Furniture Board Vs. Plywood Cabinets: Which One Is Better?

Ossiana Tepfenhart
by Ossiana Tepfenhart

Cabinetry is expensive. It’s one of the most highly requested options as far as major renovations go, and it also needs to be sturdy enough to hold cans of food. A good cabinetry setup is traditionally made of solid wood. Unfortunately, wood prices are sky high and we often need alternatives. That’s why furniture board and plywood get used to make cabinets. Ever wonder which of these two is better?

Furniture board is less expensive and offers a heavy feel that plywood can’t. Plywood is lightweight, has added stability, but requires a lot more money to use. Furniture board has smoother, easier to manage edges. Plywood, on the other hand, is the more durable of the two.

Both furniture board and plywood have their perks, and honestly, they can both look stellar in the right kitchen setup. Of course, one might be better for you than the other. To help you figure out the right pick for you, we put together a quick guide on each.

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Before We Begin: An Introduction To Both Materials

Many people outside the construction industry won’t be able to tell you the difference between furniture board and plywood cabinets. So, let’s start with that.

What Is Furniture Board?

Furniture board is also called particleboard. It’s one of the most common materials made from wood products, and it’s a classic cabinet material. This is made from wood shavings, sawdust, and waste that is mixed with resin and glue. After that, it’s pressed into a board shape and then fashioned into cabinetry.

What Is Plywood?

Plywood is a type of wood-like substance that is made up of multiple thin sheets of wood that are glued and pressed together for added strength. Unlike particleboard, plywood is not made of waste or sawdust. Plywood is known for being lighter weight, primarily because it is not made from resin.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Furniture Board Cabinets?

Furniture board cabinets are very popular, but that doesn’t mean they are the right choice for everyone. In fact, I would wager that a lot of people wouldn’t find them to be a good match for their kitchen needs at all. Here’s what you should expect with furniture board:

  • Furniture board is heavy and is often made to appear like solid wood. It has a deep, thick, pressed look that people tend to enjoy. It feels sturdy.
  • Cabinetry out of particleboard is also the cheapest on the market. Since it is made from “roughage/waste,” this is always going to be the more affordable option.
  • Furniture board has a clean and even look. It also has smoother sides too. You will not see knots of wood streaks with particleboard. It’s much flatter and tends to have a very even grain.
  • However, durability is an issue. Furniture board will look good as new for about three to five years. It is prone to bending, warping, and discoloration.
  • It’s also at a bigger risk for scuffs and scratches. Remember when I said it wasn’t very durable? Yep. It has an issue keeping its veneer looking good.

Note: High-density furniture board does exist, and it is a lot more durable than the standard type. It also can bear loads better than its standard counterpart. If you want to go with particleboard, your best bet is to go for one that’s high-density and also top it off with a protective waterproofing sealant.

An Important Note About Furniture Board Cabinets

Though furniture board remains extremely popular among people who want to have an elegant look, we want to emphasize that this type of cabinetry does NOT do well with water at all. Most particleboard will begin to swell up and get spongy when it is exposed to water and left to sit for a while—which is precisely what happens with most kitchen floods.

If you want to have a furniture board cabinet, you need to remember that there is a good chance that your wood surface will start to look strange and lumpy if water hits it. Unfortunately, once you see swelling on the furniture board, you can’t really fix it. It doesn’t go down once it’s swelled.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Plywood Cabinets?

When most people think of plywood, they wince. It’s a rough, gritty material that most people assume is for cheap theater props or for building up a wall. The truth is that it’s actually pretty good for building stuff. Here’s what you need to understand about plywood cabinetry:

  • Plywood is far more expensive. Plywood is not resin-based. It’s actually made of real wood that’s been glued and bonded together. As a result, it’s more expensive than particleboard.
  • Plywood is lighter, but happens to be a rougher material. You will need to treat the cut edges of plywood with a lot of sanding in order to get away from the roughness. Moreover, you probably may need to add sealant and gloss to smooth out the wood in case of a splinter.
  • There is a lot more durability in plywood than there is in furniture board. You won’t see bending and discoloration with furniture board. In fact, this is actually the more water-resistant option of the two. With that said, you might still want to apply a waterproofing sealant to it.
  • Unlike furniture board, which has a smooth appearance, plywood has a very woody appearance. You will see a real wood grain with plywood.

An Important Note About Plywood Cabinetry

While plywood is not exactly known for being fancy compared to something along the lines of hardwood cabinetry, it’s important to remember that many contractors still consider adding it to be an upgrade to most standard cabinets. As a result, the contracting crews that offer plywood cabinetry tend to tack on a premium price simply because of the material being used.

You should expect to pay an upcharge of anywhere from 10 to 20 percent above the normal price of installing cabinetry. While not all contractors will do this outright, the number of people who do this is pretty high. You might even have to take extra time to find a contractor.

Related Questions

Is plywood safe for use?

While plywood is pretty safe compared to other items in your home, the truth is that there are some issues that you may need to be aware of. Most, if not all, plywood is chemically treated. Some forms of plywood have resins that are included in them that are not considered to be environmentally safe. More specifically, they run the risk of containing formaldehyde.For the most part, plywood will not leech out toxic vapors. However, it’s still not a totally neutral building material. If you want to avoid this issue in your home, then try to stick to pure wood instead.

How long do furniture board cabinets last?

Furniture board cabinets are notoriously short-lived compared to most other types of cabinetry. These will last three to six years, if they are well maintained. However, if you have them in a humid area, they will start to show significant signs of wear and tear. This is a common complaint that people have.There are some types of furniture board cabinets that also have protective coatings. They can last for up to 10 years, but even then, there’s a risk of having dings and dents. Furniture board has that problem, and even the hardier types can struggle with it.

What is considered to be the best cabinet material?

Though plywood is considered to be the best choice for people on a budget, there’s a different choice for people who want to get the gold standard. Hardwoods, such as oak or even teak, are considered to be the best possible material for cabinetry. Of course, this is one of those moments where you may have to pay a serious upcharge in order to get that material. Wood is not as common or cheap as it used to be.

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Which Is Right For You?

The truth is that there are two main schools of thought when it comes to getting cabinetry from wood-analog mixes. You can either go the affordable and crisp route, or you can go for the route that delivers the closest thing to pure wood without being pure wood. Plywood can be splurge, but it is a material that is more moisture-resistant and capable of handling messes.

There are a lot of smaller factors that tend to come into play. However, the biggest one usually is cost. People tend to move towards what they can afford. Most people want to have the more durable option, which is plywood in this case. However, not everyone has the budget to afford all the bells and whistles. So, furniture board is a good backup option on that end.

If you are looking for cheap, short-term options, then you may want to give furniture board a shot. It’s common enough in apartments because it still tends to look alright and it gets the job done.

Ossiana Tepfenhart
Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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