house flooded on to the rebuild - cabinet maker question

forcedreno2012October 16, 2012

We recently retired and moved to Mississippi and were promptly welcomed to the state by a visit from Hurricane Isaac who invited himself to stay a day or two. We were totally unprepared for the flooding that occurred afterwards with 3 feet of water in our house. 1000 year flood and it happened 2 months after we moved siiighh.

We are just about finished gutting the house from 4 feet down and now have to replace HVAC, electrical, drywall, insulation furniture and flooring yadda yadda.

Here is my dilema - We have to replace the kitchen which right now consists of a sink standing on two saw horses lol. The original cabinets were the old particle board ones that just desintegrated. The house itself is built well and is of sound structure and we like the layout and location of the kitchen. my question is plywood vs mdf. We have been told that mdf if sealed is actually stronger and will last longer than plywood boxes. I am not going to do this again so our thoughts were to get the cabinets and seal the backs and bottoms as best we can so if this does happen again we can mitigate some of the losses. Are there any woodworkers out there that can provide insight on this? Should we go with plywood and seal or mdf and seal? We are probably going to be going with painted cabinets as I like the white look vs the wood.

There are 5 stages of being a flood victim


Frog Rescue



Retail Therapy

We are at the resignation stage and retail therapy consists of trips to wallmart and lowes for cleaning supplies but I'll take it. You know you are a flood victim when you go to wallmart and people look at YOU because you are the one dressed funny.

Thanks in advance for any insight


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I sm so sorry you've been through this. We also had water damage to our kitchen (years ago, appliance failure) and all the MDF disintegrated but some of the plywood could be dried out and saved. Also, the general advice on here seems to be to go with plywood. I have never heard the thing about "sealed" MDF being stronger.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 7:33AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you have a water event, then plywood will be just as damaged as furniture board. It delaminates in the presence of moisture--which isn't as visible to the naked eye as the swelling of the furniture board. That leads many people to think it's fine, when it's really not structurally sound any more because the layers have ceased to bond together.

Water is your enemy. If you live in a flood zone, then purchase the expensive flood insurance. You may need to use it again. And if you do, you will be doing the exact thing you are doing now. Whatever cabinets that you put in will be damaged by any floods. The only exception to that would be if you chose marine grade metal ones that were powder coated or stainless steel. And you can't live your life planning for the worst possible situation. You acknowledge that it could happen, and make contingency plans if it does, but don't plan your life around the worst case scenario.

In every kitchen redo that I've been involved in, and that's been a LOT, I've always recommended that the customer put their money into features that they will use, like organizational things, or into the upgraded finishes that you see on the exterior. Those are items that you will use or see every single day that you are in your kitchen, and that is where the money should be spent. Not in 20% extra for an option that gives you a false sense of security about it surviving a flood. It won't. The advantages that plywood brings to cabinets are that it is lighter for your installer to hang, and that if you are doing very wide cabinets (beyond 36"W), plywood shelving has less deflection. That's really it when it comes to the advantages.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 8:07AM
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So sorry to hear you have to go through this so soon after moving! My area got hit by Irene last fall with a once in 500 year flood, so I have seen so many friends and family members in your shoes. Our small village was lucky, it was not washed away, but it's so humbling to see half the streets underwater and praying that the dam upstream holds. Glad you are ok and rebuilding!

Hollysprings, thanks for the cut and dry take on plywood vs furniture board. It's an area I've been struggling with, too much reading I think.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 9:02PM
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Thanks for the kind words and the responses...Hollysprings picture my husband pointing to the screen saying "see, I've been trying to say the same thing for the last two weeks". I appreciate the well thought out response and the time you took to post it. What you say makes perfect sense but in my mind I'm still trying to figure out a way to silicone and waterproof the bottom 4 feet of the house for the "next time" lol. As hubby stated get what you want because you want it not because of what you think it will look like after a flood. Guess I'm still a little shell shocked.

I did swing by lowes for yet another million trashbags and my twice weekly resupply of 10 gallons of bleach and I spent a minute with a KD who "got" what I was envisioning with respect to some changes. If I have to redo it, its going to be my way (which is a hoot because the hubby is the chef in this house) I will be meeting with her next week for some drawings.

For those of you that dabble in the stock market this week is the week to buy stock in sheetrock and insulation as I think I am about to single handedly cause the dow to jump 200 points with my next visit to the lumberyard lol.

I couldnt sleep last night got addicted to this site and sat here and read 40 pages of posts. Amazing ideas and advice and the information on this forum will be invaluable through this process. Had to wipe the drool off the monitor some stunning kitchens out there.


    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 12:11AM
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