Quality is the key in kitchen cabinet construction. The actual construction of a kitchen cabinet box is a major factor to pay attention to when buying kitchen cabinets. Many people never consider this but it’s very important. This is going to impact the quality of your cabinets, and how long they will last. You don’t want to invest in cabinets that will fall apart or fail early on.
Kitchen Cabinet Construction
Common Cabinet Box Materials
1. Solid wood
It’s a block of solid homogeneous wood all the way through. The only variation might be boards or panels that are several pieces of solid wood joined together. We recommend this brand: HERE.
Plywood is probably the most familiar to people that is made up of thin wood “plies” or layers of wood that are glued together in a sandwich form. Usually, the plies are oriented with their grain direction at varying angles. This is to give the board or panel more rigidity and stability. Plywood is used for shelving, doors and cabinet boxes.
An engineered wood product that’s made from wood chips and particles. These are combined with an adhesive and fused together into boards and panels. Particleboard makes up a large percentage of the materials used in today’s cabinetry.
This is another plastic-based product that’s also used to cover cabinet surfaces. It’s a popular material for covering particle board panels that are used in making cabinet boxes. The melamine is on the inside part of the cabinet while the wood veneer is on the outside of the cabinet box.
A thin vinyl film that’s used to cover cabinet boxes, doors and drawer fronts. The vinyl usually starts as a rigid film that’s then heated and formed over the substrate material (such as cabinet door made from MDF). Thermofoil cabinets imply cabinets that are covered with the thermofoil material (the base material will usually be one of the engineered wood products).
Cabinet Door Construction
Cabinet doors are made from solid wood except for stainless steel cabinets. While the engineered wood doors are covered with a wood veneer, laminate or thermofoil. One of the benefits of MDF is that it can be routed and cut, similar to solid wood.
With better results than particle board which is less dense and tends to chip. This feature allows MDF to be formed with a smooth finish to resemble raised-panel doors. The only drawback is that unlike solid wood, MDF can’t be stained (it doesn’t have any grain) so it has to be painted or covered in thermofoil.
2 Basic Types of Cabinet Construction of a Door
Framed doors are made up of an outer frame that is built around a panel in the center of the door. The edges of the panel fit into slots milled into the inside edges of the frame. They are allowed to “float” within the frame to allow for normal expansion and contraction of the wood. Raised panel doors are a common variety of the frame door style.
Slab doors don’t have separate parts like a framed door. They are usually one-piece construction. Or the combination of several solid pieces of wood glued and joined together to form a solid slab. Slab doors made from plywood or MDF are covered in a veneer, laminate or thermofoil covering.
Cabinet Drawer Construction
Cabinet drawers are predominantly made from the same materials that are used to construct the cabinet cases. They are generally made with particle board, MDF, plywood, and solid wood. On higher quality drawers more of the drawer parts tend to be made of solid wood. In order for the cabinet to stand up the abuse from more frequent opening and closing.
On stainless steel cabinets, the drawers are made from stainless steel. Some cabinet manufacturers offer options for metal drawers on their wood cabinet lines. These drawers are coated with an epoxy coating.
Drawer fronts are the part of the drawer that you see that tend to be made from solid wood or MDF. That’s either painted or covered with thermofoil. The way a drawer is built plays a large role in its durability and longevity. The drawer box is made up of two side panels, front and back panels and the bottom.
Kitchen Cabinet Construction Method of a Drawer
Dovetail joints – This is a strong method of joining two boards together at right angles. One perfect example is the drawer boxes. The ends of two boards or panels are notched with V-shaped cutouts. They mesh with corresponding notches on the adjoining panel. If they’re tight, these types of joints are considered very solid.
Mortise and Tenon – Another form of joinery that the method used is a square “post” protruding from one end of a piece of wood. It fits into a square hole or cutout in the mating piece. This type of joinery might be used to fasten the pieces of a cabinet’s face frame together.
Dado – This is a groove that’s cut into a board or panel that the edge of another board/panel can fit into. A good example is the sides and back of a cabinet drawer that are dadoed to accept the edges of the drawer bottom. It’s a stronger way to ‘capture’ the drawer bottom. Some are just glued or nailed from the drawer bottom edges to the side panels.
Rabbet – A notch or step that’s cut into the edge of a board to accept the edge of another board to form a 90-degree angle. It’s similar to a dada cut except one side is left “open”.
Doweled joint – This joinery technique uses round wood dowels (pegs). These are pressed and/or glued halfway into holes drilled into one piece of wood. The protruding part of the dowel is then fit into holes drilled into the mating piece of wood. This method is another way to join the sides of drawers or cabinet boxes together.
Butt joint – On a butt joint, the ends of two pieces of material are brought or “butted” together, edge to edge. Some form of mechanical retention like nails, screws, or glue is needed to hold this joint together.
Nails, screws, staples, and glue aren’t classified as true wood ‘joinery’ techniques. But they’re included because they’re also used in a lot of cabinet assemblies. They either reinforce the wood joinery techniques, or they’re used alone which makes for less-sturdy construction.
The bottom line on cabinet construction methods is that good joinery technique, where the parts ‘lock’ together or where one piece is captured in the other, makes for the strongest joints.
Supplemental fastening methods on these joints (such as a mortise and tenon joint plus screws) makes an even stronger connection. Stronger joints equate to more durable cabinets.
You use your drawers more than any other piece of your cabinet, So you want to make sure that they’ll hold up. They’re going to be opened and closed a lot and you don’t want them breaking apart.
Kitchen Cabinet Height
Finally, you’ll want to decide on your cabinet height. A 30-inch cabinet is a standard cabinet height which consists of only 2 shelves. 42 inches will go all the way up to an 8 ft. ceiling and has 4 shelves. But there are also 36 or 39-inch cabinets that may have 3 shelves.
The higher the cabinet, the higher the price. However, “to the ceiling cabinets” will make a major difference in the look of your space, so don’t penny pinch on height. It will really matter to the end design.
So here are the different options you have when it comes to kitchen cabinet construction. Cabinets are the largest expense material wise when it comes to your kitchen. You want to make sure you choose the best quality material so that you can enjoy your cabinets for the next few decades!