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Beech cabinets: an uncommon choice, both beautiful and strong

by Jim Mallery

Beech wood has many fine characteristics that make it a great choice for kitchen cabinets. Here are five considerations worth weighing:

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  1. Appearance: Beech looks similar to maple and birch. Heartwood usually appears as a dark, reddish brown, while sapwood is light in color and sometimes has a red tinge. It is close-grained with almost imperceptible pores.

  2. Durability: Beech cabinets are hard and strong; they hold up well in high-use situations. Because beech is strong and pliable, it is often used in furniture, especially where curved applications are needed.

  3. Workability: Beech wood is easy to work with, if it has been properly prepared. It should be kiln-dried soon after cutting, or it will warp. Don't get sucked in by a cabinetmaker who has a great deal on beech, only to find it looks like pretzels. Properly prepared, the wood has fewer internal defects than many popular woods, so there is less waste, and less chance of a bad board showing up in your cabinets.

  4. Stain: Beech cabinets stain well, especially with lighter shades; there may be slight blotching that can be avoided by an initial application of a wood conditioner. Because beech is so dense, it might not stain as dark as you would like; beech may even need toner added to the finish to achieve darker shades. Oil- based stains penetrate beech wood better than water-based.

  5. Cost: Beech wood is widely available, yet not in high demand. So, its price remains relatively low among common cabinet woods.

Beech wood may not jump immediately to mind, when you think of kitchen cabinets; but if you think about beech cabinets, the idea may grow on you: beech wood holds its own against competitors in all desirable characteristics. It also costs less.


About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing and rebuilding homes.

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