Cabinet Materials - What are Cabinets made out of?

Most of us think of kitchen cabinets as being made out of wood and that's true for the most part. But don't think that it's all "solid wood" like the lumber used to frame a house. There are other materials that go into the construction of cabinets. Some are wood-based but others are not.

Here's a list of the primary cabinet materials you'll encounter:

Solid wood - just as the term implies, it's solid homogeneous wood, all the way through. The only variation might be boards or panels that are several pieces of solid wood joined together.

Plywood – Its an engineered wood product but one that's probably most familiar to people. It's made up of thin wood "plies" or layers of wood that are glued together in a sandwich form. Usually the plies are oriented with their grain direction at varying anglesPlywood with respect to each other to give the board or panel more rigidity and stability. Plywood is used for shelving, doors and cabinet boxes and in the cabinet industry is referred to as solid wood.

Particle board - an engineered wood product that's made from wood chips and particles that are combined with an adhesive and fused together into boards and panels. ParticleParticle Board board makes up a large percentage of the materials used in today's cabinetry, from the panels that make up the boxes to shelving.  

Medium density fiberboard (MDF) - another engineered wood product that's made up of wood fibers. The fibers are combined with an adhesive under pressure and formed into boards and panels. MDF has a finer texture than particle board and is denser and heavier than particle board. It's used in cabinet doors, shelves and cabinet boxes.


Stainless steel/metal - yes, not to be outdone, stainless steel is used to make complete cabinets though it's much less prevalent than wood cabinetry and is generally only used in commercial factories. There are whole cabinets (boxes and doors/drawers) made from stainless steel and there's also some manufacturers that produce stainless steel doors for wood cabinets.

Plastic laminate - this is virtually the same material that's used on laminate countertops although it's usually thinner when used on cabinets. It's basically a plastic product, formed by fusing paper and plastic resin together under heat and pressure. Laminate's used for covering cabinet boxes and/or doors to provide a easily-cleaned surface.

Melamine - another plastic-based product that's also used to cover cabinet surfaces. It's a popular material for covering particle board panels that are used in making cabinet boxes. One type of construction you may see involves cabinet boxes made with melamine and wood veneer over particle board. The melamine is on the inside part of the cabinet and the wood veneer is on the outside of the cabinet box.

Thermofoil - a thin vinyl film that's used to cover cabinet boxes, doors and drawer fronts. The vinyl usually starts as a rigid film that's then heated and formed over the substrate material (such as cabinet door made from MDF). You'll usually encounter the term "thermofoil cabinets" which implies cabinets that are covered with the thermofoil material (the base material will usually be one of the engineered wood products).

As reported by consumer reports "Budget Cabinets are Often made of thinly veneered particleboard, rather than higher-quality plywood". At all of our cabinets have grade A plywood boxes with solid wood face frames at a discounted price, we don’t offer any particle board cabinets since they won’t hold up over time.

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