The best wood for shelves can be a divisive topic. There are different varieties of wood that make the best shelves, from cedar to oak to walnut.

However, depending on the purpose of your shelves and where you plan to use them, one wood type may be preferable over another. 

Not all wood varieties will work well for all shelves. Some may weigh too much and others may be too lightweight which will result in the shelf becoming less sturdy over time.

Today, we are going to cover 10 wood varieties that are great options for shelves. But before we get into the details, let’s look at some important qualities that you should consider in your wood.

4 Qualities To Consider When Choosing Wood For Shelves

Wood is an important part of any furniture. It gives the piece a unique look and feel. So, it is important to choose the right wood for your shelf.

Many types of wood are available on the market, each with its own unique properties. When choosing wood, take note of these characteristics:

  • The texture of the wood:

This will determine how smooth or rough your shelves will be. Different types of wood will have a different degree of smoothness, even if they receive the same amount of sanding. 

  • Appearance:

Wood has a natural look that gives it an aesthetic appeal. Some woods might give off a yellow tinge while others will be more red or brown in color.  Different types of grain patterns can give your shelves a different look. Some have a beautiful grain pattern that can be used as a design element in furniture pieces. Many people prefer wood with grain patterns while others prefer boards with no knots or other imperfections.

  • Durability:

Your shelf may be exposed to moisture or other elements so it’s best to choose a type of wood that can withstand these conditions. You’ll want to find wood that has high durability so it won’t split or warp easily and you won’t have to worry about replacing it for years. 

The hardness of the wood will determine how long it will last before it starts to show signs of wear and tear.

  • Strength:

Acacia is one of the strongest wood on earth, but other options are also good – such as maple, which is a little bit cheaper and more suitable for indoor furniture. The strength of the shelf should be able to withstand the weight of whatever will be placed on it.

10 Best Wood For Shelves In 2022 (Solid Wood)

Solid wood shelves come with a natural finish that gives them a warm and inviting feel. If you would like to add some warmth to your room and highlight cherished items, these shelves are a great addition.

They come in several wood options, including:

1. Mahogany (Best Wood For Shelves)

Mahogany: best wood for shelves

This is the material of choice for many woodworkers around the world. Mahogany is among the most sturdy woods you can use for a shelf.

When you choose these shelves for your home, you can count on using them for several years because it is one of the most durable types of wood. It combines both strength and beauty along with being resistant to decay.

Mahogany is rightly considered one of the more expensive woods used in shelving. However, this is just because it’s an incredibly high-quality material. It offers a rich warm tone that blends nicely with almost any décor.

Solid hardwood boards that are made from mahogany bring a unique look to your room. Its ability to add an intricate character to your living room, bedroom, or office makes it one of the best types of solid wood for shelves.

The maximum weight capacity of a mahogany shelf is up to 65 lbs.

2. Acacia Wood (Strong & Durable)

Acacia Wood shelves

Acacia is a wonderful wood choice for organizing your home because of its natural aesthetics. The beauty of this natural hardwood is its uniform grain pattern and rich, warm tone.

Perhaps you’re looking for a new way to spice up your home decor. The yellow or golden brown color makes it a great choice for anyone who is going for a rustic look. A collection of books would look beautiful shelved by a piece of furniture made from Acacia.

It’s also extremely durable, so you can be sure that it will last for decades. Acacia shelving remains sturdy and strong even when exposed to harsh conditions. It is very strong and holds up against both external and internal pressures.

Acacia wood lasts longer than other woods such as hickory, oak, and maple. Unlike some of the other woods, acacia does not require a finish to protect its natural properties.

3. Walnut (Best For Floating Shelves With Heavy Items)

Walnut wood shelves

Walnut is an interesting wood, both in appearance and in usage. It is a great option for your wooden shelves as it provides a strong and stable structure that can withstand the weight of your books or other items you want to display on them.

