The 8 Most Popular Kitchen Cabinet Materials

Annie Sisk
Written by Annie Sisk
Updated April 22, 2022
Gray and white wooden kitchen interior
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From cherry wood to melamine, these are eight of the top materials you can use in your new kitchen cabinets

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Nothing transforms your home’s kitchen quite as much as updated kitchen cabinets can. No matter what kind of look you’re after, a kitchen cabinet style is perfect for helping you make your aesthetic statement. Before you buy those custom, semi-custom, stock, or ready-to-assemble kitchen cabinets, think about the materials you want to use so you can find the right combination for your home, budget, and style. 

Cherry

A kitchen with cherry cabinets
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The king of hardwoods, cherry offers distinctive hues tinged with red, ranging from a strawberry blonde to deeper auburn tones. With its elegant, straight grain, cherry wood creates cabinets that are the perfect addition to a home with classic styling and decor. It’s not as strong and sturdy as maple, but you’ll still wind up with durable, long-lasting cabinets. 

Cherry does tend to be on the more expensive end of the kitchen cabinet price spectrum. Additionally, be aware that your cherry cabinets will likely darken over time, especially if the doors and windows expose your cabinets to regular sunlight. Over time, your cabinets could be sporting two distinct shades. Your local cabinetmaker can help you prevent this from happening.

Maple

A kitchen with maple and stainless
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If you’re looking for a sleek, contemporary appearance for your kitchen cabinets, give maple a close look. It’s relatively scratch-resistant and is durable enough to withstand most kitchen environments. Available in many colors, maple cabinets also boast some lovely graining, the beauty of which you can enhance with a careful application of stain or varnish. 

On the other hand, maple is susceptible to direct sunlight, and finishes may fade or discolor over time. Keep in mind that maple wood can also be more costly than other options, so you may want to shop around for the best pricing. 

Oak

A kitchen with oak cabinets
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Oak cabinets come in a range of colors to offer homeowners several looks. For example, white oak lends itself well to a modern, minimalist style, while red oak’s more distinct grains and warmer tones look great in a farmhouse or traditional design. 

Oak is generally available at a lower cost compared to maple and some other wood varieties, but you’ll still enjoy oak’s resistance to dings and scratches. It’s even slightly resistant to water. 

Walnut

A kitchen with walnut cabinets
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From a cool, creamy gray to warm auburn, walnut cabinets come in various colors. With a finer straight grain, it’s a great addition to simpler, more modern home design styles. Because of its high density, walnut is durable and less porous, making it easier to care for and maintain. 

Walnut is more susceptible to dents, dings, and scratches with heavy use, so it might not be the best choice for large families and high-traffic areas. You’ll also spend more for walnut kitchen cabinets than for a less expensive and widely available wood such as pine, but the trade-off is a striking, less “everyday” appearance. 

Hickory

A kitchen with hardwood cabinets
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Hickory often features some dramatic touches like deep graining and dark knots. This cabinet material is known for its strength, durability, and resistance to damage, and your hickory kitchen cabinets will stand up to heavy use over the years. You’ll find a wide variation in tones and shades, even within the same section of cabinetry. 

Most hickory wood cabinets are on the pricier end of wood options. You’ll also need to be careful when cleaning hickory cabinets because they’re vulnerable to stripping and discoloration with the continued use of chemical cleaners. However, you’ll get a lovely, versatile look that will stand up to heavy use and offer value if and when you ever sell your home.

Pine

A kitchen with pine cabinets
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One of the most popular materials for home furnishing uses, pine makes gorgeous cabinets. With over 100 different varieties, all with a signature smoothness and amber undertones, pine is easy to work with and shape. It’s also an excellent choice for humid areas since it’s resistant to moisture. You can stain pine to just about any shade you like. 

Pine will fit into a rustic, farmhouse, or minimalist kitchen design, making it truly versatile. It’s much softer than other varieties of wood, but it’s also more cost-effective. It might not be ideal for a busy household with a kitchen that sees heavy use. 

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

A kitchen with MDF cabinets
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Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product consisting of wood byproducts, including wood shavings and sawdust. You won’t see the typical grain and knots in natural hardwood planks, but MDF is usually consistent and uniform in color and texture. 

As for the pros and cons of MDF, MDF stands up to hardware and weight well because it’s denser than particleboard. You can paint it, making it versatile for several styles and designs. On the cons side, be aware that MDF is not heat-resistant—although it should handle most residential kitchen temperatures reasonably well—and it doesn’t lend itself to sanding out scratches. Also, you cannot stain MDF the way you would solid wood. 

Melamine

A kitchen with melamine cabinets
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Melamine cabinets are increasing in use thanks to their durability and range of cabinet colors and styles. It’s a laminate material that consists of heat-sealed medium-density plywood or fiberboard and paper treated with heat-fused melamine resin. 

Let’s review the basics of melamine cabinets. When properly cared for, melamine kitchen cabinets can last for decades. They’re available in various styles and colors to match your kitchen decor. With the right techniques, they can also take a coat of paint. 

However, melamine cabinets are susceptible to moisture, and the wood inside can swell and warp. Unfortunately, melamine cabinets are difficult to repair. This material also weighs more than others, making it more likely to loosen and detach from the wall, especially if you’re storing heavy items.

Get the Kitchen Cabinets of Your Dreams

No matter what material you choose, your kitchen cabinets deserve a great installation job to look their absolute best. Finding the right cabinet installation company will help you achieve your kitchen design goals.  

Your cabinet pros can also help you make design choices for your needs and budget. To give you an idea, solid wood kitchen cabinets cost between $10,000 to $12,175, or between $100 and $1,200 per linear foot.

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