Ask any realtor which room of the house is the biggest deal maker or deal breaker and every time they will say the kitchen. 

While homebuyers may overlook a small bedroom or a poorly lit bathroom, a badly designed or outdated kitchen is one issue that just can’t be ignored. 

Regardless of the particular style of kitchen and interior design, nothing can fix flimsy cabinetry or a lack of storage. Beautiful custom cabinets are not just aesthetically pleasing, but improve the value and function of the kitchen and the home.

Kitchen Cabinet Materials

kitchen cabinet materials
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The actual design of the built-in cabinetry is important, but it’s really your choice of kitchen cabinet materials that dictate how stunning and long-lived the final product is. 

Having a clear understanding of common kitchen cabinet material is important whether you’re a DIYer constructing them yourself, a homeowner who will work with a professional to have them built, or an architect or designer specifying kitchen cabinet materials for a current home build project. 

1. Cores

kitchen cabinet materials
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The most important part of kitchen cabinetry is the structure of the cabinet itself. The core material you use will have the biggest impact on durability and longevity. Think of this as the foundation of the cabinets.

Some architects and designers will lean towards solid wood for cabinetry, just as they would for furniture. Solid wood seems the most durable choice, but think twice before selecting this material for cabinets. The kitchen is a naturally humid environment which means any solid wood will expand and contract. This can lead to fitment issues with cabinetry. 

Engineered wood products are less prone to expansion and contraction, not to mention they are also lighter weight and more affordable. 

2. Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

kitchen cabinet materials
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MDF is one of the most widely used cores, both in custom cabinetry as well as manufactured cabinetry. You can think of this product like a stronger version of particle board. MDF is produced very similarly, but the wood particles used are smaller, closer to sawdust than wood chips. The end result is a very dense, strong product that has exceptional smoothness.

MDF can be used for structural construction of cabinets, usually being ideal for door inserts. If the cabinetry you are working on will be painted, the smoothness and lack of grain of MDF will work very well. The smooth surface and lack of blemishes also means veneer faces can easily be applied.

3. Hardwood Plywood

kitchen cabinet materials
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Hardwood plywood is a broad term used to describe engineered plywood produced with hardwood for additional strength. This is a happy medium between the strength of solid hardwood and the versatility of plywood. Hardwood plywood is far more affordable and appropriate for cabinetry, not to mention it comes in a variety of forms.

Columbia Forest Products offers PureBond Hardwood Plywood in a few different forms, including:

  • CFP 60′”
  • DesignEdge
  • Industrial Platforms
  • MPX

4. Flexible Plywood

kitchen cabinet materials
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Curved kitchen cabinetry is growing in popularity, but there is a challenge of finding the right material that has enough flexibility without sacrificing durability. If you are designing any type of curved cabinetry then a product like Radius Bending Plywood is ideal. This flexible plywood can bend with or against its grain and comes in various thicknesses as well as double- or triple-ply construction.

5. Faces

kitchen cabinet materials
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The structure of the cabinet is important for obvious reasons, but some might argue it is the face of the cabinet that has an even higher priority. The face of the cabinet is the most visible part of the cabinet, and therefore, the choice of material for this will directly affect the end result. 

Some cabinets may be simply made of their original core material and left at that. For example, if you know that the cabinets will be painted then using MDF for core and face is effective. However, if you have plans on staining you will need to use wood. 

6. Solid Wood

kitchen cabinet materials
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Solid wood faces are ideal for cabinet doors. They have the timeless look of wood and may be stained to whichever tone suits the project. Solid hardwood doors are also extremely durable and will take on repeatedly stress very well. Some wood products ideal for cabinetry faces include:

  • Beaded Panels
  • Aromatic Cedar
  • Appalachian Traditions

7. Veneer 

kitchen cabinet materials

Another route is to use veneers. Veneer is very thin sliced wood used in finishing rather than actual structural construction. Veneers are common in cabinetry to cover the core wood and for use in creating cabinet doors.

Hardwood veneer allows you to achieve the look of a certain type of hardwood without having to use that wood in the entire construction. This makes it easier for the fabricator to produce the look the client has in mind while keeping things more affordable overall.

Some wood species you can find as veneer include:

  • Ash
  • Birch
  • Walnut
  • Cherry
  • Mahogany
  • Teak

Veneer comes in varying grades as well. Select Veneer is the highest grade and is matched for grain, color and overall pattern. Uniform Veneer is also a great choice, but the veneer is matched only for color. Natural Veneer is a step below Uniform and is more affordable. 

Finally, you can also choose between Paint Grade and Stain Grade. Stain Grade is very smooth with no grain show through when painted. Stain Grade has more character with a stronger grain. This is the most natural look and good for both tinted and clear staining.

When you select the right materials you not only ensure that the finished product will last for years, but also that your original design on paper can truly come to life. Spend some time comparing cores and faces to find the best combination for your design. Don’t forget that consulting the material provider can also aid in product selection.

Editorial Contributors
Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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