Picking the Right Wood Species for Your Cabinet Doors

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When searching for the best cabinet doors to match your kitchen, one of the first things you will need to figure out is what kind of material you want your doors to be made from.
The species of wood you choose will dictate not only the appearance of your cabinets, but affects their performance as well, so it is a good idea to take some time and plan a perfect fit.
But with the large variety of engineered and solid wood types out there to choose between, the task of finding the best material for your home can begin to seem a little daunting.
To make things easier, here is a quick guide on some of the most common materials available for your cabinet door’s construction.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design
ENGINEERED WOOD TYPES
Generally cheaper in cost and heavier in weight than solid wood, the following engineered materials are excellent options to consider for your kitchen space.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, MDF Medium Density Fiberboard
MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard)
Short for Medium-Density Fiberboard, this popular composite material is created from recycled wood fibers for a more stable performance and improved resistance to weathering over solid wood.
Wood naturally tends to expand and contract when exposed to changes in temperature, which can lead to bending, cracking, and other signs of general wear on your cabinet doors over time. With MDF, you can expect a longer lasting performance than that provided by traditional wooden doors.
When it comes to appearance, MDF doors are very smooth, have no wood grain, and react wonderfully to paint. This material is less absorbent than solid wood, which reduces the chances of warping, plus it provides an even surface which can display color more vibrantly than solid wooden doors.
If you plan on painting your cabinets, this may be the best option for you.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, RTF Rigid Thermofoil
RTF (Rigid Thermofoil)
Short for Rigid Thermofoil, RTF doors are a modified version of MDF doors. In short, this extra-resilient material is created when a thermofoil vinyl laminate is fused to the surface of MDF material with heat and pressure.
For all of their benefits, MDF cabinets are still very vulnerable to water damage. However, the application of RTF gives additional strength and water resistance to your doors, while at the same time maintaining the benefits of MDF material.
These RTF veneers also make your cabinet doors more difficult to dent, easier to clean, and can display a wider range of styles than untreated MDF material; including realistic grain patterns and stylized door prints.
Ultimately RTF is a fantastic choice for recreating a naturally wooden appearance in your cabinets, or an artistically embellished pattern, while also enjoying the long-lasting benefits of this hardy material.
SOLID WOOD TYPES
While engineered woods have their obvious benefits, the traditional style of solid wooden doors certainly has its own appeal. Wood cabinets are lighter in weight than their composite counterparts, sport naturally sophisticated grain patterns, and can mellow beautifully over time when cared for correctly, making them a solid choice in most kitchen arrangements.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, Maple
Maple
Maple wood often demonstrates lightly grained textures in a cream tone of color, with occasional hints of brown and red. The innately smooth texture of this species makes it one of the better options for painting on solid wood.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, Birch
Birch
Birch wood provides a strong grain texture, usually under a yellow-cream shade, with darker tones of brown and red found in the heartwood. This wood species’ smooth surface and typically tight grain pattern can bring a delightful rustic quality to any kitchen space.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, Alder
Alder
Alder wood exhibits a light reddish-brown color scheme, and an even texture that blends seamlessly between the outer sapwood and inner heartwood. Dramatic grain patterns serve to exemplify an organic appeal within the wood, allowing it to perform wonderfully with or without a stain.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, Cherry
Cherry
Cherry wood earns its name from its inherent reddish tone that is accented between varying soft white and deep brown hues. A tight and even grain pattern, along with a smooth surface texture, allows this wood species to easily take on wood finishes for embellished cabinet colors.
q picking the right wood species for your cabinet doors, doors, kitchen cabinets, kitchen design, Oak
Oak
Oak wood comes in a range of possible colors, from brown to red to white, and proudly displays prominent grain patterns. This species is a longtime favorite for cabinet construction, and is occasionally altered by streaks of mineral deposits held within the wood, which can create appealing lines of green and yellow that add a natural sense of depth to your cabinet doors.
  4 answers
  • William William on Feb 08, 2017
    Problem with MDF its wood pulp combined with resins under high pressure to form panels. The fake imprinted or glued wood grain peels off and cannot be repaired. It also swells and bubbles from moisture contact. The RTF ( Rigid Therfoil) has a tendency to delaminate from the from the MDF. A problem many Hometalkers have had. This cannot be repaired. Birch Is actually cabinet grade plywood and not solid birch wood. Its been in use since the 50's. Oak cabinets are the only real solid wood cabinetry. But they are made out of glued up oak boards to make a solid panel. The glue joints can separate and crack in between the panels. All the other wood species are actually Poplar with the grain either photographed or spray on resins to imitate the wood species. You also forgot to mention the use of Particle board for the carcass on lower cost cabinet. Particle board will swell and crumble if it gets wet.

  • Gail Hannah Gail Hannah on Feb 10, 2017
    Why would you start article talking about types of wood and then tout particle board ? What about hickory, maple, ash.... Many great SOLID woods !!!

  • Becky Miller Becky Miller on Feb 13, 2017
    I had my 1970's kitchen remodeled over 20years ago using hickory cabinets. They were gorgeous, but the only parts that were made of hickory were the doors and facings. The actual carcass and shelves were mdf covered in wood look paper. Moisture caused bubbles on the shelves, lesson learned!when we built our new house, I chose oak cabinet doors. They were custom made by a cabinet shop and are all wood. Have had no problems in 15 years of use.
    BTW, the hickory cabinets were purchased from a local lumber store. Most cabinets available in the chain stores are made like the hickory. Beautiful on the outside, but fake wood interiors.

  • Gail Hannah Gail Hannah on Feb 14, 2017
    My husband currently building me custom hickory cabinets. Totally solid hardwood . They are beautiful !