Birch Kitchen Cabinets
I notice, in my neck of the woods, that birch trees are everywhere. I got to wondering if these are in fact the trees that many birch cabinets are made from. After talking to someone from Bertch, I found out that the answer is no. I see white birch and silver birch in Maine, but birch kitchen cabinets are not typically made with those species.
Instead of white or silver birch, yellow birch is the species of tree that is usually to build cabinets. Called yellow birch because of its bark's color, these trees grow in the northeastern US. I guess they grow in Maine, but I've yet to see one. This shocked me, as I thought I'd seen about all there is to see as far as Maine tree species. I was further surprised when I learned that they can get as high as sixty to eighty feet tall. I must be blind…
Most birch cabinets are made from both heart and sap wood. The sap wood (from the outer part of the tree) is generally on the whiter side, and the heart wood (in the core of the tree) is more of a reddish brown. Red birch is not a real tree species at all, but is instead the heart wood of (usually) yellow birch trees.
Birch is one of the more inexpensive woods to choose when buying kitchen cabinets, but this doesn't mean that it's "cheap." It paints well and stains well. It's considered a hardwood. The Janka Hardness rating is 1260; rock maple is 1450 and eastern white pine is 380 (soft enough to dent with a fingernail).
So even though a kid with a tricycle is going to dent it, yellow birch isn't much more prone to dings and scrapes than maple or oak. Most companies make birch cabinets, so they're easy to find. If you're getting painted cabinets, you might be better off with birch, since some cabinet manufacturers charge more for maple, and you get pretty much the same effect.
Despite birch being a cheaper wood, don't count out birch kitchen cabinets. The sets I've sold were all gorgeous, and you'll probably be very happy. I'm not an oak fan (unless we're talking firewood) or a cherry fan (just never liked the looks of it) and I'd be hard pressed choosing between birch and maple. As always, I recommend looking at a few samples first. If you're after a stained kitchen, check out other colors just to get an idea of typical birch grain patterns. They can be a little wilder than the maple most manufacturers use.