Best Wood For Paint Grade Cabinet Doors

Best Wood For Paint Grade Cabinet Doors

If you’re purchasing new cabinet doors and are considering painting them you’re probably searching for which is the best wood for paint grade cabinet doors.  There are a lot of popular types of wood that people seek for cabinetry in their kitchens or bathrooms. From oak to alder we will look at the best woods for your paint grade cabinet doors!

Considerations For Paint Grade Cabinet Doors

Before we dive into all of the different varieties of wood it’s important to understand a couple of things.  When selection a wood option for paint grade doors tighter grain is better, some woods cost more, and oak isn’t a great option.

Tighter Grain Is Better

The best woods for painting are those with a tight grain pattern.  Some wood species naturally have greater density.  With tighter grain you won’t get a wavy finish or telegraphing of grain through the paint.  Woods with tighter grain are poplar, birch, hard maple, alder, pine, and MDF.  These are good options for cabinet doors and drawer fronts you plan on painting.

Cost Considerations

The cost of woods vary from time to time but there is an order of cost for various wood species.  Wood costs are, from lowest to highest: poplar, soft maple, alder, pine, birch, and hard maple.  If you’re going to be painting over your cabinet doors you may consider going with one of the less expensive paint grade types of wood to make sure you get the best deal.

The Trouble With Oak

You may have noticed that oak isn’t listed as a recommended wood variety for the creation of cabinet doors.  This is because it naturally has greater texture on the surface of the wood.  This texture can “telegraph” through the paint and end up as undesirable texturing in the finish.  If you are dead set on oak you can fill in the texture with drywall putty or bondo.  This will make a smooth and paintable surface.

Best Woods For Paint Grade Cabinet Doors

The best woods for paint grade cabinet doors is a debated conversation, but there is some consensus.  Read more below to get an idea of the best woods to choose from when you’re getting ready to order your paint grade cabinet doors.

Poplar Wood

Poplar is popular as it is inexpensive.  While it is one of the less expensive wood types it is a little more labor intensive to prep before painting.  It should be sanded and has a tendency to fuzz up during sanding.  This means that you’ll have an extra step in removing all of the dust before you paint.  Poplar also has a tendency to absorb more paint or sealer, so plan on using a little more if you choose poplar.

Soft Maple

Soft maple is another popular choice by homeowners and cabinet makers.  It’s a low cost wood species and is easier to work than Poplar or Alder.  It’s superior to pine as it will not show the grain through the paint, so you can get your mirror like finish.  This wood is easier to sand to be ready for paint than Alder also.


Alder is a viable option for paint grade cabinet doors.  However it does absorb more paint and primer than other options.  Costs vary more than some other woods as prices vary by location and supplier.  Alder also is a little harder to work than soft maple so expect a little more work in prepping for paint.


The pine used to make cabinet doors is much different than the 2×4’s used to build houses.  The pine used in cabinet door fabrication is kiln dried to only have about 8% moisture.  While pine is plentiful it isn’t as good for paint grade doors.  Much like oak, pine has a tendency to telegraph grain through the paint.  This can make it hard or impossible to get a mirror like smooth finish on your doors.


Birch is a great option for families with young children, or those that simply use their kitchens a lot. This is because it is a tougher wood and doesn’t dent easily.  Soft woods might dent when hit with a pan or pot leaving a dent under the paint.  This leads to chipping of the paint.  Birch might cost a little more but is more durable and requires less primer, paint, and sealer.

Hard Maple

While hard maple is simply the best wood for paint grade cabinet doors, it’s also the most costly.  The upfront cost difference pays for itself by resisting denting and paint chipping.  Hard maple will just last longer, look better, and is an investment in the quality of your home’s materials.  It is about double the cost, so be ready for the cost difference but appreciate the difference in quality.


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