Natural Wood Cabinetry—What to Know and Understand

There are many reasons to choose natural wood cabinetry for your kitchen remodel or new kitchen. 

Wood’s allure adds value to your home and classic style to your kitchen. People are drawn to wood for the variance in grains and colors and wood’s natural warmth.

Its flexibility enables cabinet makers to customize the shape, design, and color of your cabinetry (including specialty finishes and paints). Certain species of wood are highly durable and all offer variety. Light, medium and dark woods, well-defined or soft grains, knots and streaks—these are all elements of natural wood cabinetry. 

Types of wood for kitchen cabinets – plusses and considerations

Some of the most common types of wood for kitchen cabinets include:

  • Maple – This is a grainy light hardwood with a consistent color base. It is mostly off white and quite uniform, with small, naturally occurring mineral streaks. It’s a good choice if you plan to paint your cabinets a solid color. 
  • Oak – A medium-to-light colored wood available in red oak (which naturally occurs in white, pink or red) or white oak which is generally more golden. Oak has a more defined grain, natural knots and other streaks. 
  • Hickory – A dense wood with well-defined grain, hickory offers unpredictable grain patterns and color differences that deliver a truly unique look. Hickory colors can range from white to reddish or dark brown and will appear randomly; using a darker stain will level out the variations a bit. 
  • Cherry — Cherry comes with or without rustic knots. The wood’s color will darken in a short period of time, so it is important to order your cherrywood cabinets from a recent sample block. This durable wood withstands a lot of use. 
  • Pine – Because pine is a softwood, it incurs dents easier than other types of hardwoods. Pine’s knots suit country or traditional style kitchens well, depending on the overall décor. 
  • Beech – Varying in color tone from light tan to reddish brown, beech cabinets also will have some knots and sap streaks and graining variations.
  • Birch — A smooth, even grained hardwood, predominantly off-white with some red and
  • brown variation and pin knots that give kitchen cabinets a rustic look. 
  • Knotty Alder – This is a soft wood with even texture and color ranging from pinkish brown to reddish peach. It is ideal with natural color and grain variations are the desired look. Like pine, knotty alder dents easily. It also absorbs excess stain, creating dark areas and absorbs minimal stain creating light areas.
  • Rustic wood – This category of natural wood refers to the natural defects and many inherent characteristics of the species. Rustic woods usually have mineral streaks, pecks, burls, color and grain variations, and knots.

natural wood cabinets

An array of finishes

Natural wood cabinetry can be painted or stained. The types of stains and the colors and effects they offer create beautiful custom looks in any kitchen. You may also choose a specialty finish such as dye stains, wiping stains and antique stains. Our kitchen remodeling team can show you examples of these finishes and explain how they’re done.

Considerations with wood kitchen cabinets

  1. The “natural” in natural wood means that these are not factory engineered to remove every imperfection that occurs in nature. Therefore, don’t expect a “cookie cutter” look. 
    1. Graining will vary from one door to another. This is very important to remember when you order your cabinets, as no two doors will be identical.
    2. Additionally, some colors (such as cherry) change over time depending on exposure to sunlight and indoor environment.
  2. If you plan to paint your cabinetry, keep in mind that wood expands and contracts depending on humidity or dryness, which will affect the finished look, especially on door and drawer joints and center panels. 
    1. Even wood that is finished with stain and a topcoat is susceptible to the effects of moisture on the wood.
    2. Keep your home’s humidity levels as even as possible throughout the year to avoid moisture-related problems. 
  3. Woods “take” stains differently so be sure to select a stain that complements the wood and brings out its characteristics.
  4. As a natural resource, wood requires care. 
    1. Wipe up spills right away to avoid them soaking into the wood. Avoid using cleaners with abrasive additives, bleach or ammonia, which will damage the cabinet finish. Always clean grease and residue using a mild soap and water mix.
    2. Use a clean damp sponge or cloth monthly to clean cabinet interiors and exteriors. Use a dedicated sponge or cloth that has not been in contact with harsh chemicals/cleaners or grease. 
    3. To protect the finish, wipe all excess moisture dry after cleaning, and keep areas around cabinetry dry (especially near the sink, dishwasher, stove and baseboards).
    4. Don’t over scrub the finish.
    5. Keep a touchup kit on hand for minor dings and scratches, with a fill stick for /gouges and paint pen for scratches. 

Wood’s warmth and beauty are truly special. Understanding what to expect with natural wood cabinets and caring for them properly will give your kitchen years of natural beauty. At Affordable Granite & Cabinetry, our home improvement professionals will show you samples from leading wood cabinet suppliers, and help you design a custom kitchen. Visit our showroom in Fishkill, or call 845-284-9582 for an appointment.