The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Materials

modern kitchen with dark grey cabinets and wood countertops

Whether you’re looking to get more enjoyment from your home or are preparing to sell, remodeling your kitchen is exciting. And what better place to start than with your kitchen cabinets! But with so many types of kitchen cabinet materials available, getting started is confusing. Luckily, we’re here to break it all down for you.  

Did you know that minor kitchen remodels, such as redoing your cabinets, have a major return on investment? In 2020, our renovation experts found that they could bring back 75% to 100% of what you invest. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about what kitchen cabinet material is best for your space. 

What type of material is best for kitchen cabinets?

The best kitchen cabinet materials are the ones that fit your aesthetic, needs, and budget. For instance, if you’re going for an industrial look, you may select stainless steel cabinetry. French provincial? Consider plywood painted white with glass. While most cabinetry is made from wood or wood alternatives, other options may better suit your needs.  

How much do kitchen cabinets cost? 

When you’re looking for new kitchen cabinet materials, cost is an important factor to consider. How much you’ll spend depends on two main factors: type of material and level of customization. In the table below, we’ve listed the average cost associated with various cabinet types. These averages are based on a simple L-shaped kitchen without an island. 

Cabinet type 

Average cost (including materials, labour, installation) 


$18,000 – $26,500 

Medium density fibreboard (MDF) 

$19,000 – $24,000 

Wood veneer 

$14,500 – $18,000 


$11,000 – $15,500 


$12,000 – $18,000 

Velour Touch 

$15,500 – $21,500 

Glossy similaque 

$15,500 – $23,000 


$12,000 – $18,000 

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) 

$14,500 – $19,000 


$16,500 – $21,500 


It depends on the type of cabinet.  

Material cost + $90 – $120 per door 

Cabinet resurfacing  

$6,000 – $9,500 


What materials are used to make kitchen cabinets? 

When it comes time to choose the kitchen cabinet materials that are right for you, you’ll be spoiled for choice. From wood options to metal, glass, and more, there’s something to suit everyone’s style and budget. While cost is certainly a factor, there are some other pros and cons to consider with each material as well. 

Wooden cabinets 

Out of all quality kitchen cabinet materials, wood is one of the best choices available. Although expensive, wooden cabinets are durable, long-lasting, and always in style. As an added bonus, wood cabinets are easy to paint so you can update the look whenever you feel like it. 

wood material for cabinets

Hardwood cabinets 

Hardwood is easily one of the most popular kitchen cabinet materials out there. Since it comes from trees, each panel can vary slightly as individual trees have their own textures, colours, and grain patterns. You can also paint or stain them! It’s important to remember that some hardwood types, like hickory or maple, are more durable than softwood species like walnut and mahogany. 


  • Timeless and durable 
  • Available in a wide range of styles and colours 
  • Easy to repaint or restain later on 
  • Unique textures and grain patterns 
  • Easy to customize 


  • Expensive compared to other kitchen cabinet materials 
  • Humidity can cause wood to expand and contract 
  • May require special cleaning products 

Plywood cabinets 

Plywood is another popular kitchen cabinet material, offering a slew of benefits. If you love the look of wood cabinets but don’t want to spend a fortune on hardwood, plywood is an excellent alternative.

To explain it simply, plywood is made using thin layers of logs that have been soaked in water. After the thin wood layers are dried, they are compressed together and covered with a veneer to create plywood. Plywood is one of the best kitchen cabinet materials because it’s durable and resists moisture better than comparable materials. 


  • Lightweight and easy to work with 
  • Durable and hold screws easily 
  • More resistant to water than comparable kitchen cabinet materials 


  • Similar to MDF but more expensive 
  • May be tough to get a smooth finished edge on plywood 

Composite cabinets 

Composite cabinets are a cost-effective solution for homeowners on a budget. They’re often covered with a hardwood veneer to give them a stylish look. Underneath that veneer, you’ll typically find fibreboard or particleboard. 

composite kitchen cabinets

Medium density fibreboard cabinets (MDF) 

This cost-effective kitchen cabinet material can be found in most big box furniture stores and IKEA! It’s reasonably strong, smooth, and easy to customize. Quality-wise, it’s between plywood and particleboard. 


  • Inexpensive 
  • Smoother finish than regular particleboard 
  • Highly customizable 


  • When exposed to moisture, MDF can warp easily 
  • Dense and heavy, making it harder to hold screws 

Particleboard (or low density fibreboard) cabinets 

This kitchen cabinet material is in the same family as fibreboard but is low density rather than medium density. It’s usually finished with a layer of laminate or wood veneer. It’s another common kitchen cabinet material at IKEA. 


  • An inexpensive, easily accessible option 
  • Lightweight  


  • Most susceptible to damage caused by moisture  

Wood veneer cabinets 

Veneers are slices or sheets of solid wood pasted onto composite substrate (makes them similar to laminates). They reflect the beauty and grain of natural wood without the cost of solid wood cabinets. 


