When it comes to choosing kitchen cabinets, considering how long they will last is an extremely important factor. Finding options using high quality materials, such as solid plywood construction, is usually worth the added cost over less expensive stock cabinetry options. Laminates and thermofoil are often used as budget-conscious options, and these options are known to occasionally experience issues down the line. So then, what makes a high quality kitchen cabinet?
What are the best materials for high quality cabinets?
The most popular high-quality solid hardwoods are cherry, oak, and maple. Ash is used mostly in custom work, while birch is a durable, but inexpensive wood often found in even stock cabinets. Pine is sometimes used in cabinetry, although it can dent much more easily than hardwoods, and is usually only found in semi-custom cabinet lines. Hickory is another hardwood comparable to oak, but it’s a rare choice.
High-humidity areas often use veneered cabinets. This is when hardwoods are layered onto another material, such as plywood. Veneers are used due to the fact that hardwoods can end up warping considerably in high humidity. Using it as a veneer means only the outside layer would warp. The solid plywood frame would be protected. However, veneers can also be used over MDF (medium-density fiberboard), or even particle board, in order to cut costs on cabinetry.
Still, using veneers over solid plywood frames still can produce decent quality cabinets. Solid hardwoods are typically higher-quality, but if you live in a high-humidity area, it’s OK to consider cabinets with veneers to minimize issues with warping.
What goes into the construction of a well-built cabinet?
This Old House offers plenty of information of what to look for in a well-built kitchen cabinet. The wood used for the face of the cabinet should be free of any discolorations, irregularities in the grain, or knots. Cabinet joints should be built with mortise and tenon construction. Where the joints meet, any line between them should nearly disappear. Cabinet sides, also known as end panels, should also be made from solid wood with similar color grain to the cabinet faces. Side and floor panels should have at least ½ inch minimum thickness. Shelves should be made of plywood at least ¾ of an inch thick. Then, the floor and back should fit into routed side panels.
Drawer fronts should be made of only a solid, single piece of wood, and the flat door panels should also only be made from solid wood pieces. Any panels should be attached to the cabinet frame – which is a plywood box known as the carcass – with the screws driven from the inside out. Drawer sides should be made from hardwood of ⅝ inches or thicker and should be routed with a groove supporting the base of the drawer. Also, drawer joints should be dovetailed at all corners.
Armed with the knowledge of the best materials and construction methods available, you now know what goes into high quality kitchen cabinets. Being able to identify how the cabinets are built is just as important as the materials they are made from. Be sure to ask plenty of questions about your cabinets to make sure you’re getting the most value for your money. As cabinets are the largest part of your kitchen budget, it’s important to get the best cabinetry possible that your budget will allow.