How to Choose the Best Wood for Your Kitchen Cabinets

Male hand choosing cabinet panel materials.

Whether you’re building a new home or remodeling, there are many factors to consider when selecting a wood finish for custom cabinets. Before making a final decision, think about your ultimate goal. Are you hoping to increase your home’s resale value, or are you designing a personalized kitchen that’s especially for you? 

Custom Cabinets: What’s Your Wood Type?

Wood cabinets are classic. They are durable, they can be refinished as time goes by, and they last for years. The most popular woods for kitchen cabinets include:

  • Oak
  • Maple
  • Pine
  • Walnut
  • Mahogany

Each type of wood offers beautiful variations in grain and color, and each has its limitations. Understanding the characteristics of the most common types of cabinetry wood will help you make the right decision.


Maple is a hardwood. The colors of maple can range from nearly white to a rich cream. The texture of maple grain is smooth and fine. Maple cabinets are versatile, fitting into almost any design style. You’ll find them in contemporary and modern kitchens, but also in traditional homes. This wood’s fine grain is perfect for taking all colors of stain or paint. The wide availability of maple also makes it more affordable than some other types of wood.


Oak is an extremely hardwood with a lot of texture in its grain.  It was once the standard to make cabinets from oak, but the coarse, uneven grain of oak fell out of favor with designers for a while. Along with this wood’s affordability, new finishes have re-popularized oak. Some may still consider stained oak a bit outdated, but modern paint finishes give oak cabinets a unique makeover.


Walnut cabinets are naturally dark and have an elegant, timeless look. This wood is often finished with a light stain to emphasize natural color variations or a darker stain to create a more consistent and classic finish. Walnut wood is hard, and availability is limited, which increases the price. Custom cabinets made from walnut would fit best in a home with a traditional or transitional style.


Cherry is classified as a hardwood, but it is softer than oak or walnut. The rich grain and small pin knots in cherry wood have made it a favorite for quality woodworking through the years. Cabinets made from cherry are considered classic, and they do well in traditional design. The natural reddish-brown hues of cherry wood are highlighted with stain, not paint. Cherry is relatively easy to source but is more expensive than many other options.


Alder wood has a very similar look to cherry, but it is softer with a more uniform grain. It is an excellent alternative for those who like the look of cherry but would prefer to spend less money. The fine grain of alder looks beautiful when glazed, painted, or stained. Alder is versatile; it can easily adapt to any kitchen style with the right finish.

Taking the Next Step

Figuring out which type of wood you want for your custom cabinets is only the first step. Deciding on cabinetry styles, finishes, and kitchen design is all part of the exciting process. You don’t have to do it alone. The design experts at E&B Granite are here to help every step of the way. 

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