Building Kitchen Cabinets - Plywood vs Particle Board - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 24 Old 09-25-2018, 12:38 PM Thread Starter
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Building Kitchen Cabinets - Plywood vs Particle Board

Greetings!


I'm planning out the build for my kitchen - a full remodel with cabinets built in my own shop. I was planning to use all 3/4" birch plywood for a majority of the boxes, and solid poplar frames. I've been comparing prices for sourcing the plywood and doing general research. I stumbled upon an article talking about how good quality particle board can actually be a better options for cabinets, especially base cabinets.


A couple of things to note - exposed edging on particle board is, of course, going to absorb water, causing expansion. But the argument being made by different sources is that a properly sealed and well made furniture board (not the ultra cheap flake board found in super cheap ready to assemble furniture from Walmart) is actually constructed to perform better than plywood for cabinets, with less general warping.


So I come to you folks to find out what your feelings on the topic are.



The price difference added to a claim of superior performance is enough incentive to get me thinking about it, with prices for high end particle board sitting at around 50% of the cost for plywood options.
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post #2 of 24 Old 09-25-2018, 12:45 PM
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I have a problem accepting plywood as "real" wood. But I do just for the convenience.


Not about to use any of the "fake" woods for any real significant project.


George
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post #3 of 24 Old 09-25-2018, 01:12 PM
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Building Kitchen Cabinets - Plywood vs Particle Board

Consider melamine for your cabinet boxes. It come finished on both sides so you wonít have to finish the inside of your cabinets and itís stable.

The faceframe hides any edges


In woodworking there is always more then one way to accomplish something.
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post #4 of 24 Old 09-25-2018, 02:31 PM
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Kitt,
I’m in north Texas and in this area MDF is used on painted cabinets on homes costing more than $500,000. I don’t know if It’s a different grade of MDF than the standard MDF sheet or not. Hardwoods are still used for face frames, doors and drawers for stained cabinetry. But even with stained cabinetry, the major construction components of the cabinet boxes that are hidden are made of material less costly than plywood. And this is in expensive homes.
So, having said all that, if you construct your new cabinets with plywood boxes and hardwood faceframes you are building a better cabinet.

If you don't have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?
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post #5 of 24 Old 09-25-2018, 09:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kitt614 View Post
Greetings!


I'm planning out the build for my kitchen - a full remodel with cabinets built in my own shop. I was planning to use all 3/4" birch plywood for a majority of the boxes, and solid poplar frames. I've been comparing prices for sourcing the plywood and doing general research. I stumbled upon an article talking about how good quality particle board can actually be a better options for cabinets, especially base cabinets.


A couple of things to note - exposed edging on particle board is, of course, going to absorb water, causing expansion. But the argument being made by different sources is that a properly sealed and well made furniture board (not the ultra cheap flake board found in super cheap ready to assemble furniture from Walmart) is actually constructed to perform better than plywood for cabinets, with less general warping.


So I come to you folks to find out what your feelings on the topic are.



The price difference added to a claim of superior performance is enough incentive to get me thinking about it, with prices for high end particle board sitting at around 50% of the cost for plywood options.
The truth of the matter is most of the cabinets I've built in my life were made out of particleboard with a masonite back. It's alright but you would make your cabinets look like they were made in the 1970's. Almost nobody does it anymore. Even the box stores sell cabinets made out of particleboard but they have a vinyl coating on them. Generally the only problem with particleboard cabinets is the sink cabinet. Eventually every sink will leak and particleboard tends to disintegrate. I would at least caulk around the inside of the sink and put a heavy coat of enamel paint there. Over the long haul I think you would be better off with plywood. Even if you don't think you stay in the house for decades a kitchen is the most important selling aspect of the house and the house would sell better with better cabinets.
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post #6 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 08:46 AM
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I would recommend the plywood. For the difference in cost, is well worth it. I don't even allow particle board or OSB in my shop.
Mike Hawkins.
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post #7 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 11:07 AM
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The threat of water is biggest around areas that are regularly exposed to water. Could you use something more water resistant in areas around the sink and particle board for the rest?
It's much heavier than plywood and lumber though, isn't it? Would weight be a concern?
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post #8 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 11:30 AM
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If you made a list of all the "best practices" for cabinets, particle board would not make the list.

Pre-finished plywood (3/4" for sides and tops and bottoms) and 1/2" for the backs, would make that list.

Formaldehyde-free would be a good choice too.
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post #9 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 11:56 AM
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Higher end houses don't always have higher end materials. Around here, supposed high end housing (not always, but many times) can be built pretty shabby. We had a tornado come through here a little over 3 years ago, and the substandard framing showed up. Houses broke apart in places they should not have. When I built our house, the inspector kept commenting on all the gussets ( I cut up all the scrap sheathing for gussets, not much went to the dumpster). and extra material in the inside and outside corners, stuff like that? Just the way I was taught working for my Uncle. He said build it right or don't bother. I've seen drywall and millwork that had the same, rush to get it done, look. If a corner can be shaved or labor cost be cut, they do it more times than not. As I said earlier, that doesn't apply across the board, there are plenty of great contractors out there. But, at the same time, being billed as a high end build, doesn't always translate into top of the line materials.
That being said, our cabinets are particle board with solid oak faces. Mainly because 30+ years ago when I put them in, it was all we could afford. We refinished them a few years ago, and they still look pretty good (golden oak stained) although they're a little darker then fresh golden oak after all these years. Honestly the only issue we've had is, as mentioned, the sink cabinet floor. When it got wet, from a leak, I cut it out and replaced it with plywood. I've built several other cabinets for the house since then, and when I built them myself I use plywood. Once the cabinet door closes, it probably doesn't make all that much difference. Although, I have a friend who's a cabinet maker by trade, and particle board is a word we don't use when talking shop. lol.
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post #10 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 12:53 PM
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OSB has its uses but not for long lasting furniture or cabinets. Iíd go with plywood or MDF. Assuming you are painting them donít scrimp on the paint or painting equipment. Also suggest a clear coat over the paint.

