alder vs cherry cabinetry

whenzucNovember 4, 2007

We are in the midst of pricing out cherry beaded inset cabinet doors. The kitchen shop mentioned using alder instead of cherry wood as a way to cut costs and not change the look of the kitchen. I have read that alder is softer, but does it really make a difference? The difference in the cost of the 2 is about 10% in the cost of the cabinets. Will I be sorry if I change to alder? Anybody have alder cabinetry? Comments please.

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What kind of stain? Light, medium or dark? Clear alder or knotty? Personally, I love alder with natural to medium stains....they're gorgeous. But if you're going for a darker, reddish color, I would do cherry, unless the 10% savings really means that much to you. Alder will stain nicely in a dark red, and it will fool many people that it's cherry. But I would rather have the cherry if it's to be a darker color.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 12:45AM
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We had the same decision to make. In the end, we decided to go with cherry. Our door is a traditional, more formal style and the rustic nature of alder (IMHO) did not match the door style. We had started out going with knotty alder b/c we originally wanted a rustic look but along the way we changed our minds and are now going with a more formal look--which cherry suits better. We first changed to regular alder (not knotty) and then, finally, switched to cherry (I've also always wanted a cherry kitchen...)

Alder is soft enough that a fingernail will mark it. If you are going for a rustic or distressed look, I would go ahead and go with the alder since the occasional mark will blend right in with the finish. If you have very small children (or will in the future), you might want to reconsider and go with cherry for the harder wood.

I will say, though, that we have not yet gotten our numbers so if we're a lot over budget and it makes a big difference, we may yet switch back to alder!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 4:03AM
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We have alder cabinets and have been in our house (new construction) for about nine months. We had many dings during construction, most of which were fixed by the cabinetmaker although not perfectly.

Since then we've earned a few more dings--one when I turned around and hit the fridge cabinet with the corner of a tray. The door of our dish cabinet has seen the worst damage because no one (but me) can remember to either open both doors or angle the plate when removing it from the cabinet. As a result the inner edge of the cabinet door has a series of hash marks--about nine dents and counting.

All in all, if I had known that alder was soft, I probably would have considered getting cherry or something harder instead. Very decisive, aren't I?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 7:29AM
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My DH and I also discussed the alder vs cherry issue. We ended up with alder in the mudroom and laundry, cherry through the rest of the house. I wasn't so worried about the softness of the alder, but I didn't end up liking the grain or the nature of how it stains.

Our cabinet maker made our mudroom lockers first, out of clear alder (at that time we were thinking of using alder throughout the house)and stained it with a medium to light stain. He used conditioner on the wood and it still came out a bit blotchy. The grain shows a bit more and is not as pretty as cherry. It is perfect for a less formal family area, like the mudroom and laundry, but I wouldn't like it in my kitchen/great room. That is not to say that it isn't nice, it is just not to my taste. If you go to my blog tomorrow, I will most likely have cabinet photos, as he is installing the mudroom and laundry cabinets today.

Here is a link that might be useful: My house building blog

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 8:23AM
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I am looking to stain cabinets in a medium to darker red stain.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 8:59AM
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I have clear alder cabinets in the kitchen and butler's pantry, stained a very deep cherry. I had a very specific stain color in mind, which we managed to achieve. The cabinet maker said cherry would darken over time, if it was treated with the stain I wanted and the alder wouldn't. The alder took the stain beautifully, and, after almost two years, it has not changed, but the wood is soft. The softness doesn't bother me; what bugs me is the lacquer they used over the stain. With our cabinet maker, the price difference was negligible.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 9:21AM
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This is my alder kitchen in a medium-deep cherry-mahogany custom color.

It's not super formal, but it's not down-home rustic either.

Up close, I love the grain. Yes, this is knotty alder, and the knots allow for a more casual feel, but it doesn't scream country.

