An intro to the most popular kitchen cabinet materials
High-quality kitchen cabinets make a huge difference to the atmosphere in your space. They own a lot of visual real estate, and instantly set the tone for your overall design. Selecting quality cabinetry is important, yet many new homeowners and renovators don’t consider what materials their cabinets are made of. Cabinets doors take up a significant portion of most kitchen renovation budgets and your choice of material can have a big impact on how (and how long) you’ll use your kitchen. So it’s important to do the research before selecting your cabinetry.
Solid wood used to be the go-to material choice for many interior designers and homeowners. The issue with solid wood though, is that it tends to expand and contract, losing its shape after a few years of use. This fact has given rise to engineered wood as an alternative. It’s just as solid as natural wood but considerably less expensive. The most common materials you’ll find used in kitchens throughout the world is medium density fibreboard (MDF), plywood, chipboard with melamine and in some cases, stainless steel.
Below, we take a closer look at these materials as options for your kitchen:
Medium Density Fiberboard
MDF is a strong, dense composite material produced using reused wood filaments, wax and a resin binder. It’s CNC-processed under high pressure, and frequently used as single-piece kitchen frames cut-outs. It is stronger and much denser than particle board, making it a great choice in kitchens. But what makes MDF shine is its versatility. MDF does not contain knots or rings, making it more uniform than natural woods during cutting and in use. Typical MDF has a hard, flat, smooth surface that makes it ideal for veneering, painting, or just-about any other treatment. It’s also a material that can be glued, doweled or laminated. And as an added bonus, MDF is less expensive than most natural woods. Then only drawback? MDF tends to warp if not sealed.
There are loads of manufacturers that prefer to use pressed woods (like plywood) when producing their cabinets. And for good reason. It’s a moderately low-cost material, but tends to have more protection against dampness, and is generally steadier than MDF. It’s a sheet material manufactured from thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. It’s a favourite in many Scandinavian kitchens and a versatile choice in most homes.
Chipboard or particleboard cupboards are perhaps the least traditional cupboard fabrication method. Chipboard is a material made from wood chips and particles, sawdust and wood fibres that are all bonded together with an adhesive under heat and pressure. This combination is not quite as solid as the other alternatives, since it’s essentially fragments of wood ground up into little pieces, with adhesive holding it all together. Chipboard is usually the option when cost is more important than strength and appearance. The low price comes at a cost though. A major disadvantage of particleboard is that it is very prone to expansion and discolouration due to moisture, particularly when it is not covered with paint or another sealer.
Stainless steel gives a kitchen a contemporary feel, and it’s quite a different beast than wood. Stainless steel started off being used in professional kitchens but has crept into many home kitchens over recent years. It’s easy to see why. Stainless steel doesn’t expand and contract like wood, making it an excellent material for damp areas (like kitchens). Stainless steel is also durable, easy-to-clean and corrosion-resistant. All this comes at a cost though, as stainless steel cabinets frames and front have much higher price point than most engineered woods.
It takes a lot of research to find the perfect cabinet materials for your kitchen project. Since cupboards take up such a big area of the room, it’s important to know the difference between the choices out there.