Kitchen Cabinet Construction: What’s The Difference?

Behind the cherry, birch, or maple doors of a kitchen cabinet is the wood used to construct the cabinet box—the back, sides, top, shelves, and bottom.  Most cabinet suppliers will typically offer two options for the cabinet construction. Plywood is made up of layers of wood veneer glued together, alternating the grain of the wood for stability. Particle board (also known as furniture board) is made of wood fibers glued and pressed together, sometimes using a mold. Each material has benefits to consider.

Plywood Cabinet Construction     Spruce Plywood Cabinet Box

Plywood is generally thought to be the better product when building cabinets. It has superior construction longevity because it holds screws and other mechanical fasteners more efficiently. Plywood also weighs less than particle board, which can be significant when hanging large cabinets. In addition, plywood holds glue joints together better than particle board and is more resistant to dents and scratches.  It also tends to stand up better to pulling and pushing forces brought on by settling.  Finally, plywood cabinet construction will bear more weight offering more longevity.

Particle Board Cabinet Construction     Particle Board Cabinet Construction

Particle board has its own advantages.  It is more resistant to warping due to temperature fluctuations and other environmental changes.  Most noteworthy, particle board costs less than plywood. Particle board is often made of scraps of wood that are considered waste. Many plywood manufacturers also make particle board from the leftovers. Because of this, particle board is less expensive.

Particle board cabinet construction does have it’s downsides.   Perhaps most of all is the lack of water resistance. Constant exposure to moisture from the sink, dishwasher or just cleaning can lead to major warping problems.  If you are going to use particle board, it might be a good idea to put some type of sealant on the exposed ends.


Both plywood and particle board construction have their place in the industry.  It typically comes down to the budget.   Particle board typically gets a bad wrap.  However, there are great cabinet choices out there that include particle board.  Some options have a combination of both.

Plywood – In general high quality plywood cabinet construction uses at least 1/2″ for the face, sides, top, and bottom and 3/4″ for the shelves.  Make sure there are not gaps in between the plies.

Particle Board – Keep in mind this is much heavier to hang.  You will want to seal the ends before putting the cabinets up to prevent moisture from ruining the cabinets.

DMD offers a wide variety of options including plywood and particle board construction.  CLICK HERE to view all of the different collections.

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