BEND YOUR NEEDS: CHOOSING THE RIGHT WOOD FOR CABINETRY
In this special segment, we are excited to welcome Carpenter Goh, our very own carpentry enthusiast, to our blogging community, who has drawn upon his knowledge of cabinetry by bringing us closer to the most fundamental element: WOOD
Cabinetry may seem frivolous in comparison to other structural elements of your home but as cabinetry professionals and home owners ourselves, we can say that high-quality cabinets do make a huge difference to the level of sophistication to your space.
Unlike electrical works in renovations, constructing a cabinet isn’t rocket science nor do you need to understand every minute detail. It does, however, require a little knowledge on material selection. More important than style and functionality, choosing the right wood for your cabinetry will accomplish its practical purpose of high possible standard for the finished product.
As wood is a hygroscopic material that absorbs and releases moisture from its environment, it pays to know which type of wood are suitable for certain projects. Hence, to help in your consideration, we have put together this comprehensible guide to assist you to select the perfect engineered wood or solid wood furnishing for your home.
Type of Wood
It is not a surprise that wood is one of the most valuable and abundant organic material used across various industries. Especially in interior design, wood is simply a very good construction material that is versatile and easy to manipulate.
Considered a premium option amongst other engineered wood, plywood compromises of thin layers of wood veneer that are glued together to form a composite material. It can be composed by soft woods (eg: Pine, Redwood or Cedar) or hard woods (eg: Teakwood, Gurjan). As an extra factor, an exposed wood laminate coats the outside for added protection
What qualifies plywood as “Cabinet grade” is in fact the quality of the veneer faces. An A-grade often has twice the number of plies, better lamination and a smoother finish.
In higher quality solid plywood like the ones used in all our cabinets, the cross-grains (wood grains layered perpendicular to the adjacent layer) provides extra strength in multiple axes, which reduces the tendency of the wood splitting when nails are used on the edge.
Cabinet plywood comes in variant thickness, ranging from ¼ to ¾ inch, albeit many manufacturers, like ourselves, gravitate towards using ¾” thick plywood in cabinetworks for its durability and structural rigidity. As cabinets are one of the longest-lasting expected components in your house, it is imperative that the cabinet face framing, sides and shelving are ¾ inch thick plywood. These panels can be used without bracing or nailing, resulting in a frameless cabinet box. Moreover, thinner plywood will not be structurally strong enough to withstand the heavy load and stress, well over prolonged period of time, which creates potential call-backs after installation.
On a contrary, drawers and pull-out shelves call for a different type of construction than the cabinet box. While the drawer sides are nominal ½ ” thick plywood, the bottom should generally be ¼ inch thick inserted into the dado joint to hold the bottom and provide support.
· Long lifespan- High quality, Strong & Durable
· Flexible – able to bend to design curved surface
· Versatile – Varies densities for different purposes
· Moisture Resistant - less susceptible to damage by water.
· Cross-grains of layers holds nails and glue very well
· Good surface for paint, polish and even adhering laminate
· Available in large sheets, hence can cover huge areas without joinery
· Comparatively more expensive than other wood-based materials
· Edges of plywood must be finished with either laminate or veneer
· Needs to be treated adequately to exhibit fireproof, waterproof and termite-proof properties
· Difficult to cut ornamental and intricate designs into plywood as edged will splinter
As it stands up well to wear & tear and where high lifting wall cabinet is required, plywood is highly recommended for all kitchen cabinetry and other areas of the house furnishings like countertops, kitchen and bedroom cabinets, as well as wardrobes. For areas more susceptible to moisture, such as the bathroom, marine ply, or BWR (Boiling water-resistant) ply is considered.
You may check out Carpenter Goh’s previous live video to get the look and feel of a solid plywood pedestal with soft effortlessly slow-closing mechanism, making slamming drawers a thing of the past.
2. BLOCK BOARD
Block board consists of a core of softwood battens, placed edge to edge in columns and sandwiched between two layers of thick plywood, which are then glued together under high pressure. This further reinforces the strength.
In comparison to plywood, block board has small gaps between the blocks, rather than a uniform cross-section, which naturally weakens the structural integrity. At times, when a nail is driven through the surface, it may penetrate through the gaps rather than the wood itself, adversely debilitating the holding force of the nail. For this reason, plywood is the preferred choice of material when it comes to furniture making (except for cases where lengthy engineered wood are to be utilised- we will elaborate more on this).
To strengthen the block board, hardwood can be used in replacement of softwood for the block board core. Because cheaper quality block board is likely to have greater gaps and lower strength, we advise to buy finished products from reputed interior design carpenters.
Block boards are typically available in ¼ inch to 2-inch thickness. The value differs in view of the size and thickness of the sheet, as well the sort of wood used for the core.
As far as the selection of material is concerned, it mainly depends on the load capacity of the shelving. The standard thickness for shelves and bookcases varies from 28 to 35mm (1.1 to 1.4 inch). Additionally, brackets may be used to hold the shelves in place. While each bracket has its own formulated capacity, the actual capacity is less by virtue of inconsistencies in the shelving material and mounting hardware.
