Modular is the default option in most cases where new woodwork is required in the Kitchen. The advantages Modular Kitchens have over carpenter-made kitchens far outweigh the disadvantages if any. They are practical with an infinite array of materials, colours, textures and finishes to suit every budget and style, blending aesthetics with a modern flourish.
But the downside of so many options is that it is very hard to make and take the right decisions that not only offer value for money but also ensure peace of mind in the long run. The choice of the primary materials used will decide the durability and budget of your kitchen. Following is a quick look at the most commonly used materials to help you make the right choice.
Modular Kitchen cabinets are basically made up of two material layers- the inner structural boxing or carcass, and the exterior finish or outer ‘skin’. Let’s look at them in detail.
1. The Boxing or Carcass Material
In order of their popularity, Plywood, MDF or HDF, Particleboard or Wood are the most common choices for the cabinet carcass material. Let’s analyse their pros and cons one by one.
Plywood is a durable and stable engineered material manufactured from thin layers or “plies” of wood veneer that are glued together with resin. It is readily available in many standard sizes and thicknesses. By virtue of its construction where adjacent layers have their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another, Plywood has a high degree of strength.
Most commonly used grades of plywood in order of durability are Marine or BWP (boiling waterproof), BWR(boiling water resistant) and MR(moisture resistant) plywood. The first two are the preferred options for their moisture resistance and are better suited for kitchen and bathroom cabinets where a lot of water spills and moisture. Commercial ply is less expensive and the go to option for overhead units if budget is a constraint.
High Density and Medium Density Fibreboards (HDF and MDF) are engineered wood products made by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibres, combined with wax and resin binders under high temperature and pressure. Though these boards are commonly used in kitchens, they are weaker and less durable than plywood offering lesser resistance to screws thereby requiring special details to match the strength of plywood. But since they are smooth, they offer a better finish with paint finishes.
Particleboard (chipboard) is made by pressing and extruding wood chips that are bound with a synthetic resin. Though it is the most economical option for a modular kitchen, it is the least durable of all the material options with a significant disadvantage of being susceptible to expansion and discoloration from moisture absorption unless protected with an appropriate finishing ‘skin’.
The costliest of the lot, opting for wood will require deep pockets! Moreover, you normally have to employ the services of a carpenter to work with it as factories do not use real wood, only engineered wood like the three examples seen earlier. Real wood requires adequate seasoning before working on, to avoid warping over time. Consistency of wood grains is difficult to achieve as it depends on the naturally occurring knots and whorls in the material. Commonly used hardwood include Mahogany, Walnut, Oak, Maple, Cherry and Birch while softwood include Pine, Sal, Red Cedar and Redwood.
2. Outer Finishes/ Shutter
Though the most common finish is laminate, modular kitchens can also be finished with costlier options that include PU, Wood veneers, acrylic, glass or membrane finishes.
Laminates are highly durable and easy to clean. Being light on the wallet, they are the most commonly used finishing layer for MDF, plywood, particle board, wooden furniture, wall panels and flooring. They are essentially a composite material made by pressing together thin layers of flat paper and plastic resins with the upper layer printed with a wide variety of eye-catching colours, textures and decorative finishes.
Membrane is a Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) foil that is usually applied on a MDF base under high pressure wrapping itself right around all grooves, mouldings and sides of the shutter. It is available in matte, glossy and even wooden finishes. It is a cost effective and durable solution.
Acrylic is a non-toxic, reflective high gloss finish similar to lacquer, which can give cabinets a bit more luxurious, sleek and elegant look with a perfectly smooth appearance. It is available in a wide range of colours with a glossy sheen that ensure a high-end ultra-modern look for your kitchen cabinets.
PU or Polyurethane
PU paint or Polyurethane paint is a highly durable, seamless, glossy acrylic paint that is typically applied over a MDF base. Besides being easy to apply, it’s resistant to scratches, heat, chemicals and water makes it perfect for use in kitchens. It’s durable and impeccable finish makes it a premium and expensive finishing option.
Lacquer is a common wood furniture finish preferred by woodworkers among other finishes. This has to do with its ease of applications and quick-dry as it is a thinner finish. It provides a smooth and glossy finish while remaining durable on the wood. Again, it is resistant to damages as it penetrates the wood surface. Applying lacquer requires a high-volume, low-pressure sprayer in an adequately ventilated room. Though durable, it is susceptible to scratches and discoloration after some time.
Wood Veneer finished kitchen cabinets are timeless because of their rich, warm and natural appearance. Cabinets that are made with a combination of engineered wood base finished with real wood veneer are virtually indistinguishable from solid wood furniture making them look luxurious and expensive at a fraction of the cost not to mention the warmth and a touch of class added to your décor.
UV or Ultra Violet
This coating has been around for less than two decades. The coating is the most durable and the clarity is far superior to any other coating. The smell is almost non-existent making it one of the most green coatings on the market today though it is harder to apply and slightly more expensive.