What Is Plywood and Why Is It Used in Cabinet Doors?

What is plywood and why is it used in cabinet doors? Plywood panels are an alternative to solid wood; learn more about the benefits and drawbacks.

Five plywood panel shaker style cabinet doors in a variety of wood species.

If you’re new to the cabinet door industry, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the terms and products out there. Acronyms like MDF, PBC, TFL, and HPL can seem like a foreign language. And then there are the different styles of cabinet doors – thermofoil, NEXGEN, shaker style, raised panel – the list goes on.

When it comes to making a big decision like ordering cabinet doors, not understanding your options can make the process even more stressful. You don’t want to choose the wrong doors and end up with a kitchen that feels cramped, dark, or uninviting.

At Cutting Edge, we’ve made cabinet doors for over 20 years. We know the ins and outs of the products and can help you decide which one is right for you.

In this article, we’ll focus specifically on plywood panels and their use in cabinet doors. You’ve probably heard of plywood panels – they’re a popular choice, and we produce about 200 of these doors every day.

So, if you want to learn more about plywood panels, keep reading! We’ll cover:

Plywood is an alternative to solid wood in cabinetry

Plywood panels have a centre core with a veneer on the front and back. Let’s take a look at veneers first.

An infographic showing how plywood panels are assembled.

What is a veneer in woodworking?

Originally, cabinet door manufacturers used solid wood for their cabinet doors. However, wood was expensive and in high demand. So, lumber mills started looking for a way to get more material from a single log.

Eventually, they developed a method of cutting much thinner sections of wood. They named these thin slices of wood veneers. Over time, thanks to advances in technology, veneers have become thinner and thinner – almost the thickness of a sheet of paper. As you can imagine, the less solid wood used in a veneer, the less expensive the finished product.

Lumber mills apply a veneer to the front and back of a cheaper material – the core.

What is a core in woodworking?

The core is the centre part of a plywood panel. Lumber mills sandwich the core between two pieces of veneer. There are three common types of cores:

1. Plywood core

Plywood cores have multiple layers of thin wood, usually lower-grade materials unsuitable for the visible section of the plywood. Veneers with a plywood core are the most expensive and least common option.

A close-up picture showing the layers of a plywood core.

2. Particle board core (PBC)

A particle board core, or PBC, has many chips of lumber held together by glue and compressed for extra stability. Because this option uses scraps of material, it is less expensive and was the most common option for many years. However, MDF (the next option!) is gradually replacing PBC because it is more stable for a similar cost.

3. MDF

MDF cores are the most common option. Like PBC, MDF contains chips of scrap lumber. However, these scraps of lumber are much smaller. Thus, once it is glued and compressed, MDF is stronger than PBC.  

A close-up picture showing the very small and compact fibers of an MDF core.

Why use plywood panels in cabinet doors?

Now that you know what plywood is, let’s look at why cabinet door manufacturers use it in cabinet doors.

Because plywood panels use much less solid wood, they are less expensive than solid wood. However, they are also more stable than solid wood because they aren’t as inclined to move (warp, shrink or expand) over time.

Benefits and drawbacks of plywood panels

So cabinet door manufacturers like plywood panels – but why should you choose or not choose them? What are the benefits and drawbacks for you?

Benefits of plywood panels

You’ve already got a sneak peek at the benefits of plywood panels – cost and stability.


Plywood panels are not solid wood; thus, they are less expensive. Choosing plywood panels can almost halve the price depending on the wood type. 


Again, plywood panels are not solid wood. Solid wood is a biotic (or living) product, which means it tends to move or shift over time. This movement may cause cabinet doors to shrink, expand or bend slightly.

Because lumber mills lay the wood veneers over a stable core, plywood panels can’t move in these ways, making them more stable.

Drawbacks of plywood panels

Plywood panels aren’t perfect; they aren’t the right choice for every customer. There are two main reasons to choose solid wood panels over plywood panels.


Plywood panels have a very thin veneer on the front and back – almost paper-thin in most cases. This thin veneer can easily get scratched or otherwise damaged.

Of course, once you have a finish on the door, it is more difficult to damage the plywood panel. However, plywood is still less durable than solid wood.

Doesn’t match solid wood exactly

This is usually less of a concern, but plywood panels take finishes differently than solid wood. There is much less wood to accept the finish. However, cabinet doors still use a solid wood frame. Thus, depending on the finish type, the centre panel of your cabinet doors may not match the frame.

If you are a detail-conscious person, this colour difference may be noticeable enough to make you disappointed with your cabinet doors.

Cabinet doors with a light stain; the stain looks different on the solid wood pieces than on the plywood.
Image provided by Hiebert Cabinets and Fine Woodwork Ltd., customer

Common uses for plywood in cabinet doors

Cabinet door manufacturers like Cutting Edge use plywood for several door styles. Usually, they use plywood panels as the centre panel for cabinet doors, like shaker style doors.

An infographic showing the parts of a plywood panel shaker style cabinet door.

However, they also use a thicker plywood panel for slab doors. In this case, they use a ¾” material and wrap the edges with edge tape to hide the lower-quality core.

How much do plywood panel cabinet doors cost?

Not only do you need to choose the right cabinet door to enjoy your kitchen, but you also need to stay within your budget. The first step is to learn about the product and decide if it is what you want.

So, now that Cutting Edge has empowered you to understand if plywood panel doors are the right option for you, it’s time for you to take the next step. Can you afford plywood panel cabinet doors? Learn how much a plywood panel shaker style cabinet door costs.