Plywood in cabinets

mrsjoeAugust 2, 2012

I need to finalize my cabinet plan in the next day or two. We ordered a sample RTA cabinet from Barker made of plywood, but decided to go with a local custom shop instead. After seeing how much prettier the plywood was than the plain white melamine, I was considering plywood. I asked the cabinet place about it today and he said that they don't want to do plywood because they have read so many health advisories against it. Supposedly, any finish they put on the plywood will inevitably break down over time and the chemicals will be toxic to my family. In all the many many many discussions here on Gardenweb about about plywood versus melamine, I don't ever recall reading something like this.

Can anyone in the know on this tell me if this is a valid concern?

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CEFreeman

Huh?
Do you really think the world would be using toxic plywood in kitchens with families and kids, etc? Where the heck did that come from?

It's like people still telling you treated lumber is still treated with arsenic. Not.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 10:53PM
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Poohpup

I wonder what his real reason is for not wanting to do plywood?

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:10PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Maybe if they are buying Chinese plywood full of chemicals it's an issue. Or maybe they got a bulk buy on furniture board that gives them a really big profit margin. You can count on their being some reason in their own self interest for steering you in a certain direction though. Which would make me very hesitant about choosing them to provide any cabinets to me. If you liked Barker, go with Barker. They aren't trying to give you a line of hooey.

However, for sure, melamine interiors are MUCH MUCH easier to wipe down than varnished plywood ones. And they resist moisture better if you happen to put away damp dishes.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:29PM
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Angie_DIY

What Poohpup said.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:34PM
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mrsjoe

Well, I figured that there was an alterior motive. Probably is that he gets a bulk rate on the white melamine. He also tried to say that any color melamine besides white was going to be around $1000 more for 20 cabinets, when most of the other places I looked into at least gave you almond as a free option, and if i'm remembering the fake wood stuff was like $150. I'm irritated with myself for not ironing out this detail before I put down my deposit, but oh well. I've asked them to come back to me with official prices rather than guesses. We'll see what they come back with.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 11:50PM
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EAM44

Particle board is made of wood chips in a synthetic resin/binder pressed together and extruded. There are tons of chemicals involved in the production of particle board sheets, including amino formaldehyde, urea melamine resins, resorcinol resins, waxes, dyes, etc... Health concerns surrounding its use include exposure to fine dust particles, and exposure to formaldehyde, especially in small manufactured homes.

Plywood is made of thin sheets of wood (veneers) glued together (then baked under pressure) with their grains at right angles, making is flatter, stronger and more dimensionally stable and resistant to warping than solid wood. The glue used in this process typically contains urea formaldehyde, although alternative glues have been developed. Low emission plywoods are rated with "E0" sheets providing essentially no exposure to formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde in some form or other is used in the production of both products, although the types of formaldehyde used have increased their safety to conform to US and international emissions standards.

There is no indication that plywood is less safe than particleboard. Indeed, some argue that because of the many additional chemicals used in its manufacture, particleboard is the less safe material. In truth, they're probably both safe in your home, although if you live in manufactured housing, you would want to be certain of your emissions characteristics.

Plywood is stronger and more expensive than particleboard. Perhaps the additional cost for plywood cuts in to your cabinetmaker's profit margin?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 12:37AM
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camphappy

Hollysprings mentioned Chinese plywood. When I was in my cabinetmaker's shop he showed me the difference between plywoods. He did not mention toxicity levels but the plywood from China was thinner and had many open spaces in it when looking at the cut end. He said he only uses that plywood when a builder specifically requests it to keep costs down. Since China doesn't have the restrictions like the US I could see it having more toxic fumes.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 12:55AM
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chiefneil

"Do you really think the world would be using toxic plywood in kitchens with families and kids, etc? "

Well to be fair the world used to use toxic lead paint in houses and playgrounds with families and kids. Then there's arsenic-treated pressure treated we used to use in playgrounds. And baby formula bottles with BPA.

Anyway, turns out some of the stuff plywood offgasses can be harmful. There's low-VOC plywoods available if that's a concern. I'd definitely stay away from Chinese plywoods out of both quality and toxicity concerns. They put deadly chemicals in baby formula and milk, who knows what's in the plywood?

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 1:09AM
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chiefneil

Meant to say pressure-treated wood above ^^^

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 1:10AM
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powertoolpatriot

Home Depot is advertising its 'non toxic' plywood.
Plywood has been used for decades and there is no evidence that it has killed anyone as far as I know.
However, as we build houses tighter and tighter air quality can be affected by many sources. It needs consideration if your house is extreme in it's energy efficency.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 2:13AM
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mrsjoe

He said they would be checking the price at National Wood Products and then they would be doing the finishing themselves. I'm guessing National sells several varieties of plywood though, so I'm not sure what kind it would be. Maybe he's picking toxic sealant so he doesn't have to work with plywood?

In the end I may just end up going with a prettier color melanine, but I didn't want to factor in toxins if they weren't really a factor.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 3:44AM
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sjerin

I thought Barker was one of the RTA companies that offers low-voc plywood? I googled up the wazoo on that subject and ended up with a local guy who is using that for me; the cost difference is very small. Scherr's also offers the same.

http://columbiaforestproducts.com/

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 8:08PM
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