When doing a renovation on your kitchen, one of the biggest expenses is generally the cabinets. Your cabinets take up much of the overall wall space and the type of wood, style, color and layout will determine the look and feel of the most important room in most homes: the kitchen.
Hardwood is the most common material for cabinets. Many of these hardwoods are put on top of a veneer-like plywood in order to cut down on cost. When the moisture in wood fluctuates, it will tend to warp. If the wood is not finished on all sides before it leaves the factory, you will have warped cabinets. If wood arrives unfinished, this is a top priority to complete so as to prevent this.
Many areas of the country are high humidity areas (the seasons are also a consideration) and veneered cabinets will be more stable than solid lumber in these areas.
Pine is the only softwood used commonly for cabinets. It is affordable and very available all over the country. It is usually used in traditional or country style kitchens and is a soft yellow color that can be stained or just finished naturally. It is a good low cost option but a caution is it is easily damaged and not as durable as some of the hardwood options.
For contemporary kitchens, you can use ash which has a nice light color, and is complimented lightly with clear and natural finishes. It can be done in either semi-custom cabinets or in custom.
Many consumers like birch because it is easily able to look like a far more expensive wood while being very inexpensive. It is used in many contemporary styles. You can stain it to appear like a cherry wood (which is far more pricey) or like maple wood.
Cherry wood is a nice option for kitchens because of its ability to stand up well to wear and tear. It does not easily show small knocks and scratches. It has a formal look and can also be used in contemporary styles. It is smooth and fine-grain and is red or reddish brown that darkens with age. Usually cherry wood is stained to give it color uniformity.
Less common than cherry, used usually in custom and semi-custom cabinetry projects, is hickory. This has a pale, yellowish type of color and is fairly light. You can stain it lightly just to gloss it and usually customers choosing hickory keep the light color.
Hard maple is a fine grain and light color wood that is slightly expensive and used mostly in custom and semi-custom cabinet projects. It can be stained but often is left clear or with a natural finish for a more modern look.
Another nice cabinet hardwood is red oak. Red oak is durable, very strong and not too expensive. You can get red oak in a large variety of styles and finishes and it has nice grain patterns that are usual in more traditional cabinet styles. You can use red oak for either stock or custom or semi-custom cabinets.
White oak is even stronger than red oak and has more golden tones. It has a more subtle grain and is used for custom cabinetry. More country style or period style homes use white oak.
In addition to all of the woods mentioned above, there are many veneer options to choose from that might fit your style and budget better. Wood veneer has been being used as a substitute for solid wood for hundreds of years. A thin piece of a log is glued and bonded with another material like fiberboard or plywood for example. Hardwood is not always the best choice. If you have young children and a small space your cabinets might get dinged up and thick solid wood might be a better choice. Veneers are more easily damaged and more difficult to repair. Chips look unsightly, and are not usually able to be sanded down. However, veneers are less prone to warping and this is a big benefit in high humidity. Many contemporary kitchen designs require veneers for the sleek modern finishes. Solid wood has a completely different appearance.
Innovations have been made recently such as doing reconstituted veneers. This is where layers of veneer are glued with bland grain under very high pressure and sliced into sheets across the grain for a straight-grain effect.
This is a lot of information to absorb and much to think about! You have to consider what your style is, what color fits best with your home, what type of grain you will like, and what kind of budget you have.
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Written By: Bob Jenkins
Budget My Build
P.O. Box 72987
Phoenix, AZ 85050
Office: (602) 579-9660
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