9 Popular Kitchen Cabinet Materials – Pros & Cons



Plywood is engineered wood consisting of three or more layers of wood bonded with an adhesive. There are many kinds of plywood depending on the application, manufacturing process, and type of adhesive.

Marine grade plywood, boiling waterproof plywood, fire-retardant plywood, moisture-resistant plywood, or water-resistant plywood are some of the types of plywood suitable for kitchen cabinets.

Advantages of Plywood

Plywood is one of the most common types of material used for kitchen cabinets with many benefits.

  • Plywood is strong and durable. Cabinets made of this material have a long and extended lifespan.
  • The unique construction of plywood allows this material to have the highest strength-to-weight ratio of all kitchen cabinet materials. This material is also resilient and strong.
  • Plywood is a lightweight material, thus plywood hanging cabinets will not collapse under its own weight.
  • Plywood can withstand drilling better. This material also holds nails and screws well.
  • Plywood kitchen cabinets are easy to repair and replace.
  • Plywood is easy to install and is highly flexible.
  • This material costs less than hardwood but more expensive than other materials that are lower in quality.

Disadvantages of Plywood

Plywood, however, comes with some drawbacks.

  • Plywood has a less smooth surface, thus finish materials such as veneers or laminates cannot be evenly distributed on its surface.
  • Plywood may come with holes or gaps on portions where the boards were combined. Some plywood kitchen cabinets are difficult to install.
  • Each area of the cabinets requires a certain thickness of plywood, otherwise, it will not work. Thicker plywood needs to be used on the sides and drawers of the cabinets while thinner plywood is used on cabinet backs.
  • Plywood needs veneer from fresh timber so it is not so environmentally friendly.
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Particleboard is also an engineered product similar to plywood. It is of the same family as fiberboard. Fiberboard, however, is of medium density while particleboard is called low-density fiberboard (LDF).

Particleboard is made by bonding together with an adhesive recycled wood (sawmill shavings and wood chips) and formed into sheets. The sheets are then sealed with a wood veneer or laminate for a beautiful finish.

Advantages of Particleboard

Particleboard is a relatively cheap material with a lot of benefits.

  • Particleboard is one of the most affordable kitchen cabinet materials because this material is made from scrap materials making it an eco-friendly material.
  • Mid-grade particleboard material is 10% to 20% cheaper than high-grade plywood cabinets.
  • Particleboard has a smooth surface; thus, it comes with a spectacular finish.
  • Particleboard is lightweight, and easy to fit in, thus, it is one of the best choices for drawer interiors and cabinets.
  • It is easy to clean and requires minimal maintenance.
  • It does not distort or dent

Disadvantages of Particleboard

Although particleboard is relatively cheap, this material comes with some drawbacks.

  • Particleboard is not moisture-resistant. It can discolor and degrade when it comes into contact with water. Moisture also makes particleboard expand and swell.
  • Due to its construction, particleboard is not very durable in terms of tension and compression.
  • Particleboard kitchen cabinets can sag and fall when you overfill drawer bottoms and cabinet shelves.
  • Particleboards are low in density and can easily get damaged while in transit.
  • Particleboard is inexpensive but it is the weakest kitchen cabinet building material.
  • Particleboards are manufactured using urea-formaldehyde resin. The resin can break after years of use and release formaldehyde gas which is toxic.
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3. Melamine

Melamine is a plastic material often used in modern kitchen cabinets. It is used to design substrates such as plywood, MDF, or particleboard. Melamine is heated and fused with a substrate. When heated, melamine hardens making the decorative cabinet surface durable, colorfast, and scratch-resistant.

When fused with plywood, melamine is one of the most sustainable options for kitchen cabinets. it is available in a wide range of hues and patterns. Melamine kitchen cabinets are often used by designers to achieve a modern and minimalist design at an affordable cost.

Advantages of Melamine

Melamine is one of the best options of homeowners and designers because of its many advantages.

  • Melamine offers a lower cost option for kitchen cabinets but is durable and beautiful.
  • Melamine offers a wide variety of design versatility. It is available in endless designs and hues from single colors to simulated finishes. When fabricated, the design or color (e.g., wood tones or faux wood grains) is applied on the outer coating.
  • Melamine surfaces are easy to clean with a damp soft cloth and warm, soapy water. Residue can be removed with a soft cloth and streak-free glass cleaner

Disadvantages of Melamine

Melamine may be inexpensive but you need to be aware of some of the disadvantages of using this material for kitchen cabinets.

