Pros & Cons of Making Kitchen Cabinets From Maple Plywood

Written by patrick gleeson, ph. d., registered investment adv
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Pros & Cons of Making Kitchen Cabinets From Maple Plywood
Maple trees provide a relatively hard, moderately strong wood often used in cabinet-making. (Red Maple tree image by Mr. D from

Evaluating maple plywood for use in kitchen cabinetry requires looking at the pros and cons of maple generally, then looking at the pros and cons of plywood as a cabinet material. As a kitchen building material, maple compares favourably with other hardwoods in several areas. Plywood has advantages and disadvantages.

Comparative Hardness of Maple

One common test of hardwoods, the JANKA hardness test, determines the pounds-force required to push a steel ball halfway into the wood. Two varieties of maple tested in the upper midrange for hardness---below rosewood, some teaks and mesquite, but substantially above other domestic hardwoods, such as cherry, mahogany, ash and both white and red oak. Domestic softwoods---several varieties of fir and pine---all tested much softer. The hardness test allows you to predict how well maple resists denting compared to other common hardwoods. It tested well.

Comparative Strength of Maple

A comparative analysis of wood strengths will predict such things as how well a type of wood will resist screw tear-outs and splintering. In five different strength tests, maple scored slightly above average for elasticity, and average for impact bending, shear and compression. Although maple's results on the strength tests were not particularly impressive, hardness is more important for cabinet-making than strength. Almost any common cabinet construction method produces a product with strength attributes far exceeding wood stresses in normal use. Maple has more than sufficient strength for cabinets.

Plywood's Pros and Cons

Maple plywood shares pros and cons with other types of plywood used for cabinet-making. Plywood resists warping, and produces consistent products that outperform solid woods for general strength. It has two limitations. Screws tend to tear a little more easily out of plywood than out of solid woods. More significantly, a dent any deeper than about a sixteenth of an inch in a maple plywood door will reveal the underlying layer, which is not maple. This is unattractive, and you will have no easy way of repairing it. In most cases you will have to replace the door. Gashes in the outer layer of maple and other types of plywood propose a similar, slightly worse problem.

Better than MDF, Not as Durable as Solids

This does not mean you should avoid maple plywood cabinet construction. Plywood performs far better than MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or LDF (low-density fiberboard), two common commercial cabinet materials. It just does not perform quite as well as solid maple. A family with small children might need the additional sturdiness of a solid maple cabinet, while a couple without children probably does not.

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