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The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board

 
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Old 02-01-2010, 08:00 PM   #1
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The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


For most of my career I have had no problem selling particle board cabinets. Afterall, a PB cabinet still has a solid wood face frame, doors and drawer face. Then I move to Texas and the consumer market culture for cabinets are different. Simply saying the word "particle board" is sure to send you to a burning hell by committing such a mortal sin.

The following is yours truely's expert take on the on going war between PB and plywood cabinets:


First you may be surprised to learn that those ads you read by unscrupulous cabinet stores is false advertising. You know, the ads that say ALL WOOD CABINETS. The only true solid stock wood is the parts used to make face frames, drawer faces and.....most times doors. Solid wood tends to warp. This is a special concern in the kitchen where the moisture level changes frequently. Open the dishwasher door or boiling water steam can play havoc on cabinets.

An advertised all wood cabinet usually means the box carcus is a 5 or 7 ply plywood. Plywood is made by layering thin layers of wood each new layer is layed with the grain going in the opposite direction then the one next to it. They are glued together and pressed. The very outer layer will have a layer of paper thin veneer of the wood species (maple, cherry, oak, maple etc) chosen for the cabinet. The wood plys by themselves are ugly unusable wood. These plys will remain stable forever in small sized parts such as in the construction of a cabinet box.

Using the term "all wood" to include plywood is the worst kind of uneducated snobbery designed to force consumers into "upgrading" unnecessarily. Partical board isn't any less "all wood" than plywood is. It's just smaller particals (thus the origination of the name) VS thin sheets/layers of veneers. In a flood situation, plywood is NOT any more resistant to moisture damage than partical board is.

Some grades of plywood delaminate quite easily. It's all about the grade of each product and the glues that hold it together. Industrial furniture grade partical board isn't the 16 PSI junk that those round "decorator tables" that you buy from WalMart are made of. That type of partical board DOES fall apart almost instantly when exposed to water. Industrial furniture grade partical board which is what today's cabinets are made from is made from much better glues and uses much higher pressures to set it. It's so much more "all wood" than plywood is that it is a LOT heavier than plywood! It wears just as well as plywood does if the proper construction techniques are used for each type of material.

There really isn't a detectible difference to the end product at all once it's installed. BTW, if you want a matching interior, veneer actually installs and lays much better over MDF or PB than plywood. And, veneer is "real wood" too!

"Upgrading" to plywood is money pulled out of your pocket and put into the pocket of the manufacturer and showroom. I NEVER suggest plywood to any of my customers. I always suggest putting that money into organizational conveniences that will make a difference how you live!

Particle board box construction will save you about 30% off the cost of an all wood kitchen. Now that can add up to huge savings.
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Old 02-01-2010, 08:06 PM   #2
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


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"Upgrading" to plywood is money pulled out of your pocket and put into the pocket of the manufacturer and showroom. I NEVER suggest plywood to any of my customers. I always suggest putting that money into organizational conveniences that will make a difference how you live!
Exactly!

Good post IMHO

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Old 02-01-2010, 08:38 PM   #3
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


"Quote:In a flood situation, plywood is NOT any more resistant to moisture damage than partical board is. "

I have to disagree. Plywood can stand some water and when it drys can be OK.
Particle board worse than the old OSB, it will swell when wet and does not shrink back. Often even turn to sawdust.
I have seen plently of this in cabinets. But even more when used as a subfloor. Even swells from pets peeing on carpet.
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Old 02-01-2010, 08:48 PM   #4
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


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"Quote:In a flood situation, plywood is NOT any more resistant to moisture damage than partical board is. "

I have to disagree. Plywood can stand some water and when it drys can be OK.
Particle board worse than the old OSB, it will swell when wet and does not shrink back. Often even turn to sawdust.
I have seen plently of this in cabinets. But even more when used as a subfloor. Even swells from pets peeing on carpet.
Not the more modern industrial 45 PSI particle board Ray. I have a tray in my showroom filled with water. I have stacks of 4" square half inch thick pieces of the hi grade PB used in my brand of cabinets as well as from junk PB bought in the big box stores. I also have squares of cheap junk 7 ply plywood from a Chinese made cabinet. I keep this science project for my customers.

