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Maple vs. Oak Cabinets: Making the Right Choice for Your Kitchen

by Gary Wade • January 04, 2024

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, the choice between maple and oak can be a difficult one. Both options have their own unique qualities and characteristics that can greatly impact the overall look and feel of your kitchen. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the similarities and differences between maple vs. oak cabinets, allowing you to make an informed decision that best suits your needs and preferences.

Maple vs. Oak Cabinets: A Side-by-Side Comparison

To better understand the distinctions between maple and oak cabinets, let's start with a detailed comparison of the two:

Maple Cabinets
Oak Cabinets
Light colors, subtle grain pattern, smooth texture
Darker color, bold and straight-grain pattern, coarse texture
Extremely durable, but more susceptible to scratches and dents than oak
Not as strong as maple, but still withstands everyday wear and tear
Easy to maintain
Easy to maintain
Environmental Impact
Accessible and abundant
Accessible and abundant
Price Range
$2,500 - $6,000
$2,000 - $5,000

Now that we have a basic overview of the differences between maple vs. oak cabinets, let's dive deeper into each aspect to help you make a more informed decision.

Oak vs Maple Cabinets

Maple Cabinets: Beauty and Versatility

Maple cabinets are known for their versatility and ability to complement a variety of kitchen styles. With its light base color maple cabinets take all stains from light to dark beautifully, combined with the subtle grain patterns, and smooth texture, maple cabinets can create a warm and organic look in your kitchen. Whether you choose to varnish, stain, or paint them, maple cabinets offer endless possibilities for customization.

The Origins of Maple

Maple trees are native to North America and can be found in forests throughout the East Coast. This accessibility makes maple one of the most popular choices for cabinet wood species. Maple trees are known for their sturdy and attractive timber, ensuring that you are selecting high-quality and long-lasting cabinets for your kitchen.

Pros and Cons of Maple Cabinets



  • Color may deepen with heat and UV exposure
  • Dark stains may appear uneven
  • Less variation compared to other wood species

Oak Cabinets: Timeless Beauty and Durability

Oak cabinets have stood the test of time and remain a popular choice for homeowners. With their distinctive grain pattern and impressive durability, oak cabinets can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to any kitchen. From Mid-Century Modern to traditional designs, oak cabinets offer versatility and timeless appeal.

Maple vs Oak Kitchen Cabinets

The Different Types of Oak

There are two major types of oak: red oak and white oak. White oak is generally stronger and more rot-resistant, making it suitable for outdoor applications. Red oak, on the other hand, is commonly used for interior builds like cabinets. For the purpose of this comparison, we will focus on red oak.

Pros and Cons of Oak Cabinets


  • Durable and water-resistant
  • Timeless design
  • Large variety of colors
  • Affordable option for quality wood cabinets


  • Distinctive grain pattern may show through certain finishes
  • Prone to yellowing with prolonged UV exposure
  • Kitchen resale value may not be as high as other wood cabinets
  • Heavy weight can make installation difficult

Physical Qualities: The Look and Feel

The physical qualities of maple vs. oak cabinets greatly influence their overall appearance and texture. While both woods can be beautiful in their natural state, there are some notable differences to consider.

Oak vs Maple Kitchen Cabinets

Maple's Subtle Elegance

Maple cabinets are characterized by their simple and subtle grain pattern, light colors ranging from near-white to golden yellow, and smooth surface. The grain pattern of maple is typically straight, with occasional bird's-eye spots, mineral streaking, and curling. Over time, maple cabinets may yellow slightly when exposed to heat and UV rays. When it comes to finishing, maple cabinets can be stained to achieve a glossy finish.

Oak's Bold Presence

Oak cabinets, on the other hand, have a darker appearance and feature a bold, straight-grain pattern with light-reflecting rays. Unlike the smooth and shiny surface of maple, oak has a slightly raised grain and rougher, coarser texture. This distinctive texture adds a unique dimension to oak cabinets, but it may also make them more susceptible to showing scratches and dents over time.

