Melamine Versus Plywood for Kitchen Cabinets
Has anyone ever tried staining and spraying the interiors of an entire kitchen? I would think that in a high end kitchen, the interior should be the same quality and look the same as the exterior. Plus it's difficult to scratch melamine. I have nothing against plywood, and I use it for all the finished ends etc, or where I need it.
From contributor K:
I have a bunch of reasons why I donít use melamine boards:
1. The way it looks. When I show a perspective client a finished piece of plywood vs. a piece of melamine, 9 times out of 10, after looking at the depth of the wood, they are more inclined to warm to the VC finished plywood than the melamine.
I am not totally against melamine. I actually love the material, just not the sub-materials. I do use it, but only when I absolutely must.
Now to be fair, the reasons I love melamine:
1. Easy to disassemble.
I guess if melamine could be produced to be light, non-smelly, chip-resistant, and able to hold a screw, I would be more open-minded about it. But the easy-clean argument isnít enough for me.
From contributor M:
We build frameless melamine boxes with plywood exposed ends finished interiors. The melamine has a natural maple finish to it. I have two displays across from each other, so when the customer asks what the difference is, I show them both and let them decide. 99% go with the melamine. We will build all plywood boxes but I have to charge more for the material, and there is more waste on defects. I can't recall having to replacing a box due to bad melamine though.
From contributor O:
I'm typically as hard headed when it comes to materials. If a customer asks me to build them a beautiful maple kitchen, but they want white interiors because it is what they have currently and like it, I'm not going to tell them all the reasons why I donít want to use it. I will simply save the money and give them what they want. I've built frameless kitchens out of melamine and I've built frameless kitchens using pre-finished maple.
The reality of this whole situation is that each of the materials - melamine and plywood, both have their ups and downs. Like Contributor K said, melamine is weak, chips easy when cut, and holds screws poorly. Plywood, however, is hard to get in perfect - itís straight, has defect free sheets, and has have a tendency to peel. They also chip on the bottom if you don't have a sharp blade. And no matter what, you have to put some kind of finish on them, whether it's paint or finish.
From contributor G:
I've been using shop grade birch or maple for paint grade cabinets, but to get a really smooth finish, it takes a lot of primer and too much sanding. Itís really too much work. On stain grade, I've been using mdf core veneer, which looks great, but is incredibly heavy. It's been a while since I used anything else for stain grade.
Sometimes for panels, I've just sanded the melamine and painted over that. That produces a really smooth finish, and so far (knock on wood) it hasn't failed yet. The last cabinets I did were shop birch import, painted white then antiqued. The customer complained that you could see a bit of grain showing through. So it didn't look plastic enough, I guess, because I didn't fill the grain. This was a display cabinet and it was pretty wide, so I used plywood for strength and to finish it inside and out.
Would you like to add information to this article?
Interested in writing or submitting an article?
Have a question about this article?
Have you reviewed the related Knowledge Base areas below?