Guide: Types of Wood for Shelves

thumbnail guide types of woods for shelves


Wood is a flexible material that may convey a variety of aesthetic moods and styles. For example, you can either get a clean, modern shelf or one with a rustic appearance depending on the type of wood and colors you pick. However, other variables should be taken into account in addition to aesthetics that could raise or lower the value of the wooden shelves. 

Comparing the benefits and drawbacks of the various wood kinds useful for making shelves is crucial if you want to pick the best option. So, we prepared this guide on different types of wood for shelves to help you make the best choice for yourself. And while doing that, we will also give you tips about what factors to consider when making this choice.


The first type of wood we will discuss is walnut, one of the most preferred wood options for furniture because of its durability. It is one of the most solid hardwoods in North America, making it the best option for shelves that need to support large objects without sacrificing elegance. And apart from that, walnut is also the best material for cabinets, veneers, and carvings.

Walnut shelves can support goods weighing more than 50 lbs when installed correctly using wall studs and brackets. Because of their longevity, walnut kitchen cabinets, flooring, and shelves are all well-liked by many around the world.

This is not their only pro; despite being a hardwood, walnut is lighter than many other options, making it easy to handle and work with for DIY projects and other modifications. 

The straight wood grain patterns, which range from brown inner rings to yellow outside ones, give the wood a stunning visual appeal. Along with a range of treatments that give the wood an ancient appearance, the mix of various colors adds beauty to it. Another aspect that increases its toughness is that you won’t have to worry about the wood swelling or shrinking. 

But of course, just like any other material, it has downsides too. For example, walnut is among the most expensive hardwood options. And although walnut is sturdy, it is also fairly prone to scratches, so you should use additional caution when using it for shelves.

Apart from that, choosing walnut might be challenging because it is less common and more difficult to locate than other varieties of wood.


Many furniture builders prize cherry wood due to its distinctive quality in that it gets prettier and prettier with time. It acquires a rich and exquisite color that deepens with time as a result of exposure to air and sunlight.

Its color ranges from pale pink to reddish-brown, and its texture is smooth. Besides, since many cherry pieces of furniture are hand-carved and one-of-a-kind, several types of cherry wood are popular among antique collectors and hobbyists.

Because cherry is among the most lightweight hardwood options, furniture made out of it can easily be carried around the house or when moving. Plus, cherry is a favorite among beginning woodworkers and collectors because it is simple to work with and lends itself to flexible carving, shaping, and polishing. The wood is easy to dye because of its tiny, straight-grain pattern.

And despite being very lightweight, it is still a very robust material. But its most typical characteristic is its rich, warm crimson tone, which gets darker with age and exudes a magnificent rustic vibe. In fact, this is what caused cherry to be a favorite material among antique collectors. In addition to their well-known red color, cherries can come in white, yellow, and dark brown shades.

With that being said, unfortunately, cherry is also among the most expensive hardwood options. And since it is highly prone to moisture damage, furniture made of cherry should be treated carefully.

Plus, to prevent the accumulation of dust and dirt, this material must be frequently wiped down because it shows dust clearly. But apart from these, cherry is definitely among the best types of wood for shelves.


guide types of woods for shelves, mahogany

Mahogany is among the best choices for shelves and various furniture styles, such as instruments, boats, and paneling, especially in interior areas, offices, and libraries, because mahogany is thought to be 70% harder than other types of wood.

When durability is a major priority, mahogany kitchen cabinets are frequently used. And along with being sturdy, this sort of wood is also resistant to dents and scratches, making it the perfect material for heavy items like books.

But what makes it stand out among types of wood for shelves is that it is lightweight and simple to work with tools. It’s also simple to stain or paint, based on your preference.

Plus, mahogany has small, linear grain patterns and a reddish-pink color that gradually turns reddish-brown. This wood is in high demand due to its traditional and rustic look. The only downside, though, and being expensive, is that it is a hard-to-find material with little supply.


One of the most common hardwoods used to construct shelves and home furniture is maple or sugar maple wood. The wood may appear stained if it is stained. It is preferable to keep it clean. The uniform grains and bright white tone make your shelves stand out in your house. Maple is an excellent option if you want something that works with many different types of wood. 

It is the perfect kind of wood for furniture, floating shelves, and cabinets. Because they are pretty robust and long-lasting, shelves made of maple can support up to 50 lbs of weight. Plus, Its white and reddish-brown tones are wonderful to look at and offer more than simply a straight grain. Besides, maple is a more cost-effective option when compared to other hardwoods. 

But that’s not all, it is also resistant to scratches and dents and easy to work with. It sounds like material without any downsides, right? Unfortunately, that’s not true because before you can even dye maple, you must seal the wood to protect it.

