Oak vs. Pine Cabinets

Closeup of red cedar plank showing knot texture and natural wood

As two of the most affordable options for kitchen cabinets, pine and oak are both excellent choices. Each has a unique style, and each has pros and cons. Here’s the rundown of oak vs. pine cabinets.

Pine Cabinets

Pine is the only soft wood usually considered for use in cabinetry, primarily because of its low cost. It is also valued for its frequent knots that lend a great deal of charm to a rustic kitchen.

You can also find pine cabinets without the knots. Look for “clear pine” in that case, but expect the price to be more in line with oak. The downside of this stylistically is that it isn’t generally very interesting to look at. Without the knots, pine has a very broad, straight grain that can look almost striped.

The main down-side of pine is that it’s soft enough to dent and scar easily, even from comparatively minor impacts. A durable finish can help mitigate that. Pine does take to painting relatively well, however if you go with the less expensive pine with knots, expect to use half a dozen coats or more before the knots can no longer be seen through the paint.

Oak Cabinets

Oak has been one of the most popular wood for cabinets for good reason. Though it’s not the hardest of the hardwoods, it’s much more durable than pine, and able to resist nicks, cuts, dents, and scratches effectively over a lifetime of respectful use.

Unless you specifically want to achieve a rustic appearance, oak’s smoother grain pattern and low incidence of knots and blemishes will work much better for a more traditional or elegant design.

Oak is also among the least expensive hardwoods, another important reason for its popularity. For example, we have oak cabinet sets starting right around the $1,000 mark for a 10’ x 10’ kitchen.

The main con when it comes to oak is that it has a striking grain pattern that can be extremely difficult to cover up with paint. If you don’t mind a subtle grain pattern showing through your paint, oak is a fine choice, but if you’re looking for a smooth, satiny finish, it can take numerous coats and quite a bit of thickness before the grain pattern of oak fades away completely. Of course, if you intend to stain your oak cabinets, its striking grain pattern turns into a pro instead!

Oak vs. Pine Bottom Line

Oak and pine cabinets are favorites in the cabinet world. Both offer design options to be envied, flexibility in how you finish them, and solid construction you can count on for decades. Your choice comes down to budget and the details of your design.

Shop and compare both pine and oak kitchen cabinets and get started on your project today.

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