Whether you’re purchasing bulk cabinets as a retail supply store or builder, it’s wise to know about the types of materials used in fabricating cabinets. With knowledge, you can purchase the cabinets made from materials that you prefer or ones that best suit your customer’s needs. Most cabinets are fabricated from hardwoods. However, to reduce costs, veneers over a substrate like plywood are typically used. Since wood wraps easily, it critical that the wood be finished on all sides. If cabinetry isn’t finished on-site, it’s best to do it quickly to avoid warping. In high-humidity areas, veneered cabinets are more stable than cabinets built of solid wood.
Red oak is a durable, inexpensive and an attractive wood with well-defined grain patterns. It is typically an option for stock, semi-custom and custom-made cabinets. White oak is even stronger than red oak and features a subtle grain with an old-world period look. Very often, white oak is only available as a custom option. Hard maple is light-color wood with a fine grain. Just a bit pricier than oak, hard maple can be dressed up with a natural finish for a modern look. It’s a popular choice for both custom and semi-custom cabinets. Hickory is often chosen for those who want a rustic look. Its blond tones emphasize its earthy grains.
Both formal and elegant looking, cherry is a tough wood that stands up to marring and knocks. Depending on the style of the cabinet, this wood works well for both a modern personality and a traditional style. It features a fine, smooth grain, and its reddish-brown wood naturally darkens as it ages. Often, cherry is stained to give the wood a uniform color. Birch is a relatively inexpensive wood and is very durable. With the right finish, it can appear to mimic a more expensive wood like cherry. It’s a popular choice in semi-custom lines and stock lines. Ash is equivalent to oak in durability and strength, but has a more pronounced profile and lighter color. Availability of oak is usually limited in semi-custom lines and often seen in custom work.
Instead of wood veneer or solid wood, cabinets can be purchased in Thermofoil or laminate. Both of these materials are applied to substrates and come in a wide variety of patterns and colors. Some even masquerade as real wood. Thermofoil undergoes an application process that results in a real-wood look. Under pressure and heat, the vinyl film of Thermofoil is applied to a substrate. The benefits of Thermofoil cabinets include chip resistance and easy care. Laminates are constructed of three layers and are often used to cover the fronts and backs of doors and other cabinet surfaces. High-pressure laminates are extremely durable. On the flip side, low-pressure laminates are less resistant to bruising, but the use of a good substrate usually reduces its less-impact resistance. Particle board, medium-density fiberboard and plywood are the most common substrates used in cabinetry. Improved resins and new technology have both made particle board more durable.