Types of Cabinet Materials

Types of Cabinet Materials

What is the best material to use for cabinets?

Just as no two trees are alike, no two types of cabinet material are the same. Whether you want cherry, maple, oak, alder, hickory, walnut or MDF cabinets, here are some key considerations to help you find your ideal cabinet material type.


  • A softer wood with a fine, straight grain and even texture
  • Ranges in color from light brown with yellow or reddish tinge
  • Does not evolve in color or darken when exposed to light or heat
  • Takes stains and finishes well
  • Care must be taken to avoid damage, due to its softer nature
  • Some small, tight knots can be seen in standard Alder


  • A distinctive grain pattern and warm color
  • Ranges in color from nearly white to dark reddish brown
  • Dark pockets, pin knots and random streaks are more common than most woods
  • Will darken when exposed to light, especially in light stains – the more sun it receives, the faster it will darken.


  • A heavy, strong wood
  • Ranges in color from nearly white to dark brown
  • Known for flowing, vibrant grain patterns and dramatic color variations
  • Can exhibit random pecks, burls, and mineral streaks


  • Versatile hardwood with a fine, smooth grain
  • Ranges in color from nearly white to a slightly reddish brown
  • Mineral or sugar streaks occur naturally and can vary from piece to piece
  • Variations will be more noticeable in lighter stains

Quarter Sawn Oak

  • Milled at an angle of 60 to 90 degrees from the grain
  • Allows rays and flecks to become visible
  • Ranges in color from golden blonde to deeper reddish tones
  • Unique, vintage character and dimension

Red Oak

  • A strong wood with a long linear grain
  • Ranges in color from golden blonde to deeper reddish tones
  • It may include small pinholes and tight knots

Rustic Alder and Rustic Hickory

  • Characterized by knots, burls and mineral streaks which could impact hardware placement
  • Knots will be sound and will be closed, but certain angles could show light through the knots
  • Glazing these rustic wood types will enhance these unique characteristics


  • A strong, stable American hardwood known for wide color variation.
  • Ranges in color from creamy white to a medium purplish brown.
  • Has both flowing grain and straight grain
  • Takes stain well
  • Favorite choice for furniture and furniture-grade cabinetry

Other Materials

These cabinet materials are highly durable, less susceptible to discoloration and are easy to maintain. They also provide flexibility in color, design and styling – a great option for many homes.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

  • Formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers.
  • Heat and pressure are used to form a homogenous, medium density fiberboard.
  • This substrate has less variability in it than other wood species, making it excellent for machining and painting.
  • Individual pieces can be machined and assembled much like a wood door.