Hardboard Drawer Bottoms

Woodworkers report that hardboard drawer bottoms seem to perform well in service. October 27, 2011

We will be starting on a job pretty soon and noticed in the spec book that 1/4" tempered hardboard can be used for drawer bottoms. We have always used 1/4" prefinished birch plywood in the past. I am guessing that the hardboard is going to be cheaper but concerned about the strength and durability of it vs. the plywood. If anyone has gone this route I would appreciate your input as I don't have much experience with the tempered hardboard.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor T:
My shop cabinetry drawers all have 1/4" hardboard bottoms - they've taken a daily beating for 15 plus years and are still just fine. I'm not wild about the look in a residential application, but it's tough stuff.

From the original questioner:
These drawers will be in an elementary school-classrooms and office areas.

From contributor Y:
It seems these specs are used often by architects. Tempered hardboard or tempered hardboard with laminate cabinet liner. I have run across hardboard for cabinet backs, also.

From contributor J:
I install in many schools for over a decade now. It is very common, also for cabinet backs and, for one manufacturer in particular, cabinet bottoms as well. They are never used as cabinet backs on open cabinets or cabinets with glass doors. They are always clear coated. One good thing is you don't have to worry about grain direction and could possibly have less waste from a sheet.

From contributor U:
I too have had concerns about using 1/4" hardboard for drawer bottoms. On a couple of jobs where we outsourced some closet systems, the drawers came with the hardboard bottoms. There have been zero problems so far, and they have been installed for three years now. I did take a few drawers that were not used at this job, and began using them in the shop. I load them down storing fluid containers, misc. tools and other items that I believe weigh far more than what the average customer would put in them and still no problems. Since I have been pleased with these results, we have now adopted the hardboard as a standard for our drawer bottoms, but we only do drawers limited in size by our closet designs. Our drawers are never over 16" in depth, but will be as wide as 30" which helps with my being comfortable with the hardboard. I will say I like using the white prefinished material, which goes well with a white melamine system.

From contributor R:
We've used melamine covered hard board drawer bottoms for years in commercial work, seems fine.

From contributor W:
I use only 1/2" plywood for drawer bottoms. I rabbet the edges to a tad under 1/4" to fit the dadoes in the sides.