Plywood vs. Pressed Wood Cabinets

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There has long been a debate in the industry about the differences in cabinetry that are manufactured from plywood or from pressed wood. Most all professionals agree that there are many benefits to plywood cabinetry, not least because they don't expand or dissolve from moisture as pressed wood cabinets do.

I would like to ask our esteemed group of rehabbers, if the money spent on plywood cabinets, though minimal, is necessary if the home will be flipped. I have heard that buyers are more educated today than before, and will consider it a negative if the cabinet boxes were constructed from pressed wood.

What are your experiences?

It is a little more complicated than just plywood vs 'pressed wood'. First you really need to determine what type of cabinet style you want. If you are going with a euro or frameless type cabinet (think ikea) chances are they will be particle board core with melamine or laminate faces. There is nothing with this for the most part, especially if the parts are at least 5/8" thick. Where you will run into problems is if the particle board is exposed and rests on the floor or anywhere it can wick up moisture easily it will expand and eventually fall apart. This will be a problem with plywood too, although much lease pronounced, it will warp from moistuure as well.

most residential kitchens in my area tend to be cheap face frame type cabinets like you find at lowes, with 1/2" plywood sides and bottoms, with hardwood face frame members and wood doors and drawers fronts. Sometimes they may have particle board sides with melamine faces to looked like plywood. There was a post recently on the forums of someone whose tenant left a hole in the side of their rental's cabinet and it was particle board. Had it been plywood this would have been hard to do that type of damage.

I am building cabinets for my kitchen now and I am using 3/4" prefinished uv maple plywood and I'm making poplar shaker style doors with mdf flat panels. I could have easily gone with particle board melamine, and all mdf doors, but the plywood will be more durable, and less prone to moisture problems, and the hardwood doors will handle wear and tear of my toddler as well.

I also am an engineer for a cabinet shop so I can design, program, and cut my on cabinets on a cnc, so I'm a little biased and have a few more choices than most. 

In the end, it's more about th e look and market you are going for.

if you want the quality of plywood cabinets, with a little more customization you might check out cabinotch.com . They are face frame cabinets that you can build and price online and have shopped to you, and you put them together. They use a proprietary design where all of the parts slide together like a puzzle. They are very strong. You can get doors and drawer fronts from someone locally, or there are plenty of major companies as well. Semihandmadedoors.com is one I heard of recently that makes custom doors for ikea cabinets.

I have rehabbed a couple of places but I am not a flipper.  For rentals I would not use pressboard.  For flips I think the price point matters.  Entry level home buyer it won't matter meaning if they care it probably won't cost you the sale.    Higher end homes  it will create a spillover effect, the buyer who cares  may think they did not use  plywood where else did they skimp and then it may matter.  To me it seems like it is based on what is your market for the house.

I recently put in plywood cabinets not knowing whether I would flip or rent the property. But either way, I wanted the plywood. It's great in rentals because it's more durable. But it's also great in a flipper because some buyers do pay attention to things like that. 

from my research recently I've come to a strong opinion. Your basic cabinet options are. 1. get the cheapest stuff at home deport, lowes, or IKEA. All particle board or MDF. spend 2k in a 10x10 kitchen run 2. get RTA plywood cabs at your local Chinese knock down shop or best of class online RTA like Lilly Ann or RTAcabinetshoo.com and spend 2.5k for the same setup 3. get high end designer "made in USA". prestige cabinets at a local shop which serves you tea and lattes and you work with a personal designer . same cab setup 8k for cabs 8k for install. I'm almost always going to go for option #2

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