Wood Characteristics and Properties

1 / 3
2 / 3
3 / 3

Hickory brings character to every corner of a kitchen with its natural irregularities and contrasting color variations. And while it conjures a feeling of rugged and lasting beauty, Hickory fits as much in mid-century modern and upscale farmhouse spaces as it does in cabins and country homes. Strong, hard, and heavy, it’s often used in flooring, furniture, and things made to last. (In fact, Hickory is the most commonly used wood in drumsticks, and a favorite for hammer and axe handles.) Read on and learn more about Hickory wood characteristics that make this species a gorgeous, durable choice for your cabinets.

Shaker-style KraftMaid cabinet door in Hickory wood with Natural finish to showcase dramatic color and grain variation

Shaker-style KraftMaid cabinet door in Hickory wood with Natural finish to showcase dramatic color and grain variation


Hickory stands out with its lively, expressive woodgrain. From board to board, you might find random waves and irregular swirls in the grain pattern that come from the jagged branch structure of the tree. Combined with a medium grain texture and vivid streaks of color variation between heartwood and sapwood, these natural variabilities create a unique look.

For an even more dramatic appearance that fully embraces the natural beauty of Hickory, consider Rustic Hickory. This grade of lumber amplifies Hickory’s color contrasts and grain variations by specifically selecting boards with additional mineral streaks, tight knots, and pecks.


Because Hickory has an array of naturally prominent colors, it has boundless potential for finishing in the style that’s right for you. And if you opt to appreciate Hickory closest to its raw state with KraftMaid’s Natural finish, our exclusive DuraKraft™ Plus finishing process will protect its appearance and highlight the beauty of your selection.

  • Lighter stains like Praline or Barley will soften and warm Hickory, bringing out a golden glow or a comfortable softness in the wood.
  • A darker finish like Saddle will tone down the contrast but create wonderful subtleties between pockets of near-black and rich browns, while a deep Slate finish will certainly invite closer inspection as light plays on Hickory’s shadowy character.


Hickory is considered a North American hardwood based on the distinction of it being a deciduous, flowering tree versus a needle-bearing softwood conifer.


When most people hear the term hardwood, they think of strength and durability – the literal hardness of the wood – not the biological type of tree. Look to the Janka Hardness Rating to measure how well a wood species can stand up to dings and dents of real life.

Janka Wood Hardness Chart for Hickory

Here’s how Hickory compares to a few other common wood species you might find in and around your home. The higher the Janka rating number, the harder the wood:


Red Mahogany Hardwood 2,697
Teak Hardwood 2,330
Hickory Hardwood 1,820
Hard Maple Hardwood 1,450
Red Oak Hardwood 1,290
Cherry Hardwood 995
Southern Yellow Pine Softwood 870
Alder Hardwood 590
Eastern White Pine Softwood 380
Balsa Hardwood 70

Hickory has a Janka Hardness Rating of 1,820, making it one of the hardest woods native to North America. It’s also dense and moisture resistant, so it will stand the test of time even in hardworking kitchens. If you’re not into the busy grain and contrasting appearance of Hickory but still want something that will resist dings and dents, consider Maple or Oak.

Not for you?

Let’s find the right wood for your project.