Exploring the vast array of plywood types can be quite a task, especially with all the technical terms involved. And if you choose the wrong one for your cabinets, you not only waste money, but spend more on expensive repairs, replacements, or even a complete renovation.
To help you narrow down your choices, I’ve listed the best plywood for cabinets, ensuring you land a choice that marries both quality and endurance!
What is Plywood?
Plywood is a composite or engineered wood manufactured by combining real wood pieces, scrap wood, and shredded wood fibers in factories. The term “engineered wood” is used to describe such man-made materials.
Due to its durability and affordability, plywood is a popular material for cabinet construction. It is utilized in various applications, including floors, walls, garages, roofs, furniture, fencing, scaffolding, and shelving.
Also Read: How to Maximize Safety on Scaffolds
Types of Plywood
The most prevalent kind of plywood is 3-ply, which is generally between 2 to 3 millimeters in thickness. Due to its decorative appearance, it is frequently utilized for indoor applications.
A type of plywood known as 5-ply, usually around 4 millimeters in thickness, is considered to be quite versatile as it can be utilized both indoors and outdoors.
However, I do not recommend using this plywood for framing purposes.
When plywood has more than seven layers, it is typically called multi-ply. It is a robust and sturdy material well-suited for roofing and framing applications.
When plywood is given an interior rating, it is meant for indoor use only. As a result, it is not waterproof and should not be placed in a humid environment.
Panels with an Exposure 1 rating have been treated to become waterproof, making them suitable for use even when exposed to the elements during construction.
Plywood with an Exposure 2 rating indicates that it is produced using intermediate glue, which is not waterproof. Although the panels can endure some moisture, they should be used solely for indoor applications.
Plywood classified as having an exterior rating is designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and is treated to become waterproof. This type of plywood is particularly suitable for constructing permanent outdoor structures.
Plywood rated as Structural 1 is capable of withstanding seismic activity, making it suitable for seismic retrofitting projects.
How to Pick the Right Plywood for Your Cabinets
When purchasing plywood, make sure to inspect its flatness carefully. Working with warped or bent sheets can be a real headache.
If the plywood isn’t at least 95% flat, you’re potentially setting yourself up for stacking dilemmas and subsequent complications down the road.
2. Inspect the Edges
Thicker plywood edges are generally considered a better option, as they provide a solid wood surface for polishing and sanding and reduce the appearance of knots and holes that may be visible within the veneer layers.
3. Check for Damages
When buying plywood, it’s crucial to be vigilant for damaged parts. Be ready to mend any minor damages, especially if they compromise its main surface.
If you encounter a piece that’s severely compromised or shattered, it’s best to have it replaced.
4. Avoid Spine, Birch, and Maple (If You Plan to Stain)
Staining certain types like maple, pine, and birch plywood can be challenging, as they may become blotchy or absorb stains unevenly.
5. Know the Grading System
When selecting plywood, it is important to consider the different grades available, which depend on the intended usage of the plywood.
Choosing the appropriate plywood grade can ensure that no edge band treatment is required, especially for certain hardwoods like red oak lumber, cherry, and maple.
6. Inspect Face Veneers
For thicker plywood, I recommend that the face veneer be at least one-eighth of an inch thick, as this will help cover the appearance of resin on the plywood core surface. It will also provide a smoother and more appealing finish.
7. Consider Haul Sheeting Yourself
You can determine if the plywood is hollow or not by tapping the center of the sheets. If the construction of plywood is solid wood, its sound will be consistent from all sides. Additionally, the plywood’s four edges should have varying thicknesses.
8. Seek Help from an Experienced Friend
Without a good understanding of the different types available, you may end up purchasing something of inferior quality or even be tricked by unscrupulous merchants.
To avoid such scenarios, you must have a knowledgeable companion who can help you identify and purchase the right plywood for your cabinet to save you both time and money.
9. Avoid Sub-graded Core Materials
Avoid plywood with particle board core and medium-density fiberboard (MDF layer). Instead, choose veneer core plywood as it is more durable than MDF. Avoid sub-grade core materials as they are made from wood waste like sawdust and wood chips.
10. Check for Curves
When designing curved edges, select the right plywood that can bend to the desired shape without breaking.
The perfect plywood material should have thinner plies and hardwood cores that can bend easily but remain sturdy enough to withstand further manufacturing and gluing processes.
It is also crucial to consider the finishing options when selecting cabinetry plywood board. Make sure that the plywood can be painted, stained, or varnished.
More wood projects? Check these posts:
What’s Cabinet-Grade Plywood?
The primary criterion determining whether a cabinet-grade plywood qualifies for cabinet use is the quality of its veneer surface.
The best plywood for cabinet making is determined by the type of wood used to create the veneer and its overall quality.