I will place the pieces in water as we chat. The junk 15 PSI particle board almost instantly swells up and starts to fall apart. The industrial 45 PSI PB does nothing and the plywood plys seperate.

Dont judge the newer high PSI PB. It is far superior to any plywood.

Do you know what I tell people who dont believe it? I tell them to go into the big box store and walk to the back where the lumber is. Take a look at the stacks of sheet goods. What do you see? The top layers of plywood are all bent like a bananna. You always have to remove 10 sheets to get to a flat one. Everyone can relate to this cause everyone seen it. Then I tell them to look at the stacks of partical board and what do they see? Every single sheet is flat as flat can be and will remain in that stable state for the next 100 years.
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Old 02-01-2010, 09:21 PM   #5
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


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Not the more modern industrial 45 PSI particle board Ray. I have a tray in my showroom filled with water. I have stacks of 4" square half inch thick pieces of the hi grade PB used in my brand of cabinets as well as from junk PB bought in the big box stores. I also have squares of cheap junk 7 ply plywood from a Chinese made cabinet. I keep this science project for my customers.

I will place the pieces in water as we chat. The junk 15 PSI particle board almost instantly swells up and starts to fall apart. The industrial 45 PSI PB does nothing and the plywood plys seperate.

Dont judge the newer high PSI PB. It is far superior to any plywood.

Do you know what I tell people who dont believe it? I tell them to go into the big box store and walk to the back where the lumber is. Take a look at the stacks of sheet goods. What do you see? The top layers of plywood are all bent like a bananna. You always have to remove 10 sheets to get to a flat one. Everyone can relate to this cause everyone seen it. Then I tell them to look at the stacks of partical board and what do they see? Every single sheet is flat as flat can be and will remain in that stable state for the next 100 years.
When your looking at 3-ply in the Box stores you'll see that,not when you look at their finished 3/4" ply.
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Old 02-01-2010, 10:32 PM   #6
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


I have just always considered PB= junk.
I have to admit I have never heard of or used/ tested the better industrial PB. Sounds like could be a good option if building your own, otherthan the extra weight if a concern. Anyway thanks for the info.
But if you are buying prebuilt cabinets it maybe hard to tell the difference. So the safe bet still may have to be plywood. I replace/repair a lot of Bath vanity cabs and the PB always seems to fall apart. Also some kitchen cabs. Which must be do to the cheaper PB being used, so at least a lot of them must still be using the regular PB.
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Old 02-03-2010, 08:38 AM   #7
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


Look my friends, like the above poster said, in his past he as always thought of particle board as junk. Lets back up some. Back in the 1980s automobiles started using plastic in interiors. Later in the 80s we started seeing painted rubber bumpers. Public outcry was huge. Remember? "Damn cheap Chevy, Ford etc........putting cheap junk plastic on my dashboard and door panels...how dare them" Remember? Now think about it. When was the last time any of you complained about your own vehicle today because there is use of plastic on so many parts? Plastic is very accepted today isn't it. In fact it is expected.
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Old 02-03-2010, 09:33 AM   #8
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


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Plastic is very accepted today isn't it. In fact it is expected.
Doesn't necessarily mean it's the most durable product, just the only choice you've got. Sorry, I'm still gonna build with plywood. I'm from the show me state & don't drink Kool aid.
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Old 02-03-2010, 06:41 PM   #9
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Doesn't necessarily mean it's the most durable product, just the only choice you've got. Sorry, I'm still gonna build with plywood. I'm from the show me state & don't drink Kool aid.
That's ok but you are cheating your customers by not showing them every product available. Im up there in age too and old habbits die real hard. But in an economy where customers are looking for more and more for less and less I feel other less costly options should be shown to them. But if that other product has a bad name then it is my/our jobs to educate our customers about that product and let them make the choice.
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Old 02-03-2010, 09:15 PM   #10
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


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Not the more modern industrial 45 PSI particle board Ray. I have a tray in my showroom filled with water. I have stacks of 4" square half inch thick pieces of the hi grade PB used in my brand of cabinets as well as from junk PB bought in the big box stores. I also have squares of cheap junk 7 ply plywood from a Chinese made cabinet. I keep this science project for my customers.