On the occasion that heavier objects are to be displayed, it is best to consult your cabinet manufacturer to avoid overestimating how much your shelves can bear. They can recommend quality ready-made cabinetry or if budget is not a concern, customise one that is specifically to your requirements.
· Light in weight – increases longevity of furniture, easy to transport and handle
· Economical – Softwood allows for cost optimization without compromising on quality.
· Good dimensional stability – More resistant to malfunctions and cracking
· Strong vertical bearing capacity - Less possibility of sagging or bending
· Fair resistance to water – can be made waterproof with BWP grade resin
· Do not split while cutting – can be cut with regular wood tools too
· Poor conductor of sound, heat and electricity - Good soundproofing and thermal insulation properties
· Less durable compared to plywood – can be strengthen using hardwood as the core
· Small gaps in the core - Screwing and nailing must be done carefully otherwise it may crack
· Difficult to distinguish the quality of the wood core from the outside
Block board is a very sensible and preferred choice, that also comes at a cheaper price, for long bookshelves, wardrobes and other interiors where the length (i.e. > 6 feet) of furniture matters. The principal reasons for this lies in their composition.
Unlike plywood, block board are not made from plies which are glued over one another but rather end to end, which makes them stiffer and less prone to bending in the middle. In this context, it can be well said that there are ample uses of block board for erecting any types of big structural furnishing. For instance, they are also found reliable and extensively used for building interior and exterior doors.
3. SOLID TIMBER
Unparalleled in beauty and strength, solid timber is a term commonly used to distinguish between vinyl or engineered wood. Its superlative composition that has no empty or hollow spaces, makes it the best for any woodworks.
Solid timber is 100% pure wood, homogenous throughout. Definitely stronger than plywood, it is a sturdy, resilient and timeless material for cabinets.
Teak wood is the most popular solid hardwood, valued for both its durability and elegance – a honey golden brown colour with straight wood grains. Beyond its beauty, it possesses a greater naturally weather-resistant property than other wood types, which stands firm against the constant activity of your busy daily life.
For higher-quality timber with minimum flaws, be prepared to pay more. Having said that, there are many different timbers in the market that ranges in price, characteristics and strength. For instance, softwood options like pine don’t compare in aesthetics and durability but are inexpensive and lightweight alternatives.
When it comes down to the materials that make up the box construction, solid wood remains a popular choice for the cabinet structure, including bases, face frames and doors. Typical thicknesses are 11mm, 15mm,18mm and 20mm, depending on the applications.
Though the ideal thickness is ¾ inch for solid hardwood front framed cabinets and shelving, it is needless to say that thicker is better, especially when longer shelves are involved. With thicker and reinforced panels, it makes for a more rigid and stable support.
It is important to note that thickness varies between manufacturer and product lines. To confuse matter further, softwood and hardwood have comparatively different sizing standards. Hence, to ease things, working with a custom carpenter allows you to specify the thickness and in return they will be able to guide you on the best thickness for the given span length.
· No wood can beat the exhilarating style and substance solid wood delivers – Each piece is original with its unique natural grain
· Premium look and feel- Ages gracefully and maintain resale value of your home
· Environmental Investment – Most environmentally friendly decorative product made from a renewable resource; solid timber is non-toxic
· Highly durable and resistant to harsh conditions - Perfect for busy high traffic family kitchens
· Long-lasting - Well-maintained solid hardwood will last for decades
· Can be refurbished to be made new again – Scratches and stains can be easily repaired by sanding
· Takes adhesives and finishes well
· Higher initial purchase price More time needed for manufacturing
· Has natural defects such as knots
· Susceptible to splitting, swelling cracking and warping due to drastic atmospheric differences in humidity and temperature
Solid timber is best installed in living areas, bedroom and dining rooms, be it your cabinets, wardrobes, drawers, back shelves or other kitchen storage units. As solid timber is more prone to temperature fluctuations, it is wise to avoid wood in bathrooms.
An investment well worth
While it makes sense to establish a remodelling budget and settle for “off the shelf” cabinet, it is also equally important to spend your renovation funds on quality.
Because not all cabinets are created equal, some research may have to be done in order to really asses their qualities, where some woods are better for certain builds than others. Additionally, with cabinet style trends deviating from box cabinet construction to curved and even bow-front structures, have it the way you like it. This is YOUR cabinet.
Roxwell’s motto is: Buy it right. Buy it once. Custom quality cabinets not only acquire an aesthetic appeal but also increase the monetary value of your home. Don’t just buy for now, but buy for the future. Let your intricate beauties fit your needs and space, while defining your home’s character.
Ready to learn more or design cabinets that will stand the test of time?
Join Carpenter Goh in his next live show, where he will be sharing with you more about cabinetry: https://www.facebook.com/roxwelladvertisingpl/