choosing oak vs maple kitchen cabinets

rose_maryDecember 1, 2008

I am about to change my old fairly dark oak cabinets due to water damage. I like the light oak as well as the light and glazed maples. The maples are more expensive, but I have been told by several kitchen designers that oak is very out of style. My contractor can give me Aristokraft (veneer raised panel) oak at a good price or a Merillat solid oak at a higher price but that still is less than the maple. I have also looked at American Woodmark maple for price (although my contractor does not like to deal with Home Depot). I don't know if I am being swayed too much by what I am told is out of style. Do you think it's important for future resale which is at least a few years or more away? I have only just found this site. Any opinions will be very, very appreciated. I have to decide in the next few days, if possible. Budget is also becoming more of a factor. Thanks for any advice.

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Well, I am biased because I have an oak kitchen and I love the graining. I think that door style has more to do with a kitchen looking dated than wood species. If you are worried about resale and the kitchen looking dated, I would stay away from face frame cabinets and go frameless with a full overlay door with clean lines. I would stay away from glazes, too.

An important benefit of frameless cabs is that you will increase the functionality of your cabinets, including the useable storage space.

Of course, as many will tell you here, while it's wise to keep an eye to resale, you should go with the style that makes you happy.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:56PM
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For a lot of people [including some design pros], 'oak' is more a color than a species of wood. While the golden oak color common in the 70s/early 80s is looked at with disdain by some, the wheel is turning and it will make a comeback. As a species, oak has an open grain that takes stain well. The graining is busier than maple, and often has a bit of a '3d' effect that shows though paint.

Maple is harder, it has a tighter grain with less pattern, and can be splotchy looking if you try to stain it too dark. It tends to be more uniform than oak, in part because very streaky maple boards are usually sorted into the 'paint-grade' pile.

If you don't have strong feelings about either species, start by choosing a color range you like, then check out various samples of both species in several different door styles.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 7:59PM
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Do you have a particular style in mind? Traditional, cottage, modern, etc? Most important is having the style you like. I think your kitchen should suit the style of the rest of the house, too. In any case, I agree with the designers that certain kinds of oak cabinets are out of style. I think it's because cabinets have been massed produced with arched-top, raised panels in stained oak for so long, they've begun to look cheap. Have you looked at Ikea cabinets? Lots of people love them, and there are a lot of styles to choose from. I think they're reasonably priced. Here's a link to Ikea kitchens.

You can still use oak if you do something different with it, like use white oak, or rift sawn oak, but these will be more expensive. If you want to stick with red oak or maple, I'd say choose a simple style, with a flat or raised panel, not arched, in a light color. Choosing interesting hardware will make them more individualized too.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 8:03PM
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The style I want is fairly traditional. I want a raised center panel. My big dilemma is whether to eliminate oak as a possibility because kd's say they are out of style. I really like the look of maple in the showrooms and it really does look better there than the oak. I just don't know if it's the setting and the lighting more than anything. I've gone into friends' homes with fairly new maple kitchens (one was natural and the other light but of a yellowish tint) and have not liked them as well as some of the newer oak kitchens some of my friends and family have put in. Also, in response to advice to staying away from glazes, I am wondering why - they look nice in the showroom. Is there a downside, other than price?

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:23PM
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I do think oak is dated because it was and is still overused by builders. It always seems to be the same color and has a really strong look to the grain. Maple is probly the better choice for resale but go with what you really like .

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 9:41PM
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From what I've been told about glazes they add about 10% to the cost of cabinets. So if cost is a factor, that might be a reason to avoid the glaze.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:06PM
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Does it matter to you at all what will fit in well with the rest of your house? That was important to me as I was not planning to remodel my entire house and I wanted my new kitchen to blend in and not stick out like a sore thumb. I would be really careful about making a decision based on what a KD says is out of style. Light maple cabinets have been very popular for a good while now and frankly I think they are going out of style as darker cabinets gain popularity. Dark cabinets weren't popular when I remodeled my kitchen but I got them any way because that's what I liked and it looked right with the rest of my house. Well, what do you know - now dark is in again. I also got quartersawn oak cabinets which were also not popular at the time - maple and cherry were all the rage. If you get what everyone else is getting it will eventually be dated and out of style. That's not such a problem if you're getting what you really like but it would be disappointing if you got it just because a KD told you it was in style and then suddenly it's out.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:15PM
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Rift Cut Oak and also White Oak are very hot, very in, and definitely not "out of style".


