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What You Need to Know About Wood Cabinets

If wood is your cabinet material of choice, there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to selecting the species. Rely on taste and cost as your main determinants.

Your choice of wood will have the most impact on the cabinet's ultimate look. If you want a light look, for example, you might start with a light wood like ash, beech, birch, elm, oak, maple or chestnut. In the mid-range, consider cherry with a natural finish. Or you can stain maple to be darker than its natural color.

For a dark kitchen, you'll want to start with a wood that has a little color to it. But don't start with a dark wood like walnut and try to lighten it. You can always darken the color of lighter woods, but it's hard to go the other way.

You can also consider clear finishes rather than stains on cherry, walnut, and other woods rich in color, such as butternut, mahogany, rosewood, and teak.

Be sure to consider your environment and cooking style; solid wood cabinets tend to be more affected by humidity and temperature than wood veneer cabinets. Weather extremes can cause warping.

Take note: Just because you're selecting a wood look doesn't mean your cabinetry is necessarily solid wood. Clarify whether your box and door are genuine wood throughout or if additives are present. "All wood" construction refers to these hardwood veneer and laminate alternatives.

In veneers, thin slices of solid hardwood bond with plywood or composite boards. While laminate surfaces appear to be wood, these cabinets adhere plastic foil or paper photographs of wood grain patterns to particleboard or medium density fiberboard. Know what you're paying for; a maple finish could refer to the photograph, not the wood.