Now that you know all about the different types of kitchens and cabinet styles to choose from, it’s time to delve into the details of cabinet construction. Read on to learn more about the construction types and types of materials used in cabinetry. 

Kitchen Cabinet Construction Types

There are two kitchen cabinet construction types that you’ll encounter, and each offers a unique aesthetic for your kitchen. First, let’s look at American style cabinets. These cabinets include rails, which are the horizontal pieces of wood on a frame, and stiles, which are the vertical pieces. These rails and stiles form a frame around the front of the cabinet. It looks almost like a picture frame to give it dimension. American style cabinets include the doors and drawer head mounted flush with the frame, overlaying the frame partially or fully.

European style cabinets, on the other hand, use a dense box construction, giving the cabinets the stability that would otherwise be provided by a frame. The doors are mounted directly to the sides. This means that the opening of the cabinet is wider, though the volume is the same as a cabinet with a frame would be. 

Both cabinet types are with a variety of materials and include equal stability with similar materials. European style cabinets tend to be more modern and contemporary-looking and will give your kitchen a sleeker feel, while American cabinets are more traditional, especially when you choose an inset or partial overlay style. 

Choosing a Construction Material

A wide variety of materials make kitchen cabinets. Before you decide which to choose, it’s important to think about your kitchen’s aesthetic, your budget, and if you’re looking for a more low-maintenance choice. Here is some information about many of the most popular cabinet materials: 


Laminate is three resin layers. The first layer is paper. The second is print and color. Lastly, the third is a protective layer. These layers create a durable cabinet face. Laminate covers the cabinets’ outside, but not the interior. 


Particleboard is an engineered wood product. It’s sealed together with laminate or wood veneer for an aesthetically-pleasing finish. Because it is made from scraps, it is inexpensive (10-20% less expensive than plywood). It’s lightweight, sturdy, and a great choice for the interiors of your cabinets and drawers. Lower quality of particleboard may not last as long as other materials, and it can be weak in compression and tension. It also absorbs moisture making it degrade, warp, or discolor if wet. If one of your particleboard cabinets or drawers is overfilled, the bottom may sag. 

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)

Small fibers make MDF, a material popularized by IKEA. It’s a composite of recycled wood fibers, resin, and wax pressed together under high pressure. MDF can hold screws better than particleboard and is fairly easy to manipulate. But unlike particleboard, MDF is resistant to warping and expansion from temperature changes and moisture. It’s not as strong as hardwood or plywood, and can sag if cabinets and drawers are overloaded.


Plywood is one of the most popular cabinet construction materials. It is with laminated, thin layers of wood on top of each other. To strengthen the material, it is glued, heated, and pressured together. Plywood is the best option for cabinets. Unlike hardwoods, it doesn’t absorb moisture and is easy to install. Its durability and flexibility make it one of the greatest materials for cabinet sides, backs, shelves, and drawer bottoms. If damaged, plywood is easy to repair and replace cost-effectively.


hardwood kitchen cabinets no longer under construction

Hardwood is the oldest cabinet material. Its uniqueness can add to its appeal. Further, hardwood is durable and easy to repair. Minor damage like scratches, stains, and watermarks can be repaired easily. Hardwood cabinets can last for decades due to their durability, though this makes them more sought-after and pricy. On average, wood or wood-combination cabinets start around $80 per linear foot and go up from there.

Some hardwoods are susceptible to warping due to changes in temperature and humidity. This can cause wood to contract and expand, so if you have a full hardwood cabinet structure, it’s important to keep this in mind. There are a lot of hardwood choices, including red oak, white oak, hickory, cherry, maple, birch, ash, and pine. Bamboo is also starting to become a more popular choice in recent years. 

Wood Veneer

Wood veneer is a very thin layer of solid hardwood peeled and glued onto particleboard. It has the aesthetic appeal of hardwood without the steep cost. It is lightweight but a durable construction material. However, wood veneer is not used on cabinet interiors. Thus, over time, it can chip away, which usually can’t be repaired. It is made from a wide variety of wood types, including exotic varieties like walnut, knotty alder, and rustic hickory.  

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is made from iron ore, chromium, silicon, and nickel melted together in a high-powered furnace. Then, the mixture is rolled or pressed into slabs. Stainless steel will give a kitchen a contemporary, professional feel. Stainless steel tends to collect fingerprints and scratches, making it hard to keep looking clean and perfect. Unlike wood, stainless steel doesn’t expand or contract, which makes it a great choice for areas that see a lot of moisture. It can last for many years but is not easy to repair if damage occurs. 

Learn More About Cabinet Construction and Materials

Watch out for our next article on cabinet stock types. Contact us to learn more.

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Comprehensive Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Construction and Materials
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Comprehensive Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Construction and Materials
Selecting the best kitchen cabinets for your new home or remodeled kitchen requires understanding how cabinets are constructed and built and knowing how different materials can dramatically impact not only the aesthetics but the durability and value.
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