Kitchen Cabinet Costs Change Depending on Cabinet Wood Species
There are several factors that determine kitchen cabinet costs, and one of the bigger ones is wood species. The same door style can have several different prices if a manufacturer makes in several different kind of wood. A cherry kitchen cabinet costs more than the same cabinet in oak, for instance, Here are a few guidelines…
At the bottom of the pile is MDF, which stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. This is usually a brownish colored sheet material, and comes in varying thickneses. An MDF kitchen cabinet costs less than similar wood cabinets just because the material is cheaper and pretty easy to work with. MDF cabinets are skined with either thermofoil or some other material. Often the material looks like wood, so you wouldn't know unless you got up close or nicked the cabinet finish that it wasn't really wood.
A step up from MDF is the cheaper woods. Oak and birch are usually in this category. As I've said before in articles here, I have a personal aversion to oak, but there's nothing really wrong with it. I've no problems with birch though, especially since a birch kitchen cabinet costs less than a maple cabinet (usually) and looks about as good. I actually fooled Ed the other day with two samples, one each of maple and birch. I tossed them on the counter and said "No cheating by looking at the back stickers" and he couldn't tell. I might not be able to either all the time without close study, so I can't make fun of him too much, right?
Pine (Eastern White, I mean) is usually in this price range. It's a very soft wood and can leak pitch if it's not seasoned well enough before cabinet construction begins. I don't see it used by the bigger cabinet companies usually. Where I find pine cabinets are at smaller manufacturers and custom builders.
Above oak and birch kitchen cabinets in the "wooden food chain" are (generally, but this varies from one kitchen cabinet manufacturer to another) the maples and alders. Hickory cabinets also fluctuate between the two pricing brackets. The first two tend to have a tighter grain. Maple is a pain to finish sometimes, which might be why a maple kitchen cabinet costs more from some companies. One thing that you might find noteworthy… Maple and alder are also used in the construction of electric guitars and basses. I can't speak for alder, but maple is also used for the back and sides of other instruments in the string family (violas, violins, basses, cellos, etc) while the tops are usually spruce. I've yet to see a spruce cabinet though…
In the next bracket is cherry and a lot of the rustic woods. Cherry, for several reasons, is a more expensive wood. When finished, it feels kind of like maple (surface, heft, and so forth) but the grain is usually on the wild side, and cherry changes color over time. Kitchen cabinet costs are higher with the rustic woods probably because it's harder to pick through stock that can be considered rustic but still be stable enough to make a cabinet with. Right now at The Cabinet Folks I have a door made with Rustic Hickory, and I'm not so sure I'd trust it to hold together for too long. Nor would I be very good at explaining why a kitchen cabinet costs so much more even though it is in such rough looking shape. A Rustic Birch (by Bertch) display we have, on the other hand, is quite rustic but seems fine stability wise. Those are the basics. There are many other types of wood species that vary kitchen cabinet costs depending on who the manufacturer is.
Things like mahogany, walnut, beech, and some very strange woods I won't even mention. More than likely, the stranger your wood, the higher your kitchen cabinet costs will be.