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Kitchen Cabinets 101: Basic Information About Your Cabinet Choices

Planning a kitchen remodel is something that most homeowners do once or twice in their lives. Since this is not a task that is often done, most people don’t have a lot of knowledge about the different aspects of a kitchen remodel, such as kitchen cabinets. There are several kitchen cabinet material options on the market from the high-end solid wood custom cabinets to inexpensive particle board cabinets, and everything in between. Hardwood and veneer cabinets are popular options, which help to create a sophisticated and classic look. These are unique, elegant cabinets with variations and natural characteristics, but there are also other materials on the market for those who prefer a uniform look.

The Characteristics of Hardwood

Most cabinets on the market are solid hardwood or veneer cabinets, and they are extremely popular in the kitchen. The natural texture and warmth of wood offers a nice contrast to the glass, metal and stainless steel of the appliances. The characteristics of natural wood including knots and mineral deposits contribute to the looks of the wood, and these can be highlighted by glaze and stains. Wood also ages, so the look can change over time, especially if it is exposed to light. Humidity can also impact wood by making it expand, and this expansion can last for several days or even a week or more. To avoid damaging or permanent changes, homeowners with wood cabinets should ensure to keep humidity levels appropriate in the home.

Specific Wood Characteristics to Look For

When you start looking for wood cabinets, you will find that there are some phrases and terms that you might not be familiar with. All of these terms are characteristics of wood, and all of these characteristics lend to the look of the wood. For instance, you may hear the term “bird pecks,” which are small marks in the pattern of the grain that was caused by pecking birds. A “burl” is also a term you might see when buying wood cabinets, and it is a twist or swirl in the wood’s grain, but it does not contain a knot.

Speaking of knots, these characteristics appear naturally in wood, and they are defined as imperfections in the wood, which is usually a circular, darker area in the wood. Though technically an imperfection, a knot can bring a lot of beauty to wood, and when it comes to cabinets, this is a feature that many homeowners love, especially when looking for rustic options. There are two types of knots, a sound knot and an unsound knot. A sound knot is one that is solid, with only discoloration. An unsound knot is one that has formed near the base of a branch, and it has some degree of decay.

It is also possible that you will see holes in the wood. Some of these holes are small, such as wormholes, which is any hole smaller than about 1/16″. Larger holes may also be in wooden cabinets, some of which will go all the way through.

There are also tracks and streaks you may see in the wood in addition to the grain. Sugar tracks are one type of track, and these streaks tend to run through one part of the wood, but not the entire piece of wood. The color ranges from yellow to dark brown. Mineral streaks are another type of streak, and in this case, follow the grain pattern of the wood. Mineral streaks are darker than sugar streaks, and they can range from an olive color to dark brown or almost black. If choosing cherry wood, you may also see gum streaks, which is similar to a mineral streak.

Finally, the characteristics include heartwood and sapwood, which are found in most wood pieces. Heartwood is the older, mature wood that is usually darker than the rest of the wood. Sapwood is a lighter colored wood that is softer and younger.

Other Cabinet Options

In addition to solid wood or veneer cabinets, there are also other cabinet materials on the market. These materials are durable, easy to maintain and less susceptible to changing colors over time when compared to wood. This also gives a homeowner more flexibility when it comes to style, design and color.

Thermofoil is one alternative option to wood, and it is a plastic material that is heated and formed to a wooden base. This gives a seamless surface that covers all edges and faces of the cabinet, and it is available in many colors. This cabinet option is easy to clean and is long lasting when it comes to wear and tear.

If looking for an eco-friendly option, consider an eco-veneer cabinet. These cabinets use less wood, but still offers a look of wood. Acrylic cabinets are also an option for those looking for an alternative to wood. People who choose acrylic often do so because of the fashionable finishes and contemporary look of the material.  

As you can see, there are many cabinet options to choose from when planning a kitchen remodel. Talk to an expert to see which option might be right for you.