for efficient woodcutting. Are you looking for wood for wood burning projects? Woodpeckers has the perfect wood boards for crafts.
  • GRADE B/BB - Graded as B/BB, this hardwood has a single piece face and a back veneer. The face veneer has a smooth surface with a light uniform color while the back surface typically has 1-2 Small color-matched patches. The thick face veneer provides a smoother surface for CNC routers or engraving machines to glide on the birch wood.
  • SERVICE & SELECTION - We are dedicated to partnering with business owners, home crafters, and woodwork artisans. Our customer care agents are thoroughly familiar with our products, and we will be happy to assist you with any concerns and inquiries. Looking for plywood boards in different sizes? Visit the Woodpeckers storefront for a large selection of plywood squares in both 1/4" and 1/8" thickness.

Birchwood is a controversial choice in the cabinetry world. Though sufficiently strong and beautiful, many people criticize it for being perishable.

Moreover, birch wood splits a little too easily. Nevertheless, it’s still one of the most common choices for kitchen cabinets for a few reasons.

First, birch wood comes in a middle ground pale white to reddish-brown or yellowish color that suits most decoration styles.

For instance, it does well in modern styles and works in traditional styles too. Unfortunately, not many wood types are that versatile.

Secondly, birch wood is more affordable than premium alternatives, such as maple and cherry. Though more expensive than red and white oak, it’s more affordable than maple and cherry.

It’s especially a good alternative for maple as the colors nearly resemble. Finally, birch wood is highly workable. An 80 to 400-grit sandpaper allows you to sand down birch to a fine texture.

The wood also turns, flues, and finishes well. A stain coat protects it from weather, allowing birch cabinets to stay for many years.

Pros

  • Birch cabinets are beautiful
  • Birch fits many interior decor styles
  • It’s an affordable alternative to maple
  • Birchwood is highly workable

Cons

  • It tears and splits too easily
  • It’s sensitive to extreme weather



6. Hickory

Hickory Lumber Board - 3/4' x 6' (2 Pcs) (3/4' x 6' x 12')
20 Reviews
Hickory Lumber Board - 3/4" x 6" (2 Pcs) (3/4" x 6" x 12")
  • Perfectly Kiln Dried
  • Two sides sanded to 3/4" thickness
  • Beautiful Grain
  • Boards may come in packs of all white, brown, calico, or a combination of them all.
  • All dimensions +/- 1/16"

Hickory is a tall, strong tree that grows naturally in many parts of the world, including the US. It comes in various shades, from blondish white to dark grey and deep reddish-brown, with natural twists and knots.

Three reasons make hickory a great candidate for kitchen cabinetry. First, hickory is extremely hard and durable. Indeed, it’s the hardest and strongest wood on this list at 1820 lbf on the Janka scale.

Therefore, denting, splintering, and scratching are rare on hickory cabinets. So, hickory cabinets can last a lifetime with proper care. Secondly, hickory’s unique appearance and strength make it the perfect choice for rustic styles.

It’s a white to brown or light reddish-brown wood (heartwood) with straight grains that feature figured curls and patterns and multiple twists and knots, which work exceptionally in the farmhouse and rustic styles.

Above all, hickory is essentially maintenance-free. You’re free to stain or paint your hickory cabinets. However, you can also let the cabinet take care of itself – and it will.

The only downside is that hickory’s extreme hardness makes it challenging to cut/saw, and nail. It’s also near impossible to carve.

Pros

  • It’s the most durable option on this list
  • Hickory cabinets are essentially maintenance-free
  • It makes the perfect rustic style cabinets
  • It’s highly resistant to scratches and damage

Cons

  • It doesn’t suit modern styles
  • It’s challenging to work with



7. Walnut

Sale
Pack of 2 Black Walnut Boards 1/4” Thick, Up to 8” Wide, 24” Long. You Choose Width. Thin Hardwood Lumber by Wood-Hawk (1/4 x 5 x 24)
234 Reviews
Pack of 2 Black Walnut Boards 1/4” Thick, Up to 8” Wide, 24” Long. You Choose Width. Thin Hardwood Lumber by Wood-Hawk (1/4 x 5 x 24)
  • Kiln dried and ready to use.
  • 2 boards of Black Walnut. Each 1/4” thick and 24” long. You choose the width of the 2 boards.
  • Sanded both sides with clean straight edges.
  • No knots. No cracks. No chipouts.
  • Photos are examples of our black walnut, not the exact boards you will receive.

Walnut wood cabinets aren’t very common – mainly because of price. However, budget allowing, it’s one of the best materials for kitchen cabinets thanks to its natural beauty and tight grain patterns.

Walnut is extremely beautiful. Persian walnut and black walnut varieties, in particular, stand out from the rest. Both offer a dark brown color with swirls and inviting fine grain patterns that are hard to find in other woods.

A clear coat of spar varnish to protect the cabinet from UV light is recommended. Another major advantage of walnut wood kitchen cabinets is durability.

Walnut is rated 1010 lbf on the Janka scale, making it sufficiently hard to withstand everyday use. Moreover, it doesn’t scratch or dent easily and resists water and other liquid spills.

Walnut is also moisture and rot-resistant. These qualities allow walnut cabinets to stay for many years. Finally, walnut kitchen cabinets are easy to maintain. You don’t need to restain or wax the surfaces as with other hardwoods regularly.

Instead, you only need to regularly dust them with a dry lint-free rag to wipe off the accumulated surface dust. Don’t use any cleaner. Alternatively, wipe the surfaces with a damp cloth.

