Why Unfinished Wood Cabinets are a Good Idea

Why Unfinished Wood Cabinets are a Good Idea

It’s not truly a kitchen without cabinets in them. With the kitchen being the heart of most households, it’s important that cabinets are there to store all your essentials. Where else would you put your pantry foods or plates and crockery? Cabinets may not be the first thing you think of when remodeling or building a new home, but it’s undoubtedly a feature that will stand out.

To have an unfinished piece of furniture in your home may sound strange, but it only refers to the style of these cabinets. Depending on your taste, you can choose to leave the wood in its beautiful natural state and ‘unfinished’ or paint it a certain way to your liking. You can really make cabinets unique through this simple gesture.

Unfinished wood cabinets are a popular choice for many – keep reading to find out why it may be the best one for you.

Benefits of Unfinished Wood Cabinets

The main reasons as to why many go for the option of unfinished wood cabinets come down to two things: price and flexibility. Naturally, unfinished wood cabinets are relatively cheaper than its solid wood counterparts. In the long run, it has been known to withstand high impact and require little cost to maintain. Unfinished wood is versatile, too – it can be used as corner cabinets, pantry cabinets, wall cabinets, as well as cabinets with drawers.

In terms of flexibility, unfinished wood cabinets allow homeowners to give it a makeover if they ever change their mind. It’s almost like a blank canvas – you can paint it, stain it, or leave it. Instead of choosing a cabinet style that’s trendy in the moment, you can go for this option that gives you the freedom to create a unique set of cabinets. You can give your kitchen a whole new look on a whim!

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The Right Type of Wood for Unfinished Cabinets

It’s important to note that some woods look better and last longer than most. The longer you leave it unfinished, the harder it will be to clean. Unfinished surfaces allow for dirt, grime, and grease to get deep inside. When you seal it, it will be much easier to clean.

Choosing the type of wood generally comes down to aesthetics. However, certain woods will have other benefits, including price and durability. The top choices of wood for cabinets are oak, pine, maple, and birch.


For a more traditional and elegant-looking kitchen, oak is the wood of your choice. It’s durable and can handle a high-traffic kitchen. In terms of aesthetics, oak has a grain pattern that may take several coats of paint to hide. For this reason, staining oak is a much better option where the grain pattern will be enhanced. Oak is also affordable, with most cabinet sets starting around $1,000 depending on the size of your kitchen.


Out of all the popular woods, pine is the least. It’s the best budget-friendly option, but it also provides a unique look. Pine is known to have ‘knots’ in them, which gives their striped look. This pattern is suitable for rustic or country-style kitchens, as it gives of a cabin vibe. If this isn’t to your liking, there are ‘cleaner’ pine types available. Although these will be more expensive, it’s a good option if you’re not a fan of the knots. Keep in mind that pine is a soft wood, which can get easily dented or scarred, but it can be prevented by using a durable finish.

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Indigenous to the northeastern United States and Canada, maple is dense and strong. It’s naturally darker, making it more receptive to stains. Similar to pine, maple can have distinctive grain patterns and they tend to come in many colors and styles, too. Due to its color and texture, maple is a good option if you plan on painting your unfinished cabinets down the line. If you do leave it unfinished, make sure to keep an eye out for them, as maple discolor or fade when it’s been exposed to direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time. Compared to birch or pine, maple is more on the pricier side, with sets going up to as high as $6,000.


Birch is the palest out of all the woods, with a yellowish cast. Its natural color can complement a kitchen with a lighter color scheme. As it’s paler in color, you can easily stain birch to make it look like another type of wood, such as cherry or maple. Rarely does birch have curling or wavy patterns – its grain is mostly straight and uniform. The uniformity makes it suitable for traditional-style kitchens. Due to the abundance of birch, it’s also one of the least expensive hardwoods, with most trees growing throughout Canada and the United States.

Painting Unfinished Kitchen Cabinets

While you may love your current unfinished cabinets, you may change your mind in the future. This is perfectly normal! Home owners will do what they can to always improve the home and that includes doing a little makeover. It’s very straightforward to paint your unfinished kitchen cabinets: all you’ll need is a primer and some paint.

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If your cabinets are a little bit on the rough side, it pays to sand the rough parts down to a smoother texture. This small step makes all the difference in the finished look. When you do sand, it’s good to apply sanding sealer afterwards to make sure the paint will go on smooth. Make sure that the sanding sealer is compatible to the paint that you’ll be using!

Before the fun step of painting, you should prime the wood. Depending on the paint you’ll use, there are two types of primers to choose from: oil-based or water-based. Primers will help keep the wood from discoloring when the paint is applied. Use size-appropriate paint rollers to cover the areas, as well as a smaller brush to get into the nooks and crannies. Once the primer has dried, it’s time to apply the topcoat paint.

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