Author Topic: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality  (Read 4661 times)

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Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« on: October 07, 2020, 09:31 AM »
Hoping to get a little insight from more experienced folks.

I started out using the Home Depot Radiata pine plywood.  Roughly $30 a 4x8 sheet.  It was good for testing and making shop cabinets, etc.  I got the LR32 and wanted to make some 'nicer' wall cabinets for my shop so I moved up to the birch ply at HD, roughly $53 a sheet.  I built 4 cabinets and I thought they were good.  I wanted 2 more so I went back to HD, same bin, same everything, and the colors of this birch were no where near what I already had.  Yep, I know it is an organic thing, nothing guaranteed about colors, grains, etc.

I have roughed out 4 projects for the house.  Laundry room cabinets, replacing some Closet Maid wire stuff with built-ins, etc.  I also wanted pre-finished.  The folks at HD had no clue what pre-finished plywood was.  I had read that Columbia Forest Products can be ordered and shipped to HD for pickup.  The Columbia guys are great.  We talked for a good bit and they sent me a quote on some sheet prices. I don't know what to expect based on these grades.  I don't plan to paint any carcasses, just use their UV finish.  A couple of places I will make doors and I think I may paint those. 

Below are the quotes I got from them.  I am hoping to get some guidance on 'worth the upgrade or not', while moving up this price list.  I was told by Columbia that the birch stuff I have been getting is most likely grade C3.

For example, on the C grade prices, is the CC grade worth a 10% bump in price over the C2 ?  For most of these 4 projects, the back side isn't really important.  But I do want as nice and consistent as possible, face side.

It works out much better to get 10-12 sheets delivered instead of getting 1-2 at a time, having them cut down so they can fit in my son's SUV. 

Appreciate any tips.

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Offline Stan Tillinghast

  • Posts: 197
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2020, 10:32 AM »
Looking on with great interest.
Our local hardwood/plywood lumber in San Diego carries prefinished maple ply I’ve bought to make a prototype cabinet, and I like it a lot.
My feeling is that the value of prefinished plywood in reducing inevitable water damage and reducing the time I would need to finish is worth it.
I’m very interested in hearing what the more experienced members say.
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Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2020, 10:36 AM »
Thanks Stan.  Do you know what grade of maple you got and maybe even a picture  ;) ?  Thanks.

Offline mkasdin

  • Posts: 475
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2020, 01:53 PM »
Try to go to a specialty lumber store. I prefer Baltic Birch, or shop Maple. I don’t like the sandy plywood Home Depot sells. There are dozens of places in Los Angeles that sell specialty plywood all within 5 minutes to 45 minute drive. If your building garage style cabinets, MDF could work?

Online Birdhunter

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2020, 01:56 PM »
I get the top grade Baltic Birch 4 by 8 sheets from my wood supplier. He will deliver for $20. I can also  rent a truck from Home Depot for $25 per hour.

 Buying the top grade of BB saves a lot of time sanding and hiding blemishes.
Birdhunter

Offline Sparktrician

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2020, 04:32 PM »
Rick, you might do well to check out Garnica plywood.  It's high-quality stuff.  It's available from Atlantic Plywood in Charlotte.

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Offline afish

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2020, 05:11 PM »
So this will only help to give you a price comparison since they are here in Florida.  You should be able to find a plywood distributer near you though.  I dont buy any sheet goods from HD.  They dont list their Russian birch but I want to say it was around 60 a sheet unfinished 3/4 last time. 

https://imeca.com/products/birch-prefinished-plywood?variant=23271623301

Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2020, 05:49 PM »
Thanks guys, appreciate the suggestions but I would like to get some help with the original problem.

I am trying to understand plywood grades and if bumping up in cost really does give you a better product.  In most things in life bumping up to the highest cost does not always give you that much bang for your buck.  Those are the opinions/experience I am trying to find here. 

Another example is would the BB grade really be worth a 30% bump, over the C2 grade ?

Offline afish

  • Posts: 500
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2020, 06:06 PM »
That depends on where specifically you are using said plywood.  If we talking strictly carcasses then c-2 is typically perfectly acceptable.  If we are talking door fronts finished end panels etc. then no you will want to step up in the A range. 

Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2020, 07:14 PM »
Thanks @afish .  Appreciate the info.  As I mentioned up top, these are basic cabinets in the kitchen, laundry, etc.  No doors are in the plan yet so just looking at carcass pieces.  They didn't give me a quote for any A grade so not sure its even available from them.

