What Wood is Used for Cabinets: A Guide to Choosing the Perfect Material

Are you thinking about what kind of wood to use for your cabinets?

This is a fun task because it can change the look of your room. We’ll talk about some different types of wood you can use and why you might like them.

Cabinets are super important in a house because they’re where we store things, and they can make a room look great. 

So, what wood is used for cabinets?

Many options for cabinet wood include durable hardwoods (oak, maple, cherry, etc.), unique softwoods (pine, spruce, cedar, etc.), and affordable engineered woods like plywood, MDF, and particleboard. Choose the right one based on your specific needs and preferences.

The kind of wood you choose can change how tough your cabinets are, how they look, and how much they cost.

Hardwoods for Cabinets

Hardwoods for Cabinets

Hardwoods are a popular choice for cabinets. They come from trees that lose their leaves every year.

You’ve probably heard of some of these trees: oak, maple, cherry, hickory, and walnut. These woods are tough and beautiful, making them great for furniture and cabinets.

Here are some common hardwoods people use for cabinets:


Cherry wood is a beautiful reddish-brown color and gets darker as time passes. It’s a bit soft for hardwood, so you must take care of it so it doesn’t get scratched.


Maple wood is hard and light-colored with a subtle pattern. It’s great for places where many people touch and use the cabinets.


Oak is a strong, sturdy wood that can be red or white. It has a strong grain pattern and is popular for traditional-style kitchens.


Hickory is a very tough wood that varies from straight to wavy. It’s light-colored with darker streaks, giving your cabinets a unique look.


Walnut is a dark, rich wood with a straight grain pattern that sometimes swirls. It’s a luxury choice for high-end cabinets.

HardwoodColorGrain PatternStrengthBest For
CherryReddish-brownSubtleSoftLow-traffic areas
MapleLightSubtleHardHigh-traffic areas
OakRed or whiteStrongSturdyTraditional-style kitchens
HickoryLight with darker streaksVaries from straight to wavyVery toughUnique look
WalnutDark, richStraight, sometimes swirlingLuxury choiceHigh-end cabinets

Softwoods for Cabinets

Softwoods for Cabinets

Softwoods also make good cabinets. They come from trees that keep their leaves all year round. 

They’re generally lighter, easier to work with than hardwoods, and have unique colors and patterns.

Here are some common softwoods people use for cabinets:


The pine is light-colored with a strong grain pattern. It’s great for a rustic, country-style kitchen but needs extra care to prevent scratches.


Spruce is a light-colored wood with a straight grain pattern. It’s a good budget-friendly choice.


Cedar is reddish-brown and smells really good! It’s great for outdoor kitchens because it’s naturally resistant to bugs and rots.


Fir is a strong, light-colored softwood. It’s often used in cabinets because it’s so durable.

Softwood Color Grain Pattern Strength Best For
Pine Light-colored Straight Medium Rustic, country-style kitchens
Spruce Light-colored Straight Medium Budget-friendly cabinets
Cedar Reddish-brown Varied Medium Outdoor kitchens, naturally resistant to bugs and rot
Fir Light-colored Straight High Durable cabinet construction

Engineered Wood for Cabinets

Engineered or composite wood combines different wood parts to create a new material. 

This type of wood is often used for cabinets because it’s strong, durable, and affordable.

Some common engineered woods for cabinets include:


Plywood is strong and doesn’t warp easily, making it great for cabinets.

MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard):

MDF is dense and flat, which is great for cabinet doors and drawer fronts.


Particleboard is less expensive than other engineered woods but is not as strong. It’s good for cabinet boxes and shelves.

Choosing the Right Wood for Cabinets

When picking the wood for your cabinets, think about the following:


How tough do you need your cabinets to be? Hardwoods like oak and maple are popular because they’re very durable.


How much can you spend? Some woods are more expensive than others.


What do you want your cabinets to look like? Different woods have different colors and patterns.


Is it important that your wood comes from a place that’s good for the environment? Look for FSC or SFI-certified wood, or think about using reclaimed wood.

What wood is used for kitchen cabinets?

Common wood for kitchen cabinets includes pine, oak, hickory, cherry, and maple. Pine, oak, and hickory are cheaper and easier to obtain, while cherry and maple are more luxurious and expensive. All five types of wood are suitable for a kitchen’s hot and humid environment.

What type of wood is used for built-in cabinets?

Built-in cabinets can be made from various materials, including solid wood, wood veneers, plywood, high-density fiberboard (HDF), medium-density fiberboard (MDF), thermofoil, melamine, and particle board. The type of wood used will depend on cost, durability, and aesthetic preferences.

What kind of wood is used for painted cabinets

The woods commonly used for paint-grade cabinets are those with tighter grains, such as Poplar, Maple, Alder, Birch, and Pine. In addition to solid wood, MDF and HDF are popular alternatives for painted cabinets in addition to solid wood. These materials can provide a smooth surface that is ideal for painting.

Is MDF good for kitchen cabinets?

MDF is a good option for those seeking a budget-friendly cabinet that can be easily painted, but it does need to be sealed to prevent swelling. However, MDF kitchen cabinets are less resistant to scratches and damage than hardwood and may not withstand exposure to moisture over long periods.


Picking the right wood for your cabinets means thinking about how tough it needs to be, how much you can spend, what you want it to look like, and whether it’s important to you to be good for the environment. 

Happy wood choosing!

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