    Bookmark   December 1, 2008 at 11:44PM
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I was looking at a maple glaze on American Woodmark because it is free right now along with 20% off. It seemed like a good deal but now the kd just told me I need get panels on the sides of the cabinets to match the glaze or it won't look right and that would also require upgrading to a plywood construction. That ups the price another $1200. So much for bargains. As for furniture, I do have a large red oak table and chairs in the kitchen which I will be keeping for awhile. I see different woods put together in the kitchen design stores now. Do you think that is a concern? I am looking at either a light oak or light to medium maple but not natural in either one. We are also opening the kitchen up into the family room where I have some other oak tables - not the same shade of oak and also with a lot of glass - coffee table and end tables.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 12:49AM
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I think most of the reaction against oak is against those builder's grade type oak cabinets that usually are veneer arched raised panel with partial overlay and vinyl print sides and moldings. Builders use the cheapest quality everything---and it shows. Oak can make a beautiful kitchen---if you like oak. If you dislike oak, nothing's gonna make it pretty to you. Sounds like you like oak, but aren't in love with it. If budget constraints prohibit the maple, at least upgrade to the solid wood raised panel with the real wood skinned sides (better yet, appled doors on the sides) and nice moldings on the tops and bottom of the cabinets rather than the veneer raised panels and vinyl skins. It'll wear better, look better, and be better quality---which really does show in the long run.

Rose_mary, you do NOT have to have plywood construction to have matching wood end panels/skins applied. (Where do some of these HD KDs looney ideas come from!Right, they were mixing paint the day before. LOL!) They can be applied with standard construction just fine. YOu can also choose to have door profile matching end panels applied if you'd rather put the money in that than the plywood construction. I wouldn't choose plywood construction for my own home, and while I will sell it at a client's request, I never try to upsell someone to it.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 1:22AM
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you should always go with what you prefer. that said, if you're moving any time soon, i'd advise to stay away from the oak. i never liked it... even when i was a kid and we'd visit my aunt's house the grain really bothered me. a friend i have from HS has oak floors, oak stair treads and rails, oak table and chairs... good Lord, it's like a 70s explosion in there!

but i don't have to like it. YOU do. good luck and whatever you choose, all the best.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 1:24AM
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I really like the look of maple in the showrooms and it really does look better there than the oak.

Simple, really. You like maple and don't like oak. Get maple.

Make your budget compromises elsewhere, with things that are easy to change or upgrade later. Just don't compromise on the bones of your kitchen.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 7:15AM
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Your cabinets are the most visible and expensive part of your remodel. If you like maple better than oak, then no question about it....get maple. You don't want to spend the next 10 years looking at the cabinets that you paid a LOT of money for and wishing you had gone with the maple. If they cost more, then shave something else out of the budget that can be easily upgraded later.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 7:25AM
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Another KD (khat) said this in a recent thread on MDF Doors:

"For my kitchen,I wanted something different that I don't get to do a lot of. I'm in a very traditional area, so I made it fairly contemporary. And Oak of course is not very popular right now, all of my collegues are questioning my choice and I try not to mention it to my clients. But I predict a resurgence. I really love the texture of the Quartersawn."

I'm sort of partial to maple myself but then I really prefer glazing or an opaque finish anyway.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 7:41AM
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I wouldn't say oak is out of style, maybe just not as popular right now as maple and cherry which seem to be the current popular choices. I base this statement on what I've seen on this forum over the past five years.

There are more maple and cherry and painted kitchens dancing across this forum than oak, but that's not to say that there aren't many beautiful oak ones too!