I will place the pieces in water as we chat. The junk 15 PSI particle board almost instantly swells up and starts to fall apart. The industrial 45 PSI PB does nothing and the plywood plys seperate.

Dont judge the newer high PSI PB. It is far superior to any plywood.

Do you know what I tell people who dont believe it? I tell them to go into the big box store and walk to the back where the lumber is. Take a look at the stacks of sheet goods. What do you see? The top layers of plywood are all bent like a bananna. You always have to remove 10 sheets to get to a flat one. Everyone can relate to this cause everyone seen it. Then I tell them to look at the stacks of partical board and what do they see? Every single sheet is flat as flat can be and will remain in that stable state for the next 100 years.
What parts of the cabinets that you sell are made out of 1/2" PB ? The reason that I ask is that I recently had a customer that got an estimate from Lowes and he showed me a spec sheet for the cabinets and it listed the cabinet body as being made from 1/2" PB with 1/8" backs.

I kind of chuckled while I was reading it and he got a little defensive and shouted out "Well,the drawers are dovetailed and made out of 3/4" solid maple!" I told him that was great but he may want to consider keeping the cardboard boxes that his cabinets will be coming in and installing them instead.

On the topic of industrial PB, If I had a dollar for every M3 48# core countertop that I saw that had water damage around the sink I would be retired by now. Florida actually has a commercial building code that forbids PB use in the immediate area of a sink.

Don't get me wrong I love PB and I build a lot of my cabinet bodies out of it (3/4" melamine). It is very consistent,stable and tough as nails but I wouldn't list water resistance as one of its finer attributes. If someone is concerned about potential moisture problems you can always suggest MR core.
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:33 PM   #11
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


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"Upgrading" to plywood is money pulled out of your pocket and put into the pocket of the manufacturer and showroom. I NEVER suggest plywood to any of my customers. I always suggest putting that money into organizational conveniences that will make a difference how you live!
Particle board box construction will save you about 30% off the cost of an all wood kitchen. Now that can add up to huge savings.

I definetly agree that unless you have no budget worries why have plywood on the sides of the cabinets that aren't exposed ?

When I did my kitchen (maple ) I had the exposed cabinet ends with plywood sides all others were particle board . That was over 13 years ago and they are still in great shape .

On some installs I install matching 1/4 " plywood veneers on the exposed ends . This works very well too .

I will say this I hate laminate countertops over particle board . Stuff weighs 3 times as much as the shops that use plywood . Thats just from an installers view .
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:48 PM   #12
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What about MDF?
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Old 02-03-2010, 10:50 PM   #13
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What parts of the cabinets that you sell are made out of 1/2" PB ? The reason that I ask is that I recently had a customer that got an estimate from Lowes and he showed me a spec sheet for the cabinets and it listed the cabinet body as being made from 1/2" PB with 1/8" backs.

I kind of chuckled while I was reading it and he got a little defensive and shouted out "Well,the drawers are dovetailed and made out of 3/4" solid maple!" I told him that was great but he may want to consider keeping the cardboard boxes that his cabinets will be coming in and installing them instead.>>>>>>>>>>

Nothing to laugh at . I just installed a Lowes Kitchen with that exact type of cabinet and they were damn decent for a builders grade type .

As your guy said they had dovetail drawers and were also maple doors(raised panel ) and maple frames . 1/2 , particle board sides and 1/8" backs . However they had a 3/4" hanging rail built in top and bottom . Good and sturdy . Also had 3 way adjustable hinges , soft action closers on the doors and drawers .

I asked her why she didn't use the showroom I recommended and she showed me her reciept .

