Wood kitchen cabinets offer a timeless, elegant look that can transform the aesthetics of any kitchen. With proper care and maintenance, wood cabinets can last for decades, providing beauty and functionality. This extensive guide will cover everything you need to know about wood kitchen cabinets, from different types of wood and door styles to installation, pricing, and maintenance tips.

Types of Wood Used for Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing the right wood type is one of the most important decisions when selecting wood kitchen cabinets. Here are some of the most popular woods used:


Oak is a classic choice appreciated for its attractive grain patterns and durability. Red oak has a reddish hue, while white oak has a lighter tan color. Oak resists scratches and dents better than many other woods. It offers versatility for almost any kitchen design from traditional to modern.


Maple wood has a creamy white color and smooth, fine grain. It stains and paints well, making it adaptable to any color scheme. Maple is a hardwood that provides durability without being overly expensive. It is ideal for both modern and classic kitchen designs.


Cherry wood contains a reddish-brown hue that darkens naturally over time. The smooth, close grain exhibits an elegant, refined look. Cherry withstands daily wear and tear while aging beautifully. Due to its rich color, it works well with both light and darker stains.


Hickory is characterized by dramatic grain markings and natural color variations from light brown to chocolate browns. It’s extremely hard and durable. Hickory has a rustic, timeworn look that lends well to country or traditional decor. It withstands heavy day-to-day use.


Alder has a light tan color with minimal grain patterns. It’s both lightweight and economical. Because it takes stain uniformly, alder adapts well to any stain color from dark ebony to light pastels. Alder works nicely for contemporary and cottage styles.


Pine is budget-friendly and versatile softwood. Higher-end pine showcases attractive knots and graining. Pine takes paint and stain well. However, it can dent more easily than hardwoods. Pine provides a casual, relaxed look perfect for cottages and country homes.

Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles

Along with choosing wood type, the style of cabinet doors drastically affects the overall kitchen design. Here are some popular kitchen cabinet door styles:

Shaker Style

A shaker style features a simple, clean-lined rectangular design. They have a flat center panel and visible square wood frames around the edges. The shaker style offers versatility fitting both modern and traditional kitchens.

Slab Style

Slab cabinet doors have a flat, smooth surface without any edges or frames. They provide a minimalist, seamless look for contemporary kitchens. However, slab doors lack any embellishments that could add visual interest.

Raised Panel

Raised panel doors have a central panel that sits higher than the surrounding stiles and rails (frame). The dimensional detail provides added depth and architectural interest. This traditional style works well for formal kitchen designs.

Glass Front

Glass front cabinet doors feature glass inserts within wood frames. Frosted, colored, or textured glass options allow light to filter through. Glass front cabinets provide both functionality and aesthetic appeal.


Louvered doors contain horizontal wood slats that overlap at slight angles resembling shutters. They allow for air circulation while concealing contents. Louvered doors have a casual cottage or farmhouse feel.

Materials Other Than Wood

While wood remains the most popular choice, kitchen cabinets are also available in alternative materials offering their own benefits:


Laminate cabinetry contains a plastic resin exterior adhered to a plywood core. More affordable than real wood, laminate resists scratches, stains, and moisture. Laminate provides extensive color and pattern options.


Thermofoil cabinets offer a vinyl foil coating applied to a wood substrate using heat. The durable surface resists chipping, scratching and fading. Thermofoil costs less than real wood but resembles the look of premium painted cabinets.


Metal kitchen cabinets provide a sleek, contemporary look. Stainless steel and aluminum options resist wear while providing sanitary, easy-clean surfaces. However, metal cabinets dent more easily than wood and lack natural warmth.


Concrete kitchen cabinets offer industrial-chic style. Concrete resists heat, stains and scratches and can be personalized with color tinting and varied finishes. However, concrete proves very heavy and costly.

Installation of Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Proper installation is crucial for functionality and the longevity of wood kitchen cabinets. Here is an overview of the process:


The layout of the cabinet configuration gets planned based on kitchen size and a homeowner’s needs. Standard base cabinets have a 34 1⁄2” counter height while wall cabinets are commonly 18” deep. Full-height pantry and appliance garage cabinets may also be incorporated.

Islands can provide additional storage and work space. There should be a minimum of 36” between base cabinets and islands/peninsulas for adequate work circulation. Drawers and pull-out shelves allow easy access to contents in the back of cabinets.


For new constructions, cabinets get installed after the following are completed: flooring, drywall, interior woodwork, plumbing, and electrical. For remodeling, old cabinets and countertops are removed first. Safety precautions should be taken to protect floors and walls.

Hanging Cabinets

Installation starts from the corner base cabinet working outward. Cabinets have a hanging rail across the top back that gets screwed into studs for secure wall mounting. A level ensures cabinets align properly. Filler boards may be needed for irregular spaces between cabinets.

