Are cheap kitchen cabinets, or more affordable kitchen cabinets, automatically bad quality? Today we’re going to dive into this matter and evaluate what makes a cabinet undesirable and what makes them a good buy. If you can find the qualities that you’re looking for in a cheap kitchen cabinet, then by all means, take advantage of it and save yourself some money!

What makes cheap kitchen cabinets?

The primary factor in determining if a cabinet is the quality that you’re looking for is the material that it’s made of, either the cabinet box, cabinet door, or both. Solid wood is typically the best way to go for cabinetry, but can be quite expensive. What are the other options for cabinet materials, you might ask? Here we go!

MDF Cabinet Construction:

mdf cabinets, cheap kitchen cabinets MDF is a popular choice for affordable cabinet construction. What is MDF? According to Bob Villa, “MDF starts as sawdust and shavings—all the little bits and pieces of wood that are created as a byproduct of industrial milling. Once dehydrated, those wood fibers are then mixed with resin and wax and formed into panels. Under high heat and intense pressure, those panels are compressed and become rigid, with a hard shell. In the final stage of manufacturing, giant machines sand the panels down, giving them a silky smooth finish before cutting them to fixed dimensions.” MDF is popular for a few reasons:
  • First off, it’s economical choice. Hence the reason we’re talking about it!
  • MDF is a recycled material. If you’re worried about saving trees, it’s a better choice than solid wood.
  • MDF is easy to paint. It takes colors easily and evenly.
  • MDF does not have knots that can blemish the surface of a piece or make components difficult to attach.
  • MDF is made with chemicals that make it poisonous to pests such as termites.
  • MDF will not expand and contract due to heat and humidity the way solid wood can.
What are the disadvantages of cabinets made of MDF?
  • MDF tends to be high maintenance – it is much harder to repair chipping or cracking than it would for solid wood or other materials.
  • The chemicals used in making MDF, such as formaldehyde, make the material less child-friendly than other materials.
  • When MDF is exposed to water, it will swell
  • Does not hold fasteners easily.
  • There is no grain on MDF, which some people prefer.
MDF cabinets, as mentioned, are a very economical option. If you find affordable cabinets made of MDF, do not assume the quality is undesirable. As with any decision, it is personal, so weighing the pros and cons of each material is the best way to get your idea product.  

Particleboard Cabinet Construction:

Odds are, particle board will make for some cheap cabinets. Particle board is an engineered wood product manufactured from wood chips, sawmill shavings, or even sawdust, and a synthetic resin or other suitable binder, which is pressed and extruded. What are the benefits of particleboard cabinets? There are really only two. 1. They don’t warp with temperature change. 2. They are the ultimate in cheap kitchen cabinets. They cost less than all other materials. The major downside is that it is very susceptible to water damage. It will swell quickly when exposed to water, such as if you spill something on your floor and it comes into contact with the bottom of your cabinets. particleboard cabinets cheap kitchen cabinets

Plywood Cabinet Construction:

Plywood is generally thought to be the better product when building cabinets. Plywood is made of three or more thin layers of wood bonded together with an adhesive. Each layer of wood, or ply, is usually oriented with its grain running at right angles to the adjacent layer in order to reduce the shrinkage and improve the strength of the finished piece. It is a stronger product than MDF and Particleboard. Plywood has superior construction longevity because it holds screws and other mechanical fasteners more efficiently. Plywood also weighs less than the other two we’ve mentioned, which can be significant when hanging cabinets. In addition, plywood holds glue joints together better than particle board and MDF and is more resistant to dents and scratches. plywood cabinets cheap kitchen cabinets
Of the three materials, Plywood is the best option for cheap kitchen cabinets. While you can still get nice MDF or particleboard cabinets, we would say to look for plywood. Our least expensive cabinets are plywood boxes with solid wood doors. They are quality construction for a cheap price. This all goes to say that yes,  you can get cheap kitchen cabinets that are quality. Just know what you’re getting!
Builders Surplus is a full service renovation company with locations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Newport, Kentucky, which also serves Cincinnati, Ohio. We are one of the leading providers of kitchen remodeling, bathroom remodeling, flooring and tile installations, windows and doors in Louisville, Newport, and Cincinnati. We specialize in interior design, kitchen design, bathroom remodel, building materials, and home improvement. Interior Design and measurements come as a free service to our clients. We sell building materials ranging in every price point, from unfinished kitchen cabinets to top of the line Wellborn cabinets. In addition to interior design, we also offer installation services. If you have any questions or would like to set up a free design consultation with one of our interior designers, we would encourage you to do so. We love sharing our knowledge with clients & potential home renovators. We write about interior design, home decor, decorating ideas, and home improvement. We hope you’ll check back in for our next article! Happy Renovation!
Written By: Allie Bloyd

Want to learn more about kitchen remodeling? Subscribe here!