Choosing the right cabinet materials is a crucial decision when it comes to enhancing the aesthetics and functionality of your home. Cabinets serve as the backbone of your kitchen, bathroom, or any other storage space, and their durability, style, and maintenance requirements depend heavily on the materials used. With a multitude of options available, it’s essential to understand the characteristics and benefits of each material to make an informed choice. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore various cabinet materials, their pros and cons, and factors to consider when selecting the perfect option for your needs.
As you shop for cabinetry, here are the top materials you should know about to make the best purchase for your home:
Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)
Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
1. Solid Wood
Solid wood is one of the most popular materials for kitchen cabinets for its natural beauty, strength, durability, longevity, and versatility for different styles—though that does make it a premium cabinet material. Since no two pieces of wood are alike, neither are wood cabinets. From color, grain, pattern, and texture, wood cabinets have a wide range of looks and styles they can match.
Solid wood is most commonly used in cabinet face frames and cabinet doors.
Of the premium wood for kitchen cabinets, maple wood is popular for it’s uniform appearance and hardiness, and cherry wood is desirable for its stunning warm tones and fine-grained texture. Both are extremely durable and hard, able to withstand denting or scratching better than other hardwoods.
Red oak wood is also widely used in kitchen cabinets due to being moderately priced, sturdy, arched grain patterns, and its versatility with styles.
Solid birch wood is also a popular tree type harvested in cabinet construction for its durability, availability, smooth grain, and ability to be refinished to look like premium woods.
A couple of softwoods are also gaining traction for being more affordable than hardwoods, like poplar wood.
Plywood is a three-layer or multi-layer board-like material that is made of wood segments that are peeled into veneers or sliced into thin wood, and then glued together with adhesives. Usually, odd-numbered veneers are used, and adjacent layers of veneers are The fiber directions are glued perpendicular to each other.
Plywood is one of the commonly used materials for furniture and one of the three major boards of wood-based panels.
A group of veneers are usually assembled and glued together according to the direction of the wood grain of adjacent layers perpendicular to each other. Usually, the surface board and inner layer board are symmetrically arranged on both sides of the center layer or core. The slab made of the veneer after gluing is criss-crossed according to the direction of wood grain, and pressed under heating or non-heating conditions. The number of layers is generally an odd number, and a few have even numbers. The difference in physical and mechanical properties in the vertical and horizontal directions is small. Plywood can improve wood utilization and is a major way to save wood.
The usual length and width specifications of plywood are: 1220×2440mm, and the thickness specifications are generally: 3, 5, 9, 12, 15, 18mm, etc. The thickness used in custom furniture is generally 18mm. The main tree species are: beech, camphor, meranti, poplar, eucalyptus and other fast-growing wood.
The structural process of plywood contributes to its most prominent advantages: good moisture resistance, therefore, it is especially suitable for cabinets and bathroom cabinets; but the glue used to bond multi-layer boards makes it difficult to control its formaldehyde content, and it becomes The biggest variable in its environmental protection.
· Pros: good moisture resistance, good structural stability, small heat transfer coefficient, easy processing, and strong nail holding power.
· Cons: the formaldehyde content is uncontrollable, the lower limit of environmental protection is low; the resistance to deformation is not good.
3. Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)
Density board = fiberboard, the full name is density fiberboard, which is made of wood fiber or other plant fiber, prepared by fiber, applied with synthetic resin, and pressed under heat and pressure.
In fact, it is similar to particle board, the difference is that its raw material has a higher degree of grinding, the plant fiber is in the form of a fine powder, and the amount of glue used will be more than particle board, so the environmental protection is not as good as particle board. Density board can be divided into high-density fiberboard, medium-density fiberboard (also called MDF), and low-density fiberboard according to its density. Among them, the nominal density of fiberboard ranges from 650Kg/m³ to 800Kg/m³, and MDF is generally used in whole house customization.
Due to the fine particles of the board, MDF is easy to process into various shapes, and is mostly used as the base material of classical and European-style cabinet doors; the advantage of MDF is that the surface is smooth and delicate, and it is easy to carry out painting and modeling processing. Common vinyl wrap door panels and painted door panels are also based on MDF. Its disadvantage is that its waterproof performance is extremely poor, and it is easy to swell and deform after being exposed to moisture. In addition, it has poor nail holding power and low strength. Basically, it is only used as a cabinet door, not suitable for cabinet body. The factors that determine the quality of density boards are the same as particle boards, which lie in the raw materials used and the adhesives used. In theory, the upper limit is not as good as particle board, and the lower limit is lower than particle board.
· Pros: easy to process into various shapes, smooth and delicate surface, suitable for finishing processing.
· Cons: poor moisture resistance, low strength, poor nail holding power, not suitable for cabinets, and uneven product quality.
