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The Best and Worst Woods for Custom Kitchen Cabinets

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Wood is a popular and versatile choice when choosing the perfect material for your custom kitchen cabinets. However, not all woods are created equal, and selecting the right one can mean the difference between a beautiful, long-lasting kitchen and one that requires constant maintenance and repair. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the best and worst woods for kitchen cabinets, so you can make an informed decision when designing your dream kitchen.

Best Woods for Kitchen Cabinets

1. Hard Maple

Hard maple is a top choice for custom kitchen cabinets due to its strength, durability, and beautiful light color. This hardwood is highly resistant to wear and scratching, making it perfect for busy kitchens. Its fine and uniform texture also allows for intricate detailing, such as raised panels or beaded accents. 

Hard maple can be stained for various colors, but its natural light hue is highly sought after in contemporary kitchen designs.

2. Cherry

Cherry is another popular choice for custom kitchen cabinets, thanks to its rich color, smooth grain, and excellent durability. Cherry wood darkens over time, adding warmth and depth to your kitchen’s aesthetic. 

Its natural reddish-brown hue is often enhanced with a light stain to reveal the wood’s unique character. Cherry’s resilience and resistance to warping make it an ideal choice for long-lasting, beautiful cabinets.

3. Red Oak

Red oak is a classic choice for kitchen cabinets, offering a timeless and traditional look. Its distinctive open-grain pattern adds texture and visual interest to your cabinetry. Red oak is a strong and durable hardwood, capable of withstanding everyday wear and tear. 

Additionally, its affordability and availability make it a popular choice among homeowners. Red oak can be stained in various colors to match your preferred aesthetic.

4. Hickory

Hickory is known for its unique and striking appearance, with dramatic color variations and distinct grain patterns. This hardwood is incredibly strong and durable, making it ideal for custom kitchen cabinets that must withstand heavy use. 

Hickory’s natural color range, from light blonde to dark brown, can create a rustic and warm feel in your kitchen. While it can be challenging to work with due to its hardness, the result is well worth the effort.

5. Plywood

While not a solid hardwood, plywood is an excellent choice for custom kitchen cabinets due to its stability and resistance to warping. High-quality plywood, such as Baltic birch or apple ply, is constructed with multiple layers of wood, providing strength and durability. 

Plywood can be faced with a hardwood veneer, such as maple or cherry, to achieve the appearance of solid wood cabinets at a lower cost.

Worst Woods for Kitchen Cabinets

1. Softwoods

Softwoods, such as pine, fir, and spruce, are not recommended for kitchen cabinets due to their vulnerability to dents, scratches, and wear. These woods are more susceptible to damage from everyday use, making them a poor choice for long-lasting cabinetry.

2. MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)

MDF is an engineered wood product from wood fibers, resin, and wax. While it is a budget-friendly option, MDF is not as robust as solid wood or plywood and can be prone to swelling and warping when exposed to moisture. Additionally, MDF cabinets may emit formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, due to the resin used in their production.

3. Particleboard

Like MDF, particleboard is an engineered wood product made from wood chips, sawdust, and resin. Particleboard is less expensive than solid wood or plywood but more susceptible to water and humidity damage. Cabinets made from particleboard may sag, swell, or disintegrate over time, making them a poor choice for long-lasting kitchen cabinetry.


When picking the best wood for your custom kitchen cabinets, it’s essential to consider durability, appearance, and budget. Hardwoods like maple, cherry, red oak, and hickory are excellent choices for long-lasting, beautiful cabinets, while plywood offers a stable, budget-friendly alternative. Avoid softwoods like pine and engineered wood products like MDF and particleboard if you want cabinets that stand the test of time and resist damage from moisture and humidity. 

Looking for high-quality, custom kitchen cabinetry in Tampa that will stand the test of time? Look no further than Mark’s Cabinetry Services! Contact us today to schedule a consultation and start designing your dream kitchen.