In The Design Studio: The ABCs of Kitchen Cabinets, Part 2

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This is a sponsored post by Anna Gibson, owner of AKG Design Studio and an award-winning, certified kitchen and bathroom designer. AKG Design Studio is a boutique design firm specializing in kitchen, bathroom designs and cabinetry sales. Contact her at 571-989-2541 or [email protected], and follow her work on HouzzPinterestFacebook and Twitter.

When you think about cabinets you mostly think that they are built out of wood, and that’s true for the most part.

But most cabinets are not built from solid wood. There are other materials that go into the construction of cabinets. Most are wood-based, but others are not.


Just as the term implies, it’s solid piece of wood, all the way through. The only variation might be panels that are pieces of solid wood joined together to create a larger slab. Those are usually used only on the framing and doors of the cabinets. Most cabinet lines will only use solid wood for the face frame, and better cabinet line will use it for drawer boxes and rollouts.

In The Design Studio/Feb. 24, 2017


This is an engineered wood product, one that’s probably most familiar to most. It’s made up of thin wood layers of wood that are glued together in a sandwich form. This construction gives the board more stability.

Most custom and high-end cabinet lines use plywood for all their parts, such as the box and shelving. In mid-level lines, plywood is usually available as an upgrade, which most customers opt to get to provide longevity to their kitchens.


This is engineered wood that is made from wood chips and particles that are combined with an adhesive and fused together into boards. Most stock lines use particle board as the starting point for their construction level. Particle board is cheaper but also absorbs water very quickly and then disintegrates the particles, so you need to very careful about placing cabinets made from particle board in wet spaces.

In The Design Studio/Feb. 24, 2017


This is another engineered wood product that’s made up of wood fibers. MDF has a finer texture than particle board and is denser and heavier than particle board. It’s used for cabinet doors, shelves and cabinet boxes.

Many pre-fabricated low-end vanity cabinets are made from MDF. It will mostly be used for painted cabinets, as it has no wood grain look to it, but it is easy to paint.

In The Design Studio/Feb. 24, 2017

Now that we know about the construction options, the level of customization available and materials used in building the cabinets, how do you spot a great cabinet?

Top-quality kitchen cabinets are made like good furniture, so look for furniture-type construction of the box — 3/4-inch solid hardwood front frame (for framed cabinets); thicker, rather than thinner; and box construction of at least 1/2-inch plywood.

The shelving should be made of plywood as well for extra stability. The drawer boxes and rollouts should be solid wood with undermount glides. Those will be easy to spot, as they will be built with dovetail corner construction and not glued or stapled. The glides will be mounted under the drawer/ rollout for maximum support, and most are built for at least 100 pounds of weight load.

Lastly, ask about the finishing process. Cabinet manufactures have different ways to adhere the finish to the cabinets and you want it to last long.

Regardless of who you buy your cabinets from, make sure you understand what their warranty covers and for how long. Many of the high-end cabinet lines will offer lifetime warranty on the cabinets finish and parts.

If you are still not sure which cabinet is right for you, feel free to contact us or leave a comment below. We would love to help!

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