For many homeowners, choosing plywood vs. melamine for furniture or cabinets in a home or office can be difficult. There are an abundance of similar-looking materials on the market, which can make decisions increasingly complex for uninformed consumers.
Modern cabinet-makers use a variety of materials to construct cabinets, ranging from traditional, solid wood, to thermally infused laminate (TFL), to plywood, melamine material, and others. Knowing the unique features as well as the advantages and disadvantages of using these various materials for refreshing used cabinets or building new ones is vital.
Holland’s Custom Cabinets believes the best clients are well-informed ones. So in this blog, we’re taking a look at plywood vs. melamine to put you in a better position to make a choice that’s right for you.
What Is Plywood?
Plywood is a top choice when it comes to crafting contemporary kitchen cabinets, primarily due to its cost-effectiveness when compared to solid wood. Plywood consists of thin layers of wood veneers stuck together artificially by glue, while solid wood consists of uniform, natural wood materials.
Because solid wood is a homogeneous, natural material, it tends to be stronger than plywood, especially dense hardwoods. Plywood’s strength generally comes from the quality of the glue used to stick it together. In some cases, in plywoods with high glue shear strengths, the strength of wood and plywood can be comparable.
The versatile nature of plywood used to make plywood cabinets extends beyond simply being cost-efficient compared to solid wood. Plywood offers aesthetic appeal, too, through its ability to mimic natural wood grains.
In contrast, while materials such as melamine and MDF can substitute for plywood in cabinet construction, they may not meet expectations for strength and durability.
Uses of Plywood
Plywood is a versatile building material with many applications. It can be found in single-layer flooring, subflooring, roofing, wall and floor sheathing, wood joists and carrying beams, and structural insulated panels. It can also be used to build furniture, plywood bathroom and plywood kitchen cabinets, office and living area storage units, shelving, and more.
Compared to MDF and melamine
, plywood’s lightweight nature makes it particularly well-suited for use in upper cabinets. In addition, plywood edge finishing with veneer before painting or staining can bolster its attractiveness by offering a more finished look.
Advantages of Plywood
Whether you’re doing a new kitchen or updating an existing one, with plywood’s inherent strength and natural wood-like appearance, there are numerous benefits to using plywood cabinets.
- Plywood offers exceptional durability due to its robustness, surpassing fiberboards like MDF, HDF, and Particle board.
- Its versatile nature allows for layer customization, delivering both strength and the ability to showcase specific wood grains and patterns.
- Plywood comes in various sizes, including extra-thick options, so it can be used in a variety of plywood kitchen cabinets, shelving, and other storage solutions.
- Unlike solid wood, plywood serves as an eco-friendly alternative, helping reduce deforestation and promoting tree conservation.
- Cost-effective in comparison to solid wood, plywood is a budget-friendly choice.
Disadvantages of Plywood
- Plywood construction varies in quality. You should buy plywood cabinets only from trustworthy dealers or have your plywood cabinets built and installed by trusted cabinetmakers, such as Holland’s.
- Ordinary plywood is susceptible to water damage in wet conditions. Water-resistant versions should be used to prevent layer detachment in areas, such as the bathroom, laundry room, garage, etc.
- Prolonged exposure to hot weather can lead to delamination.
- Using nails on plywood cabinets can break the material bonds. It’s best to use screws instead.
What Is Melamine?
Melamine is a popular plastic material used to laminate designs onto substrates of plywood or particleboard. It can also be thermally fused with MDF or particle board to create TFL or similar materials. Because it acts more like a plastic veneer attached to a substrate, a direct comparison between Melamine and plywood is tough to make—but we’ll try.
Uses of Melamine
Melamine is the material used in Formica and other laminated kitchen countertops. It’s also used to laminate plywood kitchen cabinets, with plywood edge finishing techniques applied to create a more finished look.
Melamine is durable and scratch resistant. It comes in numerous colors and pattern options, appealing to virtually any taste. It’s also used extensively as a cost-effective alternative to porcelain or stone floor tiles.
This makes Melamine a popular choice among homeowners who want to boost the aesthetics and durability of their kitchen cabinets.
Advantages of Melamine
Melamine is an excellent alternative to traditional plywood kitchen cabinets and raw unfinished particle board.
- Melamine cabinets offer durability, aesthetics, cost-effectiveness. and reliability.
- Melamine is durable, scratch-resistant, heat-resistant, and fire-resistant.
- Cleaning and maintaining melamine surfaces with soap and water is a breeze due to its waterproof nature.
- Pre-finished melamine is available in various colors, eliminating the need for additional finishing work after installation.
- Compared to granite, quartz, or similar countertops, cutting melamine is straightforward with the right equipment and proper support. A saw with a scoring unit or CNC routers can be used.
- Melamine can be used to refurbish used cabinets or construct new ones, providing a smooth, ready-to-use, uniform finish.
Disadvantages of Melamine Cabinets
- Melamine can bend and warp under heavy loads.
- Melamine material is relatively heavy due to its composite composition.
- The construction of Melamine involves the usage of glues that can release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which the Environmental Protection Agency reports can lead to adverse health effects.
- Melamine purchased in California has an almost non-existent glue content that is low in formaldehyde and releases very small amounts of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs).
- Melamine overlaying a recycle particle board core is an environmentally friendly choice.
Which Is the Right Choice?
Experts often recommend the use of both plywood and melamine for construction cabinets. Both melamine cabinets and plywood cabinets offer distinct advantages, making them suitable for various applications.
- Plywood offers exceptional durability and stability, capable of withstanding daily wear and tear.
- Melamine material is a budget-friendly option with high resistance to moisture, scratches, and impact.
The one you choose should depend on your desired aesthetics, overall design, and budget.Whether you opt for melamine cabinets or plywood kitchen cabinets, the skilled designers and cabinet makers at Holland’s can help you realize your dream kitchen. As the first step in your decision-making process, we invite you to reach out to us today at 619.443.6081.