Kitchen cabinets are one of the most important elements that make up the look and functionality of your kitchen. With the wide variety of kitchen cabinet materials available today, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about the most popular kitchen cabinet materials to help you select the perfect option for your needs and budget.
Laminate Kitchen Cabinets
Laminate, also known as plastic laminate, has become one of the most widely used Kitchen Cabinet Materials in recent years. Laminate cabinets consist of a particle board or plywood core covered with a plastic laminate sheet.
Benefits of Laminate Kitchen Cabinets:
- Cost-effective option compared to solid wood or plywood cabinets. Laminate cabinets are affordable while still providing a sleek, modern look.
- Durable and resistant to warping, cracking and peeling. The plastic laminate coating is bonded to the cabinet box for long-lasting wear.
- Easy to clean. The laminate surfaces just need a wipe down with a damp cloth and mild detergent.
- Available in hundreds of colors and patterns. From solid colors to realistic woodgrains, laminate offers endless design options to suit any kitchen decor.
- Low maintenance. Unlike real wood, laminate cabinets retain their like-new appearance for years with minimal upkeep.
Drawbacks of Laminate Kitchen Cabinets:
- Not as strong as wood. Though durable, laminate can chip or scratch if subjected to heavy impacts.
- Cannot be refinished. If laminate cabinets become damaged, the entire door or drawer front typically needs replacement.
- Resists stains but not heat. Prolonged high heat exposure can cause bubbling or delamination of the plastic coating.
- Environmentally unfriendly manufacturing process compared to wood. However, many manufacturers now use recycled content in laminate.
- Looks less authentic than real wood. The printed laminate pattern resembles wood but has an artificial appearance up close.
Overall, laminate cabinets offer an affordable way to get a stylish, contemporary kitchen with low maintenance demands. The material is best suited for low-traffic kitchens since it lacks the sturdiness of solid wood.
Wood Kitchen Cabinets
Wood remains the most popular choice of Kitchen Cabinet Materials for its natural beauty and structural integrity. From economical plywood to high-end exotic woods, wood cabinets offer timeless appeal and unmatched quality when properly maintained.
Benefits of Wood Kitchen Cabinets:
- Strong and sturdy. Wood construction withstands years of regular kitchen use and potential impacts.
- Timeless aesthetics. The rich grains and textures of natural wood never go out of style. Wood cabinets suit both traditional and contemporary kitchens.
- Can be refinished. Wood cabinets can be sanded down and re-stained to restore or change their appearance. This allows them to last a lifetime.
- Eco-friendly material. Sourced from sustainably harvested forests, wood is a renewable and biodegradable resource.
- Great value. Though more expensive upfront than laminate or thermofoil, quality wood cabinets retain their value and outlast trends.
Drawbacks of Wood Kitchen Cabinets:
- Requires more maintenance. Regular polishing and resealing are needed to protect wood from moisture damage, warping, and discoloration.
- Potential for warping and cracking. Prolonged moisture exposure can damage wood cabinets if not properly sealed and cared for.
- Susceptible to scratches and dents. The soft texture of natural wood is more prone to surface damage than synthetic materials.
- Cost. Solid wood cabinets are more expensive than plywood or veneer, due to material and construction costs. Exotic woods can be pricey.
- Consistency. Since wood grain varies, color and pattern may not be uniform between cabinets for a seamless look.
On the whole, wood is unmatched in quality, aesthetics and longevity. With proper care, wood cabinets will retain their functionality and enhance kitchen appeal for generations.
Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets
Thermofoil, also called vinyl wrapped, offers a middle ground between affordable laminate and pricier wood cabinets. Thermofoil consists of a wood composite or medium density fiberboard (MDF) core covered with a thin vinyl film coating.
Benefits of Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets:
- Affordable cost. Less expensive than solid wood while offering comparable durability.
- Easy maintenance. The vinyl coating resists most stains and wipes clean easily.
- Consistent finish. The vinyl film provides uniform color and pattern between cabinets.
- Scratch and moisture resistant. The vinyl film is highly durable and protects the underlying wood substrate.
