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Solid Wood Cabinets vs. Particleboard Cabinets - The Pitfalls of Particleboard Kitchen Cabinets


Hands holding the corner of a sheet of plywood with veneer that is used to make solid wood kitchen cabinets.
Sheet Plywood with Wood Veneer used to Construct Quality Solid Wood Kitchen Cabinets

If you're shopping for kitchen cabinets, you're going to run across many options with many different price points to consider. One of the biggest price differences when comparing kitchen cabinets is directly related to the materials used for construction, in particular, Solid Wood Cabinet Boxes vs. Particleboard Cabinet Boxes. You may be considering particleboard kitchen cabinets to benefit from the initial upfront savings, but buyer beware, you may not be saving anything at all. Particleboard, or furniture board kitchen cabinets may end up costing you more in the long run! If you plan to save money with particleboard cabinets, you're doing it wrong. Keep reading and I'll show you a smarter alternative.


In case you missed our last blog post, Solid Wood Cabinet Boxes vs. Plywood Cabinet Boxes - Which is Better? (Spoiler Alert: Both are constructed using Solid Plywood Boxes), be sure to check it out. It contains valuable information to help you understand cabinet lingo and shop like an expert. This last article briefly discussed Solid Plywood Cabinet Boxes vs. Particleboard Cabinet Boxes, but I really wanted to go more in-depth for anyone who may be on the fence. While there may be Pro (not plural) for Particleboard Kitchen Cabinets, the Cons are overwhelming.


Particleboard Kitchen Cabinet Pros:

  1. Cost Savings

  2. .......ummmmm :(

Particleboard Kitchen Cabinet Cons:

  1. Particleboard cabinets are too quickly ruined with a minor water mishap. Leaky faucet or Drain... Anyone?

  2. Particleboard cabinets cannot withstand normal wear and tear; they cannot successfully hold on to the screws and fasteners that are trying hold the cabinets together. Think crooked cabinet doors that are falling off and shelves that no longer hold in place.

  3. Even in the cleanest of homes, particleboard cabinets are a food source for certain six legged creatures. Sorry, Not Sorry - They Are Not Just Eating Your Reece's! I know this is disturbing, but I feel obligated to let people know. I don't want anyone to feel the need to spray toxic bug spray in and around a place that is supposed to house your dishes and food.


 

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What Exactly Is Particleboard? Why is it Destined to Fail?

According to the Oxford Dictionary, particleboard is a "material made in rigid sheets or panels from compressed wood chips and resin, often coated or veneered, and used in furniture, buildings, etc., where a stronger material is not required." And herein lies the problem. Are you required to use a material stronger than particleboard to construct your kitchen cabinets? No. Technically, particleboard is capable of constructing a kitchen cabinet. The real question everyone should be asking is... How long will a particleboard cabinet be able to function properly and look presentable? The answer to this question can vary depending on the particular cabinet, frequency of use, environment, etc.


The sad truth is a particleboard cabinet will never last longer than a quality built wood cabinet. If you've never seen particleboard close up, here is your chance. If you are still considering purchasing particleboard cabinets after reading this article, I strongly urge you to visit your local home store and examine a piece of particleboard in person. What I can't convey in words and images alone can be easily understood after you feel the edge of a sheet of crumbly porous particleboard. You owe it to yourself to be well informed before making a large kitchen cabinet purchase.

Edge and corner view of sheets of particleboard that are used to construct cheap kitchen cabinets.
Edge View of Particleboard Commonly Used to Construct Cheap Kitchen Cabinets

Water Damage to Particleboard Cabinets

If you've never experienced this particleboard disaster waiting to happen, let me clue you in. Particleboard cannot withstand water. If you have a minor kitchen flood, a leaky faucet/drain, or maybe you just like to mop your kitchen floors, you will eventually have to deal with the mess of a mushy wet cabinet that swells as it takes on water, never returns to it's original shape, and becomes structurally damaged in the process. If any of these things happened to a wood cabinet, there is a good chance you could make an appropriate repair. Damaged particleboard will never be quite right.


Check out the 2 images below. Ken N. from Ft. Worth, TX found himself in need of new kitchen cabinets to replace his particleboard cabinets (installed by the original home builder). During a winter freeze, one of Ken's water pipes froze then developed a small leak that was originally undetected. The water escaping from the pipe found its way to the kitchen and was quickly absorbed by Ken's built-in sponges (aka particleboard cabinets). Ken's old cabinets had already been removed from his kitchen and were waiting to take a journey to the dump, so I asked if I could take a few photos to show everyone what I'm talking about (Thanks Ken!). The first picture shows a visible exterior cabinet side while I believe the second picture may have been the side of a cabinet that was butted next to another cabinet. Both of these images show particleboard that has absorbed water, swelled, and caused the thin vinyl finish layer to bubble and peel. While it may not be obvious visually, it should also be noted that since these cabinets have absorbed water, even after drying out, these particleboard pieces are no longer strong and rigid. Keep in mind, this is an example of water damage caused by only a small leak. Imagine the results if you added a bit more water to the equation.