  • Limited Choice of Shape. Melamine comes in limited design options because the cabinet shapes are available only in squares.
  • Melamine kitchen cabinets are low in resistance. They are made of synthetic materials, yet they are prone to chipping and refinishing can be expensive. Melamine kitchen cabinets are also prone to dents and dents and scratches which can be close to impossible to repair.
  • Melamine is prone to water damage. Its structural integrity can be compromised when the cabinet gets saturated with water. Melamine absorbs water more easily than solid wood so be careful when installing melamine kitchen cabinets next to your sink.
  • Melamine kitchen cabinets weigh more than some types of cabinet materials. This means they need to be installed using heavy-duty drawer glides and hinges. Using lightweight hardware with melamine kitchen cabinets may cause them to fall and damage your kitchen.
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4. Polyester

Polyester kitchen cabinets are great alternatives to wood cabinets. Polyester is a material that resembles wood, yet it is relatively inexpensive. This material is a compound of pine fiber and melamine covered with a polyester film. Polyester is more sophisticated than melamine, yet just slightly more expensive.

Advantages of Polyester

Polyester is low in price yet comes with good enough benefits:

  • Polyester is a blend of pine fiber and melamine topped with the polyester firm. It is slightly more expensive than melamine but is still more affordable than other kitchen cabinet materials.
  • Polyester is more scratch-free than melamine because it comes with higher resistance.
  • Polyester kitchen cabinets are available in a wide range of colors and wood looks.
  • Polyester is easy to maintain. Unlike wood, it is less likely to discolor.

Disadvantages of Polyester

Polyester is low in price but it comes with one important disadvantage.

  • When polyester kitchen cabinets get scratched, it can be difficult to repair or retouch.
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5. Solid Wood

Solid wood always seems to be an obvious choice for kitchen cabinets. They look beautiful, sturdy, strong, and are considered the most superior of all cabinet materials, but they also come with a high price. Solid wood is a natural product that comes in various styles and types including, birch, maple. walnut, mahogany, pine, oak, etc. Each type of wood varies in visual appeal, durability, and density.

Advantages of Solid Wood

Solid wood is always the top choice for kitchen cabinets for many reasons:

  • Solid wood is a timeless material. It is always in style or never goes out of fashion.
  • Solid wood is available in a wide range of natural colors. The different wood species come in various natural hues.
  • Solid wood kitchen cabinets are strong and long-lasting. The durability and strength of solid wood is unmatched by any material. They are resistant to scratches and any form of damage. This material is easy to buff away or cover.
  • Solid wood is a versatile material so it is highly customizable. You can create any cabinet door type with solid wood.
  • The natural grain patterns of solid wood bring warmth and charm to your kitchen. This material offers superb aesthetic value.
  • Solid wood may be expensive but you will be getting the most value for your money.

Disadvantages of Solid Wood

While solid wood is probably the best kitchen cabinet material, it also comes with some drawbacks:

  • Solid wood is an extremely expensive kitchen cabinet material.
  • Solid wood naturally reacts to humidity causing it to crack or warp.
  • Solid wood is high in maintenance. Solid wood kitchen cabinets should be cleaned with non-abrasive cleaning materials specifically designed for solid wood.
  • Solid wood is prone to pest infestation.
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6. Wood Veneers

Wood veneer is a thin layer of solid hardwood stripped from a log. Veneers are very thin and typically pressed and glued to fiberboard or particleboard to create flat panels.

Wood veneer is more of a finish material allowing beautiful finishes than a kitchen cabinet building material.

Advantages of Wood Veneers

Wood veneer has a lot of similarities to solid wood:

  • Wood Veneer kitchen cabinets mimic the look and feel of natural wood because they are thin layers of real natural wood glued together.
  • Being thin layers of real wood, wood veneer costs less than solid natural wood. Nevertheless, you will be able to reap the durability and aesthetic value of solid natural wood.
  • Scratches and nicks can be easily buffed off to restore the even and smooth appearance of wood veneer.
  • While wood veneer is less durable than solid wood, it is more durable than laminate. It is also resistant to warping.
  • Wood veneer is a lightweight yet stable material, thus, it is often more preferred than other top finishes.
  • Wood veneer can be easily cleaned with slightly damp soft cloth.

