Would you consider building kitchen cabinets out of balsa wood? Of course not. Similarly, you wouldn't expect a model airplane built from oak to fly all that well. While all wood originates from trees, there are different "grades" of milled lumber, based on hardness, porosity, grain pattern, and other features.
This is important to note as you make your way through various wood cabinet selections since the wood-grade makes a big difference in how cabinets weather daily wear-and-tear, lifetime maintenance requirements and cabinet longevity in general.
What's the Highest Quality Wood for Your Kitchen Cabinets?
Typically, you'll see two different types of wood grades listed in the cabinet world:
- Cabinet-grade (sometimes called "construction-grade" by industry professionals)
The difference between the two may not be noticeable at first glance, but it is certainly noticeable upon close inspection; it also becomes evident in the contrasts between how the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers stand the test of time when compared with higher-quality counterparts.
Cabinet-grade wood is mediocre
Simply put, cabinet-grade wood is strong enough to be built into cabinets, but its quality is mediocre. Yes, cabinet-grade planks are durable enough to serve as cabinetry but because the wood isn't as hard as furniture-grade wood, it dings, dents, warps, scratches and is more susceptible to physical damage over time.
Cabinet-grade wood cabinets are less likely to survive a flood or serious moisture damage, which would lead to them not being able to be refaced down the road.
Sometimes, cabinet-grade wood can trick you. Since cabinet makers are able to apply thin veneers of a desirable wood species (cherry, maple, ash, oak), they can take a cabinet-grade wood plank and advertise it as "real cherry", when all they've done is applied a cherry wood veneer.
As long as such products are honestly marketed, and the price tag is reflective of the lesser quality, cabinet-grade wood can be a decent option for a budget-friendly kitchen remodel. But, you'll want to keep an eye out for the term "Furniture-Grade", if you're only interested in the highest quality wood cabinetry for your kitchen.
Furniture-grade wood is A+
Furniture-grade wood is considered the crème de la crème of the cabinet options. These planks have tighter and more appealing wood grains (or hardly any grain at all), they are more durable and cabinets built from furniture-grade wood lasts for generations. As a result, furniture-grade cabinet options are also the most expensive.
However, furniture-grade wood lasts a lifetime and requires far fewer repairs/replacement during that time. So, this is an example of how higher first-time costs pay off in terms of lower lifetime costs. Minuca Elena of Staunton and Henry states, “Mixing repurposed furnishings with newer items creates an eclectic look that will brand your décor style as unique and fresh.”
Here at Kitchen Magic, we only use furniture-grade wood for custom cabinet installations. It's the only way we can feel 100% satisfied we're providing customers with the highest-quality cabinets, sourced from North America (never China), low- to zero-VOC, and no toxic off-gassing. And, because we can stand behind the wood's quality, we're able to back our cabinets up with a warranty, which we simply couldn't do if we used cheaper, cabinet-grade wood.
Ready to design kitchen cabinets that will stand the test of time? Schedule an in-home design consultation with one of our design professionals. These appointments are always free, come with no obligation, and can yield fantastic ideas for the kitchen of your dreams.