Cabinetry Finishes

Learn about cabinetry color options, and find the perfect look for your kitchen.

Nothing sets the tone of your kitchen quite like the cabinetry. Hi, I'm Lacey Howard. Just like with furniture, the materials and finish you choose are the first thing people see. They're also what help your kitchen stand up to daily use. Let me show you some options for cabinet finished wood and hardware. The wood you choose for your cabinets appears only for the front of the cabinet, the face frame doors and door fronts. The rest of the cabinet box is unseen and made of other materials. Stock cabinets typically use particleboard. Semi-custom cabinets use medium density fiberboard or MDF. Custom products rely on heavy-gauge plywood. Don't worry that your cabinets aren't made of solid hardwood. These other materials are actually more stable and solid, but woods beautiful grain makes it ideal for cabinet fronts. Mid-range and high quality cabinets have solid wood fronts. With semi-custom, you typically have several wood options. While with custom cabinets, the sky is the limit. Surface cabinet fronts cost less, but there are also less durable and the upper plywood is protected by a layer or wood veneer, plastic laminate, or metal. The three most popular options in hardwood today are oak, maple and cherry. You'll find these woods available in semi-custom as well as custom cabinets. Oak has a strong grain and pattern. It yields a more traditional or country look. Maple and cherry have softer graining and takes stain well. They can take on a traditional or a more contemporary look depending on your finish choice. Don't limit yourself to oak, maple, and cherry. Dozens of other woods are available. Some are less expensive and some are more exotic. Pine is a soft wood, but it's popular for more rustic cabinetry. Black walnut, white oak, ash, and mahogany are higher priced woods. Exotic woods such as wenge are much more. A grain's pattern is called its figure. The more expensive your cabinet, the more care the carpenter takes in selecting the wood's figure. For example, quarterzone oak yields a rough appearance. Vertical grain ash yields a sleek appearance. Woods must be treated with some sort of finish to ensure their ability. Also a finish gives your cabinets a definite look. Top finish options include stain, glaze, and paint. Laminate cabinets feature a particleboard or MDF base top with the surface that resists water and stains. Standard laminates are made from plastic resin and come in several colors and patterns. Look for high pressure laminates, which are more durable and less likely they are cheap over time. Thermoplastics feature a heat-set vinyl skin, stretched over fiberboard. Thermoplastic can mimic wood grain, but it's most effective in solid colors. Thermoplastics are easier on your budget, but they can get nicked over time. Hardware is the finishing touch on your cabinets. Pay attention to material and color to get just the look you want. For a more traditional effect, choose ceramic, bronze, brass, or iron hardware with intricate details. For a more contemporary look, rely on chrome, brass, steel, and lacquered hardware in simple geometric shapes. Planning on the kitchen with color, remember that paints, stains, and glazes would differ on different woods, so be sure you see a sample before you commit.