Category Construction Glossary
Quality vs. Price
Solid wood is more costly than plywood which is more costly
than particle board or other similar sheet goods that need to be
specially protected from prolonged exposure to moisture. Solid
wood is suitable for cabinet elements that show, such as face
frames, doors, drawer fronts, etc. Among solid wood species
used for door construction, cherry is more expensive than
maple or oak.
Solid wood is almost never used for cabinet Box construction.
Plywood and high-quality particle board are more suitable than
solid wood for any carcase component that is not shaped, such
as shelves, cabinet sides, or drawer bottoms. Typical plywood
thickness in these applications varies from ⅜- to ¾-inch (with
¼-inch used often for drawer bottoms). Plywood shelves and
higher-quality particle board that are stiffer than lower grades
of particle board, also do not sag noticeably over time.
Stiffness increases rapidly with shelf thickness; regardless of
material choice, a ¾" shelf is 73% stiffer than a ⅝" shelf though
only 20% thicker. Particle board resistance to sagging depends
on the particular choice of resin that binds together its wood
"particles." Plywood boxes may be assembled with screw and
nail fasteners, whereas particle board is best assembled using
glue or mechanical fasteners such as confirmat-cam
assemblies designed for particle board applications. Plywood-
Box cabinets are more expensive than particle board Box
Cabinet frames and doors may be fabricated of solid wood,
medium density fiberboard (MDF), particle board, plywood, or a
combination of these different materials. For example, a
floating panel in a door could be veneered plywood contained
within a solid wood or medium density fiberboard frame.
Medium density fiberboard can be shaped and coated with
flexible veneers such as thermofoil or painted. A traditional
grain-showing wood finish on a shaped surface can only be
obtained using solid wood. Grain-showing finishes, because
they are transparent and may contain pigments, dyes, "glazes,"
or fillers, and be composed of lacquer, varnish, polyurethane,
and either be brushed or sprayed have characteristics that are
unique to solid-wood or veneered cabinet doors and decorative
The higher cost of solid wood or plywood cabinet components
is justified either on the basis of a long service life or on the
basis of perceived quality or style. Solid wood is proven to be a
durable material; many centuries old antiques fashioned of
wood remain in daily use today. Since cabinet components are
subject to damage, the ability to repair affects the value of the
cabinet. Solid wood components (drawers, door fronts, panels)
can be repaired by furniture refinishers to exactly match the
existing finish on the surrounding wood.
Particle board cabinets are well-suited for intermediate service