Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

Whether you are starting your kitchen remodel from scratch or just bringing it up-to-date, there are several things to consider when choosing kitchen cabinets. Sure, they must look nice and fit your personal style, but you also should get something that will last.

Have you ever noticed the price range of different brands and styles of kitchen cabinets? There’s a reason the price tags on two similar looking cabinets can be so wildly different. The main reason is their construction. You should think about:

  • material – what the cabinets are actually made of
  • wood species – the type of tree wood used to construct the kitchen cabinets
  • finish – this refers to whether your kitchen cabinets are painted, stained, waxed, etc…
kitchen cabinets

Choosing Kitchen Cabinet Material

You can choose from a range of cabinet materials such as plywood, particle board, and MDF. There are pros and cons to each material that should be considered when choosing kitchen cabinets. The most common material is particle board, which is an alternative to plywood. Although, plywood is also a common building material for kitchen cabinets.

Wood Species

While wood species isn’t directly related to construction, how the cabinet will age over time depends partly on this. The most common wood species, each with their own characteristics, for kitchen cabinet construction are:


Cherry is close-grained and fairly uniform throughout, allowing or easier application of finish. Natural cherry, with its deep red undertones, can offer smooth, warm tones to any kitchen.


Maple is a lighter option with a white to creamy color and the occasional red or brown tones. The grain pattern is subtle and uniform.


Oak is a common choice with a deeper grain pattern. The grain is high-contrast and dramatic. Color variations can range from white two reddish tones, with occasional streaks of green, yellow, and black.


Alder wood is light brown in color with reddish undertones. The grain texture is fairly even.


Hickory’s colors range from white or blonde to reddish brown and dark brown. This is due to the drastic color change between the heartwood and the sapwood of the tree. Varying-aged wood is often paired together, giving some Hickory wood cabinets a two-tone effect.


Similar to Hickory, Birch wood has a dramatic contrast in color from the sapwood to the heartwood. Birches extremely strong due to its tight wood grain. This also gives it an exceptionally smooth surface.


Walnut is characterized by a smooth grain that is generally straight and extremely fine. depending on the age of the wood, color can range from deep brown to light gray with reddish tones.


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When choosing kitchen cabinet finishes, a range is available, including stain and paint, sealer coatings, lacquer or polyurethane, and wax.

Paint and Stain

Paints and stains offer durability with less effort over time; however, their gloss may not be as high as lacquers.

Sealer Coatings

Sealers may be the best choice because they offer good protection against moisture damage

Lacquer or Water-Based Polyurethane

These are the most durable finishes, but they are also more expensive than paint/stain combos. And they require maintenance every few years to keep shiny.


Waxing is another option which works well if you want your kitchen cabinets to that retain natural wood look during normal wear and tear. However, waxing your wood kitchen cabinets has many drawbacks. Waxing can:

  • darken your wood
  • penetrate your wood too deeply and be difficult to remove
  • require yearly re-application

Who Knew There Was So Much to Choosing Kitchen Cabinets?

There are a few things to consider when choosing kitchen cabinets. Whether you want plywood or particle board, drawer slides that glide smoothly or soft close mechanisms, and finishes that protect your wood with ease or retain its natural look over time — it all comes down to preference. However, the material and wood species used in construction will affect how long your cabinet lasts so think about what’s important for your lifestyle!

Johnson Lumber Can Help You in Choosing Kitchen Cabinets

This may seem like a lot just to pick out your kitchen cabinets, and it is! Lucky for you, we here at Johnson Lumber do this every day. The last 100 years has taught us a thing or two about lumber; don’t be afraid to come ask us! as your local Maryland lumber and millwork experts, we love talking with customers and helping you find the exact right material for your projects. We have a dedicated kitchen design team on-staff ready for your next kitchen project. So when choosing kitchen cabinets, choose Johnson Lumber. Call us or stop in today to get started.

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