Particleboard Cabinets Lack Strength and Durability

If you're lucky enough to never experience any water damage, the particle board simply isn't strong enough to endure years of opening and closing cabinet doors and drawers. The screws and fasteners that attach your cabinet pieces together will eventually find themselves falling out of worn out holes that are wallowed out and are no longer capable of getting a grip. Unfortunately, it might not take long to fall victim to this wear and tear process. You may notice drooping and saggy (if not falling off) cabinet doors, sagging shelves, shelves that fall when the shelf bracket can't grip any longer, etc.


At some point, these broken cabinets will have to be replaced. Best case scenario, you also invested in inexpensive countertops that can be easily removed and reused after you replace your cabinets. Worst case scenario (most common) your junk cabinets are beautifully topped with the money you initially saved (see those beautiful granite countertops and custom tile backsplash? If only there was an easy way to move your countertops out of the way while your cabinets are being replaced... Unfortunately, this is quite an ordeal that will incur additional expense for removal and reinstallation).


Sadly, in the remodeling industry, we see this all to often. While it may seem like a huge savings to invest in cheap cabinets, you'll soon find out they are not an investment at all. They may in fact be a money pit. My point is that any kitchen cabinet you buy won't be cheap. Don't throw away your hard earned money on a product that is going to make its way into the landfill much sooner than later.


Particleboard Cabinets Attract Roaches

Now here's where it gets icky... According to greenlivingtips.com, "Cockroaches inside the home can spread disease and they are a sign that there is food they can access close by, so it’s best to deal with them.

Sometimes if no real food is available, they’ll even resort to eating particle board, a common item in many homes."

I don't want any part of this and I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you don't either. I think the easiest solution to this potential problem would be... Don't install an endless buffet!


The Cheapest of Kitchen Cabinets are Not Inexpensive!

While you can find cheap kitchen cabinets made from particleboard or furniture board, they are still going to cost quite a bit of money! Even the least expensive kitchen cabinets available are still a substantial expense. Kitchen cabinets are some of the most expensive materials needed for a new home build or kitchen remodel. While I wish I had learned the following lesson sooner, I finally realized, it does not make sense to invest in junk. You are not saving money if you are buying a product that will have to be replaced much sooner than later. Spending a bit more on a quality product will save you the headache and cost of replacement in the near future. This rule applies not only to kitchen cabinets but almost everything. Do the math, save-up if you have to, and buy a quality product that will function for you for years to come.



Edge corner view of a piece of plywood that would be used to construct solid wood kitchen cabinets.  This unfinished plywood has a birch veneer.
Edge View of Plywood with Wood Veneer used to Construct Quality Wood Kitchen Cabinets.

Solid Wood Kitchen Cabinets

Solid Wood Kitchen Cabinets are constructed using solid plywood cabinet boxes. Plywood just happens to be excellent at accepting and holding onto the screws that hold your cabinets together. This construction method results in a cabinet that is stronger, more durable, and has increased longevity compared to particleboard construction - Simple.


A Kitchen Cabinet That Lasts Longer is a Greener Option

Take a look in many older homes. Many times, these homes have older kitchen cabinets that are original to the house. These cabinets will likely be constructed of plywood and there is a very good chance they have been there for decades. Sure, they might look a bit dated, but these are the types of cabinets that are worth the 're-investment' of a quality paint job, new doors, or soft-close door and drawer upgrade. The cabinets as a whole are still there doing their job. Even if you choose to remove them during a remodel, they are a good candidate to stay out of a landfill. Quality wood cabinets can be upcycled by donating them to your local Habitat Re-Store or even selling them. My point is, these types of quality cabinets aren't trash. Pro Tip: Unlike what you've seen on TV, real pros don't 'tear out' old kitchen cabinets with a sledge hammer, we carefully uninstall them whenever possible. It's cleaner, neater, and often-times faster!


How To Save Money on Kitchen Cabinets (The Right Way)

If you absolutely must save money on your kitchen cabinets, save money the smart way. Choose Solid Wood RTA (Ready-to-Assemble) Kitchen Cabinets.

RTA Cabinets arrive flat-pack shipped and you can assemble them yourself to save some serious cash. Depending on your kitchen size, you could potentially save thousands of dollars when you select these quality cabinets. This is because RTA cabinets have a smaller footprint when being shipped. A full set of kitchen cabinets can typically fit on 2 palettes while assembled cabinets take up significantly more space. Aside from assembled cabinets costing you more because of the increased labor involved to build them, the extra space they consume on a truck must also be factored into the cost. More space equals higher shipping rates.


Selecting quality ready-to-assemble cabinets allows you to invest in a quality product at a much lower price point all while avoiding the common disasters associated with particleboard cabinets. In case you are wondering, these RTA cabinets are pretty easy to assemble. If you're handy and own a screwdriver or a drill/driver, you can assemble RTA cabinets (and no, they are nothing like IKEA cabinets). Many homeowners also choose to install their own kitchen cabinets to save even more money. If this interests you, we have included some helpful 'How-To Install Kitchen Cabinets' videos from This Old House.


So, quick recap... Particleboard Kitchen Cabinets are a No-No and at Prefinished Cabinets, we refuse to sell them. We know they are destined to fail and don't want the headache associated with selling you a junk product that results in bad reviews and angry phone calls. We only sell quality cabinets constructed using solid plywood boxes. If you would like to check them out, visit our Online Showroom.