Birch is a durable, fine-grain wood that is slightly darker than maple. It takes finishes well and can masquerade as a more expensive wood. When stained, it can achieve a good "faux" cherry or maple look. Prone to some irregular coloring, birch is a relatively inexpensive wood choice in both stock and semicustom lines.
Ash is similar in strength and durability to oak, but has a light color and a more pronounced figure. This straight-grain lumber takes on a contemporary character when it's given a clear or natural finish. Its availability is limited in semicustom lines and is more often seen in custom work.
Pine is the only softwood species commonly used for cabinetry, and it dents more easily than hardwoods. This pale yellow wood can be stained, and it often features knots used to underscore traditional and country styles. Eastern white pine and Western white pine are found in select semicustom lines.
- Grain. Except at the very high end, veneered cabinets are likely to give you better grain-matching than solid wood cabinets.
- Color. You're not always wedded to a wood's natural color. Stain can replicate the color of maple on a birch base, for example.
- Construction. Wood cabinet drawers can be constructed using dowels or rabbets, or using dovetails. Drawers with dovetails should last longer, but consume more wood to produce, and therefore are more expensive.
Wood or wood-and-plywood cabinets start at about $80 per linear foot, especially in the stock and semicustom realm. The cost can rise to well over $165 per linear foot for the rarest woods, custom designs, and so on.
Continued on page 3: Laminate and Thermofoil