Many people assume that kitchen cabinets are made of wood. While this is most true, you have to qualify that. Most cabinets today are made of wood, but they are not all solid wood. In fact, some have no solid wood component at all. Still others use non-wood materials. Below is a rundown of the most commonly used cabinet materials, each with a brief description.
Solid wood is just what it sounds like: a solid piece of wood. The most popular are maple, cherry, pine, and oak. It is not a composite, and it is not several pieces of wood glued together to make a solid slab. If a manufacturer claims it is “solid wood,” verify that it means an actual homogeneous piece of wood.
A good indication that a cabinet or cabinet component is solid wood when staining is a finish option. Engineered wood products cannot be stained as they have no grain. Many cabinets do have some components made of solid wood, such as the face-frame for framed cabinets, and the cabinet door. In many cases, though, the cabinets are made of engineered wood materials and covered with a wood veneer to simulate the look of solid wood.
Particleboard is one of several engineered wood alternates. It is made of wood particles and chips held together by adhesive and compressed to form panels and boards. Many cabinets today use particleboard for the cabinet boxes and the shelves. You cannot paint or stain particleboard directly, so it is typically covered with wood veneer, laminates, or Thermofoil.
MDF (medium density fiberboard)
MDF is also an engineered wood composite that is almost as popular today as particleboard. The composition is wood fibers instead of chips and particles, but manufacturers also use adhesives to hold them together and compress them into panels and boards. MDF has a higher density than particleboard, giving it a finer, heavier texture. Its main use in cabinetry is in the construction of the boxes, shelves, and in some instances, the doors. As with particleboard, you cannot stain or paint MDF surfaces directly as it has no grain. Thus, they usually have a layer of wood veneer, laminates, or Thermofoil.
Most people are familiar with plywood, which has many uses in the home. It consists of thin slices of wood called piles, alternated with adhesive to bind them together like a multilayered sandwich. Manufactures vary the pile orientation with respect to the grain to make the resulting product strongerand more stable.
Plywood tends to be more expensive than MDF or particleboard, so there will be a corresponding premium when choosing cabinets using plywood. You will often see plywood cabinets among the more expensive cabinet lines. The term “all wood” may refer to an all plywood construction, or a combination of solid wood and plywood.
Less popular than wood cabinets, metal cabinets, mainly stainless steel, are available from some cabinet manufactures as a complete set of cabinets and drawers. This is appropriate for modern kitchen styles and industrial settings. In some cases, cabinetmakers will offer wood-based cabinets with stainless steel doors.
Laminated cabinets use the same material as that used for countertops, although they are thinner. Laminates are plastic products, resulting from the fusion of polymer resins and paper through pressure and heat. The laminate material serves as the surface of wood-based cabinet boxes and doors to make them easier to clean.
Melamine is a chemical compound that has many uses, such as a component for Formica and plate ware. Manufacturers fuse melamine resin and paper into a thin flat sheet that is then used to coverinner particleboard cabinet surfaces to make it waterproof and easy to clean.
Another cover for engineered wood products, thermofoil is a vinyl film that goes over the cabinet doors and boxes, and drawer fronts. Manufacturers apply Thermofoil on the cabinet surfaces. Most cabinet brands offer Thermofoil cabinets, which are usually MDF or particleboard cabinets with a layer of Thermofoil.
All these common cabinet materials have pros and cons. All of them can be very attractive if you choose the right supplier. Solid wood and stainless steel cabinets are the most durable, but they are quite expensive and physically heavy. Engineered wood cabinets are less durable, but much more affordable. The type of cabinet you choose will depend on a number of factors, such as budget, personal preference, and overall kitchen design. Consult with our professional designers in Cabinets City to ensure you make the right decision.
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