18 January 2010
Posted by Paul Anater at 5:59 AM
I get asked a lot of questions about the relative merits of cabinetry constructed with a particle board box as opposed to cabinetry constructed with a plywood box. I find that most people who ask that question are looking for me to agree with whatever their opinion is so I don't argue. It's a topic like religion or politics in a lot of ways. I have my opinions of course and I know what I think is right, but in the interest of peace (and commerce) I keep my mouth shut and nod my head yes.
Some people really, honestly want to know what I think and my usual answer is that plywood construction isn't an automatic indicator of quality or superiority. I tell people that each method has its positives and each has its negatives. Left to my own devices I use both, depending on the job at hand. Particle board tends to cost less and if I can't see it (in the case of a drawer base) why spend the money? Plywood is lighter and can be altered in the field better. See? Each has a strength and a purpose.
Now when I talk about particle board and plywood, I'm talking about the grades of those materials used in better cabinetry. I can't vouch for the inferior versions of those materials because I never deal with them. By better grades I'm talking about 3/4" veneer plywood and 3/4" 165 lb. furniture board that's pressure laminated with a PVC film. Each of those materials carries the same lifetime warranty so I assume they're of equal quality. Further, because the 165 lb. furniture board is held together with solvent-based glues, I've always believed it to be more resistant to water. In fact, I've been told by more cabinetry reps than I can count that it is in fact, more water-resistant than plywood.
When pressed, that's my opinion on the topic, but I have to say that I've never actually tested either of those materials nor have I ever read of such a study. I've always wanted to test it for myself and this week, that's exactly what I'm going to do.
Yesterday at 11:15am, I took a six-inch by six-inch square of 3/4" veneer plywood and a six by six square of laminated particle board and I dropped each of them in a bowl of water.
I've been fishing them out and photographing them at regular intervals and the results have been interesting. I'm going to let them soak for a couple of days and then write everything up in a separate post some time later this week.
In the meantime, anybody care to venture a guess about how this will end up? What do you think happens when these materials get wet? I had all kinds of assumptions about how this would go and so far most of them have been wrong. Who wants to go out on a limb here?