When installing new cabinet tops, there is always the question: should you use solid wood or sheet wood? Solid wood and sheet wood products have significantly different qualities, suiting them to different jobs in the workshop. A Cut Above can help guide you through the pros and cons of these two materials.

Characteristics of Solid Wood

When discussing a custom built-in project such as a library, media cabinetry, or home office with clients, I often get the question, “what material do you use for your cabinet tops”?  I wish there was a simple answer to this question.

When it comes to woodworking and carpentry jobs, solid wood is typically always assumed to be the better choice, but this is not universally the case. While solid wood is a very sturdy, reliable material, it also responds unpredictably to humidity. Changes in the atmospheric temperature and moisture can cause solid wood components to warp, crack, buckle, shrink, or expand. For this reason, it is important to consider the typical weather conditions of your region before choosing a material for your cabinet tops.

Because it is a natural material, solid woods obviously place a limit on the size of projects you can work on. Lumber typically comes in smaller sizes than sheet woods, which can be manufactured into very large panels. These sheets can be used for projects well beyond the size limits of solid wood.

Characteristics of Sheet Woods

Types of sheet wood include particleboard, plywood, and medium density fiberboard (MDF). Because these are processed woods, they often feature a level of durability that is not seen in solid woods. MDF, for example, is a composite of pressed resins and wood fibers and manufactured as large, very stable sheets. Visually, sheet woods and solid woods each have their own benefits. While solid wood has the beautiful grain that is absent from manufactured sheet woods, sheet woods are easier to stain and paint because they don’t feature knots or other irregularities that can show through such color treatments.

Choosing a Cabinet Top Material

In almost all cases, A Cut Above believes that solid woods are a better choice for cabinet tops than sheet woods. We choose solid woods for their overall durability and strength, as well as the beautifully finished appearance of solid wood cabinetry. Additionally, cabinet tops are less affected by expansion or shrinking of wood materials. In some special cases, sheet woods may be the better option for cabinet tops, but this is unusual and is a decision you should leave up to your contracting professional. By working with woodworking and construction specialists, you can be sure that your cabinet materials will hold up to use for years to come.