Choosing the right type of wood for kitchen cabinets.
At KraftMaid, we understand the need to learn as much as possible about the kind of wood that you will choose for your cabinetry project. Whether you live in a country cottage or an uptown city loft, the look and feel of your room will be influenced by the natural characteristics of the wood that you will choose—and we’re here to help.
When choosing the best wood type for kitchen cabinets, it all comes down to three important details: type, color and grain.
All woods can be classified as hard or soft. Hardwood comes from broad-leafed trees such as birch, oak, maple, cherry and hickory. Softwood comes from needle-bearing evergreen trees such as pine, spruce and cedar.
From the light touches of maple to the darker hues of cherry, all woods have natural color variations even within the same tree. The inherent natural colors and variations result in a number of beautiful possibilities for your room. While KraftMaid finishes can either enhance or mask the material’s color variations, it’s important to understand the natural color characteristics and variations of wood to make sure you’re selecting a wood that will be right for your home. To understand these beautiful variations and select one that you will love, read about our range of KraftMaid finishes and speak with your kitchen designer for additional information.
Grain refers to the overall alignment, texture and various patterns that appear in your wood. And because every tree has distinct grain patterns and markings, each piece of wood from that tree will have its own unique design. Some basic grain descriptions include:
- Fine: Inconspicuous or invisible patterns
- Straight: Straight, vertical patterns
- Cross: Lines that run parallel to the sides of the wood
- Spiral: Tornado or funnel-like patterns
- Wavy: Wave-like patterns
- Curly: Circular patterns
- Arch: Inverted U or V patterns
When creating a specific look and feel for your room, you’ll want to understand the five different types of wood KraftMaid uses to build our cabinetry and the differences between them:
Alder is softer than other hardwood species with a fine grain pattern. In its raw state, Rustic Alder’s color can range from pale pink–brown to tan. Rustic Alder likely includes some combination of rustic characteristics such as open and closed knots, burls, worm holes, mineral streaks and sound cracks reflecting the inherent beauty of the wood. These characteristics are expected and preferred as they occur naturally in the material. Of the natural characteristics, open and closed knots are the most common in the species.
Maple is a medium to hard wood with a straight, wavy or curly grain. Popular for its shock resistance and durability, maple has a light, uniform appearance that produces a smooth, clean look when stained. Another plus is that it can also be finished to resemble other, more expensive hardwoods and softwoods such as cherry and cedar. Maple is a great choice for a light, airy kitchen or a dramatic kitchen with darker finishes.
Oak is a very hard, heavy wood with a coarse grain that varies from straight to a distinctive sweeping arch pattern. Found in both red and white varieties, oak is a great kitchen cabinet choice because it is timeless, blending beautifully with many different design styles. And it stains well in standard finish colors.
Birch is a smooth hardwood with straight, wavy or curly grains with a high shock resistance that takes any stain well. Birch is mostly a light-colored wood, and varies from cream to light yellow. However, the wood found in the center of the tree, or heartwood, takes on a darker reddish brown color, which may result in unique color variations in your kitchen cabinetry. It is versatile and can achieve any look, from a more casual space to a refined setting.
Hickory is one of our strongest, hardest and heaviest woods with random natural streaks that add unique accents to your cabinetry. Hickory has an array of naturally prominent colors ranging from very light cream to dark reddish brown to sometimes nearly black which easily can be enhanced by light or natural stains.
Cherry is well known for its smooth grain and unique color that mellows and deepens as it ages—like fine wine. This “mellowing” effect is enhanced by exposure to bright light and, depending on the amount of exposure, will tend to darken several shades over time. Considered a luxury wood due to its expensive price, cherry has pinkish-brown hues and occasional shades of white, green or gray. Its dark color brings a warm elegance to any room.