With a Janka hardness rating of 1010, it is one of North America’s most reliable hardwoods for furniture. It has a quality that makes it practical for both form and function, which is why it would be perfect to use for your shelves when you know heavy items would be placed on them. These storage solutions can hold heavy loads without collapsing.

In addition to that, walnut shelves are aesthetically pleasing. You can apply a varnish to improve the overall aesthetics of your shelf.

But they don’t require any particular treatment, because they are so strong and well-textured. 

Aside from being very expensive and rare, it could be worth the investment for its durability and attractive appearance.

4. Maple Wood ( Affordable & Low Maintenance)

Maple wood shelves

Maple wood is popularly used for the making of shelves because of its even grain pattern. Its beauty goes beyond its grains, it also offers a line of tones that are fantastic to see.

A stain can be added to give it a more polished look, but this can diminish its natural beauty.

Although it is durable, it can’t withstand humidity and weather. It’ll warp pretty quickly if exposed to these elements, so it’s best to use it indoors.

The shelves can withstand up to 50 lbs of weight thanks to its Janka hardness rating of 1450. It requires very minimal maintenance as compared to other types of wood. 

The affordability of maple when compared to other solid wood options is what makes it a popular choice for many people.

5. Cherry Wood

Cherry wood shelves

Cherry wood is a popular choice for shelves for two reasons: it is beautifully colored and it is strong. 

The wood has a reddish brown tone with dark grains that makes it appealing from just about any angle. This is an excellent choice not only because it makes an attractive addition to any space, but because it comes with other qualities like its strength.

The hardness of this wood type makes it ideal for use in creating top-quality pieces of furniture. It’s renowned for being strong enough to withstand years of use if properly maintained and resistant to the normal wear and tear of wood shelves.

Cherry typically costs a lot. Despite the price, quite a few buyers find these pricey woods worth the investment.

6. Red Oak (Best For Kitchen & Bathroom Shelves)

Red oak shelves

If you’re looking for additional durability and versatility in your furniture pieces, then you may want to consider red oak as your next piece of woodworking material.

Red oak is one of the most popular wooden options because of its stunning red grain which gives it a more expensive look than other types of hardwood. It is however relatively inexpensive compared to other types of hardwood available on the market.

It is a popular wood for constructing shelves as it’s easy to work with and has a high resistance to water. This makes it ideal for making cabinets that you would use in your bathroom or kitchen.

The wood is rated 1290 on the Janka hardness rating scale, so it’s strong and can support up to 35 lbs of weight.

The downside is the hardwood can be prone to denting and damage from pressure.

7. Alder Wood (Most Affordable Wood For Shelves)

Alder Shelves

Alder is a member of the birch family. 

There is a lot to like about alder wood. For a start, it has a really nice texture and it’s one of the most affordable wood types alternative to other materials used for making shelves. It was once called “poor man’s cherry” because of its price.

It also takes stains really well and is resistant to warping. 

Alder is light brown in color with a reddish or yellow tint. Its distinctive-looking grain patterns are fairly straight like cherry wood. It works well with both rustic and modern styles.

If the shelf is placed in a humid environment, prolonged exposure to humidity will result in damage.

8. Pinewood (Cost Effective & Light Weight)

Pinewood shelves

Pinewood is the standard wood type in the construction of many cabinetry and household furniture. It’s cheap, lightweight, and easy to cut. The fact that pinewood is so light and easy to work with makes it a great choice for beginners. 

It is a very cost-effective option when it comes to making your own shelves. It is reasonably priced and offers an elegant appearance of its attractive grain pattern.

Because of how soft the wood is, you need to be careful with what objects you throw on it.

9. Koa/Tigerwood (Lightweight, Durable & Water Resistant)

Koa Tigerwood shelves

Koa is a tree native to Hawaii and it’s been harvested for its wood for centuries. Its durability and strength make it one of the best options for making long-lasting shelves.

Koa is a wonderfully strong and very durable wood that can be used to create a variety of beautiful shelves.