For some, the style of the material might seem monotonous, simple, and unpleasant. And lastly, because maple is susceptible to moisture and humidity, it should only be used indoors.


Pine is also among the most preferred types of wood for shelves. It’s commonly used in making children’s furniture because it is lightweight and relatively easily accessible. And it is also less expensive than other materials you could use for shelves, making it a more budget-friendly option.

Pine is more convenient to work with because it is simpler to sand, cut, paint, and even stain, making it a fantastic choice for beginners.

Shelves made of pine with yellowish-white color and brown knots strewed throughout the wood’s body exhibit a pretty aesthetic. As a result, the wood has a cozier, more rustic feel to it that is ideal for your house.

Not only it looks pretty, but it is also resilient enough that it can support up to 40 to 50 lbs. Plus, pine isn’t going to swell or shrink, so that gives you one less thing to worry about and can extend the life of your shelves.

With that being said, it should be noted that just like maple, pine is also a material that needs sealing to increase its lifespan. And because this wood is relatively weak, it is vulnerable to breakage and other types of damage. For this reason, sealing the product is essential.

Plus, pine shelves can only support a certain amount of weight before beginning to sag when heavier items are stored on them. Using thicker wood planks for added stability is one option you have.

Red Oak

Red oak is among the best types of wood for cabinets, doors, shelves, and other furniture. Along with cherry wood, this kind of wood is favored among novice builders and enthusiasts. Based on the hue, there are two different kinds of oak wood. One is white oak, which ranges in hue from white to creamy tan. Red oak has a somewhat pink hue. 

Oak wood is enduring and long-lasting. It has a natural charm and is simple to work with. Besides, red oak is a sturdy hardwood that can support up to 35 lbs. And more importantly, red oak is less expensive than other hardwoods, yet because of its gorgeous red grain, it appears nicer and more expensive than other wooden choices. And it is also resistant to scratches.

With that said, even though this type of material is among the best types of wood for shelves, it has its downsides too. For example, it can be easily dented with enough force or pressure, despite its resistance to scratches.

Unlike white oak, which is water-resistant, red oak wood can turn black when exposed to a lot of moisture and is quickly harmed by water. Plus, it is still more expensive than other kinds of wood.


guide types of woods for shelves, birch

Birch is also among the best types of wood for shelves due to its durability, and it can be used in your room as well as for cupboards, doors, and other furniture. It is a sturdy wood alternative for shelves that can sustain use and wear and tear without drooping or breaking down. 

And if you want to paint this sort of wood another color, it will appear excellent because it can absorb paint easily. Unfortunately, birch is one of the most expensive wood options on the market. And despite its high price tag, it deteriorates in overly dry environments. So it is not suited to such conditions and may warp and break. 

What to Consider When Choosing Wood for Shelves?

Depending on the items you plan to put on your shelves, you will be looking for particular wood properties. And you need to set priorities, like if you need more storage or want to make your house more attractive. Think about the kinds and weights of the items you plan to place on the shelves, as well as how well the material of the shelves will withstand the weight. 

Before selecting one, you must be aware of the weight of the hardware and items your floating shelves will hold. Avoid stacking your shelf with too many heavy items to prevent it from collapsing.

Additionally, it’s crucial to choose a kind of wood that is a little bit heavier than the load the shelf will support. Always use solid, long-lasting material no matter what you plan to put on your shelf. Choose wood that can both absorb and release water. 

Additionally, choose hardware that won’t warp and is resistant to environments and substances that will shorten its lifespan. You may not consider this as important, however, the length of the shelve also matters.

Since your shelves’ length will vary depending on where you want to place them and what you plan to put on them, such as books, dishes, or plants, you need to measure the length of the wall to determine the precise length to allow for open shelves.

When you put your substantial components on the shelf, the thickness of the wood is crucial in guaranteeing that it will hold and not topple over. Two inches is the recommended thickness; anything less could lead to your shelf snapping when you load your objects.

Furthermore, the brackets holding your shelf must be undetectable to emphasize the floating impression. It’s time to choose the appropriate brackets once you have the dimensions of your shelves prepared. 


Now that you know what to consider and how to choose, it’s time to get into action! Well, of course, all of these factors might have taken away that DIY hype. But, assuming it would be more devastating to find out the type of wood you have chosen is not the right one for you after you have completed the project, I believe it’s for the best. 

Besides, with just a simple checklist, you can decide on the type of wood that will work perfectly for your needs and the space you have for it. Just make sure that your measurements are precise.

And if your shelving material is heavy, consider mounting the shelf directly into the stud. After drilling the bracket holes, install your shelf and secure it with a tight screw to create a stable and strong storage area, and that’s it!

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