What it is: Light- to medium-toned hardwoods, such as maple (shown) and birch. Oak, which has a slightly coarser grain, is also an affordable option.
Pros: Thanks to their strength and uniform grains, these popular varieties take paint well. Maple and oak mellow in color as they age.
Cons: Birch and maple may not absorb stains as evenly as midrange and expensive woods.
Cost: Averages $2,350 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).*
* Semicustom ranges from $2,500 to $9,000; custom from $7,200 to $10,000.
What it is: Hardwoods with a pronounced grain, such as hickory (shown).
Pros: This type of wood is very dense and extremely strong and comes in a range of colors, from cream to reddish brown.
Cons: Some cuts are fairly uniform in tone, while others are not; one piece may contain several variations of the same color. But you can use a midtone stain to smooth out discrepancies.
Cost: Around $2,500 or more for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).
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What it is: Layers of paper topped with plastic, then glued to plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF).
Pros: A ubiquitous cabinet material, laminate is affordable and comes in seemingly endless color and pattern options, from hot pink to polka dots. It's a great choice if you want to redo your kitchen or bathroom in a flash.
Cons: Door fronts come in slab styles only. It is prone to scratching.
Cost: $1,540 to $2,000 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).
What it is: Premium hardwoods, such as cherry (shown) and walnut, known for their smooth grains.
Pros: This type of wood is hard and durable.
Cons: Cherry darkens as it ages, and walnut lightens over time, so consider this when coordinating the cabinetry with other finishes.
Cost: Cherry and walnut are among the priciest species. Cherry costs about 10% to 15% more than midrange woods. Walnut can be twice as expensive as cherry.
What it is: A thin layer of vinyl molded to MDF.
Pros: It doesn't warp, so it's ideally suited to humid environments. Thermofoil cleans in a snap with soap and water and is competitively priced.
Cons: Since it looks more like plastic or enamel, you won't fool anyone into thinking it's wood. Cabinets positioned next to or above an oven can sometimes peel or yellow.
Cost: $2,000 to $2,700 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).
Tip: Look for drawers that have sliding mechanisms underneath. They are roomier than drawers with mounts on the sides.
What it is: Metal cabinets built with a sleek, frameless construction (the doors are attached directly to the cabinet box).
Pros: It is durable and won't warp like wood. Colors include industrial silver and powder-coated red, green and orange.
Cons: Stainless scratches and dents easily and shows fingerprints (unless it's powder-coated).
Cost: $3,330 to $5,900 for a 10-by-10-foot room (stock).
By Carolyn Weber, Real Simple