Cabinet Bottom and Sides Material

Cabinetmakers discuss the materials they use for parts of a cabinet that don't show. October 22, 2005

This may have been discussed before and if so please point me to the thread. What Im interested in finding out is the norm (if there is such a thing) to use for cabinet bottoms and sides that will not be seen and the inside of cabinets. Do most cabinet makers use pre-finished plywood, melamine, luaun, etc. and just put oak or maple or whatever for the finished sides and face frames? I am a custom furniture maker 70% of the time and am now getting into cabinets.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
My standard interior is birch plywood. I will usually use a B-2 grade, putting the 2 side inside it gives a nice light brown color to the interior. I do all my milling then I pre-finish the inside before assy. If they will never be seen and you don't anticipate water then use MDF or melamine.

From contributor R:
In my market I build most cabinets from white or maple melamine. For finished ends and bottoms I buy veneered melamine. Some people use melamine for everything and add a 1/4" skin for the exposed end.

I find the veneered material easier. You don't have to remember to add 1/4" to your face frame to cover the edge of it. I also use this material on frameless cabinets where you really can't add a 1/4" skin because of the edgebanding (no face frame to cover it). I also pre-finish (the outside) pieces before assembly.

From contributor J:
I almost exclusively use pre-finished maple veneer core plywood. Its nice and bright inside the cabinet, and everyone loves wood. I can't stand working around (or lifting) particleboard, not to mention the formaldehyde, and it doesnt look that good. Veneer core costs more, but it's also a selling point. When a client desperately wants white melamine, I will use a combo-core instead of particleboard. (Interior core of crossband veneers with two outer layers of MDF, finished with wood veneer).

From contributor F:
I agree with Contributor J on this one. I also use veneer core ply on almost everything. I believe it is a far superior product well worth the price, and my clients agree. Most people when they understand the difference will pay for it. I generally use pre-finished maple for cabinets unless I need a matching interior, or MDO for paint grade. I've only used melamine on one commercial project and I made sure the client understood what they were getting and that I could not guarantee the work for more than a year.

From contributor L:
I use 3/4" birch ply for non-exposed components of the cabinets (bottoms, shelves, partitions, etc.) Note: I did say 3/4", while most are using 5/8" and 1/2".

From contributor P:
In our area, Bitterroot Valley in Montana, most cabinetmakers, myself included, use white, almond or woodgrain melamine for interiors. I've never had a client ask for real wood veneer plywood, except for a high end piece of furniture.

From the original questioner:
One of the reasons why I am asking is the expense factor. I have been doing mostly custom furniture that uses all "oak" (or whatever) plywood, hardwood, moldings, (inside and out). I have built around five kitchens so far and I am obviously overbuilding the cabinets. I have been using all the same material inside and out and it gets expensive.

I also dont like trying to finish the inside of cabinets that people are going to line with shelf paper anyway. Im just trying to find a good way to cut down on the time (I am a one man shop) and the material cost (but not quality) since it appears that I may be doing a lot more cabinets.

From contributor F:
I would suggest that you target the high end work and use 3/4" pre finished maple or birch. Use conformant screws, 1/2" backs, and finished end panels over the screws and exposed 1/2" edge. We do mostly beaded inset face frames on wall units and entertainment units.