Pros

  • It’s a beautiful wood with enchanting grains
  • Walnut cabinets are highly durable
  • It’s a water-resistant wood
  • Walnut wood is low-maintenance

Cons

  • Walnut wood is pricey
  • It’s not readily available



8. Pine

Pine Wood Lumber Board 6 Count Wooden Lumber Plank 3/4 in x 4 in x 3 ft Unfinished Suitable for Construction Projects DIY Decor Planed Timber for Home Improvement
11 Reviews
Pine Wood Lumber Board 6 Count Wooden Lumber Plank 3/4 in x 4 in x 3 ft Unfinished Suitable for Construction Projects DIY Decor Planed Timber for Home Improvement
  • Dimensions: 3/4 in x 4 in x 3 ft long. Box includes 6 pieces.
  • South American Yellow Pine Wood. Top Quality.
  • Perfect for all your deco and construction projects. Suitable for woodworking projects: home or Professional Use.
  • Wood comes sanded, planed and kiln dried. You can wax, paint or varnish.
  • You can make multiple purchases if you need further supply.

Pinewood is our final candidate if you’re hellbent on a real wood kitchen cabinet. Most people avoid softwood cabinets because of perishability.

Additionally, softwoods are generally weaker than hardwoods. However, pine is the perfect compromise as it offers sufficient durability at an affordable price.

White pine is rated 420 lbf on the Janka scale, making it strong enough to withstand minor bumps. So, it should remain in good shape as long as you care not to hit it hard with blunt items.

It also has a high bending strength of 9,400 psi to compensate for the low hardness rating. So it doesn’t break too easily. Another key advantage of pinewood kitchen cabinets is the aesthetic appeal.

Knot-free pine comes in a consistent, creamy white color that works excellently in modern decor styles. Alternatively, you can opt for knotty pine when working on a rustic or farmhouse style.

Most importantly, pinewood’s smooth texture takes paint very well. So, you can paint it to suit your style better. Beware, however, that pinewood is far more delicate than the hardwoods discussed above.

So, it needs greater care and protection. For instance, it scratches easily, and its light color readily shows all scratch and dent marks. So, use it wisely.

Pros

  • It’s beautiful with a consistent color
  • Pinewood is readily available and affordable
  • It’s soft and highly workable
  • It boasts excellent finishing properties

Cons

  • It dents and scratches easily
  • Pinewood easily shows surface scars



9. Cabinet-grade plywood

6MM 1/4' x 12 x 12 Baltic Birch Plywood – B/BB Grade (Package of 3) Perfect for Arts and Crafts, School Projects and DIY Projects, Drawing, Painting, Wood Engraving, Wood Burning and Laser Projects
484 Reviews
6MM 1/4" x 12 x 12 Baltic Birch Plywood – B/BB Grade (Package of 3) Perfect for Arts and Crafts, School Projects and DIY Projects, Drawing, Painting, Wood Engraving, Wood Burning and Laser Projects
  • Please note: 6MM 1/4" x 11-13/16" x 11-13/16" (blade kerf) Baltic Birch Plywood - B/BB Grade (Package of 3)
  • Premium Material : Baltic Birch Plywood - B/BB Grade.
  • Heavy-Duty : The thick layers of this Baltic Birch Plywood are intended to easily cut through saws and laser cutters, making it the ideal plywood for any production woodwork.
  • Uses : Perfect for Arts and Crafts, School Projects and DIY Projects, Drawing, Painting, Wood Engraving, Wood Burning, Laser Projects, and Cabinetmaking.
  • Appearance : Valued for its appealing light color, Baltic Birch plywood features a uniform grain, smooth texture and outstanding durability.

The rise of engineered wood as an alternative to real wood in general cabinetry is hard to overlook. For instance, laminate cabinets (made of wood particles and melamine) and wood veneer are already very common in cabinet making.

The same applies to Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) and plywood. These engineered boards are hard, strong, and durable. Moreover, they are easy to work with and more affordable than solid wood.

Cabinet-grade plywood is particularly one of the best plywood for carbinets. It’s thick plywood that’s very strong and durable. Most boards are 1/4 to 3/4 inches thick, depending on where you want to use them.

The thickest boards are ideal for framing, while thinner sheets make lightweight cabinet doors and drawer boxes. Unfortunately, plywood sheet grades and evaluation criteria can be confusing.

For instance, you must understand face grades, the number of knots per square meter, and flatness. So, it’s best to solicit the help of a more experienced counterpart.

Pros

  • It is affordable and easy to find
  • It’s soft and highly workable
  • Plywood takes all types of finishes
  • It makes repairs and upgrades very easy

Cons

  • Plywood is weaker than solid wood
  • Plywood is highly susceptible to weather



FAQs

What is the most durable wood for kitchen cabinets?

Hickory. Hickory is one of the most durable hardwoods. You will rarely see cracks, dents, or nicks on hickory cabinets. Moreover, hickory is highly water-resistant and doesn’t rot or decay easily. As a result, hickory cabinets can last decades or even a lifetime.

Best wood for modern kitchen cabinets?

Pine, oak, hickory, maple, and cherry are the most popular woods for kitchen cabinets. Pinewood cabinets are particularly common in modern kitchens because the wood’s creamy white hue perfectly complements modern styles. White oak is another very popular choice for modern kitchen cabinets.

What is the most expensive type of wood cabinets?

Maple is the most expensive type of wood for standard kitchen cabinets. It’s an extremely durable wood that can take a beating. Moreover, maple lumber doesn’t change color during its lifetime. That said, a more luxurious wood choice for high-end kitchen cabinets is cherry. Its rich dark reddish-brown color makes cherry wood highly-priced.

Related post: What’s the Most Expensive Wood

Summary

Pine, maple, cherry, hickory, and oak (white and red) are the most popular choices for wooden cabinets. They are strong, durable, and beautiful wood types.

Moreover, all five are relatively easy to find. However, birch, walnut, and cabinet-grade plywood are excellent alternatives.

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