All woods have two characteristics that play important roles in determining their final appearance: their natural colour and the size of their pores. Unlike paint, both water-based and oil-based stains are absorbed into the wood rather than laying on top of it. For that reason, the natural wood colour will blend with the colour of the stain you choose. In order to accurately predict the final colour of your project, always test any stain you select on an inconspicuous place on the wood first.
In addition to their natural colour, each species of wood has unique properties that will also affect the staining results. Because wood is a natural product, it will vary in texture, color and grain. It may also change over time because of its exposure to sunlight.
Cherry: one of the most popular woods used in cabinets because of its medium reddish brown color and its uniform grain color. It also is more expensive than some other types of wood. It’s the most elegant and modern of the hardwoods. And because it takes so well to stains, it can also be made to look vintage. The warm and rich color darkens with time and is as expensive as it looks.
Maple: a popular wood option. It is lighter than cherry but has a smoother texture and thus is an ideal wood for painted or stained finishes. Maple is very popular for its character and versatility ranging from country kitchens to modern ones. Its grain is tight, uniform and consistent, and any existing streaks will darken when stained. These fine lines and curling waves are considered very attractive and will increase the value and beauty of the wood.
Oak: Legendary for its strength, oak is also a less expensive hardwood due to its abundance in America. For that reason, oak is also very common in homes and has been for centuries. It’s the toughest of the hardwoods and very damage resistant. The grain can be fairly patterned making it perfect for traditional or rustic cabinets.
Red Oak: Prominent grain pattern in, it has a lighter brown color and is rich in texture with a distinctive pattern of grain that many homeowners like.
Pine: A more affordable wood option. It provides a distinctively rustic look that is popular in a more traditional or country kitchen design. Pine is a softer wood, however, and may dent or scratch more easily than some other woods. It’s best in kitchens and bathrooms that are used gently. The pale yellow color can be easily stained and features very distinct knots. They give pine a rustic, country feel that elevates any traditional home.
Mahogany: Known as the premier wood for fine cabinetry. It has a deep rich reddish-brown color and a characteristic swirling grain that produces an attractive design; it polishes to a high luster. Because this species of wood is becoming increasingly more rare and because it proves to be extremely durable, it is priced significantly higher than the more common woods such as pine and oak.
Alder: Pale red to a brownish-red, alder features a grain that can be completely clear to very rustic with lots of knots and streaks. It takes well to stains and finishes, so it is a very versatile hardwood option.
Beech: Beech has a closed grain, meaning that pores are small and feel smooth. Colors range from blond to light brown and it is very hard and durable, second only to oak.
Hickory: The dense, vivid variations in hickory’s color and grain patterns make it a very bold hardwood. You can have different flows and shades in a single piece of wood, but it’s also smooth and easy to stain.
Birch: Birch is a soft, lush wood which stains extremely well. It is similar to cherry; smooth to touch with subtle patterns that make a room feel warm and cozy.