14 cabinets and soffit crown with above specs $2,800

GE profile faux stainless side by side fridge , hood/micro combo , smooth top range , and dishwasher $1,800 TOTAL if she bought the cabinets .

I had to laugh and say good job there was no way the showroom I sub from could touch those prices .

Cabinets went up flawlessly and I hate the big box stuff normally .

Last edited by Leo G; 02-03-2010 at 11:04 PM. Reason: fixed quote
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:09 PM   #14
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Re: The War Of Plywood VS Particle Board


Believe me, she will realize soon that she got what she paid for. They look good on the outside, but the lack of substantial components on the case will rear its ugly head in about 4-6 years. I will say that a lot of the cabinets they have these days look great on the outside. But the insides are where they save all the money and that is where the outsides are attached to. I have put up cabinets like this and there is no real strength to these cabinets. If they are out of square it is easy to fix it. Just push on it with one finger and wha la. Back into square it is.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:13 PM   #15
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Believe me, she will realize soon that she got what she paid for. They look good on the outside, but the lack of substantial components on the case will rear its ugly head in about 4-6 years. I will say that a lot of the cabinets they have these days look great on the outside. But the insides are where they save all the money and that is where the outsides are attached to. I have put up cabinets like this and there is no real strength to these cabinets. If they are out of square it is easy to fix it. Just push on it with one finger and wha la. Back into square it is.
One finger? You are kind of old, I bet you have to get the pony clamp out now!!

I fix them by using my 4 year old as a counter weight.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:23 PM   #16
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One finger? You are kind of old, I bet you have to get the pony clamp out now!!

I fix them by using my 4 year old as a counter weight.
Geeze, I haven't even hit 70 yet and you are calling me old.




My favorite cabinet had a sticker on it claiming "Fine furniture grade cabinetry"

Laughed all day long. Every time I saw one of those stickers. 1/2" PB sides, 1/8 backs, vinyl coated insides. The shelf holes has vinyl remnants left over from the dull drills. The vinyl was wrinkled where the back was slid into the dado. Hot melt glue oozing everywhere. The ends of the upper cabinets protruded above the top which made it difficult to put the top mounted molding on and have it look good.

After it was all up it looked very good. I hope they saved a lot of money over my cabinets. When she saw the neighbors kitchen I did she was really upset that she bought what she did, but the purchase was made and ordered before she saw what my cabinets looked like.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:24 PM   #17
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Nothing to laugh at . I just installed a Lowes Kitchen with that exact type of cabinet and they were damn decent for a builders grade type .

As your guy said they had dovetail drawers and were also maple doors(raised panel ) and maple frames . 1/2 , particle board sides and 1/8" backs . However they had a 3/4" hanging rail built in top and bottom . Good and sturdy . Also had 3 way adjustable hinges , soft action closers on the doors and drawers .

I asked her why she didn't use the showroom I recommended and she showed me her reciept .

14 cabinets and soffit crown with above specs $2,800

GE profile faux stainless side by side fridge , hood/micro combo , smooth top range , and dishwasher $1,800 TOTAL if she bought the cabinets .

I had to laugh and say good job there was no way the showroom I sub from could touch those prices .

Cabinets went up flawlessly and I hate the big box stuff normally .
Yes these cabinets have there place in the world but putting a solid 3/4 maple drawer box in a cabinet that is built from 1/2 PB is insane regardless of the price.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:26 PM   #18
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A 3/4" drawer is really a waste of space unless it is a very large drawer. Sometimes I feel my 5/8" drawers are a bit overkill. But I think 1/2" is too small.
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:32 PM   #19
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P.S the Lowes guy ended up buying his kitchen from me after I showed him the differences between the two products...just to be a smarta$$ I made the drawer boxes out of solid 13/16"
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Old 02-03-2010, 11:40 PM   #20
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A 3/4" drawer is really a waste of space unless it is a very large drawer. Sometimes I feel my 5/8" drawers are a bit overkill. But I think 1/2" is too small.
Generally I try to push 1/2" Baltic Birch for drawers. I don't worry about it from a strength standpoint but you're right it does look small on large drawers

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