- Design versatility. Thermofoil is available in hundreds of finishes from solids to woodgrains to modern textures.
Drawbacks of Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets:
- Cannot be refinished. Thermofoil cabinets cannot be sanded and re-stained like real wood.
- Prone to de-lamination. Seams in the vinyl film can separate or bubble up over time, revealing the substrate underneath.
- Not heat or impact resistant. The vinyl film can bubble, melt or tear when subjected to high heat or blunt force.
- Lower quality materials. Thermofoil often uses weaker particleboard instead of plywood for the core.
- Temporary style. The uniform vinyl film finishes have a more temporary, disposable feel than wood’s timeless elegance.
In general, thermofoil makes an excellent choice for contemporary kitchens wanting the convenience of easy-care cabinets without the cost of real wood. Just be prepared to replace thermofoil cabinets instead of refinishing when desired.
Metal Kitchen Cabinets
Introducing the sleek, contemporary look of metal to kitchen cabinetry provides an industrial vibe. Stainless steel, aluminum and galvanized steel are all popular options.
Benefits of Metal Kitchen Cabinets:
- Sleek, modern appearance. The clean lines and metallic luster of metal cabinets make a bold style statement.
- Highly durable. Metal stands up well to heavy use, moisture, scrapes and heat.
- Easy to clean. Metal cabinet surfaces just need wiping down with a soft cloth and gentle cleanser.
- Microbe resistant. The nonporous surface of metal deters the growth of bacteria. This makes metal cabinets ideal for hygienic kitchens.
- Eco-friendly. Metal cabinets made from recycled steel or aluminum support sustainability.
Drawbacks of Metal Kitchen Cabinets:
- Expensive. Metal cabinets can cost significantly more than typical wood or laminate. Custom work and installation also add to costs.
- Prone to denting. Softer metals like aluminum dent easily from impacts and dropped objects.
- Can show fingerprints. Stainless steel readily shows smudges, fingerprints and water spots that require frequent wiping.
- Noisy. Metal cabinet doors and drawers can slam and make noise with use. Cushioned glides are recommended.
- Limited styles. Metal cabinets only suit modern, industrial or retro-style kitchens due to their contemporary look.
With the proper kitchen design, metal cabinets create a distinctive look full of urban edge. Their exceptional durability also makes them a smart long-term investment.
Glass Kitchen Cabinets
Glass kitchen cabinets provide a lightweight, transparent look that feels more open and airy than solid wood cabinetry. Glass fronts can be combined with metal or wood cabinet boxes.
Benefits of Glass Kitchen Cabinets:
- Light and airy aesthetic. The see-through quality of glass cabinentry makes kitchens feel more spacious and less cluttered.
- Unique visual interest. Glass reflects and refracts light for added visual dynamics while allowing displayed items to shine.
- Easy to clean. The smooth glass surfaces just need a basic cleaning with a soft cloth and gentle cleaner.
- Customizable. Glass cabinet fronts come in a range of colors, frosts, etchings and opacity levels to suit your style.
- Durable with tempered glass. Though breakable if impacted, tempered glass is very resistant to chips and scratches with careful use.
Drawbacks of Glass Kitchen Cabinets:
- Expensive. The custom fabrication and installation of glass cabinets costs significantly more than a typical cabinetry jobs.
- Fragile material. Glass breaks under hard impacts and must be handled gently during cleaning and daily use.
- Shows fingerprints. Oils and smudges on the glass are highly noticeable and need frequent wiping down.
- Not for heavy items. The delicate nature of glass makes it unsuitable for cabinet sections that hold heavy dishes, pots and appliances.
- Limited styles. Glass cabinets only fit modern, contemporary or retro-futuristic kitchen aesthetics.
With proper placement and careful use, glass cabinetry creates a lightweight, airy look perfect for modern kitchen designs. Just be sure to avoid glass fronts in high-traffic cabinet zones.
Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles and Finishes
Beyond the cabinet box material, choosing the perfect cabinet door style and finish ties your whole kitchen design together aesthetically. From minimalist to ornate, the possibilities are endless.