The melamine board is a decorative board made by soaking paper with different colors or textures in the ecological board resin adhesive, then drying to a certain degree of curing, paving it on the surface of the substrate, and hot pressing. The surface of the ecological board that meets the quality standards has a certain hardness. The furniture made of it does not need to be painted, and the surface naturally forms a protective film, which is wear-resistant, scratch-resistant, acid and alkali resistant, scald-resistant, and pollution-resistant.
Melamine board is currently the most common material in the mainstream panel furniture in the whole house customization industry. Melamine board can be used as both cabinet body and cabinet door, and the price is economical and affordable. Although the surface pattern is printed, it has developed with the advancement of technology in recent years. Printing is increasingly high-definition, coupled with advanced synchronized texture technology. Some high-end brands of melamine boards can make a concave-convex feel with synchronous textures, almost achieving the effect of real ones.
5. Particle Board
Particle board is a kind of artificial board made by cutting various branches, small-diameter wood, fast-growing wood, sawdust, etc. into pieces of certain specifications, after drying, mixing with glue, hardener, waterproofing agent, etc., and pressing under a certain temperature and pressure. Particle board has large internal particles, so less adhesive is required for molding. The production method and structural characteristics of particle board determine that its lower limit can be very low and its upper limit can be very high. The key here is the raw materials and adhesives used to make the particle board. Coniferous trees are the best raw materials for particle board, followed by broad-leaved trees. The wood fibers of coniferous trees are slender and the fiber yield is high; while the fibers of broad-leaved trees are short, and the difference between soft and hard wood is large. The internal fibers of the particle board are intersected and scattered, and there is an interaction force between them. The force in each direction is basically the same, the size is stable, the surface is flat, the board has good toughness, is resistant to bending and deformation, is not easy to break, can bear weight, and the overall performance is relatively balanced.
Due to the irregular internal structure, the nail holding power is good for the first time, but the nail holding power is not so good when the nail is driven again, and the moisture resistance is relatively average.
Particle board summary:
· Pros: outstanding comprehensive performance, strong structural stability, relatively good environmental protection, good sound absorption and sound insulation performance, smooth surface, suitable for various veneers; easy processing, high cost performance.
· Cons: average moisture resistance, poor secondary nail holding power; because the interior is a granular structure, it is not easy to mill, and some processes require high processing equipment, so it is not suitable for on-site production; the quality of products on the market is uneven, and it is necessary to distinguish carefully.
6. Oriented Strand Board (OSB)
Oriented Strand Board, referred to as OSB board, you can understand it as an upgraded version of particle board. Small-diameter wood, thinned wood, and wood core are used as raw materials, and are processed into long flakes (generally 40-100 mm long, 5-20 mm wide, and 0.3-0.7 mm thick) through special equipment. It is a kind of directional structure board made by gluing, directional paving, hot pressing and other processes. Its surface shavings are arranged longitudinally, and the core shavings are arranged horizontally. This criss-cross arrangement reorganizes the wood grain structure, completely eliminates the influence of wood internal stress on processing, and makes it have extraordinary ease of processing and moisture resistance. Due to the directional structure inside the OSB, no joints, no gaps, no cracks, good overall uniformity, and high internal bonding strength, both the center and the edge have super nail-holding capabilities that cannot be compared with ordinary boards. Compared with other wood-based panels, OSB board has a small expansion coefficient, good stability, uniform material, and high nail-holding force; because its shavings are arranged in a certain direction, its longitudinal bending strength is much greater than that of the transverse direction, so It can be used as a structural material and as a stress member. It can be sawed, sanded, planed, drilled, nailed, filed, etc. like wood, and is a good material for building structures, interior decoration, and furniture manufacturing.
OSB board summary:
· Pros: good waterproof and moisture-proof performance, good stability, high strength, strong nail-holding force, strong load-bearing capacity, easy processing, and almost all the advantages of other wood-based panels
· Cons: Surface roughness limits finishing capabilities.
Higher quality materials in your kitchen cabinets will provide strength, durability, longevity, and even increase home value for if or when you decide to sell. The higher the quality of materials, the longer they will last.
Inexpensive lower quality or less durable cabinets have the potential to be damaged more easily, or they may not last nearly as long as the more durable counterparts. And this means you have to replace your cabinets much quicker, which may end up costing you more in the long run.
So, when you think about investing in kitchen cabinets, remember that a little more money up front may save you more money and stress down the line. An awareness of cabinet materials will help greatly to find what materials will be strongest in the long run, so you know that your money is working for you when investing in quality kitchen cabinets.
We recommend opting for durable, strong cabinet materials such as engineered wood, wood veneers, PET laminate, or thermal-fused thermofoil on good quality MDF or plywood, or solid wood (if you have the budget).