Build Better Cabinets With the Best Plywood
Understand veneer-grading and plywood-core options to get the best-quality stock for your next project.
Choosing the right plywood for your next cabinetry project entails more than just picking the species you want and backing your truck up to the loading dock. With plywood prices ranging from $35 for a 4×8 sheet to well into the $100s, you want to make sure you’re spending money where it counts: on structurally sound cores where it matters and on fine veneers where they’re visible.
Plywood is commonly available in four different core combinations. Each has unique features that can affect the strength and look of cabinets whether they are stain grade or paint grade.
Veneer core: superior strength, at a price This plywood has multiple layers of thin (usually 1/ 7 in. and thinner) solid wood that’s glued up in a cross-grain orientation. Typical 3/4-in. plywood is made of five 1/ 7-in. core layers and two face veneers. Although this is the strongest of all core options, imperfections in the core veneers can telegraph through to the face veneers, leaving surfaces that are not perfectly smooth. That said, superior strength, screw retention, and light weight make it appealing to work with. Cost: $115-$130*
MDF core: best choice for a smooth finish This plywood has a solid piece of MDF in place of the five core layers in veneer-core plywood. Weight and dust are two downsides, but MDF creates a dead-flat panel that doesn’t have any telegraphing issues. Screw retention is good, though it’s best to drill pilot holes and to use fasteners designed for engineered wood, like Confirmat screws. The edges of MDF-core plywood can be profiled and finished, unlike other plywood that must be edgebanded in most applications. Cost: $100-$115
Particleboard core: cheap, but difficult to work Particleboard-core plywood is similar to MDF-core plywood in both construction and characteristics. The panels are flat, retain fasteners well…