Securing Cabinets

Base cabinets get joined together and secured by driving screws diagonally through the front of the face frame into the adjoining cabinet’s side frame. After all cabinets are hung in place, they get attached to each other with screws from inside the box frames for added stability and rigidity.

Adding Countertops

Only after all cabinets have been hung and joined should countertops be fabricated and installed. Custom countertops will be cut to fit seamlessly around any irregular wall shapes. Cabinets and countertops should align perfectly to deliver a quality finished appearance.

Cost of Wood Kitchen Cabinets

The cost of wood kitchen cabinets varies significantly based on several key factors:

Quality of Materials

Higher-end solid hardwood cabinets cost more than lower-priced plywood construction or medium density fiberboard (MDF). Unique woods like hickory or alder prove pricier than oak, maple or pine. High-quality cabinet hardware, hinges, drawer glides also increase costs.

Door Styles

Basic slab cabinet doors rank lowest in price. More elaborate raised panel or glass front doors drive up prices considerably. Customized storage additions like roll-out trays, cabinet lighting or dividers also increase costs.

Amount of Cabinets

The total number of cabinets needed and kitchen size impact overall budget. More drawers, cabinets and amenities means greater expenditures. Luxury additions like wine racks, spice pull-outs and appliance garages add costs.


Well-known luxury cabinet brands carry higher price tags than local cabinet companies or home improvement store cabinet lines. Boutique designers that fabricate custom, hand-crafted cabinets are premium-priced.

In general, standard new plywood constructed cabinets with shaker doors can range $120-$250 per linear foot installed. A small kitchen may cost $3,500-$8,000 while a larger gourmet kitchen could run $25,000-$50,000 or beyond.

Maintaining Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Follow proper care guidelines to protect the beauty and functionality of wood kitchen cabinets over time:


Clean cabinet exteriors regularly with a soft lint-free cloth and mild soap and water to remove grease and daily grime. Avoid harsh cleaners or abrasive scrubbing that could damage the wood finish.

Protect from Moisture

Promptly wipe up any spills, splashes or condensation on cabinet surfaces. Use cabinets designed for areas near a sink or dishwasher that are exposed to more moisture. Allow proper ventilation around cabinets to prevent moisture buildup inside.

Sunlight Exposure

Limit direct sunlight shining on cabinets which can cause fading or discoloration over time. Install window blinds to protect wood surfaces. Apply touch up stains as needed to help even out color changes.

Climate Control

Running air conditioning, dehumidifiers or heating helps regulate humidity levels indoors. Consistent humidity between 30%-50% will prevent cabinet wood from drying out, cracking or warping.

Hinges & Glides

Periodically inspect cabinet door hinges and drawer glides. Tighten any loose hinge screws. Clean out old waxy build up from wood drawer glides and apply new wax to keep motion smooth. Replace any broken components as needed.

Proper installation combined with regular care keeps wood kitchen cabinets in peak condition. With the right maintenance, wood cabinets can retain their beauty and function for many years before needing replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the pros and cons of custom versus stock wood cabinets?

A: Custom cabinets provide a personalized design matching specific kitchen layouts and individual needs. However, custom cabinetry proves very costly. Stock cabinets cost significantly less while still offering various sizes and configurations. Stock cabinets typically have shorter lead times. Custom may take 4-12 weeks.

Q: Should I install the cabinets before or after countertops?

A: Always install cabinets first before fabricating and fitting countertops. Cabinets provide the critical support base for anchoring tops properly. Countertops should be measured and cut on site later to fit precisely around final cabinet placement.

Q: How are wood cabinets different than thermofoil or laminate?

A: Wood cabinets consist of solid wood or wood veneers over plywood while laminate/thermofoil have a plastic film exterior. Wood provides greater durability and traditional appeal. But laminate options cost less while still providing abundant styles and colors.

Q: What finish options do I have for wood cabinets?

A: Stains allow the natural wood grain to show through tinted transparent colors. Paints cover wood in solid opaque hues. Glazes or distressing can further customize finishes. Choices range from light natural to dark espresso tones. Discuss options with your cabinet supplier.

Q: Should I install under-cabinet lighting?

A: Under-cabinet lighting provides task lighting over countertops and illuminates interior contents. LED strip lights attach easily on undersides. Extend lighting across full kitchen length. Make sure electrical outlets are adequately positioned for lights.

Q: How often should wood cabinets be cleaned?

A: Clean cabinet surfaces weekly by wiping down with a damp, soft cloth to remove grease and debris. Avoid using harsh chemicals. Use all-purpose cleaner only occasionally as needed. Avoid excessive moisture that could damage wood.


Wood kitchen cabinets deliver warmth, elegance and character to any kitchen design. Choosing the ideal wood type and cabinet door style allows customizing looks from traditional to contemporary. Proper installation combined with care in cleaning and maintenance can help wood cabinets last for decades. Cabinet costs vary widely based on materials, features and overall kitchen scope. Investing in quality wood cabinets adds functionality, organization and aesthetic appeal to the heart of a home.