Disadvantages of Wood Veneers

Being made of thin layers of solid wood, wood veneer comes with some disadvantages:

  • Wood veneer is a finish material so it should be used only for cabinet doors and never for kitchen cabinet interiors (frame or the box).
  • Wood veneer is prone to water damage because excessive moisture will make the veneer loosen its grip on the base material. This will cause the wood veneer to show bubbles.
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7. Medium-Density Fiberboard

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a remarkable option for kitchen cabinet drawers and doors. MDF is made from recycled fibers, wax, and resin pressed together and sealed through a high-pressure system.

MDF quality is not as good as plywood but it is better than particleboard. The smaller fibers in MDF make them stronger than particleboard.

Advantages of MDF

MDF is not only popular because it is used by many high-end kitchen cabinet brands but it also comes with many benefits:

  • MDF is highly durable and strong because it is made from small fibers.
  • MDF consists of small wood fiber particles combined with resins and wax, thus it comes with an even grain and smooth surface.
  • Unlike natural wood, MDF will not contract and expand with extreme relative humidity and exposure to moisture. It is, therefore, less susceptible to warping.
  • Due to its smooth surface, MDF can be easily and nicely painted/ repainted and stained.
  • MDF lends itself well to a wide range of kitchen cabinet styles.
  • MDF is easy to handle and has a superior screw-holding capability.
  • MDF is available in large pieces and not limited, unlike solid natural wood, to the size of the tree it comes from.

Disadvantages of MDF

MDF comes with a few disadvantages you need to be aware of before opting for MDF kitchen cabinets:

  • MDF is not as strong as natural solid wood and plywood, thus it is prone to damage and sagging when the drawers and cabinets are overloaded.
  • The scrapes and chips in MDF cannot be sanded out.
  • MDF is not heat-resistant and will not be able to withstand extremely high temperatures.
  • MDF emits the greatest amount of formaldehyde gas as compared to other pressed woods. If you want to use only environment-friendly materials in your home, stay away from MDF.
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8. High Gloss Thermofoil

Thermofoil is a thin layer of vinyl vacuum-pressed onto drawer fronts and cabinet doors typically made of MDF. Thermofoil is often used in simple flat panel cabinet doors but it is also possible for use in cabinets with simple arches and shaker doors.

Advantages of High Gloss Thermofoil

While high-gloss thermofoil (HGT) is commonly used in simple kitchen cabinet designs, it features many benefits:

  • High-gloss thermofoil comes with a glossy vinyl coating, thus your kitchen will appear more spacious and brighter.
  • This material is easy to clean. Marks or smudges can easily be wiped off with a damp and soft cloth. High-gloss thermofoil, however, is resistant to most stains.
  • The color of thermofoil is “baked” into the vinyl, thus a consistent and smooth color is one of the best advantages of this material.
  • Unlike wood, HGT kitchen cabinets are warp and fade-resistant.
  • Thermofoil is seamless and non-porous because it is a plastic product, so it will not be affected by moisture.
  • HGT is an inexpensive material making the kitchen cabinets more affordable to consumers.

Disadvantages of High Gloss Thermofoil

While HGT is relatively inexpensive, it comes with some drawbacks you need to consider:

  • Dirt, smear, or fingerprints are easily visible on the surface.
  • Covering scratches can be challenging because it is difficult to paint on HGT.
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9. High-Pressure Laminate

High-pressure laminate (HPL) consists of up to 8 layers of decorative paper (color, pattern, or woodgrain), treated kraft paper, and a clear overlay. These layers are glued together under 1,000 kg per-square-meter of pressure and 140°C+ temperatures.

HPL should be attached to a substrate such as MDF.

Advantages of High-Pressure Laminate

High-pressure laminate comes with a few benefits:

  • HPL consists of multiple layers manufactured under high pressure resulting in it being more resistant to scratches, chips, etc.
  • High-pressure laminate is available in a wide variety of finishes and colors.
  • HPL does not need to be stained or finish. It is also easy to clean.

Disadvantages of High-Pressure Laminate

HPL is a more cost-effective option than many kitchen cabinet materials but some options can still be cheaper.

  • HPL is a costlier option than melamine.

Help Selecting Your Kitchen Cabinet Material

Being knowledgeable about the different materials available for kitchen cabinets can help you make the best choice.


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