The acute interlocking grain pattern of this wood makes the shelf look very natural, which can be accentuated with the addition of a varnish. Its patterns produce a dark brown or reddish-gold color. 

A koa shelf is also lightweight and durable. It has a high level of water resistance and can withstand harsh environments.

10. Birch Wood (Best For Home & Offices)

Birch Wood Shelves

If you wish to build a sturdy shelving unit, then you should consider using birch. But, there are still a few things to know before you invest your money in it.

Due to the scarcity of birch wood, it is usually more expensive than other varieties of wood. It’s usually used in high-end home decor.

While cost may be a major drawback, there are tons of positive features of birch that make it an excellent choice.

Birch has a great look when used in shelving. It stands out while retaining the integrity of its design. Its color makes it perfect for decorating places like homes or offices. You can find birch in creamy white or even pure white colors.

Furthermore, birch is lightweight, but also very strong and durable. 

Types of Wood For Different Applications

Best Wood for Floating Shelves?

A floating shelf must be made from solid and sturdy wood. Hardwoods such as mahogany, alder, walnut, and cherry are all good choices. For a more modern or sleek décor, try Alder or Cherry while Maple is better suited for a more classic style.

How Thick Should Wood be for Floating Shelves?

The thickness of the wood is important because it will affect how much weight the shelf can hold. A good rule of thumb is to make sure that the wall-mounted floating shelf is at least 2 inches thick to ensure it won’t break under pressure.

Best Wood For Kitchen Shelves?

A lot of kitchens make use of wooden shelves. Red Oak is one type that stands out for its water resistance and longevity. 

Engineered wood like Plywood is another material you can choose in high-moisture surroundings, so it is a perfect material for kitchens.

Best Wood for Shelves in Closets?

Plywood is one of the most versatile and dependable closet shelving materials you can use, but you have to make sure that the wood is dry before assembly. Moisture can compromise the structural integrity of your shelves.

It’s a great choice for this application because of its strength and its resistance to warping and sagging over time. Plus, since it’s affordable and easy to cut, it’s easy to modify the shelving system as needed.

However, go for thicker and more dense wood materials to hold out against the weight of various heavy objects.

Best Wood For Open Shelving?

Open shelving can be made from a variety of wood, but some are better for this type of project than others. Cedar, Acacia, and White Oak are all excellent choices.

Best Wood For Long Shelf?

The best wood for a long wall shelf depends on your needs. If you want a long shelf that will not need to be replaced anytime soon then it is important to find wood that will stand the test of time.

Some woods like Walnut and genuine Mahogany are ultra-durable and are known to last longer than others like Balsa.

Frequently Asked Questions

Acacia is one of the strongest woods out there as it makes a good sturdy shelf that can be used for decades without any problems. But it is also one of the most expensive.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question because it depends on many factors such as the weight of what will be stored on the shelf and what type of wood it is made from.

The most common thicknesses for wood shelves are from ¾ inch to 1 ¼ inch thick.

One of the main parameters that you need to consider when deciding on the material that you are going to use for your shelving is its weight.

Lighter woods, such as plywood, cedar, and birch are often chosen for their easy transportability, but many consider lighter woods to be weaker than heavier woods.

Key Takeaways

Whether you’re a homeowner fixing up an old house, a college student looking to spruce up your room, or a woodworker, you might be trying to decide what type of shelving will work best for your situation.

There are many different types of wood out there, and they all have different properties.

Ultimately, the ideal material is up to you.

What kind of look do you want? Are you looking for a specific type of shelf to complement your decor? What types of items will be stored on it, and how valuable are they?

All these questions have to be answered before moving forward with a project like this.

If a certain solid wood fascinates you, then explore the benefits that it can offer and pick whatever matches your style best.

There’s a shelf for every budget, and each option has its unique look. The hard part is choosing which one. If you’re torn between two or more choices, let these tips guide your decision-making process.

And if you have any questions or something to add to the list, don’t hesitate to comment.

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