Plywood is generally thought to be the better product when building cabinets. Plywood has superior construction longevity because it holds screws and other mechanical fasteners more efficiently. It has superior tensile and shearing properties (meaning it resists pulling forces and side-to-side movement) and a slight advantage in compressive strength (ability to bear weight), said Paul Kiefer, BBR staff member who has 20 years of experience as a woodworker. Plywood also weighs less than particle board, which can be significant when hanging large cabinets. In addition, plywood holds glue joints together better than particle board and is more resistant to dents and scratches.
Particle board has its own advantages, including greater dimensional stability: it does not warp due to temperature fluctuations and other changes in the environment. Most notably, particle board costs less than plywood. Particle board is often made of scraps of wood that are considered waste. Many plywood manufacturers also make particle board from the leftovers. Because of this, particle board is less expensive. By using particle board, one can save between 8% and 12% on the cost of cabinets, said Boston Building Resources kitchen designer Linda Lesyna. Among BBR’s cabinet lines, particle board is available as an option from Candlelight, Imperia, and Pure kitchen.
Because plywood is superior to particle board in many ways, it is usually the better choice if cost is not an issue. However, the fact that particle board is less expensive makes it a reasonable choice in many situations. If the cabinet is large and going to be hung, plywood may be the better option because it is lighter. In most other situations, particle board will work almost as well as plywood. When renovating, be sure to consider the benefits of plywood against the limitations of your budget to decide which choice is best.