Would you consider building kitchen cabinets out of balsa wood? Of course not. Similarly, you wouldn’t expect a model airplane built from oak to fly all that well. While all wood originates from trees, there are different “grades” of milled lumber, based on hardness, porosity, grain pattern, and other features.

This is important to note as you make your way through various wood cabinet selections since the wood-grade makes a big difference in how cabinets weather daily wear-and-tear, lifetime maintenance requirements and cabinet longevity in general.

What’s the Highest Quality Wood for Your Kitchen Cabinets?

Typically, you’ll see two different types of wood grades listed in the cabinet world:

  • Cabinet-grade (sometimes called “construction-grade” by industry professionals)
  • Furniture-grade

The difference between the two may not be noticeable at first glance, but it is certainly noticeable upon close inspection; it also becomes evident in the contrasts between how the cabinet boxes, doors and drawers stand the test of time when compared with higher-quality counterparts.

Cabinet-grade wood is mediocre

Simply put, cabinet-grade wood is strong enough to be built into cabinets, but its quality is mediocre. Yes, cabinet-grade planks are durable enough to serve as cabinetry but because the wood isn’t as hard as furniture-grade wood, it dings, dents, warps, scratches and is more susceptible to physical damage over time.

Cabinet-grade wood cabinets are less likely to survive a flood or serious moisture damage, which would lead to them not being able to be refaced down the road.

Sometimes, cabinet-grade wood can trick you. Since cabinet makers can apply thin veneers of a desirable wood species (cherry, maple, ash, oak), they can take a cabinet-grade wood plank and advertise it as “real cherry”, when all they’ve done is applied a cherry wood veneer.

As long as such products are honestly marketed, and the price tag is reflective of the lesser quality, cabinet-grade wood can be a decent option for a budget-friendly kitchen remodel. But you’ll want to keep an eye out for the term “Furniture-Grade”, if you’re only interested in the highest quality wood cabinetry for your kitchen.

Furniture-grade wood is A+

Furniture-grade wood is considered the crème de la crème of the cabinet options. These planks have tighter and more appealing wood grains (or hardly any grain at all), they are more durable and cabinets built from furniture-grade wood lasts for generations. As a result, furniture-grade cabinet options are also the most expensive.