Wood choices for custom kitchen cabinets ?

angelcubAugust 17, 2006

Hi all, I'm wondering what type of wood some of you would choose if having custom kitchen cabinets made. These are for a remodel and will be white painted, full inset, Shaker style doors and drawers. There will be 3 uppers with glass fronts, the rest will be lowers with mostly drawers.

So far we have been given quotes using particleboard with melamine interiors for the lowers, paint grade exteriors, and the uppers would be plywood with melamine interiors. The drawers would be 1/2" maple plywood. All would be glued and screwed assembly.

We also asked for bids for all plywood construction. Do you think this is necessary or will the particleboard be fine for a kitchen? One bid for all plywood was for poplar. Do you think that is too soft a wood for painted cabinets? It is just DH and myself and we plan to stay in our home for at least 10-15 years more, maybe forever.

Thanks for any help and suggestions. The link goes to a page that shows pics ( first two pics ) of what the kitchen and cabinets will look like.


Here is a link that might be useful: cabinet pics

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Plywood is more stable than particle board. Poplar is a really good wood to paint. If I were getting painted cabinets, I would want plywood boxes with poplar face frames and the maple drawers. Maple is a harder wood than poplar, paints just as well, is the standard for mid/high-range drawer construction but is more expensive than poplar.

I am not a fan of particle board or MDF for furniture construction due to the warpage/expansion-contraction/degrading over time propertiea of those materials.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2006 at 4:30PM
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Thanks, Handymac. We're not fans of particle board, either. But we keep seeing it used and thought maybe we were being a little too picky. Still, it seems custom cabs should be made from something other than what is used for the typical big-box selection.

Surprisingly, the price isn't a whole lot more for the plywood. We are awaiting a few more bids, so we still have time to decide.

Again thanks for your advice.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 12:12PM
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The properties of particle board and MDF are very different. MDF has a lot to offer; it's very stable and tends to stay flat in situations where plywood warps. It's also a lot more impact-resistant than particleboard. The two really shouldn't be treated as equivalents.

If you ask this over on the kitchen forum you'll find the vast majority of people will tell you that it's not worth the money to "upgrade" to plywood.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 1:06PM
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Last year I purchased paint grade maple Shaker style doors for my kitchen cabinets. The inset piece was a maple veneer plywood. I painted them white. The price sure was good.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 4:05PM
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If you're just talking about the boxes. Hang out on the kitchen forum, and indeed, you will hear that the plywood isn't worth the cost $$$ of the upgrade.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 4:09PM
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Thanks Jon. I do have a question posted over on the kitchen forum about what others had their custom cabs made from. I did a search but didn't get a lot of specific info for the custom type so thought you wise and experienced wood workers could help.

I've read a few sources that say MDF is better than plywood, which is better than particle board. But the cabinet places are stating industrial strength particle board. What's your opinion on this type of particle board? Is it standard stuff for kitchen cabinets? And does today's melamine do a good job in the moisture protection department?

Sorry if I sound like a rookie - I am. I do know the difference between the products mentioned, I'm just not used to having it in my cabinets. Our original 16 yr. old cabs are builders stock but all plywood. My DH does some woodworking as a hobby but mostly does outside projects with solid wood so he's favoring the same in the kitchen remodel.

Thanks, Diana

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 4:10PM
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Thanks, clg7067. I've been hanging out there quite a bit lately - maybe too much.

The problem I see from a lot of the posts over there is most of the cabinet installs are very recent. I'd like to hear from folks who have lived with their cabs for at least a few years. Almost everyone loves their new kitchens at first but long time use is a better predictor, imo.

I should add, we are in a very dry area and don't have a lot of expansion/contraction issues. Well, except if you factor in the fact that the San Andreas fault runs behind our property. But if it really rocks one day, I suspect we'll have bigger problems to worry about than our cabinets. lol!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2006 at 4:21PM
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Here it is
All of the sheet goods that I buy are now NAUF ( no added urea formaldehyde ). So the gassing off issue is a canard.
For frameless cabinetry mdf is without doubt a superior product to veneer core plywood. Mdf is entirely stable ( it does not expand or contract ), it is consistent in thickness and flat assuring tight tolerances and square boxes.
Face frame style exists because plywood is not flat, straight or consistent. The square of the face frame hides an imperfect box.
The truth is that most people really dont care about the boxes, the care about what they see every day, the doors, drawer fronts, drawer boxes etc.
Construction methods determine how strong a box will be.
Confirmat screws in mdf are just as strong as cabinet screws in plywood.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2011 at 10:49AM
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