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ďIn God we trust. All others bring data.Ē - W.E. Deming

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post #11 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 03:57 PM
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You don't need 3/4" plywood for cases

Plenty of case work in kitchens uses 1/2" plywood, because it will take tremendous vertical forces. Shelves and other horizontal pieces will be supported along the back edge by a brace, glued and nailed or in a rabbet. The front edge will have a face frame for support.

Now, compare the prices for particle board, Melamine and 1/2" Birch plywood and see what you get. I made an entire kitchen from Melamine and died a slow death by a 1,000 cuts. It is razor sharp, especially on a 45 degree miter. I wouldn't do it again. It also will not accept Wood glue on it's slick surface, you need to use a construction adhesive. I used Liquid Nails, very sticky and hard to clean up. I wouldn't do it again.

You can buy prefinished plywood for a small price difference and save hours of prep, spraying and sanding. I would definitely do that.
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The answer to your question will only be as detailed and specific as the question is detailed and specific. Good questions also include a sketch or a photo that illustrates your issue. (:< D)
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post #12 of 24 Old 09-27-2018, 04:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saw Dust Rules View Post
OSB has its uses but not for long lasting furniture or cabinets. Iíd go with plywood or MDF. Assuming you are painting them donít scrimp on the paint or painting equipment. Also suggest a clear coat over the paint.
I've never heard of OSB for cabinets, but I suppose it's been done.
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post #13 of 24 Old 11-12-2018, 06:11 PM
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I've built 100's of kitchens with melamine flake board, many last, many dont, it all depends how well its cared for (avoiding water). The ultimate choice for materials however comes down to ones budget.

If budget permits, I'd always go with plywood. No need for 3/4 either, 1/2 for cabinet sides and bottom will do just fine.

Box store melamine @$30 per sheet vs box store 1/2 maple or birch ply @ $45 a sheet.

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post #14 of 24 Old 11-13-2018, 08:18 AM
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I sold custom and factory cabinetry for about 3 years. Particle board is not waterproof. The material used for cabinetry is called engineered board which is used for a lot of cabinetry. With all that, use a good grade of plywood or the melamine as suggested. Like to see photos of the finished project.

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post #15 of 24 Old 11-13-2018, 10:41 AM
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I recently built a complete kitchen and bathroom cabinets for our condo -- no particleboard (period!), just birch plywood with solid wood face frames.
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post #16 of 24 Old 11-13-2018, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by pro70z28 View Post
Higher end houses don't always have higher end materials. Around here, supposed high end housing (not always, but many times) can be built pretty shabby.
so true. 20 years ago i bought a home in the boonies, now i'm surrounded by $1M+ subdivisions
fauxstone, sloppy framing under wavy gypboard, mdf trim and off white paint throughout is sop

i didn't build my kitchen cabinets but did pay to upgrade for plywood boxes on my cabinets
particle board has no reason to be around water, most cabinets are around water
kitchen, bath, laundry, etc...
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post #17 of 24 Old 11-14-2018, 09:03 AM
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aside from the carcass material discussion (I am a 3/4" plywood fan by the way), my opinion is that poplar is a little soft for face frames which are exposed to some banging around. (even) if painting, I would go soft maple.
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post #18 of 24 Old 11-14-2018, 10:15 AM
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3/4" Cabinet Grade plywood - pre-finished (well worth it) for sides, shelves, and bottoms, 1/2" for top and back. 5/4 Maple for frames and doors even if you are painting. Poplar is too soft to survive dishes pots or whatnot banging into it for very long without showing the wear. If you really want to use poplar and particle board just go buy your cabinets at a "Big Box" It's a lot less painful and much faster though you will probably need to replace/refinish/redo in 10 years.

Bill - Rochester MI
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post #19 of 24 Old 11-15-2018, 01:52 AM
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Plywood is almost always better. Lasts longer, looks nicer and at least to me I like working with it better.



-T
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post #20 of 24 Old 11-15-2018, 02:43 PM
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I like plywood too, if nothing else MDF is so damned heavy


And some have commented about high end houses, I used to work for a mechanical contractor in the DFW metromess that did many high end houses, some were in the millions, it is in builders blood to use the cheapest thing they can find. I used to be Kohler's factory rep for southern OK and northern Texas. One time I got sent out on a warranty call before the people moved in and was given a punch list of things the new buyers saw and wanted changed. They had paid $1,900,000 for the house. I was working on a "surround" a $60,000 hole in the wall that was a steam room, sauna, whirlpool, and tanning booth, it took a couple hours to run it through the complete cycle and while it was doing that I looked the house over real close.


The original punch list was 3 pages long, I added an additional 16 pages to it and gave it to the Doctor who had bought it, he was elated as him and his wife just looked at the eye wash and didn't see any more legitimate problems, I told him for the price he paid it should be right, and it was just sloppy workmanship



The builder was less then elated, he might have put the hit men out for me LOL


We didn't do the mechanical on that house I was there for Kohler's warranty
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