Which Wood Is Best for Cabinets?

Paint has its place, vinyl is cost-effective, and stainless steel shines with a modern gleam, but if you ask me, nothing beats wood when it comes to kitchen cabinetry. Rich, natural, durable, and timeless, you can’t go wrong with wood cabinets. The big question is: which wood should you choose? Oak? Maple? Hickory? Cherry? Birch? Pine? These are just a few of your many options, and so many features will vary depending on the wood you choose. The color of the cabinets, the grain, and the cost will all come into play, and of course you’ll need to choose a wood that’s available for the type of cabinet you want (stock, semi-custom, or custom-made). So which wood is best for cabinets? The decision is yours, but scroll down to learn a little more about the top contenders.

Which Wood Is Best for Cabinets?

Which Wood Is Best for Cabinets?


The most common oak option is red oak, which is very durable and relatively affordable. The grain is quite pronounced (and it stains evenly and well), a variety of finishes are available, and due to its popularity, it should be available for all three cabinet types (stock, semi-custom, and custom). White oak isn’t quite as popular, so it’s only available for custom cabinets, but it’s more durable and slightly more golden in tone than red oak.


Light in color and featuring a very fine grain, hard maple is often used for semi-custom and custom cabinets. Although it’s slightly less dense than oak, it’s also slightly more expensive. It can be stained, but it’s usually coated with a clear finish.


Another light wood, hickory resembles oak in its grain pattern and level of strength. It’s often used for stock cabinets (you’ll rarely find it used for semi-custom and custom), and most people choose to apply a clear finish to it, though it can be stained.


Cherry is a more formal choice, and it’s typically used for traditional cabinets in the French or English style. It has a fine grain and an elegant reddish-brown color (which is sometimes stained to create a more uniform look). Note that as cherry cabinets age, they darken in color.


Birch is relatively inexpensive, but it can mimic the look of a pricier wood (like cherry or maple) when it’s stained. Durable and smooth, it has a fine grain and a light, nonuniform color. It’s a good choice if you’re using stock or semi-custom cabinets.


Most people choose to work with hardwoods for cabinetry, but if you’re open to softwoods, go for pine. It has a light, yellowish color and lots of knots, making it a good choice for non-formal and country kitchens. Because of its softness, you’ll need to avoid nicking or denting the wood.

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Of course we can’t say which wood is truly “best.” That’s up to you to decide! Once you factor in your color preference, your cabinet preference, and your budget, it shouldn’t be too difficult to come to a decision. But remember, these aren’t your only options! You might also want to look into chestnut, cypress, walnut, alder, and ash.

Good luck!

If you’re remodeling your house or building a new home and you live in the southwest Missouri area, please give Adam Cowherd Construction a call at 417-877-7548 or click here for a free quote. We would love to help you build the home of your dreams!