Unfinished Wood Kitchen Cabinets


If you need to really watch your wallet, buying unfinished wood kitchen cabinets can be an economical way to go.

If you are purchasing stock kitchen cabinets (i.e. factory built) it will save you upwards of 30% or more to stain and finish (or paint) your own kitchen cabinets.

Even if you purchase custom built cabinets (if you're up to tackling the project) ask your cabinet maker if you can finish the cabinets. You may be able to save 10 to 25% or more off the cost of you cabinets.

My husband and I owned our own custom cabinet shop, and at times would have customers ask about finishing their own project. Usually, we ended up finishing the cabinets once they considered the extra effort involved, but sometimes the customer would tackle it. Most often they would undertake the project when the cabinets needed to be painted, for example white.


If you are going white with your kitchen, consider painting your own unfinished wood kitchen cabinet boxes and frames, and purchase the doors, already white. You can go with another color other than white, but be sure to match the door color (from where you order your doors) to that with the paint or lacquer you purchase for your cabinet exteriors.


White is an easy match for paint, and you can easily get your doors in the top notch quality of thermofoil. Thermofoil is a plastic, vinyl-like material that has been thermally heated to your door, versus being a rolled on vinyl. Rolled on vinyl's may (over time, use, and humidity changes) bubble, pucker, swell, peel and flake. Thermofoil doors won't.

The photo at right is of a white laundry room we built and installed. The doors are thermofoil, while the frames are painted with a white lacquer that was sprayed on with an airless sprayer, and the ends of the cabinets are a thermal melamine.

Thermofoil is added to high quality MDF (medium-density fiberboard) doors. MDF is an engineered wood, made from compressed and bonded wood fibers. The reason Thermofoil is adhered to MDF is because MDF is easily machined, very dense, and stable (it won't shrink and swell with your homes changes in humidity like real wood doors, especially if sealed with Thermofoil). Thus, the Thermofoil won't be strained and crack, etc.

One thing to remember about MDF, however, is that it can flake apart, especially if you are putting screws into it, do something wrong, have to take a screw out and re-screw. Your screw may be loose (literally!!). Take care when screwing into MDF. They can also "strip-out" easily.

Custom cabinet shops will have access to thermofoil doors, if they don't, look for another shop. You'll have to inquire with your local lumber or home center if they have thermofoil available for separate purchase (if you are planning to purchase factory built).

Using the above method, you can purchase unfinished wood kitchen cabinet boxes, but use already finished doors, making your finishing job a whole lot easier.


The "easiest" wood to stain and finish when purchasing unfinished wood kitchen cabinets, and the most forgiving, is oak. Oak is also the best wood to build kitchen cabinets out of (see Best Wood for Kitchen Cabinets page).

The photo at right is of an oak island my husband built featuring a Cambria Quartz countertop (approximate weight of the countertop alone is 500 lbs.). The island is nicely highlighted by built-up corners and corner blocks. The added depth gives sophistication to the island. The rest of the kitchen in this home is white, resulting in a really nice, overall contrast.

Click here, from our Unfinished Wood Kitchen Cabinets page to the How to Stain Your Kitchen Cabinets page for a simple how-to in staining your cabinets.

If you are going to paint your boxes and frames, a couple of great woods to work with when painting are birch or maple. Birch will be more economical than maple, especially "paint grade birch". If you are remodeling, you will have to work with what you have. Click from our Unfinished Wood Kitchen Cabinets page to the Repaint Your Kitchen Cabinets page for ideas on how to paint (or repaint) your cabinets


Hardware for unfinished wood kitchen cabinets can be purchased first, then match stains to fit your hardware, or you can wait until your cabinets are finished, and match your hardware to your stain or paint.

Often, dark stains and paints look exceptional with lighter handles, especially polished chrome, stainless steel, or even white..

The contrast of darker handles against white cabinets can be breathtaking. Polished chrome and stainless steel also look classy on white. The cabinet pictured at right are some we built and installed. The dark countertop and dark handles really show-off the white.

Check out The Woodworker's Depot for numerous handles to choose from.


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Repaint Your Kitchen Cabinets
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Easy, step-by-step instructions.

The Woodworker's Depot - Online hardware store.  Great prices, great hardware.

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