1/2", 5/8" or 3/4" ply for cabinets

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Forum topic by EWJSMITH posted 03-11-2013 12:40 AM 4999 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View EWJSMITH's profile


156 posts in 3824 days

03-11-2013 12:40 AM

Hi all,

I have another basement bar job coming up and I’ve put together my plans and present to client – they are happy so I’m good to go – got my cutlist do so next is purchase of materials. For my previous work, I’ve always built my bars using a cabinet construction approach and I’ve used 3/4” birch ply. I’m wondering if that’s overkill? The bars have been rock solid and heavy but I’m looking for input on my selection of carcass material. Anyone care to chime in? Is 1/2” too flimsy? Is 3/4” excessive? Is 5/8” a nice medium?

Looking forward to your thoughts on this.


10 replies so far

View AandCstyle's profile


3052 posts in 2255 days

#1 posted 03-11-2013 01:08 AM

Personally, I would use 3/4”, but I know that I overbuild. Depending on the design, 1/2” would probably be sufficient in most areas and use 3/4” in those areas that will likely see more stress. FWIW

-- Art

View nwbusa's profile


1021 posts in 2284 days

#2 posted 03-11-2013 01:18 AM

I always use 3/4” Baltic birch for my cabinet carcasses. I figure the small cost difference between 3/4” and 5/8” or 1/2” is insignificant compared to the time I invest in building them, and prefer to overbuild. Plus, it seems like a lot of hardware is made for the standard 3/4” thickness. More material there for dados, rabbets, etc. as well.

-- John, BC, Canada

View Loren's profile


10390 posts in 3646 days

#3 posted 03-11-2013 01:18 AM

It depends how you are set up. 3/4” is easy to source
and friendly to frameless carcase construction and
does well with all joinery methods but it is heavy.

5/8” is sometimes used in frameless. Usually melamine.

1/2” can work too, but I’d recommend face frames
and some joinery methods are awkward at 1/2”.

Weight is the major factor, imo. I’ve read about cabinets
made for high-rise apartment installation with 1/2” ply. It
does sort of make sense if you have to double park
a truck in the street and load the cases into an elevator.

View MT_Stringer's profile


3168 posts in 3229 days

#4 posted 03-11-2013 01:50 AM

“I’ve put together my plans and present to client – they are happy so I’m good to go”

Hmmm…I am not sure how much construction detail you showed your client but I would build it just like you presented your proposal.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View MNgary's profile


298 posts in 2415 days

#5 posted 03-11-2013 02:32 AM

It depends, to me, on the design and span sizes. Is it curved, L shaped, rectangular? Will it be free standing or against a wall? Is it a service bar in the corner or one that will have 6-8 people sitting at it? Are you using face-framed panels, covering it with mirrors or carpet, creating a pattern using veneers?

Would it be possible to see the concept drawing you showed your client?

-- I dream of a world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3891 days

#6 posted 03-11-2013 03:04 AM

Having built countless bars over the course of my journey and my journey isn’t over yet so before I comment I want to say this.

Even though architects, engineers and for that matter, designers, and the ever naive “home owner” all of which have are the “client”, all tend to avoid liability therefor rendering somewhat generic drawings similar or worse then “Sketch Up” doesn’t preclude taking the mystery out of doing legible shop drawings and joinery methodology, sections where needed. and clear concise specifications to cover your own ass.

Integrity rules the day

I HATE doing things twice so I tend to be proactive instead of reactive and will continue to error on the side of caution so if your asking, I tend to use 3/4” plywood but I stress that this isn’t always the case as you provide little in the area of conceptualization of what your trying to build ?…….often, shop drawings done by a pro can save sooooooooooooooo much grief : )) and am somewhat appalled by the amount of professional shops out there, who haven’t the foggiest idea, how things are done, and are surprised to be greeted with ugly litigation, where the balance of a bank account decides the outcome.

Chiming in

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3891 days

#7 posted 03-11-2013 04:28 AM


keg cooler

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4123 days

#8 posted 03-11-2013 06:39 PM

I use ½” on most drawers, but for frames and big drawers I use ¾”, and even at that I often end up with detail that provides more stiffening (face frames or rear frames). Especially for built-in stuff, people will end up climbing on it (even if that’s “let me put a foot here off this ladder so I can reach…”).

Now I’m doing most of my work for my house, and my goal is to do everything I built with an expected 50 year lifespan that will never bug me again, but if you’re thinking about the long-term happiness of your clients…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View EWJSMITH's profile


156 posts in 3824 days

#9 posted 03-11-2013 09:12 PM

Thanks guys. I’m 99.9% certain I’ll be using 3/4 sheet goods again but I was just curious as to what others have as an opinion on this matter. Below are some sketchup drawings done to show what I plan on building. The section with the shelves on the wall is one sheet of material screwed to the wall with the shelves attached and right now, this is up in the air. The client isn’t sure if they want it yet or not. But the rest of the design remains the same. I plan on building this in 5 separate smaller cabinets (largest being 36” wide which is the one against the wall) and then all cabinets joined together on site. Same as what I did for my last build.

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4123 days

#10 posted 03-11-2013 09:45 PM

The places I’d consider thinner goods are maybe the wine bottle area, and, if the Sagulator calculations came out right for whatever the client wanted to store there, the shelves to the left of that cabinet and drawer area (though I’d be more comfortable with ½” for those shelves if that divider to the left of them had a bottom and was strong enough to put the ends of the shelves in tension). And I’d probably double-up on both of those counter-top spans.

And I think you could probably get away with something thinner on those big face areas, though I’d be concerned that someone sitting on a stool there would kick those panels and feel how thin they were if they were too thin. Given all the trim work there, if it wasn’t going to get kicked you could almost use ¼” ply (I use that for cabinet backs), but…

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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