  • A budget-friendly alternative that still offers the wood cabinet look 


  • When installed incorrectly, the veneer will start to peel off 

Laminate cabinets 

Laminate is similar to wood veneer in that it’s used to cover kitchen cabinet doors; it’s not used for interiors. 


  • Easy to clean with simple soap and water 
  • A budget-friendly option 


  • Difficult to repair scratches and chips 

Thermofoil cabinets 

To create thermofoil cabinets, a thin layer of foil-like material is heated and then vacuum sealed onto wood or MDF. These types of cabinets are usually pretty simple in terms of design. 


  • Available in a vast variety of styles and colours 
  • Budget-friendly 


  • Susceptible to peeling over time 
  • Thermofoil can only cover 5 sides of your cabinet, meaning the backside of your cabinet door will not match 

Resin cabinets 

resin kitchen cabinets

Resin cabinets are typically made of an inexpensive base (MDF, plastic, or paper) and then covered with an outer layer like a polyester film. 

Melamine cabinets 

Melamine is technically a laminate product, but it costs less since it’s made using paper and resin. One of the most affordable materials on the market. 


  • Comparable to but more affordable than laminate cabinets 
  • Available in a wide array of colours 
  • Easy to maintain 
  • Imitates wooden cabinets successfully  


  • Inexpensive material is more susceptible to minor damages 
  • Limited style options available 
  • Scratches are difficult to retouch 

Polyester cabinets 

Polyester cabinets are made with a compound of melamine and pine fibre covered with a polyester film. It’s a low price but more sophisticated than melamine. 


  • Holds up better against scratches than melamine 
  • You can choose from various colours and imitation wood 


  • Scratches can be difficult to retouch  

PVC cabinets 

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is made up of sheets of plastic composite. It’s gained popularity in modular kitchens. There are two common types: hollow boards and foam boards. Hollow boards, as the name suggests, are hollow and lightweight. Foam boards are heavier, sturdier, and overall the better choice for kitchens. 


  • Easy to install 
  • Moisture-resistant 
  • Doesn’t require an expensive finish to look appealing 


  • May droop over time 
  • Colour and design selection are limited 
  • Prone to damage and scratches 

Luxury cabinets  

Some homeowners aim for warm, comforting, and functional cabinetry, while others strive for luxury. If you’re looking to make a statement, check out these kitchen cabinet materials. 

Metal cabinets 

Some modern kitchens opt for more unique materials, like stainless steel, to achieve their aesthetic. It’s preferred in professional kitchens because it’s easy to clean and maintain. 

Metal cabinets may look and feel luxurious, but they can be a budget-friendly choice, especially when you choose aluminum. Aluminum is a common, cost-effective kitchen cabinet material that comes with numerous advantages. 


  • Easy to clean 
  • Durable and flexible 
  • Recyclable and can be reused indefinitely 


  • Not everyone likes the aesthetic of metal cabinets  

Glass cabinets 

One pane, several panes, frosted, clear, there are lots of options for glass kitchen cabinets. Feel free to mix and match materials to find a kitchen cabinet design that suits your personality.  


  • Glass cabinets make your kitchen feel bigger 
  • Can have your dishware and pantry items on display  


  • Fragile and susceptible to cracking and breaking 
  • Can be an expensive choice 

Cabinet resurfacing 

If your cabinets are in good condition, but your doors are damaged, discoloured, or faded, you should consider cabinet resurfacing. Lacquer finish is also an option if resurfacing. 


  • Easier, faster, and cheaper than installing all-new cabinets  
  • A small update that has a big impact 


  • Usually only a temporary solution 

Spice up your kitchen 

When it’s time to update your cabinets, your options for kitchen cabinet materials are nearly endless. Whether you want to save as much money as possible or want to completely elevate your kitchen with a unique design, there’s a material that will perfectly suit your needs. For that extra bit of luxury, consider getting a professional cabinet finish done. 

Are you ready to take the next step with your kitchen renovation? Then check out our renovation checklist, some cost-saving tips, and these kitchen renovation must-haves. And don’t forget to read our article to learn more about realistic kitchen renovation costs 

By: Amber Van Wort

Amber is a freelance content writer with a degree in journalism from Durham College. Amber’s work has been published in Narcity, Chicago Tribune, The Belleville Intelligencer, Best Reviews, and more. Her passions include food, travel, and real estate. When she’s not busy meeting her client’s expectations, you can find Amber in the kitchen, elbow-deep in a bag of flour.

Amber Van Wort is a freelance content writer with a degree in journalism from Durham College. Amber’s work has been published in Narcity, Chicago Tribune, The Belleville Intelligencer, Best Reviews, and more. Her passions include food, travel, and real estate. When she’s not busy meeting her client’s expectations, you can find Amber in the kitchen, elbow-deep in a bag of flour.