Plywood for kitchen cabinets - what thickness

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Forum topic by rut posted 03-13-2012 07:59 PM 17080 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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81 posts in 1800 days

03-13-2012 07:59 PM

For my kitchen cabinet project I planned on using maple veneered plywood (3/4”) for the base units (sides and floor) with maple face-frames.

I’m not real clear what is normal for use in the upper cabinets. Would you still use 3/4” all around (including floor and top) or is it ok to reduce it down to 1/2” since they aren’t as deep? My current pre-built cabinets (cheap) do use 1/2 melamine, but again, they are cheap.

Wanting something that will last but 3/4” veneered ply isn’t cheap.


11 replies so far

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4405 posts in 3379 days

#1 posted 03-13-2012 08:07 PM

Just my take, but 1/2” sides are pretty strong. Think about compression. I can’t mash a 1/2” ply cabinet side.
There might be some extenuating design issues based on how you’ll build. Dadoed shelves or shelf pins? Big old long bases or mutiples? Same question for the uppers.
No shelves over 36” for sure, and they should be 3/4” material that will be edge banded.
A design graphic would help us answer.
Are ya gonna stain or paint? Why use premium ply for hidden sides?
Face frame or euro design?
Help us help you.


View rut's profile


81 posts in 1800 days

#2 posted 03-13-2012 08:13 PM

None of my cabs are over 36”. All the bases will have drawers with the exception of the sink cab and a couple of 12” cabs beside the oven. I have 2 corner cabs that will have lazy suzans in them (33”)

Probably only the uppers will have shelves and I was actually leaning toward hardwood shelves if I have enough on hand. probably shelf pins for the interior shelves. Dadoed for the floor and top.

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

4405 posts in 3379 days

#3 posted 03-13-2012 08:20 PM

Sounds like you’ve got the basics hands down though I would question the solid wood shelves. What kinda countertops?
Again. Face frame or euro?


View rut's profile


81 posts in 1800 days

#4 posted 03-13-2012 08:22 PM

I’m thinking granite tiles. There are a couple of nice systems out there for the DIY person with nice thick bullnose edges.

View canadianchips's profile


2307 posts in 2415 days

#5 posted 03-13-2012 09:13 PM

I use 3/4 ” for upper and lower:
Stronger cabinet.
When I do my dado’s I can use same depth setting and cut all side panels, saves time.
Unless you are building cabinets for RV or Airplane—-no need to make them lighter on top !
Nothing worse than building cabinets and realizing shelves are bending because of cheaper materials used
When you are already spending Thousands of dollars and extra $20 per sheet really isn’t that much extra.
“I think after you finish this project you are going to be vey happy that you did NOT use melamine again !”

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View cabmaker's profile


1471 posts in 2227 days

#6 posted 03-13-2012 09:25 PM

3/4 , with rare exceptions. Differance in cost is minimal. It makes lots of sense in some relms,(production settings) but you ll be happier with 3/4.

View Loren's profile


8158 posts in 3066 days

#7 posted 03-13-2012 09:31 PM

3/4” is a good standard to work with and you can use biscuits, dowels
and pocket screws pretty easily with it.

You can use 1/2” if you know what you are doing. One reason
to choose 1/2” is to reduce weight in cabinets to be installed
in high rise buildings. Economy is gained not only in terms
of material cost (which is minor) but also in terms of labor
costs incurred from worker fatigue.

There’s a method called “Donmar-Wiesing” that uses 1/2”
sides and actually uses plywood for face frames. I think it
was developed by a couple of cabinet makers doing
NYC apartment cabinet build/installs.

View MrRon's profile


3891 posts in 2662 days

#8 posted 03-15-2012 08:27 PM

I like the looks of 3/4”, especially for shelves and frameless cabinets. 1/2” looks flimsy and cheap because that’s what is used in cheap cabinets. I hope you are not thinking of using Maple plywood from Home Depot.

View Earlextech's profile


1157 posts in 2109 days

#9 posted 03-15-2012 09:02 PM

3/4” if only for the squareness of the box. 3/4” was the standard at my shop, not an upgrade.
Also, installers always overtighten the screws and bend the back of the cabinet to fit the wall. It’s a lot harder to do with a 3/4” box. Try it, you’ll never go back!

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View joebloe's profile


157 posts in 1712 days

#10 posted 03-16-2012 02:23 AM

I always use 3/4, 7 ply birch,both upper and lower cabinets.What little you would save isn’t worth difference.You said these where for your kitchen,when I build mine I will be useing the best that I can afford. My wife has already picked out the pulls, slides and counter top she wants. So this project will be put on the short list soon.What i’m trying to say is build it once and build it right the first time.

View Martyroc's profile


2711 posts in 1724 days

#11 posted 03-16-2012 02:32 AM

I’ve been using 3/4” all around for years, uppers and lowers. My current kitchen project is no different, my advice is go with 3/4” but that’s just my take on it, I can tell you I have never been disappointed.

-- Martin ....always count the number of fingers you have before, and after using the saw.

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