Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Wood for thought: refacing sustainably

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

It's no secret that refacing your cabinet saves resources compared to all-out replacement, but how can you make cabinet refacing even friendlier on the planet? The key lies in using sustainable wood, which, like most things, is trickier than it sounds.

FSC-certified sustainable wood

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies sustainably harvested wood. Why should you look for their stamp of approval? The U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that as much as 30 percent of the hardwood imported into the United States is from illegal or suspicious sources.

Logging that's not authorized or illegal can't be held to any standard. All too often it's the beginning of a chain of events that leads to complete deforestation of an area because of the lack of regulation. It's the opposite of sustainable -- both legally and environmentally. Look for the FSC certification if you don't want cabinets that are accessories to crimes against nature.

Practical sustainability

Sustainability is based on the idea that the natural resources used to make a given product can regrow, refill or repopulate quickly enough to keep up with demand. This means that the idea of sustainability is a function of regrowth and how quickly people need more. Certain woods are considered sustainable because a forest can be regrown quickly enough to meet demand for reasonable use.

This is where durability comes in. If people started building kitchens out of balsa wood, they would need to be replaced weekly, which would challenge harvesters of even this fast-growing tree to stay sustainable. Using the right wood in the right way makes it more sustainable because it lasts longer, delaying the time until more is needed and giving extra time to grow a replacement forest. Finishes can add decades to the lifespan of woods used around the house -- just watch out for toxic chemicals.

Popular hardwood options

Here are a handful of popular options you can find with the FSC certification on them:

  • Birch: A fast-growing tree that produces versatile and great-looking hardwood.
  • Black Cherry: This fast-growing wood is well known for its glossy finish and beautiful color.
  • Mahogany: It stands up to water, can take a beating and looks even better with age.
  • Maple: An abundantly grown hardwood in North America, maple is a popular choice -- but watch out: some varieties aren't as durable, hard or dense as others
  • Oak: A classic choice that's also naturally water-resistant, oak is a great wood for the kitchen.
  • White Ash: Used for baseball bats and woodworking alike, you can find this hardwood locally if you're in the Northeast.
Talk to your contractor about using sustainable wood, and keep an eye out for that FSC seal.

About the Author
Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.

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