Choosing your cabinets might not be as exciting as picking out a new cooker, fridge freezer or dishwasher when you’re planning a kitchen refurbishment. Still, they’re equally as important, if not more so.
Cabinets are a huge part of your kitchen, so researching before choosing is essential. They provide your storage, hold up your worktops, house your appliances, and create the cooking space flow, so asking, ‘what are kitchen cabinets made of’ is an excellent question.
We’re going to take you through the most common kitchen cabinet materials so you’ll be able to make an informed decision and select the right choice for your dream kitchen.
What Are the Most Common Kitchen Cabinet Materials?
When choosing your kitchen cabinets, it’s easy to pick the kitchen cupboard doors you like and not worry about the main kitchen cabinet materials. However, for the longevity and cost of your cabinets, it’s essential to make sure that you choose the right cabinet materials. Let’s take a look at the different materials you can select for your kitchen cupboards.
Solid wood isn’t used for making high-volume kitchen cabinet bodies due to its high cost. You might see solid softwood or hardwood used to make smaller one-off wood cabinets.
Due to temperature and humidity changes, allowance needs to be made for the natural expansion and contraction of real wood. It is usually used in freestanding cabinets rather than fitted wall to wall.
Solid wood is the heaviest material to build a cabinet from, and many people regard hardwood such as maple and hickory as the most durable choice. It’s possible to readily repair watermarks, stains and scratches by sanding and refinishing the wood.
Aside from custom cabinetry, many cabinets will use hardwood only for the door and drawer fronts to get the visual beauty of hardwood. More functional, lower-cost materials such as medium-density fiberboard or wood veneer is used for the main structure.
Plywood is a sheet cabinet material made by laminating thin layers of wood together to make the required thickness. The sheet then has a finishing surface applied like melamine, varnish or paint.
Smaller manufacturers generally use plywood, as cabinets made with this material need to be built by hand. The material is cheaper than solid wood, although more expensive than fibreboards.
Plywood cabinets are a more robust material, have a higher resistance than those made from fibreboard, and are available in water-resistant options. It is often used when custom-fit kitchens are built in situ for an exact fit.
Due to its high strength, plywood is an excellent choice for the bottoms of drawers or cupboards that need to hold high weights.
Fibreboard is what’s used by modern manufacturers for mass-produced cabinets. The material is made from recycled fibres mixed with wax and resin and compressed to form sheets.
Fibreboards might not be as strong as solid woods or plywood. However, they are significantly cheaper and have good strength. The finished surface is smooth and can be painted or have a surface finish applied.
Medium-density fibreboard MDF is a popular material with high structural strength thanks to the small fibres it’s made from. MDF kitchen cabinets are durable, resist temperature changes and are not easily damaged by moisture so long as they are correctly sealed.
MDF is relatively cheap compared to plywood. However, MDF isn’t a great material to use in the bottom of drawers as it can sag under high loads unless the sheet is overly thick.
High-density fibreboard is harder and stronger than MDF and is accordingly more expensive. It’s generally used where a strong panel is needed, but thicker MDF couldn’t be used.
Particleboard / Chipboard / LDF
Particleboard is a low-density fibreboard product made by pressing recycled wood products into sheets. The required thickness board is then finished with a laminate or wood veneer layer.
The resulting material is inexpensive. However, it is probably the kitchen cabinet material with the lowest strength. Care needs to be taken to seal cut ends of chipboard sheets as they will warp and expand if they come into contact with moisture.
Today, melamine faced chipboard is the most commonly used material in kitchen cupboards.
Other Kitchen Cabinet Materials
Although it is the most common choice, you don’t have to use wood for kitchen cabinets. Commercial food production and restaurant kitchens use stainless steel cabinets as they are durable and easy to clean to a high standard. You might also find metal cabinets in kitchens, such as onboard ships or underground, where fire safety standards mean that wood is unacceptable.
What Are the Best Quality Kitchen Cabinets Made From?
When asking ‘what are kitchen cabinets made of’, many people want to know what is the best material.
The materials for commercially produced cabinet boxes are either plywood or a type of fibreboard. These are robust, moisture resistant and can carry heavy loads of worktops and contents. Fibreboard is the cheaper option and is a reasonable compromise when the cost is a consideration.
However, when comparing quality, as important as the materials is how the cabinets are designed and built. Look for features such as thick full-height back panels, dovetail drawer boxes, and heavy-duty soft-close hinges and drawer glides. The length of the warranty offered by the manufacturer gives you a good indication when comparing quality.
What Are Cheap Kitchen Cupboards Made Of?
Most cost-effective kitchen cupboards are made with melamine faced chipboard. This material can still make excellent cupboards. So if you are looking at the more budget end of the market, make sure that you look at the construction and features to see where costs have been saved.
It may be that the manufacturers use thinner boards that won’t be as strong or long-lasting. You’ll also often see thin bases in drawers, which mean you won’t be able to do much in them before they sag.
What Are Kitchen Cabinet Doors Made Of?
Your choice of drawer and cabinet material is almost unlimited.
Come in a massive variety of cabinet door wood-effect and coloured finishes. The material is easy to keep clean and stands up well to typical wear and tear.
The most naturally beautiful and ideal if you’re looking to create a traditional-looking kitchen. Solid hardwood is durable and can be restrained or painted if you want to change the look of your kitchen.
Natural wood veneers are an excellent way to get the looks of hardwood without the cost. A thin layer of natural wood is laminated onto fibreboard to make a lighter weight door than solid wood.
Fibreboard panels are cut to size and wrapped in a vinyl finish. This is a cost-effective way to finish a cabinet, although it may not necessarily be the most durable.
Glass is used for cupboard doors when you want to see what’s inside. The downside is that it means you need to keep your cupboards tidy.
A high-gloss smooth surface is achieved using thermofoil, laminate, painted or lacquered effects in a range of colours. A high-gloss kitchen looks bright and airy, and you can easily clean the surface. Unfortunately, it does show fingerprints easily and can sometimes be easily scratched.
The Best Materials for Kitchen Cabinets
As we’ve looked at what are kitchen cabinets made of, we’ve seen that the choice usually comes down to cost and durability.
The majority of modern cabinets are made from a fibreboard of some kind. You can finish this in a massive variety of effects, patterns and colours. The choice when it comes to your kitchen is almost unlimited!