Maple bookshelves and poplar paneling in all wood library?

threeapplesApril 11, 2012

Our library will have wood ceiling, paneled walls, and a wall of built in bookcases. Our contract has poplar for all, but the bookshelves (which will be made by a cabinetmaker who does not use poplar) and those will be maple. I'm concerned the two woods will not accept stain evenly and am not sure what to do rectify this. Upgrading the walls and ceiling to maple is not in budget. Any ideas?

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DLM2000

Poplar is not generally used for a stained treatment, although it can be done with the right prep. It's a great wood for a painted surface. Who is doing the finish work? You might want to check with them for recommendations. I would think matching the stain from one wood to the other is only one of the issues you will face - the two wood grains don't look the same either.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 4:45PM
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athensmomof3

Ditto. I wouldn't mix woods and poplar doesn't accept stain evenly, although I do think there is some sort of treatment you can do to it to help. Have you considered other woods? Birch and oak come to mind. They are reasonably priced, with the oak being slightly more. My parents library is birch and looks great. We are doing limed oak.

I wouldn't mix woods.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 4:53PM
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threeapples

Thanks to both of you. By the way, i LOVE limed oak, but my husband wants a rich, warm appearance and, therefore, we are doing the traditional stained look.
I'll contact the builder and see about birch.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 5:19PM
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athensmomof3

Here are a couple of pictures of my parents paneled library in birch. Excuse my dad at work in the second ;)

My cabinetmaker suggested using molding to create panels as true raised panels cause all sorts of problems (splitting, etc.). There are a couple of ones used regularly around here. The one we used is the Simpson mold from Randall Bros. That is the one that is used in this picture as well. It is also less expensive to do this I think.

The panel is made from the Simpson mold in this picture below. My parents have true raised panels in their house but they have replaced them once in 30 years or so because of some splitting.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 7:48PM
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athensmomof3

I would guess the panel in the second picture - the link - is made out of oak. We used white oak, which was not much more than birch. One other way to cut costs is to eliminate the ceiling. I know it is a great look but with it being so dark it could also be very cave like. . . We are painting our library ceiling a little darker than the light cream in the rest of the house to minimize the contrast - at least I think. We are working on the colors right now. You could also do beams or coffers that are stained instead of a full ceiling.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 7:52PM
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threeapples

athensmom, what a charming pic of your dad :)
the ceiling is in our contract, so we don't need to remove it, but i've put an email in to the builder to see if he can change the wood to birch and i'll see if the cabinetmaker can as well, though i know they're rather selective about the wood they use and he urged maple.
i had no idea wood panels were prone to cracking. i'll see what my builder has to say. thanks!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 8:57PM
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athensmomof3

They do split. In fact, the link I included is from a Norman Askins house - a very prominent Atlanta architect. My cabinetmaker works with him a lot, along with several other top tier architects in Atlanta. He said they have all moved to the Simpson mold or something similar , even in their 5-10 million plus houses because of the cracking issues.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 9:50PM
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threeapples

great, my builder just said he was aware of the splitting and was planning to do exactly what you had just recommended, athensmom. thanks!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2012 at 10:13PM
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athensmomof3

I think the key is to find a wood you can use for both that is in budget - mixing woods wouldn't look right to me. Birch takes stain very well and is very low grain so you can stain it whatever color you want - light to dark. We strongly considered it until I got on the limed oak kick :). We are staining the wood a medium stain and then using limewax. I wanted an updated look and my husband wanted the man cave look so this was our compromise ;). The room is on the front of the house and has narrow french doors which are the only source of light, so we can't go too dark.

As far as taking out the stained ceiling, it would save money which is why I suggested it. To me, two different woods would be a no go. The only way I MIGHT consider it is if they would do mock up samples of both with the same stain so I could look at them right together. I would still be very nervous until it was installed because the actual product may not be as close as the samples. After I typed that, I realized that would be a bigger risk than I would be willing to take :).

    Bookmark   April 12, 2012 at 9:02AM
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threeapples

athensmom, i'm rather nervous about this as well and am waiting to hear back from the builder and cabinetmaker to see which wood we can use for the entire room instead of mixing woods. if things were not consistent it would drive me crazy.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2012 at 9:25PM
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peytonroad

Maple does not take stain well at all, very blotchly looking. Sometimes cabinet makers overcome this with using a gel stain spray or cover. I don't think the two should be done seperately. YOU will have tow different colors in there.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 8:13AM
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renovator8

I would not stain maple or poplar. Find a some better contractors.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 11:00AM
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chiefneil

Poplar is dirt cheap, while maple is fairly expensive. Neither takes stain very well as others have said.

You might look at a moderately priced wood which will split the difference. Birch is an option, but I have a feeling your cabinet maker may not like it. Alder is another wood that takes stain well and has a similar look to maple.

Your cabinet guy will probably be fine with it, since it's currently pretty popular for furniture and cabinets and reasonably priced.

Here's a photo of my den in alder. I did the staining and finishing myself so I do have some first-hand knowledge on working with alder (these were RTA unfinished cabs).

It is entirely possible to get good results with stain on maple - I made a coffee table with maple legs and alder top that matches the den perfectly. But I think the issue here is that two different people are making the poplar paneling vs the maple shelves, so your odds of mis-matched colors are pretty high.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 11:52AM
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threeapples

chiefneil,
your alder is gorgeous! thanks for posting.
Renovator, we can't get other contractors, these guys work with our builder and come highly recommended. They've been great so far and we need to continue working with them. I'm going to do my best to find a way to come up with one wood they will both use and have them do stain test patches so we approve of the quality before they begin any of this.
i'll update everyone as we move along.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2012 at 8:31PM
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peytonroad

I repeat, maple stains horribly. Unsure about popular. it is going to be your problem when you sign off on the test stain "patches". where is you builder in all this?? Why would he offer such a mess to you?

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 6:44AM
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threeapples

The builder is open to us looking at other options. I'm going to email the cabinet guy today and see what we can do.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 8:46AM
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dutty

I can't comment on your wood issue since I know nothing about cabinetry but I had to post and comment that I was totally charmed by the pic of your dad. It's very sweet.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:37AM
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chiefneil

"I repeat, maple stains horribly."

If you look at the desk in my den photo above, the desktop is actually hard maple. I specified maple over alder for the desktop for durability. With a bit of care and knowledge you can stain maple with decent results. But the risk is obviously that it requires someone with that knowledge and caring.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 7:57PM
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peytonroad

Yes but your desktop also is shiny which means it possibly, (I can't know) contains a stain in the varnish coat.

I had 2 maple cabinets made by an excellent cabinet maker. It was a horrible mess. Swirls and darker splotches everywhere. It was gorgeous prior to the staining. We had to even it out with the topcoat containing a stain to get it to evenly look presentable. I learned my lesson real quick with stained maple!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 9:30PM
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