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Oak wood cabinets: affordable, handsome and versatile

by Susanne Clemenz

No doubt you're familiar with oak wood cabinets in traditional, country, Mission, or Shaker styles. Fans of contemporary decor, however, may be surprised at the choices in contemporary oak wood cabinets.

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How affordable are oak wood cabinets?

Oak is a fast-growing species in the eastern United States and Canada. Red oak is the most common hardwood of all, but white oak is also abundant. Oak trees are productive, reaching 70 to 100 feet high and up to 36 inches in diameter. Its abundance makes oak an affordable choice for cabinetry.

The price of 100 board feet of 13/16-inch thick hobbyist lumber can give you a rough idea of relative wood costs:

  1. red oak, $340
  2. white oak, $460
  3. maple, $615
  4. birch, $670
  5. cherry, $740
  6. quarter-sawn oak, $815

While manufacurers' costs for larger quantities of lumber may be less, and finished cabinet costs include case materials, construction techniques, hardware and shipping, you can see just how affordable oak is compared to other woods.

Oak's styling versatility

Oak's grain is fairly straight, and the grain can be used creatively.

  1. Red oak, with its reddish tinge, has coarser, more contrasting grain than other woods, creating visual texture. Stains enhance red oak's contrasting grain. The porous grain swells and is beautifully visible even with darker paint.
  2. White oak has finer grain than red oak, and is beige to creamy tan. For traditional or contemporary kitchens, oak cabinets can be finished with semi-transparent stains in your choice of neutrals or hints of color. Contemporary cabinets with their slab doors create interest by running all grain horizontally, vertically, or in combination with painted doors.
  3. Quarter-sawn tiger oak is radially cut from white oak heartwood and features fascinating "rays" of flakes and flecks. Because of its expense, it is often used as a veneer. The Craftsman look features quarter-sawn oak.


Cabinet manufacturers from Armstrong to Wood-Mode offer cabinets in red or white oak, or both.




About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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