If you're in the market for new cabinets, there's a good chance you've heard about alder wood. Lighter than some of its wood counterparts, this hardwood member of the birch family has been used to make gorgeous renditions of everything from guitars to dining room tables. It can be a great option for cabinets, too, but there are several factors to consider before making a decision about alder wood.
One of the biggest benefits of alder wood is the cost. It's not quite as cheap as it used to be when it was referred to as "poor man's cherry," but there's still a considerable price difference between it and more expensive hardwoods, such as mahogany. Alder is about in the middle of the road of hardwood prices.
Knotty or Not Knotty
If you're looking for cabinet doors that have a knotty quality, alder is a great choice. Some varieties of this wood look very knotty but are still smooth. That natural knottiness means it's less likely that you'll find melamine veneers as part of your alder cabinets. While wood veneers will likely be a part of the inner alder cabinets, the solid wood's natural character makes it gorgeous and striking for cabinet doors. Of course, if you want an especially knotted look, you can find an alder melamine veneer that suits your tastes.
If you like the color and cost of alder but don't want the knots, don't worry. Solid alder is available in more smooth and polished finishes, as well.
When it comes to cabinet color, it's all about personal taste. If you prefer deep, rich tones with wood cabinets, alder might not be the material for you.
Depending on the type of alder and the stain, it can range anywhere from a light honey gold to a young cherry. Unlike cherry, though, alder doesn't darken over time. In fact, if exposed to enough sun, it might lighten a little. Alder is also more affordable than cherry. So, if you want the reddish appearance of cherry but don't want to worry about it getting darker with age, alder could be a good choice at a great price point.
If you're ambitious enough to install your own cabinets, alder wood is a great option. It's a favorite among woodworkers for people who want a rustic, knotty look without all the work and cost that other restored hardwood requires. That's also part of the reason it's a popular material for making guitars or wooden toys that look great with all the character of knots.
It also makes it a great wood for DIYers since it's soft enough to easily cut, glue and manipulate. Its consistent finish also makes it easy for applying a wide variety of stains, so you can play around with coloring until you get it to the exact tone you desire.
One of alder's biggest downfalls is its durability. It's on the softer end of the hardwood spectrum. That means alder cabinets are likely to get far more dents and dings than cabinets made of maple or oak, for instance.
If you're careful with your cabinets, or if you're installing them somewhere they won't get much use, this might not be a concern for you. But if you're putting alder cabinets in a heavily trafficked area or one that will be bumped often by kids or pets, keep in mind that you might have to replace these far sooner than you would cabinets made of a more durable wood.
There's no one right choice for cabinets since each home and everyone's personal preferences vary drastically. Take some time to weigh the pros and cons of your options, choose the one that's best for you and then happily settle into life with a brand new set of cabinets.
Rachelle Dragani is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn with extensive experience covering the lifestyle space. Her work on topics including smart home technology, pest control, living green, budget home repair and helpful household tips have appeared in publications including Bob Vila, Esquire, Popular Mechanics, Gizmodo and Yahoo.