January 17, 2023

From Pine to Oak: A Guide to Choosing The Best wood for shelving

Best wood for shelving

There are several factors to consider when choosing the best wood for shelving. The items placed on the shelves will determine the type of wood to use. Different types of wood have characteristics that make them suitable for a particular environment because of their color, durability and resistance to water, warping and denting. Choose wood for shelving that is strong, durable and looks good. For more tips, see this article.

Factors to consider when selecting wood for shelving


The weight capacity of the brackets determines the wall shelves. For heavy shelving, use brackets that will not collapse. The type of wood you should use for your shelves depends on the purpose of the wood shelves and the look you want.


3/4-inch is the standard size, but there is no one size fits all for wood shelving. Wood thickness depends on the overall size, the weight of the wood shelves, and the type of wood used.

If you are unsure about thickness, consult a professional to determine the best thickness for your shelving needs without compromising strength and style.

Types of wood commonly used for shelving


Pinewood is one of the most affordable softwoods in the market (Gharpedia.com). Pine is user-friendly since it is easy to use, stain and paint, making it ideal for beginners learning to make shelves. 

Pine wood suits any style and color. Pine wood is also an excellent choice for colorful children’s shelves. While it is solid wood, it is not suitable for heavy items on your shelves. It bends, scratches and dents easily.

If you use pine wood for shelves in a child’s room or a tool shed, you should give it a few coats of varnish or paint to make it extra sturdy, protect it from dents and scratches, and extend its life.


Cherry is a lightweight hardwood, making it easier to use (Woodworkly.com). Its weight makes it ideal for display purposes. What separates it from the rest of the wood when it comes to shelving is the warm, rich and reddish color.

The characteristic color of cherry wood becomes darker and richer with time, making old shelves attractive to dealers and collectors. Cherry wood is easy to polish and shape and is well suited for storing books and other items. The only drawback to cherry wood is its cost. It is not affordable.


Tigerwood, also known as koa, is strong and long. It is the hardest of all woods and not for beginners as it is difficult to work with. Its shelves are better suited for a dining room, bedroom or other interior space. Koa is water resistant, which means it can withstand extreme climatic conditions.

Brazilian Koa has a dark grain and rich brown color, giving it a unique and distinctive look. It is not ideal for wooden shelves and cabinets. Use the softer variety, which is more manageable and easier to work with.

Red Oak

Red Oak is one of the easiest hardwoods to work with. Its intricate grain gives it an expensive and extravagant appearance. It is a sturdy and reliable material for shelves or bookcases. Red Oak can be stained and varnished without staining. It can be sanded effortlessly.

It is user-friendly for hobbyists and beginners in carpentry. It is not water resistant. It turns black when it comes in contact with water. It is easily dented but does not scratch.

It is easier for shelves because it is easy to handle and cut.


Mahogany has style and elegant beauty. It is easy to paint and stain, but you may not paint due to its appealing makeup. 

Mahogany is for shelving in libraries, offices, and other interior spaces. A mahogany shelf is 70% more durable and rigid than commercial woods like Oak. The hardness of Mahogany makes its wood durable, and resistant to scratches and dents.


Douglas Fir is a softwood. It makes light to medium-weight shelving, such as bookshelves. It shares some characteristics with other pinewood types. Douglas Fir is durable and has a dark appearance.


Poplar wood is beautiful, light-colored, and hardwood. It gives any wood shelf elegance due to its smooth grain and consistent color. Poplar is less likely to scratch or dent than softer woods, but lighter than other hardwoods like oak or walnut. Poplar shelves are durable.


Cedar is a strong wood for heavy shelving for both homes and businesses. The attractive wood has a rich grain for beautiful shelving. One of its drawbacks is that it is not as strong as some other woods. 

Make sure that the shelves are well-supported. Cedar is also susceptible to warping and cracking. Choose a wood shelf that is the right size for the space. Cedar wooden shelves will need treatment regularly with a sealer or oil to protect the wood from damage. 

Advantages and disadvantages of different types of wood for shelving



Pinewood is affordable, easy to use, stain and paint, making it ideal for beginners. Pinewood is solid wood.


It is not for heavy objects on your shelves. It easily bends, scratches, and dents. If that is the available wood, apply a few coats of varnish or paint for extra strength and protection from dents and scratches, extending its life.



Cherry is a lightweight hardwood, making it easier to use. What makes it attractive is the distinctive color of cherry wood which becomes darker and richer over time. Cherry wood is easy to polish and shape and can easily store books and other objects. 


It is not affordable.



Tigerwood is strong and long. 


It is difficult for first-time woodworkers. Koa is water-resistant, increasing its durability. It is not easier to work with.

Red Oak


Red Oak is easier to handle but looks fancy. It is stable for book shelving. Red Oak stains and finishes easily. It is easy to sand.


It is not water-resistant. It starts to blacken when in contact with water. It dents easily.



It is beautiful and easy to paint and stain. It is more durable and rigid, making it durable.  It is resistant to scratches and dents.


It gets dark over time.

How to choose the best wood for a particular shelving project?

  • Consider the type of wood you want to use. 
  • Consider the purpose of the shelves.
  • Work on the thickness as soon as you find out the weight of the items to be shelved.
  • Consider its durability.

Tips for preparing and installing shelving

  • Choose the correct hardware and brackets.
  • Ensure that the shelving is level and secure.
  • If any brackets are misaligned, fix them if you have not already installed the shelves.
  • It does not overtighten screws. 
  • Sand any rough edges on each shelf.


In conclusion, you should make an informed decision about the type of wood to use depending on the style of shelving you want, the weight of your items, and the final look. If you are building shelves that involve the color and grain of the wood, go with oak, maple or cherry plywood. Follow the assembly techniques to ensure the safety and functionality of the shelf.

David D. Hughes

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