Offline afish

  • Posts: 500
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2020, 07:57 PM »
NP, I saw the locations and it seemed like you were talking about carcasses but I wasnt 100%.  I wouldnt use pre finished for doors and drawers anyways but figured I would mention it just incase you were planning on doing the doors and drawers from the same material.  You can get away with a lot with the boxes. Heck most people are used to melamine these days so just about any plywood is better in my opinion.  They also make something called cabinet liner, its plywood with laminate already applied. It is harder to get good chip free cuts on a saw though so how your cutting it can matter.  Make sure you have a few good fresh blades as its hard on them but its good for boxes too.  Durable, easy to clean and white with no defects.  Some like the wood look some like white.  I also noticed you where looking at prefinished maple.  You can go to a prefinished birch for the boxes to save some extra cash.  Birch is pretty standard by me and most I think. 

Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #11 on: October 07, 2020, 08:54 PM »
Appreciate the thoughts. So far, the few cabinets I have done for inside all used solid wood drawer fronts and doors.  I recently made 6 wall cabinets for my shop and I tried the euro style, frameless, full overlay, using edge banded plywood.  I like them but they match absolutely nothing in my house.   These new projects will be all pre-finished maple or birch, no white/melamine insides for me.  I am leaning towards these prefinished maple sheets from Columbia, just need to decide on the grade.

Offline tjbnwi

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #12 on: October 07, 2020, 09:01 PM »
Columbia is probably the premier sheet good producer in the country.

The additional cost is probably in the final core sheet. The best is MDF balance sheet that is sanded prior to the face veneer glue in place.

I would like to try Garnica plywood, I've heard nothing but good things about it.

We are currently trying an OSB core sheet good. It is realy flat.

UV cured pre-finish is very durable. Most glues will not bind to it.

You can order the sheets, UV finished one side only.

The pieces below were run through a shaper with a Freeborn lock miter head in it.

Tom

Offline tjbnwi

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #13 on: October 07, 2020, 09:08 PM »
Go with the B-B. You wont regret it.

The last build we needed 4 sheets of 10x4 (horizontal grain) Walnut, A-1, just under 600 a sheet to have it pressed up...

Tom

Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #14 on: October 07, 2020, 09:56 PM »
Go with the B-B. You wont regret it.

The last build we needed 4 sheets of 10x4 (horizontal grain) Walnut, A-1, just under 600 a sheet to have it pressed up...

Tom
Thanks Tom, I was hoping you would chime in.  It seems you process more plywood than just about anybody.  $600 per sheet for that walnut?  Wow....  I could look at walnut all - day - long.  Beautiful.

Offline tjbnwi

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2020, 10:00 PM »
A normal 4x10 sheet cost 150ish. It was the vertical grain that affected the cost.

Tom

Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2020, 10:02 PM »
I didn't know 4x10 size was an option.

Offline tjbnwi

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #17 on: October 07, 2020, 10:05 PM »
I didn't know 4x10 size was an option.

I can get 4x12 or 12x4. The numbers reversed means the grain is reversed.

Tom

Offline MaineShop

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2020, 08:00 AM »
I have used a mountain of the pre finished from columbia, it is excellent stuff and running about 100ish a sheet to by by the lift. I can also get 5x5 baltic birch from my local lumber yard for around 70ish for a 3/4 sheet. Or I can get unfinished columbia at my local HD for around 55ish. I can tell you you get what you pay for. the prefinished is worth it every time in my book. My local lumber yard also has prefinished vietnames "birch" that they sell for 60 a sheet for prefinished, its ok but the finish is no where near as good as the columbia, and the columbia is purebond so far less harsh on the chemicals

Online pixelated

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2020, 08:08 AM »
Does the Columbia have recognizable edge markings? My local lumber yard sells a pre-finished Maple, but I've encountered voids in the core and the core veneers don't seem like the same quality as some of the unfinished product the same yard sells.

Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #20 on: October 08, 2020, 08:36 AM »
I have used a mountain of the pre finished from columbia, it is excellent stuff and running about 100ish a sheet to by by the lift. I can also get 5x5 baltic birch from my local lumber yard for around 70ish for a 3/4 sheet. Or I can get unfinished columbia at my local HD for around 55ish. I can tell you you get what you pay for. the prefinished is worth it every time in my book. My local lumber yard also has prefinished vietnames "birch" that they sell for 60 a sheet for prefinished, its ok but the finish is no where near as good as the columbia, and the columbia is purebond so far less harsh on the chemicals

Thank you @MaineShop .  That is pretty close to what I have here.  I have a ;umber yard, about 60 miles away.  The only prefinished they have is the Asian version.  He said he sells a lot of it but I am not comfortable taking the chance.  I have already seen the value of prefinished so I don't have a problem with the extra cost from the Columbia products.  Thanks for the confirmation on Columbia.

Online Cheese

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #21 on: October 08, 2020, 11:09 AM »
This is a timely discussion.  [smile]

The last couple of days I've been cutting up ply for carcasses. I purchased this stuff from Menards, it's called Tigerply. It's actually 18 mm thick, it runs .702"-.706" even though it's labeled & sold as 3/4" material.




It's a 7-ply, poplar core, pre-finished European birch with a 4-coat (2 per side) UV cured epoxy acrylate finish. Each top birch veneer is .015" thick with no plugs or knots. The stuff is rather nice especially for carcass building. Everything's flat and extremely square and a 4 x 8 sheet was only $49. Here are a couple of photos.

The only issue thus far is that the coating does scratch rather easily. Maybe they can be touched up with some wipe-on poly?




Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #22 on: October 08, 2020, 11:27 AM »
This is a timely discussion.  [smile]

The last couple of days I've been cutting up ply for carcasses. I purchased this stuff from Menards, it's called Tigerply. It's actually 18 mm thick, it runs .702"-.706" even though it's labeled & sold as 3/4" material.

It's a 7-ply, poplar core, pre-finished European birch with a 4-coat (2 per side) UV cured epoxy acrylate finish. Each top birch veneer is .015" thick with no plugs or knots. The stuff is rather nice especially for carcass building. Everything's flat and extremely square and a 4 x 8 sheet was only $49. Here are a couple of photos.

The only issue thus far is that the coating does scratch rather easily. Maybe they can be touched up with some wipe-on poly?

Thanks Cheese, $49 pre-finished seems like a great deal.  The closes Menards is a couple hundred miles away.  Have heard they have good deals there.

Offline Festdewalkita

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2020, 10:14 PM »
New here, new to woodworking.  Longtime lurker, just acquiring the needed tools to get started.

Hopefully in the vein of the OP...What is the minimum quality you'd accept for painted (non-shop) cabinets?  What's your floor for plywood that is too nice to paint?

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Offline jobsworth

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #24 on: November 02, 2020, 11:13 AM »
My go to plywood is a 3/4 domestic shop birch. it does have some boats on te surface but if you plan right a can cut correctly you wont notice te boats. depending on what they get in some times the shop grade is better than the better quality graded ply. Very good for painted projects.

Offline StanB

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #25 on: November 02, 2020, 10:43 PM »
Tiger ply is absolute junk it has voids and smells terrible when cut. I have also had several sheets delaminate on me. I would never buy again.
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Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #26 on: November 02, 2020, 11:27 PM »
I was finally able to submit an order to Home Depot, which they source through Columbia Forest products.  I got 7 sheets of 3/4 and 5 sheets of 1/4.  Its BB grade, both sides finished (3/4 only), and in Maple.  I have no idea what its going to look like but I got my fingers crossed.

Offline Packard

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2021, 03:57 PM »
This page from Columbia Plywood is the best information I've seen on the subject.

I recently bought "plain sawn maple" grade b for some cabinets that I could get out of one sheet so no matching was required.

Birch looks pretty good as a rotary cut and that might be fine.  But plain sawn is also available.  The photos tell the story.


https://www.ucfp.com/resources/hardwood_plywood/columbia/Columbia_Grading_Guide.pdf

Offline AlexGn

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #28 on: January 07, 2021, 01:22 PM »
I was finally able to submit an order to Home Depot, which they source through Columbia Forest products.  I got 7 sheets of 3/4 and 5 sheets of 1/4.  Its BB grade, both sides finished (3/4 only), and in Maple.  I have no idea what its going to look like but I got my fingers crossed.

Hi Rick, I'm wondering how that worked out for you - are you happy with the plywood you received?

Offline Packard

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #29 on: January 07, 2021, 04:08 PM »
Did you specify rotary cut, plain sawn, quarter sawn, regular sawn, etc.?

On many species of wood these can  make a world of difference.  On birch, not much difference; on maple more.