If you're going to sell your house directly after the remodel, then choose things that are in-style/popular and will help make the sale. If you're not going to sell right away, then get what you like. It's that simple. Even in five years trends can change and your in-style today choices could be on the way out. So why bother?

My advice to you on cabinet brands is to shop more. You mention only three brands: Aristocraft, Merillat and American Woodmark. Believe me, there are LOTS more out there. Including custom - don't dismiss custom, sometimes the price of custom is comparable to the premade. Shop shop shop around and find the cabinets YOU like, not what some KD says is in-style.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:46AM
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Agree about shopping around. My custom cabinets came out costing not a huge amount more than IKEA was going to cost!! And they were much cheaper than most higher-end prefab cabinets.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 9:55AM
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LOL! I think people here read what they want to read. To me it sounds like you really do like the oak but that you don't have the strong preference for maple over oak that others here have. No matter. I'm not a big fan of oak - but then I'm not a big fan of maple either (too bland, too yellow, too gaah!) I *am* a HUGE fan of rift cut white oak, though ;-) and contorted myself many ways to get rift oak furniture into my life. ;-)

I think LWO is giving you good advice about what you can and can't do with cabinetry. That said, I think what your KD is alluding to with the plywood construction applies to finishing one of the ends to match and stain to the doorstyle as opposed to adding a skin or a panel to the cabinet at that finished end. That is also fine and some folks have done that here but it doesn't mean upgrading your entire order to plywood construction. It just means that those cabinets (2? 3?) that get the finished end panels can be made of plywood - your entire order certainly doesn't need to be. OR you could just get an additional finish/end panel that gets mated to a regular cabinet which now can be MDF.

Good luck with your kitchen. Gibby and Bosche both have dark stained rift oak kitchen that are truly gorgeous - head and shoulders above most stained maple kitchens i've seen.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:21AM
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I like oak, especially with a dark stain in a craftsman style. Search for vjrnts's kitchen - it's one of my favorites. (nothing like the oak that live wire oak described!)

I am getting maple, only because it takes paint well.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:30AM
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Maureeninmind, how nice of you! I just dropped by on a whim, saw the subject, and now here you are saying nice things about my kitchen.

I love my oak, Arts & Crafts-inspired kitchen. I'm in an area of old homes and it fits in perfectly. I'm on the Finished Kitchens Blog or you can follow the link below to our picture album.

Here is a link that might be useful: Finished Kitchen

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 11:24AM
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Maureeninmd, I typed your name wrong; I apologize. And thanks again for being so positive about my kitchen!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 11:26AM
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IMHO - your choice should reflect what you like, not what the trends are (unless you are doing this to sell your house next year), and not what the KD likes (it's your hoise, no?!)Your kitchen should reflect your style and the style of your house. Both maple and oak are durable, good quality, and take stains well. It's really what you do with the cabinet style that makes the kitchen 'modern' or not. I think "espresso" stains are done to death and are on the way out. I think well-designed doors with natural looking wood stains combined with white are a combo of warm and clean/fresh.

Quarter sawn and rift cut white oak are stunning, but I think better suited to a slab door and a more modern kitchen. Regular oak with a medium to dark stain is gorgeous in an Arts & Crafts style kitchen - rish and timeless (vjrnts - yours is a gorgeous example).

We are just finishing planning of a modern (but warm) kitchen with quarter sawn white oak in a light stain to enhance the vertical grain. The countertops will be Caesarstone blizzard, and the uppers (there are very few - one wall only) will be a high gloss white. Minimal brushed hardware, SS appliances - clean and simple. It will definitely not be outdated builder-grade 80s:-)

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:04PM
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vjrnts' kitchen is a perfect example of how good oak can look. The cabinets are so nice because they're very simple. It's ironic that you have to pay more for simplicity, but that's often the case. As someone said above, I don't think it's the oak itself that is tired looking, it's the builder's grade oak cabinets -- they have a kind of clunky look.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:08PM
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Well, our kitchen cabinets are ash and we're building raised panel arched top doors for them. Our master bath cabs will be teak. We're going to have white oak (stained red mahogany) floors throughout the house. Somewhere, somehow I'm going to have tiger wood and bubinga and purple heart, too. No quarter sawn or rift sawn for me. I love the look of wood graining. To me it's beautiful - very natural and interesting. Maple is boring to me. But that's me (and Hubby too, thankfully.) You should have seen us at the lumber yard picking out the ash for our new doors. We only picked the highly patterned wood. But then we're far from the norm when it comes to how our kitchen is turning out.

