Why are select grade cabinet doors from Cutting Edge so expensive?

What are cabinet door wood grades? Is select grade or standard grade better? Read this article to learn about select and standard grade.

Two employees standing next to a lift of lumber.

Choosing a cabinet door is a formidable task. There are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of options. You may already be familiar with some of those terms – door style, inside profile, outside profile, panel profile, and more.

If you are reading this article, you have heard about cabinet door wood grades. What are wood grades? What is the best option? When should you choose one, or another? How can you make sure you choose the best cabinet door wood grade for your project? And why does it even matter? These questions (and so many others!) can seem completely overwhelming when you are just getting started on your project.

Cutting Edge Doors & Woodworking has been in business for over 20 years, and we produce hundreds of cabinet doors every day. We produce many of these cabinet doors to fit specific customer needs. We often work directly with those customers to help them decide which option is best.

Now, we want to help you make the best choice by making this information available to you. After reading this article, you will understand the difference between standard and select grade woods. You will know why one cabinet door wood grade is better than another in some situations. 

Having this information will allow you to make an educated decision about which wood grade best suits your needs, and avoid the headaches caused by selecting the wrong option. 

Standard grade vs select grade

We are often asked, ‘What is the difference between standard grade wood and select grade wood?’ 

The difference is how much effort goes into sorting the raw lumber. It is important to know that most lumber a manufacturer receives is the same lumber grade. However, you can choose from several wood grades when you order cabinet doors. 

You can order most wood types in either a standard grade or a select grade. Depending on the grade chosen for an order, the manufacturer will put more or less time into sorting through the lumber.

An infographic showing the difference between standard and select material grades.

Standard grade is the most common choice

Most cabinet door orders are produced with ‘standard grade’ wood. Out of an average lift of lumber, approximately 70-80% of the wood is suitable for standard grade orders.   

As mentioned above, this is the most common option used in the cabinet door industry. Standard grade woods work well for orders getting a wide variety of finishes. This can range from a painted finish to a stained finish. 

Select grade is an upgrade

Some orders require more attention to detail. We recommend you choose select grade wood in these cases. The manufacturer spends much more time ensuring that the wood used is consistent when you choose a select grade material. 

Usually, an order that is getting a finish that doesn’t hide natural wood variation would need a select grade wood. 

Comparison of standard grade vs select grade

Spoiler Alert: most of the comparison categories don’t have a clear winner, but will instead outline why you might choose one wood grade over another.

1. Wood Consistency

Standard grade woods are not sorted to be consistent; the focus is on the natural characteristics of the wood. 

Select grade woods are sorted for consistency in color and grain pattern. This leads to a very uniform look.

There is no winner in this category – it is purely a matter of opinion. If you prefer natural wood, standard grade may be the best option. If you are looking for cabinet doors with very consistent wood color, select grade is the best choice. 

2. Pricing

The winner in this category is standard grade wood. Select grade woods require much more time and attention, which drives the price up accordingly. Depending on the wood type and door style, select grade wood can range from 20% to 80% more expensive than standard grade wood. 

3. Finishing Options

The ‘finish’ is the coating applied to the cabinet doors. This can range from clear lacquer to paint, and many variations in between.

5 Maple doors. From left to right, a clear lacquer finish, a light stain finish, a medium stain finish, a dark stain finish, and a painted finish.

You can use any finishing option on standard grade or select grade woods. However, we would always recommend a select grade wood for orders getting a light stain or clear lacquered finish. These finish types don’t hide any natural characteristics, such as grain or wood color variation. 

While this doesn’t always matter, it can detract from the overall appearance of a kitchen. For example, having one or two cabinet doors that are darker or lighter than the rest will attract attention.

4. Warranty

Most warranty policies won’t change much based on the cabinet door wood grades. However, the wood grades you select will affect what the warranty policy covers.

Standard grade woods have an emphasis on the natural characteristics of the wood. Depending on the wood species you select, this can mean that color variation is not a valid reason for replacing a door. Other natural aspects of the wood, such as pin knots, figured/wild grain, and mineral streaks, are also acceptable.

An infographic showing various types of natural wood characteristics and which wood grades those are acceptable in.

We sort select grade woods for consistency. Natural characteristics of wood are acceptable, as long as they don’t detract from the overall consistent appearance. Our team considers most stand-out details unacceptable because the goal is to have all doors look the same.

5. Order Timeline

Standard grade woods are easier to source because the majority of raw lumber is acceptable. For this reason, orders produced with standard grade woods are less likely to have unexpected delays. 

Select grade woods are more likely to have delays. The amount of material sorting required can mean that the order requires additional wood. If this occurs, the lead time stretches out to allow the manufacturer to sort through more material. 

Lead time on select grade orders can extend anywhere from 1 week to 10 weeks, or even longer. If the material is a commonly stocked item (like Maple or Red Oak), there won’t be as much of a delay. If the material is not commonly stocked or is in high demand (like Rift Cut White Oak or Walnut), the delay will be longer.  

With a more consistent timeline (on average, 1 week to 6 weeks shorter than select grade orders), standard grade wood is the winner in this category. 

6. Waste

Select grade woods have a lot more waste, or wood that isn’t usable for that specific purpose. The additional restrictions needed to ensure consistent color means there is more material that is not considered acceptable. 

However, the waste from select grade woods is not a total waste.

Often, we repurpose that material and use it as standard grade material. Waste from standard grade woods can only be repurposed for grades lower than standard grade, such as rustic or paint grade.

While this information may not matter to all customers, it is important to know that one wood grade for cabinet doors is not more eco-friendly than another. Our team repurposes wood waste whenever possible.

Who is standard grade wood right for?

Standard grade woods are a great choice if you are looking for a kitchen that showcases the natural characteristics of the wood. With a wide range of finishes that work well, standard grade woods allow for a classic and timeless look.

A kitchen with standard grade Walnut doors on the island and white painted doors on the perimeter.
Image provided by Chris Murray Custom Cabinets, customer.

The consistent timeline is a huge plus, as is the more reasonable price tag. Standard grade woods are the better choice if you have a tight deadline or budget.

Who is select grade wood right for?

Select grade woods are the better choice if you are looking for a kitchen that stands out in a crowd. The intense selection process allows for a consistent and elegant finished appearance. This is especially obvious when the wood is paired with a light or clear finish. 

With the higher price comes better quality and (often) a more detail-oriented warranty policy. Keep in mind that you will need a budget that can support the additional costs and a timeline that can sustain potential delays.

A kitchen with select grade Rift Cut White Oak cabinet doors.
Image provided by Chris Murray Custom Cabinets, customer.

Final thoughts

You may be thinking, how does this information help me?

Before reading this article, you knew very little about cabinet door wood grades, let alone the differences between standard and select grade woods. Now, you know the differences and why they are important.

Having this information will help you narrow down your choices and ease some of the stress you are experiencing. Knowing the key differences between standard grade and select grade woods will help you decide which wood grade is best for you. For example, you now know that select grade woods are the best choice for consistent color. But, if the budget is a concern, that option might be out of your price range. 

Now, you can take a deep dive into our standard grade material, or learn more about our select grade material.

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