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 cabinets.
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 end-panels.
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 life.