Popular Kitchen Cabinet Door Styles
Slab: A simple, clean one-piece door design that fits contemporary and modern kitchens. Can feature woodgrain or solid color laminate finishes.
Shaker: Classic flat center panel bordered by a frame. Offers a timeless, versatile look fitting both traditional and contemporary kitchens.
Raised Panel: Classic refined style with a central recessed panel bordered by a sturdy frame. The depth provides dimension and shadow lines.
Flat Panel: Understated design with a smooth, plain panel set into the frame. Provides a minimalist look.
Thermofoil: An affordable alternative to wood featuring a medium density fiberboard (MDF) substrate wrapped in durable vinyl.
Glass: A range of transparent and frosted glass options that lend an airy, open aesthetic. Often combined with wood or metal frames.
Cafe Doors: Features decorative glass panes in the upper portion above a standard base cabinet door below. This warm, inviting style emulates cafe culture.
Popular Kitchen Cabinet Finishes
Stain: Applied to wood cabinetry to impart and enhance natural grain patterns and colors. Oil-based provide deeper penetration.
Paint: Typically latex or enamel paints that cover wood cabinetry in any desired color. More durable types like automotive enamel are also available.
Glaze: A secondary paint or stain coating that accentuates recesses and profiles with extra color. Often applied over stains or paints.
Distressing: Intentional wearing down of painted finishes to impart an antiqued, well-worn look. Often paired with glazing.
Metal: Brushed stainless steel, chrome, bronze, copper, and more to infuse cool, contemporary style.
Thermofoil: Available in hundreds of solid colors and realistic woodgrain patterns. Provides an affordable laminate alternative.
With limitless combinations of materials, door styles and finishes available, it’s easy to create your dream custom kitchen cabinets that perfectly suit your unique space and style. Keep in mind that simpler slab doors and minimalist handles work best in modern kitchens, while more ornate options like raised panels and metal accents fit better into traditional spaces.
How to Choose the Right Kitchen Cabinet Materials
Choosing cabinetry comprises one of the most important kitchen remodeling decisions. Your cabinets see heavy daily use for decades, so making the right material choice upfront saves you from costly replacements down the road. Follow this decision process when selecting the best kitchen cabinet materials for your needs:
- Set your budget. Cabinetry represents the lion’s share of a kitchen remodel budget. Know how much you can realistically spend before looking at options.
- Consider your design style. Contemporary styling suits sleek laminate, metal and glass while traditional kitchens look best with stained solid wood cabinetry.
- Think about longevity. Look beyond upfront cost to long-term durability and lifespan. Plywood cabinets will outlast particleboard, for instance. Prioritize quality materials if this is your forever home.
- Factor in maintenance. Real wood needs the most upkeep while thermofoil and metal clean easily. Are you committed to polishing and sealing cabinets seasonally?
- Evaluate your lifestyle. Active families with kids and frequent cooking need durable finishes. Glass fronts show fingerprints readily. Clean freaks may prefer nonporous metal.
- Assess kitchen traffic flow. Glass-front uppers show off display items but not where cabinet doors get heavy wear. Consider material durability in high-use areas.
- Read reviews and warranties. Opt for manufacturers that back their cabinets with long warranties and have many positive customer reviews praising durability.
- View material samples. Don’t rely on photos or digital renderings alone. Visit home improvement stores to view cabinet samples first-hand before finalizing your selection.
Weighing all these factors helps ensure your investment in new kitchen cabinetry stands the test of time and suits your lifestyle.
