Kitchen Cabinets: Plywood vs. Furniture Board

Kitchen Cabinets: Plywood vs. Furniture Board

If you are in the market for new cabinetry, your kitchen designer will likely want to know your preference regarding cabinet construction. The structure of a cabinet is generally manufactured with either furniture board or plywood. The quality of these materials can vary, and there are pros and cons to each which makes it difficult to say that one is better than the other. So, how do you decide which one is right for your project?

For starters, it’s important to know that both furniture board and plywood are engineered wood products. This manufacturing process involves binding or fixing strands, particles, fibers, veneers, or boards of wood together with adhesives or other methods. In this regard, these two products are similar, however there are several factors which differentiate them.

Furniture Board

Furniture board, also known as particleboard, is the most common product used as the substrate of cabinet boxes, drawer boxes and shelves. This material is a pressboard comprised of wood particles and resin adhered together. Often, it is crafted from wood scraps, or waste, derived from the manufacturing of plywood. Because furniture board has no natural grain pattern, it can be finished with a wood veneer or laminate layer to improve its aesthetic appeal.

The quality of furniture board depends on several factors: the size of the particles, the amount of the glue, and the density of the board. Smaller particles will make the board denser, heavier and more stable. One of the best types of particleboard is medium-density fiberboard (MDF). MDF is a high-quality product that compares well with plywood but is considerably heavier which can make installation more challenging.

Advantages:

  • Less expensive to manufacture than plywood
  • Offers uniformity of texture
  • Less likely to expand or contract with temperature fluctuations
  • High-density versions have added strength and stability

Disadvantages:

  • Heavier than plywood
  • Not as strong and stable as plywood
  • More susceptible to scratches and dents
  • More susceptible to damage when exposed to prolonged moisture
  • Screws and glue can loosen over time

Plywood

Plywood is a product crafted by the compression and adhesion of thin layers of wood, rather than particles, to create one solid sheet. To enhance stability, the grain of the material is alternated with each new layer to form a panel that is sturdy and strong. Certain types of plywood are manufactured using green initiatives. These include wood sourced from sustainable forests and reduction of formaldehyde and other off-gasses. If having sustainable products in your home is an important factor, “green” plywood is a good choice.

The overall quality of plywood depends on several factors: the number of plies used, the thickness of the wood, and the quality of the adhesive. Low-quality plywood will have gaps, making it less reliable.

Advantages:

  • Lighter than furniture board
  • Superior strength and stability
  • Less vulnerable to damage when exposed to moisture
  • Eco-friendly construction available

Disadvantages:

  • More expensive to manufacture
  • More susceptible to warping

In Comparison

Plywood is superior to furniture board in many ways and can be the better choice if cost is not an issue. However, furniture board has many merits that make it just as viable. Some cabinet manufacturers, such as Crystal Cabinets, offer plywood as a standard option. Other cabinet companies offer plywood as an upgrade option. Typically, these upgrades cost an additional 12-16% above the base cabinet price. At the end of the day, if your cabinets are constructed well and installed properly, you’ll likely be unable to tell the difference between a plywood box and a furniture board box.

Still wondering which product is right for your project? Consult with a professional kitchen designer to discuss the pros and cons of both options.