As far as the softness goes, I am not experiencing the "fingernail makes a mark" situation. My upper cabinets have yet to get their pulls on (actually not sure if I even want them on) and they have taken a pretty good beating. I don't have any dings, really. Yes, if I did get them they would add to the "character" of the cabinets, but I ain't seen nothing yet in two years.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 1:45PM
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We went with Alder because we wanted something more brown and not red hues. We love the look of ours but I have to say that softness is an issue. We've dinged up a few cabinets already and it's only been 2 months. I'm still glad we went with the Alder but you have to be a little more careful with it compared to the Cherry!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 1:59PM
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for those of you that have the clear alder- are you saying that you can dent the wood with your nail? Is it worth being careful for the difference in savings between alder and cherry?

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 10:20PM
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We are in the process of moving in right now, so I cannot comment much on actual usage or post any pics. But...
Have you considered using cherry in some of your 'show' areas and alder elsewhere? To save on costs of cabinetry (we still were in the 50k range for the whole house LOL), we used cherry in the kitchen, dining, great room and master bed/bath areas. All other baths, the office, desks in all other bedrooms, media room, etc. are alder. I used maple in the laundry rm because I wanted the natural/lighter color in there. I am very happy with our choices. We have a traditional style home.
Yes, you can dent alder with your fingernail if you push hard enough.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2007 at 10:46PM
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Well, Alder is definitely a soft wood. I just tried to make a dent in an inconspicuous spot on my cabinet door and I couldn't with my fingernail. But I definitely have dinged up the bottom of some of them with the broom handle when I sweep. It's not like the wood is going to disinigrate with everyday use but you definitely have to be a little careful around it. I have two kids and they haven't harmed it at all. Just me and my broom...LOL!

    Bookmark   November 5, 2007 at 10:45AM
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lindybarts, love your island and mini pendents. Could you tell me the length of your island and the name brand of your lights. I need three and my island looks a lot like yours.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 8:45AM
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Thanks sanborn!

The lights are from Dolan Designs, Windsor Collection. My island is 11' 8" long.

Here is a link that might be useful: Dolan Mini Pendant

    Bookmark   November 6, 2007 at 9:21AM
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Our kitchen cabs are ash, with a medium stain, and 5 coats of lacquer. Very velvety and beautiful, we love them and could not be happier with them.

In our family room, we used the knotty alder on the cathedral ceiling, the main bean, crown molding, and all windows and doors are cased in the alder. We did not stain it, and we love it, beautiful!!!!!!!!! Very happy with out decision!!!!!

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 10:32PM
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Beautiful pictures,thank you all. I wWill be picking cabinets soon. If alder is so soft and I dont want redish cabinets from the cherry can you stain the cherry a more brown color to hide the red? I like the color of lindybarts cabinets, could you get that from cherry?

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 10:22AM
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I have cherry now, stained a chocolate brown, and also had it in another kitchen stained a dark brown as well (see pics below). Have to say, though, that I also had alder in my mudroom, family room, laundry and boys' bedrooms in the last house and I loved it - used it both natural and stained and never had any dings or dents with it. (Alder pics below, too). If you're having trouble choosing, have a sample door made up for you out of both woods - that's how I ended up w/ the cherry I have now and I couldn't be happier - much less stressful than worrying about it, especially since it's such a big investment!

Former Kitchen w/ Dark Brown Stained Cherry on Perimeter:

Present Kitch (under construction) w/ Chocolate Stained Cherry:

Natural Alder Family Room (Former House):

Stained Alder in Basement (Former House):

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 12:12PM
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mnhockeymom, Thank you for the gorgeous kitchen pictures. You're so lucky to have such beautiful kitchens. I can't tell from the picure(your new construcion) is the island the same wood and stain as the refrigerator in the background? They look so different but I'm thinking its the flash making the island look lighter.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 4:35PM
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Yes, you're exactly right, they are the same stain but the flash makes them look different in that pic - maybe a better picture would be the one with my towel holder niche...

I am getting window treatments put in tomorrow (I hope) so I'm planning on posting the whole kitchen soon!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2007 at 4:57PM
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