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Guide to Wood Used for Interior Architectural Woodwork


An inexpensive utility hardwood, this hardwood species exhibits straight, evenly textured grain that is white to yellowish in color; greenish, brown, black and/or dark purplish streaks are common. Poplar hardwood is listed as a paint-grade material because we do not sort for color in this species.

Not so fast you say? Experienced carpenters know that poplar can be stained to mimic cherry, walnut or birch at a fraction of the cost. However, dark opaque stains are necessary to ensure a homogeneous appearance to the finished woodwork. If using a light to medium stain, opt for maple wainscoting instead.

  • least expensive
  • ideal for painting
  • straight grain with medium texture
  • may be stained a dark, opaque color to mimic cherry, walnut or birch.

If you have existing woodwork that is difficult to match, consider painting your wainscoting. Painted wainscoting juxtaposed with elegant hardwood flooring and furniture looks great.

Soft Maple

Our standard Maple wainscoting is milled from Soft Maple lumber. This species generally exhibits both straight and figured grain. The color is often cream to light pinkish-brown.

  • fine texture
  • close grain
  • neutral color
  • ideal for clear coat or stain
  • great for mimicking birch, cherry or walnut, without the premium cost

Maple wainscoting is also great for painting due to the fine texture, though at a premium price over Poplar. 

Red Oak

Oak is the most prominent hardwoods used in architectural millwork such as wainscoting and moulding. Red oak wainscoting varies from white cream blonde color to pale brown wheat color, though it is more commonly light pink.

  • most popular choice for woodwork
  • heavy, open grain
  • finishes well

Cherry is a premier hardwood used in woodwork. Satiny and straight-grained with distinctive markings, Cherry has a pinkish-brown color when freshly milled. Over time, and with exposure to light, it develops a more golden to rich, reddish-brown color.

  • most prized, beautiful grain 
  • elegant color
  • ideal for clear finishes or light toners
  • finishes easily

Cherry wainscoting is commonly finished clear or with a subtle toner to give it an aged appearance. If using a medium colored finish, you can save some by using maple as a substitute. If using a dark colored finish, poplar may be acceptable. 

African Mahogany
Mahogany wainscoting is prized for its beautiful grain and color. Generally straight grained with stripes, African Mahogany (our primary species used in woodwork) is generally a deep golden brown though the color rages from pale tan to deep red. As with Cherry Wainscoting, the color tends to darken with age and exposure to light. Moreover, quarter-sawn boards exhibit "ribbon" stripes.

  • natural luster
  • elegant color
  • medium texture
  • ideal for clear finishes or light colors
  • stains easily


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