What kind of wood is ideal for kitchen cabinets?Rebecca Hinshelwood
Some elements of a kitchen can withstand the test of time. They’re durable and versatile, forming the foundation of your kitchen for many years to come. One of these elements is a natural stone worktop, another is the core of your kitchen cabinets. As long as you do not need to structurally change a space, kitchen cabinets can be refreshed, altered and refinished so that the core materials are never wasted. Of course, to achieve this longevity you should choose materials wisely. So here we look at what kind of wood is ideal for kitchen cabinets.
Type of kitchen
The type of wood that is used for kitchen cabinetry is often dependent on the approach that you’re taking to your kitchen refit. Naturally, for a bespoke fitted kitchen you’ll have a lot more scope to choose a specific wood for cabinets than if your cabinets are modular and ready-to-fit. So, what are the benefits to the two types of kitchen?
An individually fitted kitchen is bespoke to your space. It’s designed and constructed to a unique specification that optimises the space. This allows you to ensure that every detail of your kitchen is to your taste and preference, including which kind of wood is used to construct cabinets.
Modular kitchens are comprised by standard individual units. When pieced together, these units form the structure of your new kitchen. The units may be pre-assembled or flat packed, but are all made to standard sizes. There’s a scale of quality within modular kitchens, and this very much rests on the kind of wood that cabinet carcasses are constructed from.
The carcass of a kitchen cabinet is often made using a different type of wood to cabinet doors and frames. This is because these two functions require different properties. For a non-structural kitchen refit, you may be able to keep cabinet carcasses in situ and replace the doors, frames and worktop for the effect of an entirely new kitchen!
The parts of a kitchen cabinet that are visible tend to be constructed with aesthetically eye catching woods. The likes of oak, cherry or birch. Or for modern kitchen design schemes, where cabinet frames and doors are painted, tulipwood works well. Below we take a more detailed look at these wood options for kitchen cabinets.
Behind your cabinet doors and underneath your stone worktop sits the most enduring part of your kitchen cabinet units: the carcass. The wood used to construct cabinet carcasses must be strong, durable and resistant to warp and rot. Especially when you think of the stress that cabinet carcasses come under, not only to contain the contents of a kitchen, but also to carry a heavy granite worktop. While plywood is strong and popular to work with for modular and some fitted kitchens, the highest end kitchen carcasses will be made with solid oak. This is incredibly durable and sturdy, but comes at a cost.
There are a lot of different woods that kitchen cabinets could be made from. Like making a decision between marble, quartz and granite: where there are similarities, there are also subtle differences both in appearance and performance. Wooden cabinet frontages are a wonderful partner to stone worktops, and remain very popular for traditional and contemporary kitchens alike.
To choose a hardwood such as oak, walnut or cherry is a real statement in a kitchen design scheme. These woods are bold and striking to look at, and are really substantial to the touch. The wood graining in these materials can be a real focal point, wonderfully balancing the natural graining of marble, for example. When treated, these woods are incredibly durable and versatile. Any unexpected knocks or dents can be sanded and repaired, and aesthetically these woods can be stained to alter their appearance, remaining in keeping with future design schemes.
In past years, pine was a popular material for cottage style kitchens. Now, you’ll more often find ash or birch used to fulfil a warm, soft aesthetic specification. Birch is warp resistant and, due to the speed at which these trees grow, it carries a lower cost than other hardwoods such as oak and walnut. It’s also not as tough, so can be scratched easier. However, these warm species of wood offer unrivalled versatility. This is because they work well to both stain or paint, so are great when updating an existing kitchen.
A popular and lower cost wood for kitchen cabinets is tulipwood or poplar. This wood is both light and strong, as it’s one of the softest hard woods out there. This wood tends to be easy to work with, however it does not have the same dramatic appearance as more expensive woods like oak or cherry. Indeed, kitchen cabinets that are made from this type of wood tend to have a painted finish. Alternatively, a tulipwood cabinet base with oak veneer can offer lower cost than solid oak.
Reuse and Recycle
Of course, some kitchen design schemes prefer to think outside the box. Especially for some sustainable or eco projects, designers and project managers seek to reuse existing wooden features for a new kitchen.
The unique shapes and grain of reclaimed wood offers a beautiful artisan finish for the right kitchen. Using reclaimed wood is often a real labour of carpentry love, but it looks breathtaking!
Why not reuse cabinet carcasses and even doors from other kitchens? The trade in second hand kitchen units is on the up as people seek to be more sustainable and budget conscious. More ambitiously, with a talented eye you can make mismatched varieties of wood look really unique in the right kitchen.
Kitchen projects come in so many different shapes and sizes – and so do wood varieties. In this way, there’s a wood for kitchen cabinets that fits all concepts and budgets. Natural wood is such a beautiful companion for natural stone worktops that it’s easy to see why it remains such a popular kitchen material.