Which wood species to use for exterior of your cabinets depends on a number of factors such as:
All these points need to be considered when determining what species of wood to use. Here are a few guidelines:
The following are some of the most commonly used cabinet woods in the East Texas area:
Currently one of the most popular cabinet hardwoods, Alder is fine-grained and has a light brown color. Many people use it as a replacement for hard maple because of its significantly lower price. It stains well and is quite stable (minimal shrinkage and warping) even though it is softer than most hardwood. Though Clear Alder is available, many people select Knotty Alder because of its because it has relatively tight knots that make a nice rustic look (be sure to tell the painter not to fill the knots!). Though Knotty Alder is relatively inexpensive, we have no dependable source for good Knotty Alder plywood, thus we have to use Clear Alder plywood which is roughly 50% higher than most finish plywood
For many years Ash has been the most popular of all cabinet hardwoods. It is very light colored (nearly white), has a course ‘wild’ grain, is very durable and stable, holds screws quite well, can be stained any color, and is reasonably priced. Because the end grain is quite open, it is hard to make the stain match across a door, especially the darker you stain it. Typical ash plywood will tend to stain out lighter than its attached hardwood frames and doors.
Just recently introduced in the East Texas area, Beech is quickly becoming one of the most popular hardwoods for cabinet building in this region. Imported from Germany, Beech is firm textured, easily machined, and has a uniform reddish-brown color. The grain pattern resembles that of Hard Maple with the addition of little short lines that go with the grain. Beech has a number of very small, tight knots that can add character to your cabinets if you choose to keep them.
The favorite of many old timers and hobbyists, Cherry is the choice if you want fine, rich looking cabinets. It has relatively straight grain and very smooth texture. Cherry comes to us with a reddish color and with the application of any stain or sealer, it will become darker still. It is one of the most expensive species of cabinet building lumber and plywood.
Though not really a species of wood, Chestnut Oak is our name for #2 White Oak. Being a #2 grade of lumber, it has a number of knots that will give your cabinets a dated, rustic look. If you are really creative, you can take this material and distress it more to create a unique ‘old time’ look. White Oak has much the same grain pattern as its cousin Red Oak yet without the ‘red’. It is a course textured with a strait, open grain.
Two of the more difficult woods to work with, Hickory and Pecan are basically the same wood. Its hard and brittle grain require us to have extremely sharp tools to prevent splintering. The grain pattern is typically straight, but then within a few inches can be quite irregular. The sapwood is rather light and the heartwood is dark which gives it at rustic look. Hickory was the our choice for the cabinets we built when we added on to our home!
One of the best hardwoods for cabinet building, Maple has a subdued wavy grain which makes it the perfect choice for someone who “doesn’t want a lot of grain”. It is strong and very stable with very little expansion and contraction with the seasons. We use Southern Soft Maple to build most of our ‘paint grade’ cabinets and doors. With a rather pinkish color, Maple turns to a honey brown look with the application of most clear sealers, but beware . . . it has the tendency to become ‘splotchy’ if stained dark. For this reason, we use Northern Hard Maple if we know you are going to do anything other than ‘clear coat’ your cabinets. Even the use of Hard Maple will not totally eliminate the ‘splotchy’ problem, so we recommend you use a good painter who is familiar with Maple’s staining characteristics.
A very popular cabinet material, Red Oak is a heavy, open-grained hardwood. As its name implies, it has a reddish tint that can be stained to practically any color, but turns to a golden-brown color with the application of sealer. Oak tends to swell a little in the summer then contract in the winter (though without warping), thus leaving stain lines on the sides of the panels in raised panel doors. These are more noticeable the darker you stain the wood. We use Appalachian Red Oak in order to insure the most consistent color.
The only soft wood commonly used to build cabinets, White Pine is a light, straight grained wood with a nice, smooth texture. Mostly used for cabinets in log homes, when you don’t cut out the knots, the cabinets can be quite rustic looking. White Pine is, like the name implies – white, but it can have streaks or even large areas of greenish heartwood, especially near the knots. Being that it’s a soft wood, it does not hold screws well, makes weak cabinet doors, and is quite susceptible to denting when hit by common kitchen utensils. With all this said, it is still the most requested species amongst our log home customers.
A few words about plywood –
Cabinet plywood is made of thin hardwood or softwood veneers glued and pressed to a specifically designed core. It is the design and quality of the core that determines the stability of the plywood. A quality laid up core ensures that the plywood will be free of voids and will be less likely to warp and/or delaminate. Common cores are made from multiple cross-laid ply’s of veneer (veneer core), from multiple side-by-side boards (lumber core), from medium density fiber board (MDF core), or from combinations of the above. As a general rule domestic (made in USA) plywood has the best core, with Russian and South American plywood coming in second best. Texas Wood Mill Cabinets recommends using domestic plywood because of its consistent quality.
That said, imported plywood from Asia has become the industry standard for box construction of custom cabinets. It is our opinion that this material is structurally sound but, due to the quality of the core, may exhibit longer term veneer adhesion concerns. While many of our competitors use this material for both their interior faces as well as their exterior painted faces, Texas Wood Mill Cabinets only uses the Asian plywood for interior construction where any veneer adhesion issues would be less visible. All of our painted exterior faces are constructed using American made maple plywood - this is our standard.
Please let your salesperson know if you would prefer the entire cabinet box for your project made entirely of domestic plywood.