How to recognize quality construction
Just as important as the type of wood used for kitchen cabinets is the quality of its construction. It is generally accepted that plywood is the superior choice to the common cabinet material alternative, particleboard. What are the telltale signs of construction that sets the higher end apart from the flimsy generic? Let’s take a look at the cabinet box and drawer construction characteristics that determine what promises a lifetime of trouble free usage.
First, let’s inspect the box itself. In truth, the number of variables in its construction can be maddening, so we’ll focus on the basics. The two areas of primary interest, for instance, are thickness and joint construction.
It doesn’t matter what material you’re dealing with – particleboard or plywood – the ends of the box need to be at least 1/2 to 3/4 inches in order for them to be of good quality construction. It’s probably obvious, the thicker they are the more sturdy the structure will be. It’s ok for the back of the box to be thinner, between 1/4 and 1/2 inches thick, because it’s going to be made of the same good stock as the sides. You can tell a really cheap product back if it is something like 1/8 inch fiberboard and stapled to the rear. Naturally, a backless cabinet isn’t even worth your consideration as it’s either damaged or super flimsy. The majority of our cabinet boxes are constructed out of 5/8″ plywood and feature a full back.
When it comes to the drawers underneath, you can get a good idea of their quality by simply handling them. Time was you would do best for yourself by getting all-wooden drawers that are assembled with dovetail joints. Now, they’re of an almost bygone era. With advances in related technology, impossibly strong glues have made joints such as the dowels, biscuits and dado’s just as reliably solid as the classic dovetails. Even in the higher end cabinets, they have recently been forgone for new alternative joints. Oddly enough, dovetailed joints actually appear more than ever in generic, mass produced cabinetry, like those that you’d find from the big box stores.
Despite the effective options and without doubt, the original dovetail joint is still the strongest. Often it’s for cosmetic reasons that an alternative is chosen. A manufacturer may rely on a style that conceals the joints entirely. As alluded to previously, some dovetails are better than others. They are intended to fit firmly, locking together without any gaps between the edges. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dovetail, dowel, biscuit or groove, they all work on the same interlocking concept.
Now that you have a better idea of what it takes to hold a cabinet together firmly, you can probably guess that it would be in your better interest to stay clear of simple butt joints that merely use staples and/or glue.
Remember, the drawer box should always be of strong wood material that runs between 1/2 and 3/4 inches thick. Avoid ones that are made of cheap particleboard that is only a quarter inch thick and uses glues and stapled joints. The drawer is never supposed to sag under a heavy load. It needs to be sturdy. The bottom of the drawer should be dado’d on all sides, not just stapled to them.
Obviously, your wood selection will make a difference in the cabinet you choose, but almost just as importantly is the method of construction applied. When combined, quality wood and sturdy assembly will give you a fine furniture product designed to last a lifetime.