See if you can get a sample door and bring it home and live with it for a while. That way you know what it looks like in your home, which is the most important thing.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2008 at 10:27PM
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We have 20yr old Kit cabinets --light oak -which have turned very yellow because of the many windows and light we have in the kitchen. They were high end at the time and still are in great shape --BUT I am tired -oh so tired -of the oak. Now before you 'Oak" people gasp at this statement --we do loooove oak--we have very beautiful & classy American & Canadian over 100yr old antiques-fireplace-furniture,etc that are white rift/quartersawn oak -and I swear I will NEVER give them up -until a retirement home is a necessity !

But I am set on Maple cupboards-so I have figured it out this way . Our floors are going to be a darker rift/ quartersawn oak-walnut stain-- (company is -and the cabinets will either be a maple white or a maple dark-so there will be no grains showing on the cabinets . I will NOT have the hardwood in the kitchen so I think it should be okay.

In the meantime we will remove the older oak-take the doors to a 'stripper" --try to get then back to their original light brown natural color-not yellow. We will put then in our kitchen on the lower level-be a shame not to save them !

I hear that these days a UV 'something' is put in the stain so yellowing slows down !

Am I being realistic thinking that the oak floor and maple cupboards will look okay?? --the family room is just a few feet from the kit cab's . If the cab's are dark we will make sure the shade is something that matches the hardwood . We have yet to decide what kind of flooring will go in the kitchen .

I would like to here some different opinions besides my own -this renovating is very frustrating & expensive so we want to make good choices!!!

Thanks from Alberta,Canada!

    Bookmark   January 17, 2009 at 7:43PM
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There's oak and there's oak. Mine are white oak, specially finished so as to not emphasize the characteristic grain.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 11:45AM
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We have Hickory Spice (Shenandoah from Lowes made by Ameican Woodmark) and love them. We decided not to do maple or was a pleasing alternative.

Here is a link that might be useful: cabinets

    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 3:02PM
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    Bookmark   January 18, 2009 at 4:01PM
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I think the question is do you like the heavy wood grain of oak or the subtle of maple? Do you mind if I ask why you are hiring a KD? I think with all the help here and all the wonderful photos out there, you could do a pretty fantastic job yourself. You can sub out the work (use craigslist) to hang the cabinets etc if you are not able to DIY. Personally Aristokraft are WAY overpriced for my taste. Stay away from Lowe's for sure again overpriced. Homedepot is okay in price only if you hit a good sale though. My personal fav is Schrock at menards - sounds cheap but don't bash till you see in person. For the price they are amazing and they have a TON of options to go more towards that custom sized kitchen you might need. Schrock come off the same line as Thomasville at HD and Diamond at Lowes for a lot cheaper plus they are always on sale and throw in a free sink base of your choice. They have beautiful maple cabinets for around $140 linear foot, some are glazed too if you like that look.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2009 at 4:10PM
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Have you given any thought to knotty alder. I live in Texas and that is what almost all of the custom builders are using. I preferred the light maple with a slight glaze to it when we redid our kitchen - getting rid of the oak altogether - it was terrible, had water stains and was just ugly. Builder grade. My cabinets are the light maple with a black slate backsplash and mostly black slate floor with a brown/black/burgandy/cream granite counter and a deep single undermount stainless steel sink. I do not have any hardware on the cabinets, as I wanted them to look clean. Hope this helps. My next project is to paint the ugly oak cabinets in both bathrooms glossy black - and hopefully that will take out the grain showing through.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2010 at 11:40PM
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