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kitchen cabinets

A Comparison of Particleboard and Plywood Kitchen Cabinets

The importance of kitchen cabinets cannot be overstated, and neither is the amount of thought you need to put into choosing the right one for your kitchen cabinets. Kitchen cabinets take up a lot of visual and physical space, so you can be sure they will have a big impact on the look and function of your kitchen. Aside from style and design, which takes up a lot of decision juice right there, you also must think about the base material.

Traditionally, kitchen cabinets are solid wood, and they are very durable. However, those are expensive, and all solid wood cabinets are typically for bespoke or custom cabinets. You will rarely find them in mass-produced products such as ready-to-assemble, stock, and semi-custom models. These may come with solid wood, but only for the cabinet doors and drawer fronts.

Generally, cabinet manufacturers turn out products where the cabinet boxes are plywood, particleboard, or a combination of the two. When deciding on the cabinets for your kitchen, you need to know which one works best for your needs. Here is a comparison of particleboard and plywood kitchen cabinets.

Particleboard

particle board cabinet
Particleboard, frequently called furniture board or pressboard, is a type of engineered wood meant to provide an alternative for solid wood. The composition of particleboard includes wood dust, shavings, chips mixed with polymer resin to bind them.

Manufacturers apply high pressure to the “press” them into a solid piece before putting it between two sheets of melamine and cutting them into standard 4-foot by 8-foot sheets. Melamine is a type of hard, durable plastic made from organic compounds that gives particleboard a smooth, paint-ready surface. Most melamine sheets are white, but they may also come in solid colors or mimic wood grain.

Once assembled, you can particleboard with a table, rotary, or hand saw into any shape and size you need to make furniture, hence the term furniture board. Cabinetmakers use it to make the shelves, frame, and box for cabinets as well as drawer boxes.

Modern particleboard is very durable and easy to use, but that was not always the case. When the product first came out in the 1960s, it was so flimsy that it fell apart very easily, especially when it got wet. This understandably led people to form a bad impression about particleboard and avoid it for their homes.

If you do decide to consider particleboard, you should know that manufacturers produce particleboard in several grades. Top brand cabinet brands use only furniture-grade board, which is dense and strong enough for use as furniture, including kitchen cabinets. The material allows a good grip on screws and does not typically contract or expand significantly with fluctuations in humidity and temperature. This is obviously an important characteristic for kitchen cabinets, where heat and humidity are a constant issue.

Plywood

plywood cabinet
Plywood is like particleboard in that it is a manmade wood product meant to replace solid wood in durable construction. However, the composition of plywood is slightly different. In place of loose wood detritus such as shavings and chips, plywood uses several pieces of very thin layers or plies of wood glued together in alternating orientations, and then cut into standard 4 by 8 feet boards.

Alternating the orientation of each ply makes the product stronger, although the number of plies is also a factor. Commercial ½-inch thick plywood, for example, could have between 9 and 13 plies, and a 9-ply piece would be less durable than a 13-ply one, all things being equal.
The best cabinet brands use only high-quality plywood to make the boxes and frames for the cabinets, and in some case use it for the doors as well. Plywood is generally stable, lighter than particleboard, and easier to cut and manipulate, which makes it a favorite with cabinetmakers. The only problem with plywood in relation to particleboard is that it is up to 20% more expensive.

You should understand this, because some cabinet brands stay competitive by using thinner plywood for their products. You need to check this to avoid ending up with an inferior set of cabinets. Cabinets using ½-inch plywood is fine, but if you paid for cabinets that should have 5/8 or ¾-inch thick plywood, you should get it.

Water damage is a real issue with plywood and particleboard, although particleboard absorbs water much more readily. Nevertheless, you want to make sure you protect cabinets made with either of these engineered woods from water exposure.

Conclusion

Overall, plywood tends to be a more durable material than particleboard, although the difference in price may offset that considerably. Plywood also mimics the look of solid wood more closely as it has a grain, so you can stain it. This is not possible with particleboard. On the other hand, you may not need a finish for particleboard because of the melamine cover.

If you have the budget for either material for kitchen cabinets, then your personal preference will decide the matter. What you do need to do in either option is to get kitchen cabinets from recognized brands (which also typically have the best warranties) from a reputable supplier.

Fairfax Kitchen Bath is the one for you in the DC, MD and Northern Virginia metropolitan areas.
We are a Class A, licensed and insured contractor, registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We have a showroom in Fairfax, Virginia, which houses all our products. We can advise you on the type of kitchen cabinets you need for your remodel or upgrade, as well as other remodeling concerns.

We sell only top-quality products for all your kitchen remodeling needs, from top-brand kitchen cabinets of all type materials to natural and engineered stone slabs. We carry products from Schrock Cabinetry, Fabuwood, Silestone, Blanco, Kohler, and Mosaic Décor.

Contact us today to get free in-home design consultation and quote for your RTA kitchen cabinets and other remodeling projects. We guarantee you will love it for life!