Kitchen cabinet question - Melamine or plywood ?


I've decided to redo our kitchen. (well, I had help making the decision :)
My initial thought was to use 3/4" plywood, but after looking at a number of recently re-done kitchens, I notice they are all 5/8" melemine. Is there a concensus on what cabinets should be made of ? Plywood or Melemine ? 5/8" or 3/4" ?
Thanks in advance
Matt
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Re: Kitchen cabinet question - Melamine or plywood ? Matt, Not sure how I got here but I saw your question and couldn't resist. Firstly, as to not offend anyone. Melamine is a very wonderful product and is the cumulation of many years of research and ingenuity. Depending on the product/consumer/end user Melamine is a very viable and economic option. There are perfect applications for Melamine. Your's may be one but its up to you to decide.
I'm not sure of the retail pricing of melamine and different species of plywood but you should indeed save money using melamine maybe as much as 50% on the materials.
There are drawbacks. Melamine cannot be refinished once installed. Typically it is on a particleboard or MDF substrate. If the substrate gets wet, it will swell and ruin the finish.
I'm not a realestate nor a wood expert(beware of those who are) but you'll most likely recoup more by using plywood and hardwood for kitchen cabinets if you sell your home.
Of course if you have children like mine and would have to replace even stainless steel cabinets every 5 years, save the cash and go with Melamine.
Good luck! Jon
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Re: Kitchen cabinet question - Melamine or plywood ? Matt, Not exactly sure how I got here but I saw your question and couldn't resist. Firstly, as to not offend anyone. Melamine is a very wonderful product and is the cumulation of many years of research and ingenuity. Depending on the product/consumer/end user Melamine is a very viable and economic option. There are perfect applications for Melamine. Yours may be one but it's up to you to decide.
I'm not sure of the retail pricing of melamine and different species of plywood but you should indeed save money using melamine maybe as much as 50% on the materials.
There are drawbacks. Melamine cannot be refinished once installed. Typically it is on a particleboard or MDF substrate. If the substrate gets wet, it will swell and ruin the finish.
I'm not a realestate nor a wood expert(beware of those who are) but you'll most likely recoup more by using plywood and hardwood for kitchen cabinets if you sell your home.
Of course if you have children like mine and would have to replace even stainless steel cabinets every 5 years, save the cash and go with Melamine.
Good luck! Jon
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This may be purely emotional, but there's something about melamine that says "low end" to me. YMMV. I'm currently in the middle of building cabinets out of 3/4" ply. I also think 3/4" is *way* strong, but 1/2" just looks like it's not quite enough. I feel like 5/8" cabinet grade ply would be sort of ideal, but if it's available, it's not available where I shop.
todd
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Does it need to hold up and look good more than 6 or 7 years? If yes use plywood.
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matthew silver wrote:

What kind of plywood? Fir? If yes, use melamine.
If nice ply, do you intend to band any edges that show? Finish the ply nicely? If no to either, use melamine (which also needs something on the edges). I've seen numerous expensive kitchens - really expensive ones - made of ply that showed raw edges...didn't bother the owner but it sure does me.
Is cost a consideration? Use melamine.
There is no doubt that melamine doesn't do well if it gets wet (the substrate doesn't, not the melamine itself). I'm not talking a few drops but considerable water over considerable time. The only place in a kitchen where that might happen is the sink cabinet.
I used melamine on my own cabinets because it is prefinished, easy to clean and - minor consideration - cheaper. Things I dislike about it are the weight and - especially - the sharpness of the cut edges before banding. I should mention that the only place the melamine shows is *inside* the cabinets...the face frames, cabinet doors and drawer fronts are solid wood; I veneered the melamine on outide cabinet ends that show.
The long and the short of it is that nice cabinets can be made of either material. Ply is lots stronger but the strength isn't needed. Either is infinitely preferable to <ugh> MDF. In either case, I prefer to use 3/4 material for the cases/shelves and 1/2" material for the backs. I prefer the 3/4 because I like to join case pieces with tenons glued and screwed into dados and the thicker material gives me more meat. The thick back (also set into a dado) gives a lot of rigidity/strength to the case.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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let me just second dadiOH's opinion. I just went through this myself, and would advise 3/4" cabinet-grade hardwood plywood for the boxes.
I'm assuming there is more to this than just $$, otherwise you wouldn't be building your own boxes. So, do it right and be proud of the result. The cost increment is fairly minor.
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building mine now and plywood is the way to go.