Pricing: Finding the Right Balance

When it comes to pricing, maple and oak cabinets are relatively affordable options compared to exotic woods like walnut or cherry. However, there can be variations in pricing depending on factors such as the grade of the wood, market conditions, and the manufacturer.

Typically, maple cabinets will range from $2,500 to $6,000 for a 10x10 kitchen remodel, while oak cabinets may cost slightly less, averaging $2,000 to $5,000 for the same size kitchen. It's important to consider your budget and the overall value you are seeking when deciding between maple and oak cabinets.

Maintenance: Keeping Your Cabinets in Prime Condition

Both maple and oak cabinets are known for their durability, water resistance, and low maintenance requirements. To keep your cabinets looking their best, regular cleaning is key.

To clean your kitchen cabinets, use a commercial wood cleaner that is safe for your specific wood type. Alternatively, you can create your own eco-friendly DIY cleaner. Apply the cleaner to a sponge or soft cloth and gently scrub until stains are removed. Rinse the cleaner off with a second sponge and water, then dry the cabinets with a clean towel.

By following these simple maintenance steps, you can ensure that your maple or oak cabinets remain in excellent condition for years to come.

Maple vs Oak Cabinet Differences

Durability: Cabinets That Stand the Test of Time

When it comes to durability, both maple and oak cabinets are excellent choices. As hardwood materials, they are built to withstand everyday wear and tear.

Maple cabinets are known for their extreme durability and impact resistance. However, they may be slightly more susceptible to scratches and dents compared to oak cabinets. On the other hand, oak cabinets are not as strong as maple, but they still offer great durability and can withstand the demands of a busy kitchen.

Environmental Impact: Making Sustainable Choices

Both maple and oak wood are considered sustainable materials for kitchen cabinets. While these trees grow slower than some other species, such as birch or bamboo, they are still abundant enough to be responsibly harvested without causing detrimental impacts on forests and wildlife.

Furthermore, since maple and oak are some of the hardest woods used for kitchen cabinets, they are less likely to need replacing compared to lower-quality or manufactured cabinets. If environmental impact is a priority for you, look for wood that is certified by organizations like the Forest Stewardship Council or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification to ensure that it is sourced from responsibly managed forests.

Choosing Between Maple and Oak Cabinets: FAQs

To help you make a more informed decision, here are some frequently asked questions about maple vs. oak cabinets:

Is oak or maple better for cabinets?

Deciding between oak and maple cabinets ultimately comes down to personal preference. Both woods are durable, easy to maintain, and offer a range of finishes. However, maple cabinets may be slightly more expensive and may not take dark stains as well as oak cabinets.

Are maple cabinets cheaper than oak

Maple cabinets are typically slightly more expensive than oak cabinets. However, prices can vary depending on factors such as the grade of the wood and market conditions.

Is maple more durable than oak?

Maple is considered a slightly stronger hardwood than oak. However, both woods are highly durable and can withstand everyday wear and tear.

Which is heavier, oak or maple?

Oak cabinets are generally heavier than maple cabinets. This weight difference can impact the installation process.

Does maple stain easier than oak?

Maple cabinets have a nonporous surface, which can make staining slightly more difficult compared to oak. Dark stains may also appear more uneven on maple cabinets due to their smooth surface.

Choosing Between Oak vs Maple Cabinets

Making the Right Choice for Your Kitchen

When it comes to choosing between maple vs. oak cabinets, there is no definitive answer. Both options have their own unique qualities and aesthetics that can enhance the look of your kitchen. It ultimately comes down to personal preference, budget, and the overall design you want to achieve.

Consider the appearance, durability, maintenance requirements, pricing, and environmental impact of both maple and oak cabinets. Take into account your own style preferences, the overall design of your kitchen, and your long-term plans for resale.

Whether you choose maple or oak cabinets, you can't go wrong with these high-quality wood options. Both maple and oak have stood the test of time and remain popular choices for homeowners. So go ahead and make your decision with confidence, knowing that your kitchen will be transformed into a beautiful and functional space that reflects your personal style.

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