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Are solid wood cabinets really solid wood?

by Susanne Clemenz

Manufacturers of finer brands of cabinets offer solid wood doors, face frames, and drawer boxes. All-wood plywood is often used for strong, durable cases.

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Are solid wood cabinets really solid wood?

If your heart is set on solid wood cabinets, you may be wondering if every part of theses cabinets will be made from the solid wood species you choose. The answer is "probably not." Here's why:

  1. Construction strength: Interior grade plywood has several thin layers of wood bonded with the grains at right angles. There are no voids, and the best plywood has solid wood plies, rather than a particle board core. The visible outer layer is a veneer or ply of the wood species you choose. Plywood is stronger than solid wood, and may be used for shelves and cabinet cases. A renewable alternative to traditional woods, bamboo is so strong, manufacturers call it "green steel."
  2. Cost: Furniture-grade solid woods are expensive. They are generally used on the most visible, dent-prone parts of cabinets--doors frames and panels, drawer fronts, cabinet face frames and moldings. To keep costs down, drawer boxes are often made of maple, a strong, beautiful, plentiful hardwood.
  3. Availability: Not all of the strongest, solid woods are easy to find. For example, walnut makes up less than 2 percent of U.S. commercial hardwoods. Teak and other special woods are often imported. If you're looking for an unusual wood, shop at salvaged wood companies. Many national brands have lines free of volatile organic compounds (VOCs.)

Where to find solid wood cabinets

If you're content with the above qualifiers to the term "solid wood cabinets," then brands like Adelphi, DeWils, Thomasville and others offer beautiful, customizable cabinets. If you want every part of your new kitchen cabinets to be solid wood, research local custom cabinet shops to find a contractor.

About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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