January 15, 2022

The Best Wood to Use for Pantry Shelves

Whether you are replacing old pantry cabinet drawers or are starting a project from scratch. The best wood for pantry shelves is the one you have on hand. Here's how to choose the best wood for pantry shelves.

The best wood for pantry shelves doesn’t have to be the most expensive. However, before you grab a hammer and a saw, you need to beware of the choice you make when building a pantry shelf. Choosing the wrong design or wood type can cause the entire wood project to come crashing down.

Homeowners may face limited space to store things in the kitchen. This may be due to limited counters, small kitchen cabinets, or tiny pantry space. If so, then you should consider building pantry shelves to help store more items in the kitchen.

Most new homeowners consider pantry shelves to be a desirable part of their kitchens. But even in the homes that already have some pantry shelves, there’s often the desire to upgrade them.

How to choose the best wood for pantry shelves

White Pantry Shelves.png

There are several wood options that you can use to build pantry shelves that would give you the best functionality. Generally speaking, the type of wood you’ll select falls into at least one of these categories:

  • Hardwood (or high-quality softwood)
  • High-grade wood
  • Non-defective wood (without loose knots)
  • Solid wood (those having no particle boards)

Your final wood option may depend largely on the type of pantry cabinets you want to have. The size of the pantry may also dictate its wood. Some pantry cabinets are built to be stationary, while some are designed to be moveable, so they could rotate and stack.

Other pantry shelf options also range from shallow shelves to deep-set shelves placed on sliders, and pullout columns and racks. Ultimately, the wood that's chosen for the pantry shelf will impact the cost as well as the design of the project.

Some wood options for pantry shelves

First, you should know that preferring a type of wood and gaining access to it are two different things.This is because your access to some types of wood could depend on where you live. So, you need to realize the type of tradeoffs you may need to make when building your dream pantry shelf.

1) Pinewood

The pine tree is a staple of North America. So, if you decide to use pine wood, you’ll likely have no hassles finding it, anywhere you reside from the east coast to the west.

Pine is one of the most popular softwoods. It's ideal for beginner DIY enthusiasts learning to build their wooden projects. Pinewood is great for kitchen pantries which don’t normally store heavy items. Pinewood also provides great versatility and flexibility, which allows users to pick up any size or grade to work with.

Although pine is an affordable solid wood, it tends to be easily damaged. It’s also susceptible to scratches and dents. Sothis may not be the most ideal wood if your goal is to build a high-end pantry.

2) Plywood

Food products in the kitchen.

Plywood is the go-to material used for pantry shelves. It’s versatile, available in virtually any species of hardwood, and can easily be cut using any table saw. Plywood is ideal for pantry shelves because its edges can be finished with wood trim or iron-on veneer banding.

Because plywood is strong (yet inexpensive compared to other solid woods), ¾-inch is usually considered the industry standard. But you can increase the thickness to 1 ¼-inch to provide more solid support.

Plywood is one of the best woods in terms of utility and it also happens to be less expensive than pine. However, plywood isn’t very pretty to look at, so it might not be your best choice if you’re concerned with aesthetics.

The alternative under this circumstance is to look for primed, cabinet-grade plywood. You could then use a veneer trim to finish off its forward-facing edges. And then hide any unfinished edges with nails and glue.

Blue pantry shelf with assorted jars

3) Western Red Cedar

Popular in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, the western red cedar is from an impressive tree. It also produces some of the best softwood.

Although it’s generally advised to use hardwood over softwood in building shelves, in this case, one may gladly make an exception. This is because the growth pattern of the western red cedar makes it an invaluable asset for shelving both inside and outside the home.

The western red cedar has a soft red tint that distinguishes it from redwood, giving it a distinct shade of its own. This wood type provides you with a sturdy softwood option. Also, it provides elegance and adequate stress tolerance in one package.

4) Cherry wood

Man with children taking jars with pickled vegetable from pantry

Homeowners choose cherry above other types of hardwood for pantry shelves because of its warm, rich, reddish color.

Its unique color gets even better with time. After a while, its color becomes darker and richer as it ages. This gives it a distinctive sheen and makes old shelves built from cherry wood very sought-after antiques collector’s items.

5) Red Oak

Red Oak’s sturdiness makes it another popular wood for building shelves. You’ll encounter no difficulty cutting, handling, and finishing this type of wood.

Because Red Oak is easy to work with, it’s often preferred by those who want to build their pantry shelves themselves.

6) Walnut wood

Walnut is a classic hardwood that never runs out of style. The best part is that it requires no further paintwork or treatment to look impressive.

But walnut wood isn’t easy to find and neither does it come cheap. But if you’re able to stomach the cost, you’ll be rewarded with its unique depth and grain all its own.

Walnut isn’t cost-effective but a high-grade walnut will provide you with a sturdy pantry shelf that’ll serve you for many years to come.

7) Mahogany

Mahogany is the type of wood that exudes excellence and charm. Its classic charm makes it a frequent part of the decor used for shelves found in offices, libraries, and other formal places.

But if you’re smitten by its beauty, nothing prevents you from using it to build your pantry shelf. Unfortunately, mahogany is hardwood. So, this might not make it the best option for inexperienced builders.

Woods to avoid when building pantry shelves

It’s generally best to avoid woods that don’t provide long-term rigidity. Also, steer clear of those that need a lot of extra support over the long haul, and easily sag under a lot of weight.

If the wood has poorly graded sides, knots, or is rough-hewn, you should consider alternatives. These symptoms usually make them difficult to finish and paint.

Finally, consider installing custom glide-out pantry shelves

Selecting the best wood to use for your pantry shelves requires more than a quick trip to Home Depot or reading a few articles online. It requires knowing the right wood for the design, size, and accessibility, as well as having realistic cost estimates for the project.

Here at ShelfGenie, our expert custom shelving solutions designers are happy to help. We will design, build, and install custom glide-out shelves in your pantry with up to a lifetime warranty on parts and installation. Book a free design consultation now so one of our nearby designers can show you the entire process.

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