There’s a reason that wood is the most popular of all cabinet materials. In addition to being beautiful and versatile, wood cabinetry is durable. Not only do they provide valuable storage space, but kitchen cabinets are the room’s focal point because they take up so much wall space and help set the tone for the rest of the decor and style. Choosing wood for cabinets ensures the cupboards and drawers check all the boxes for form and function.
Because cabinets are a significant investment, homeowners often ask, “What is the most durable wood for kitchen cabinets?” Durability is critical to not only a long lifespan — although homeowners always want to get the most for their money — but also to staying in good condition. The kitchen is one of the most-used rooms in any home, and the cabinets need to hold up to daily wear and tear without falling apart or showing nicks, scratches, dings, and other damage.
As the top source for cabinets in Baltimore, we’re experts in material selection and helping customers find the perfect solutions for their unique needs. Our guide to durable wood materials for kitchen cabinets will help you narrow down the choices so you make the right one.
The Janka Wood Hardness Scale
One way to measure the durability of any type of wood is to use the Janka Hardness Scale. This scale is the industry standard test to determine how well any wood species resists nicking and denting.
The Janka test determines wood hardness by calculating how much force it takes to embed a .444-inch steel ball into a plank by half its diameter. Ratings range from 900 for Balsa wood all the way to 5060 for Australian Buloke wood, meaning it takes 5,060 pounds of force to dent that type of wood. Most woods for kitchen cabinets have a Janka hardness rating in the mid-range, about 1200 to 1400.
It’s important to note that the Janka Hardness Scale indicates how difficult it is to work with the wood, as well as its resistance to damage. While it might seem like a hard cabinet material like Brazilian Cherry, which has a hardness rating of 2350, is a perfect choice for extra durable cabinets, it can also be more challenging to build with and will add time and expense to the project. Choosing a softer option, like hard maple or white oak, will provide the durability you want without the hassles.
Degrees of Wood Cabinets
In addition to considering hardness, the answer to, “What is the most durable wood for kitchen cabinets?” also needs to account for the wood degree, or the actual type of wood.
Sometimes, when you purchase “wood” cabinets, they aren’t actually solid wood. Alternatives that resemble wood are often just as attractive as natural wood, work just as well for organizing your kitchen, and have a lower price tag.
As you shop for cabinet materials, pay close attention to the degrees of wood, which include:
- Solid hardwood, or natural wood, cut and carved into cabinets that offer exceptional beauty and strength
- Engineered wood, a similar-looking alternative to natural wood made by compressing several layers of thin wood with glue and heat-fusing them with melamine for an exceptionally durable finished product.
- Wood veneer, which has a thin piece of natural wood attached to a composite core, giving it a similar appearance to wood cabinets
- Laminate, which also has a composite core topped with a printed laminate layer designed to look like wood
Each of these degrees of wood cabinets offers different levels of durability, but solid hardwood remains the gold standard for longevity.
8 Popular Types of Wood for Kitchen Cabinets
Taking into account the Janka Hardness Scale and degree of wood, what is the most durable wood for kitchen cabinets? The following are some species to look at when shopping.
Hickory is one of the hardest woods for cabinets, with a Janka rating of 1820. Hickory cabinets will last for decades without showing dents or dings. You can choose from a wide variety of colors, tones, and grain patterns, ranging from pale cream to black.
Oak cabinets are more affordable than hickory but nearly as durable and just as beautiful. Cabinet makers typically use either red or white oak. Red oak is durable and has a distinct curved and straight grain pattern, while white oak is a stronger wood with a more subtle grain and natural golden color.
Maple wood is strong and durable, with a fine grain and a beautiful pale color that helps brighten spaces. Hard maple lives up to its name, and it’s heavy enough to withstand normal wear and tear for decades.
Cherry is a charming and elegant choice for kitchen cabinets, thanks to its fine grain and natural red hue. More expensive than some other cabinet materials, it’s also a long-lasting and durable wood that resists damage and naturally ages to a deeper red.
Walnut is a durable wood choice popular among cabinet makers because it’s easy to carve. The grain is uniform and smooth, and the wood color ranges from deep brown to reddish gray. The color tends to lighten with age.
Pine is easily accessible, affordable, and reasonably durable, although it nicks much more easily than most other hardwoods. Pine tends to have natural characteristics like knots and tree rings, which add to its charm and rustic appeal.
Birch is a popular choice for kitchen cabinets thanks to its versatility. It’s a durable hardwood that takes stain well, so it’s easy to build cabinets that resemble more expensive materials, such as maple or cherry, without the price tag.
Poplar is technically a softwood and, therefore, not as durable as hardwoods, but it’s still common in cabinet making because of its affordability and ability to take paint. It’s common for retailers to sell poplar cabinets as “paint grade” for this reason, but they don’t resist nicks and dents very well.
How To Choose the Perfect Wood for Your Kitchen Cabinets
Asking, “What is the most durable wood for kitchen cabinets?” is only one part of selecting the ideal materials. Each wood has unique characteristics, and one option may be a better choice than others depending on:
- The color and grain pattern
- The style of your kitchen; for example, pine is best for country or farmhouse style, while maple and oak look great in traditional or transitional kitchens
- How you plan to finish the cabinets, as some woods take stain or paint better
- Your budget
Taking all these factors into account can help you narrow down the choices to the best one for your home.
Talk to Current Cabinetry About All the Wood Options for Kitchen Cabinets
Once you select the cabinet material, you can choose the design, hardware, and features like slow-close drawers and a matching interior and exterior.
If you aren’t sure where to start or don’t know the difference between kitchen cabinet wood grains and how they affect the overall look of the space, get in touch with Current Cabinetry at (410) 609-7077.
Baltimore area homeowners can get answers to all their questions like, “What is the most durable wood for kitchen cabinets?” and take advantage of our design options to create the perfect space for cooking, dining, entertaining, and more. Our factory-direct, no-middleman service means we can even deliver new cabinets in one to three days, so call now.
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