How Thick Should Plywood Be For Cabinets?
I recommend using ¾ inch (or 18mm) thick plywood to construct cabinet doors, boxes, shelves, and drawer sides.
Additionally, plywood thickness of ½ inch (or 12mm) is also good for cabinet backs.
Fiber core plywood sheets are crafted using a single Medium Density Fiberboard core, resulting in a robust and stable panel that’s easy to manipulate.
Additionally, these thin sheets possess exceptional finishes.
Pro-Core Plywood Sheets
This plywood has a unique core that consists of layers of MDF and hardwood veneer, resulting in smooth interior and exterior surfaces and a strong structure on both faces.
In my experience, I’d strongly recommend using birch plywood with hardwood veneer for cabinets—it’s built to withstand both time and daily wear.
This offers an exceedingly smooth surface for finishing. The sole disadvantage of PBC plywood is that it lacks the same level of strength as MDF core plywood.
The lumber core plywood sheet has a construction of five plies that are edge-glued and can be up to two inches thick.
This type of plywood is known for its strength and ability to resist warping, twisting, and buckling.
This is more visually appealing than standard plywood for cabinets. It is usually produced using attractive hardwood veneers , resulting in a stunning appearance. However, fancy veneer plywood is more costly than regular plywood.
To create modern kitchen cabinets with a curved edge, you should consider using more flexible plywood that can bend along the long or short grain.
“Bending” plywood with no face or back allows you to apply a facade or overlay for the best possible appearance.
Building drawers requires a distinct cabinet-construction approach from that used for cabinet boxes. To construct sturdy drawer fronts and cabinet doors, use robust or durable plywood with a minimum of 5-ply for the cabinet sides.
Cabinet Plywood Grades
The top-tier quality cabinet-grade plywood is called Grade A, although it is also the most costly option.
This type of plywood possesses a sanded and smooth surface, free of any knots. Overall, A-grade plywood is the optimal choice for furniture and cabinet doors due to its superior quality.
Cabinet-grade plywood grade B is also considered to be of excellent quality. These plywood sheets are finely sanded and have minimal defects on their back veneer and even in their face veneer.
Can You Paint B-Grade Plywood?
Yes, you can paint B-grade plywood. However, remember that B-grade plywood may have patched and filled areas, which can affect the appearance of the painted cabinets. Usually, Baltic Birch plywood is the best type to paint for cabinets.
Cabinet-grade plywood classified as C-grade is left unsanded and may contain various defects that require repair, such as up to 1 1/2 inches long knots, sanding defects, and discoloration.
This type of plywood is utilized in instances where aesthetic appearance is not a critical factor.
Cabinet-grade plywood of Grade D is the least superior quality of all. These sheets are rough and unsanded, containing visible patches and up to 2 1/2 inches-wide knot holes. It is best to use Grade D plywood only in places where it won’t be seen.
Types of Plywood for Cabinets
Softwood plywood is manufactured from gymnosperm, evergreen trees. It is typically less expensive than hardwood plywood and is widely used in construction and woodworking applications such as furniture, sheathing, and subfloors.
Deciduous angiosperm trees are used to manufacture hardwood plywood. It is the heaviest and most frequently utilized in furniture construction or any application that necessitates a load-bearing frame.
It is designed and manufactured for specific applications that require particular characteristics, like marine plywood.
The selection of plywood is not predominantly based on the type of tree used but rather on attaining specific objectives such as strength, resilience, weather resistance, and other criteria.
Plywood panels are factory-cut boards convenient for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. This plywood panel can be made from different types of wood and ply.
Having been sanded on both its top and bottom plies during production, this type of plywood is tailored for projects demanding a polished look. It’s an ideal choice for paneling, shelving, and furniture cabinetry.
Structural Plywood/Plywood Sheathing
This type is designed for long-lasting fixtures and structures and is cost-effective and sturdy. Although it is unfinished, it is suitable for use in hidden areas. Additionally, it is commonly used for beams, bracing, and framing.
Plywood Cabinets Advantages and Disadvantages
Is MDF or plywood better for cabinets?
Both MDF and plywood can be suitable materials for kitchen cabinets. However, MDF may be a better choice for budget-friendly, painted cabinets, while types like birch plywood are recommended for durable, long-lasting cabinets with a natural wood appearance.
Can I finish the plywood veneers?
Yes, you can finish plywood veneers. However, remember that plywood veneers are made up of thin layers of wood that have been glued together, and the quality of the finish will depend on the quality of the front and back veneers.
By taking the time to research and compare different cabinet plywood options, you can ensure that your cabinets will be not only functional and durable but also aesthetically pleasing and long-lasting.
Ultimately, choosing the best plywood for cabinets is an investment in the overall look and feel of your home and a decision that should be made with careful consideration and attention to detail.