Kitchen Cabinet Materials

When planning the design of your new kitchen, choosing the right materials for your cabinets is an important step. Style, cost, durability and functionality are all factors within the decision. This blog runs through a variety of options to help you figure out which material is best for your new kitchen cabinets.


Plywood is one of the more modern material options, it is comprised of thin sheets of wood with an adhesive to bond the layers. It looks neat and tidy with sharp, straight lines. Plywood is strong but flexible material, however, it isn’t as strong or durable as solid wood. 

If you are worried about the environmental impact of using a wood based product – plywood has much better ‘eco credentials’ than many solid woods, as the development process creates minimal waste. (Although, this does depend on how the base wood layers are sourced.) 

Plywood can either be used ‘naked’, which looks great, or can be painted any colour you like so it is a very versatile material. It is fairly middle of the range in terms of cost, being cheaper than solid wood but more expensive than particleboard.


Particle board or chipboard is used in many kitchens because it is a reasonably good material and it is low cost. However, there is one big drawback to particleboard – water logging. If you have a leak, it takes on water easily which can irreversibly damage your cabinets. This material does also degrade over time which can make it a less stable surface. It is the cheapest option on here and perfectly good if that is what you can afford.

Stainless Steel

Unless you are renovating a restaurant or catering kitchen, you are unlikely to choose stainless steel for the body of your cabinet. However, it can look good as a worktop – it goes quite nicely with cabinets that have a pale wood effect.

One of the major benefits of stainless steel is its hygiene and anti-bacterial properties. It is also resistant to chemicals used in heavy duty cleaning; it is very resistant to moisture and if is there is nickel incorporated, it is resistant to heat. You can see why it’s used in working kitchens! If you are worried about hygiene and safety in the kitchen, stainless steel can give you a little extra peace of mind… and makes life much easier for cleaning fanatics!

In terms of strength it is fairly on par with solid wood, but in many ways it is more durable. Stainless steel is also the most environmentally friendly material on the list as it is easily recycled and loses none of its beneficial properties during the recycling process.

Solid Wood

Solid wood or hardwood is one the most durable options on this list although as with everything, this higher quality is reflected in the price. There are a variety of types of hardwood (from different types of trees) and the price of each type will vary, as will their ‘chip-resistance’. Hardwood cabinets do look great – they help your kitchen feel warm and stylish and they never really go out of fashion.

One of the drawbacks of wood is that it can be badly damaged by water and it can warp in the heat. Although that’s probably not too much of an issue for our Scottish customers! Cracking of the wood and bug infestation can also be a problem.

MDF (medium density fibreboard)

MDF is a more affordable alternative to solid wood that still gives that warming wood aesthetic many love to have within their home. It is very smooth and non-grainy making it easy to paint over whether it is a white or colourful kitchen you are looking for. It is a fairly strong, long lasting material. In terms of overall quality within the wood based products, MDF is generally better than plywood and not quite as good as solid wood, with prices reflecting this.

A benefit MDF has over wood is that it won’t be as likely to warp in changing heat and it won’t crack but it will scratch more easily. Proper moisture treatment on the MDF will add to your costs but it is worth paying more to increase the longevity of your cabinets.

Marble and Quartz Countertops 

If you are looking for a truly beautiful kitchen, nothing beats marble. Marble countertops can make your kitchen look luxurious and it is always in style. Marble needs good maintenance to ensure its durability, so only opt for this material if you are committed to putting in the effort needed to maintain it. A marble topped kitchen will really wow your house guests and can increase the value of your home.

There are some draw backs, not least the often eye-watering price. Although, as with any of the materials in this list the quality and price does vary. The counter tops can also stain – watch out for those bright red pasta sauces! However, there are specialist products which can remove the stains. You will also have to be careful not to drop anything too heavy on a marble surface and if you don’t look after this material properly it will start to degrade.

What about quartz? Is it cheaper? Sadly no! However, it is much more durable, easier to maintain and scratch resistant. It perhaps doesn’t have quite the same wow factor as marble but it can still look pretty amazing.

Replacing the surface

Not sure if you need completely new cabinets but you’d like an update? You can actually cover your existing cabinets with a new surface. Below is a comparison of three options of materials which can be used to cover your existing MDF, plywood or wood surface.

Comparison of kitchen cabinet materials

Hopefully you now have a better idea of the type of cabinet material for your new kitchen… or perhaps you’ve realised re-surfacing will do the trick for now. Whatever, you choose, it is important to work with a trusted kitchen fitter who will take great care in installing the materials properly. Making sure the kitchen is fitted correctly is an important way to ensure the long term durability of your kitchen. 

Would you like to chat about it in more detail? Get in touch.

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