Melamine vs. Plywood Cabinet Construction

Plywood cabinet construction faces competition from melamine construction in the world of kitchen cabinetry. Few cabinets are made of solid wood, but often use one of these manufactured products to create the cabinet boxes. Both types of construction utilize wood that has been compressed to form a solid board, but each type has advantages that make it a favorite of cabinetmakers.

Basic Facts About Melamine vs. Plywood Cabinet Construction
Here are a few things to keep in mind about the manufacturing, strength, weight and density, cost, and environmental impact of each product:

Plywood is made from layered sheets of wood, with the grain pattern perpendicular to the sheet below it to make it resistant to splitting. In contrast, melamine is particleboard or pressed wood, covered with a plasticized coating. The material can crack or break under pressure but does not split. This makes either product suitable for cabinet construction.
Both plywood and melamine have some concentration of formaldehyde, a naturally-occurring chemical made of hydrogen, oxygen, and carbon. The glues used in construction can increase the formaldehyde concentration, which emits VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air. Plywood and melamine can be made from sustainably-grown wood and glued together with moisture-resistant products, according to U.S, European, or Japanese standards, to make it equally safe.
Melamine is the same resin used in Formica and other laminated countertops. It offers a smooth, easy to clean finish that is ready to use without much construction waste or need to paint or stain. In contrast, plywood can have knot holes, defects, and rough surfaces that require finishing. Because plywood has a grain, there can be waste in building cabinets as the grain should run in the same direction.
Plywood cabinet construction can be easier than making them from melamine-encased boards. It is easier to cut and since the material it is less dense, it is easier to assemble cabinets with screws and nails. Cabinets made from plywood are also lighter, an asset for upper cabinets. Cutting melamine is easily done with a saw with a scoring unit and CNC routers to prevent chipping. It is important to support the material while cutting it and to put in screws precisely.
Melamine not only offers beautiful, smooth solid colors, but can replicate wood tones, too. Many people prefer melamine for solid finishes as no grain shows through, and may even prefer the uniform wood pattern. Others want the natural beauty of wood that you get with plywood cabinet construction.
Which to Choose

In deciding between melamine or plywood cabinet material, each has its benefits. Melamine is cost effective, beautiful, and easy to clean. Plywood is easier to work with, plus has natural wood grain.

As long as you finish off the cabinets with good quality doors, either melamine or plywood cabinet construction can yield you beautiful results that will last for years as long as you buy from an experienced supplier, such as Mountain States Kitchen and Bath.

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