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Kitchen Cabinets- Plywood or Particleboard Construction?

Jul 24, 2008
When shopping for kitchen cabinets, most homeowners focus on the look of the cabinets and the design of the doors, but they don't ask about the most important feature of the cabinets- the material used to make the cabinet box. While the face frame and doors are important for the overall look, the structure of the cabinet itself is what will determine the lifespan of your kitchen.

While the majority of kitchen cabinet manufacturers will use solid wood for the face frame and doors, there are several different materials that are used for the cabinet construction. Due to the limited amount of aged timber that is available, it has become too expensive for even custom cabinet manufacturers to use real wood for the sides and back. Some higher end cabinet manfacturers build beautiful solid wood cabinets, but for the majority of homeowners, these are simply not economically feasible.

Particleboard is acommon material that some lower end cabinets will feature (and which you may recognize if you have ever shopped at Ikea). Particleboard, also called pressboard, is really just small chips of wood compressed together and held together with glue. Unlike plywood which consists of multiple layers of wood with the grain running in alternating patterns, particleboard doesn't have any of that interweaving to help strengthen the board. Because of this, the material will tend to chip or break easier, and will not be able to support as much weight. Quite often, you will have to use supports to strengthen the cabinets if you are installing a heavier countertop.

Plywood is the most universally used material for kitchen cabinets. More expensive cabinets will use 3/4" plywood with a wood veneer for the sides and sometimes for the back (most will not use solid plywood for the back either, but they will include mounting strips across the back). Most cabinets that you will find on the market will feature 1/2" plywood, which is more than substantial enough to support any countertop material.

Another regularly used material is fiberboard. Fiberboard is basically a thick, dense cardboard. While it isn't as fragile as particleboard, it doesn't offer the rigidity of plywood or real wood. The other problems results from the fasteners. Without the grain of wood, fasteners will tend to lose their grip over time.

So when starting the shopping process for new cabinets, it is important to consider the pros and cons all the features of the cabinets. Just because a cabinet looks good, doesn't mean that it will be able to hold up to the wear and tear that you are going to cause.
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Find out where the experts go to get all of their wood cabinets and accessories. Learn how to save thousand on kitchen cabinets by buying them where contractors and builders shop.
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