Kitchen Cabinet Materials Comparison Chart
| Material | Pros | Cons | Cost | Styles | Longevity | Maintenance |
| Laminate | Affordable, easy to clean, wide variety of colors/patterns | Not as durable as wood, easily damaged, cannot be refinished | $ | Sleek, modern styles | 10-15 years | Wipe down with mild cleaner |
| Wood | Strong, can be refinished, timeless beauty, good value | Requires maintenance to prevent damage, expensive | $$$ | Traditional to contemporary | 20+ years | Regular polishing, sealing |
| Thermofoil | Affordable but durable, consistent finish, moisture resistant | Cannot be refinished, prone to de-lamination, not heat resistant | $$ | Contemporary styles | 10-15 years | Wipe down with mild cleaner |
| Metal | Sleek and modern, durable, easy to clean | Expensive, prone to denting, noisy operation | $$$ | Modern and industrial | 20+ years | Gentle wipe downs |
| Glass | Light and airy, visually interesting, easy to clean | Expensive, fragile, shows fingerprints readily | $$$ | Modern and contemporary | 20+ years | Gentle wipe downs |
This comparison of the most popular Kitchen Cabinet Materials makes it easier to weigh your options and select the right cabinetry for your kitchen and lifestyle. Wood and metal rank as the most long-lasting options yet come at a higher price. Thermofoil and laminate make great budget-friendly choices, though they may need replacing sooner. And glass fronts inject unique style while requiring careful handling. Use this helpful guide to narrow down your ideal kitchen cabinet material.
Kitchen Cabinet FAQs
Still deciding on the best kitchen cabinet materials for your next remodel or build? Here we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about kitchen cabinetry to help you make the ideal choice.
What are the most popular styles of kitchen cabinets?
The Shaker style offers the most versatile and timeless look that fits both contemporary and more traditional kitchens. Slab cabinet doors provide a minimalist modern aesthetic. Glass door cabinets bring airy openness while raised panel options create elegant dimensionality.
What is the most durable material for kitchen cabinets?
Solid wood ranks as the most durable kitchen cabinet material with proper maintenance and care. High-end woods like oak, maple, cherry and hickory hold up best. Metal cabinets also offer exceptional longevity. Both come at a higher upfront cost than laminates but last for decades.
How much do new kitchen cabinets cost?
The average cost for new kitchen cabinets falls between $6,000-12,000 depending on material and quality. Higher end custom solid wood cabinetry can reach $15,000-25,000. Refacing with new doors and hardware costs approximately $4,000-8,000 for significant savings.
What cabinet finishes are most popular?
For a timeless, traditional look, wood cabinets with a rich stain finish remains most popular. Painted cabinets allow you to incorporate any color into the space. Distressed, glazed finishes provide a worn, antiqued aesthetic. High-gloss laminates in bold colors or patterns inject modern flair.
Should I choose stock or custom cabinets?
Stock cabinets cost less but limit your configuration and size options. They typically come in standard 3-inch increments. Custom cabinets are made to your exact kitchen layout and measurements but have a higher price tag. Many manufacturers offer semi-custom options combining stock components with made-to-order pieces.
How long do laminate cabinets last compared to wood?
Quality wood cabinets have an expected lifespan of 30+ years when cared for properly. Laminate cabinets last between 10-15 years with signs of wear like chipping and scratching emerging after 5 years. However, laminate costs significantly less than real wood.
What are the best cabinets for a kitchen with children?
Kitchens with kids benefit from the most durable cabinet materials and finishes to stand up to extra wear and tear. Solid wood, stainless steel and thermofoil cabinets hold up best. Opt for darker, patterned colors to hide fingerprints and scratches more easily.
How much space do I need between cabinets?
A minimum of 30-36 inches is recommended between parallel cabinet runs to allow comfortable passage. For two cooks, allow 48-60 inches. Upper cabinets should be 18-24 inches above countertops or sinks for sufficient clearance. Measure your existing kitchen to determine ideal cabinet spacing.
What thickness should kitchen cabinet boxes be?
3/4-inch plywood offers the best combination of durability and affordability for cabinet boxes. Particleboard should be avoided since it lacks strength but 5/8-inch plywood can suffice for less demanding applications. Solid wood provides optimum longevity at a higher cost.
Choosing new kitchen cabinetry comprises a major investment and long-lasting decision. Carefully weighing the pros and cons of various materials against your budget, kitchen design and lifestyle helps ensure you select the very best cabinets for your needs. Use these tips and answers to guide your dream kitchen cabinetry project.
The array of kitchen cabinet materials available today provides distinctive options to suit any taste, budget and style. Classic wood cabinets offer unmatched beauty and quality when properly maintained. For cost-conscious remodels, lamin