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Thanks for all the replies - they have helped me continue with my original thought of using plywood.
Yes cost is a consideration - which is why I am building them myself. We are the customer - it is our kitchen, and we want it to look good, work well, and be built to last well into the future.
However, the material cost difference between plywood and melamine while being 2x is not significant enough reduce the desired quality and longevity.
In my original budgeting, I have included the router bits for edging and doors.
So far the budget / materials estimate is about $800 for materials (8 sheets cabinet ply at $65 / sheet, hardwood for edging), paint for the interior, fasteners etc, and under $1000 for kitchen cabinet hardware (larder, shelf slides, hinges etc) , router bits, new saw blade etc. All in all, I expect it to run under $3500 after misc other finishing items (e.g. counter and sink) and tax.
(I always include tool/bit purchases in my projects as it minimizes overall surpri$es - and increasing my workshop based on needed)
We are still working on the requirements & design. This will be my first time building kitchen cabinets, but it seems well within my skills, and that requirements are not tight. The kitchen is fairly small - 10 * 12 space, no new appliances needed.
My essential plan is to begin in the spring, build them in the garage, then rip out the existing and replace. Lee Valley will likely be my source for kitchen hardware, and tools that I cannot get in my neighborhood, at Arts Tools Home Depot / Rona for the plywood; hardwood - not sure yet, but a number of good places nearby (e.g. Exotic Woods) Labor will be my son & I, with a friend or 2 for the upper cabinet install.
In the meantime, I have been experimenting with banding plywood with hardwood, and joining with biscuits, rail & stile to make sure I get the skills down pat. Reading lots of books, websites, etc for tips, ideas etc.
Some build details still to decide are - primarily use biscuits or screws for carcass assembly (leaning toward biscuits) - cut, assemble, paint or cut, paint assemble
Do you see any big omissions in these plans ?

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FWIW I would advise to stay away from HD for your ply, at least anything that is visible. All ply is not created equal, and at least in my neck of the woods, HD ply is wavier and has more voids than what I find at the lumber yard.
Don't forget finish in your budget. I estimate $15 per linear foot for finish and finish supplies, assuming M.L. Campbell Krystal.
Assuming solid hardwood doors, drawer fronts, face frames, and drawers, I would estimate $150 per linear foot (uppers and lowers) for materials, and advise using Blum Tandem drawer slides. A little pricy, but *very* nice, and also easy to install. I reckon the time saved vs Accuride will more or less pay for the difference in $$.
Cut, assemble (no backs) finish, then backs on.
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matthew silver wrote:

If you mean thinnish (1/8" or less) wood on the edges, an easy way is to paint white glue heavily on the edges, let dry and use a household iron to iron on the wood strips.
-- dadiOH ____________________________
dadiOH's dandies v3.06... ...a help file of info about MP3s, recording from LP/cassette and tips & tricks on this and that. Get it at http://mysite.verizon.net/xico
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On Mon, 23 Jan 2006 19:53:39 -0500, matthew silver wrote:

My answer is mixed. We had our kitchen redone and we choose a shop that uses melamine. The cabinets are great and we've had no problems. It is just the boxes, show surfaces are cherry. Our old cabinets were 5/8 MDF with a coat of wood stain (cheap junk). However, the boxes have held up great. I seriously considered building new face frames for the old boxes. I think either choice is a viable one for the case construction. Hardwood would be a better choice for the face frames or show surfaces.
With that being said, I've done cabinets for both SWMBO's office and recently my office. In both cases I used plywood. I like working with it better than either MDF or Melamine. Less dust and less weight.
DGA
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To add one additional thought to the excellent responses already in this thread...
For cabinet sides that don't show, you can use cheaper plywood rather than a hardwood ply like cherry (for example). This would be mostly in areas of the base cabinets that have drawers top to bottom, under the sink maybe 'cause you don't really store nice stuff down there, and so on.
Upper cabinets are mostly visible inside (both due to their location and contents) so you'd want to stick with the better ply.
I'm getting ready to start on mine as well. Have all the materials but the hinges, door handles, and magic wand (to wave over the mass of materiel in the basement and make it transform into the finished products). But, since I just (well somewhat recently) moved to this house, I gotta run power to the shop, rip out and redo the drywall with mold that I found when I was making the outlet box holes, put the fence back on the saw, and on and on and on...
'nuther couple of cents (or is that sense?) for your collection. Renata
On Mon, 23 Jan 2006 19:53:39 -0500, "matthew silver"

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