If you click the link on my post above you will see images comparing the grain.  Rotary cut for oak looks awful in my opinion, OK in birch and maple.  It is the least expensive veneer.

Offline Rick Herrick

  • Posts: 526
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #30 on: January 08, 2021, 12:25 AM »
Hi Rick, I'm wondering how that worked out for you - are you happy with the plywood you received?

@AlexGn I am just finishing up the last of 3 projects with this plywood.  It took a week longer than expected to get it because my sales rep at HD was on vacation.

I got the 7 sheets of 3/4 BB grade Maple (both sides prefinished) for $115 per.  Four sheets of 1/4" C3 grade Maple (one side finished) for $56 per.  I figured at this grade and price I could just grab a sheet and begin but it wasn't the case.  I had multiple sheets with big scratches in the middle.  I had about a dozen places where it appeared to be bubbling, like it had gotten wet at some point.  Some of those I could actually feel but others it still seemed smooth.  I had a couple of places where I could see ghosting of what looked like a 'banding or strapping' mark.  Even though both sides were BB grade, one side would be much darker than the other.

I am almost done with my three projects and my wife likes them a lot.  I got to use every Festool piece I have purchased in 2020 so that was cool.

The Columbia reps were good people and appeared to be concerned over the lack of quality control at the mill.  They offered me a $150 gift card, which I took.  Looking back, I don't think it was enough.  There is a skill in going through a sheet and working around defects and I need to get better at that.

All in all I am happy with my results but I don't think I will use that supplier again unless I can physically go pick out each sheet myself and I don't think thats an option.

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Offline AlexGn

  • Posts: 5
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2021, 10:57 PM »
@Rick Herrick Thank you, I'm glad your project is working out well but it's disappointing that even higher grade plywood came with that many issues. My local wood store recently got acquired by a larger chain and I'm trying to figure out my backup plan in case they decide to stop selling to retail customers like me.

Offline kevinculle

  • Posts: 422
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #32 on: January 10, 2021, 08:18 AM »
My experience has been that buying plywood from a dedicated supplier rather than a big box store solves most of these issues.  The supplier I use primarily services cabinet shops and in addition to Garnica and Columbia sheet goods they carry cabinet related hardware like hinges and drawer slides.  I have never had a sheet pulled from their racks with significant defects, so it seems that one thing you get for their slightly higher prices is that they have culled any dodgy material they receive from the manufacturers.  My experience at Home Depot is that it can be difficult to get in store help.  Since I have a basement shop with a two turn staircase there is no way a 4'x8' sheet goes down whole so I take a cut sheet and each piece gets one cut.  My supplier does this quickly and accurately and helps me load up after the purchase.  HD is fine for buying commodity items and supplies but for lumber and sheet goods their material is dodgy and overpriced for what you get.

Offline threesixright

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #33 on: January 10, 2021, 01:04 PM »
Maybe use-full. Was for me




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Offline mkasdin

  • Posts: 475
Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #34 on: January 10, 2021, 01:24 PM »
My experience has been that buying plywood from a dedicated supplier rather than a big box store solves most of these issues.  The supplier I use primarily services cabinet shops and in addition to Garnica and Columbia sheet goods they carry cabinet related hardware like hinges and drawer slides.  I have never had a sheet pulled from their racks with significant defects, so it seems that one thing you get for their slightly higher prices is that they have culled any dodgy material they receive from the manufacturers.  My experience at Home Depot is that it can be difficult to get in store help.  Since I have a basement shop with a two turn staircase there is no way a 4'x8' sheet goes down whole so I take a cut sheet and each piece gets one cut.  My supplier does this quickly and accurately and helps me load up after the purchase.  HD is fine for buying commodity items and supplies but for lumber and sheet goods their material is dodgy and overpriced for what you get.
Home Depot marketing strategy is give away the tools as a loss leader. They markup hardware, lumber, paint, building materials, cabinets. Etc. Their lumber leaves something to be desired. It’s ok for 2x4s and fence pickets if you can cherry pick the heap. Now a days construction lumber is expensive. I always go to a specialty lumber store/yard to get Baltic Birch 🌳 or any finish quality sheet good.
« Last Edit: January 10, 2021, 01:28 PM by mkasdin »

Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #35 on: January 10, 2021, 11:45 PM »
Maybe use-full. Was for me



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

That was pretty useful, thanks for the link.

Offline Rick Herrick

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #36 on: January 10, 2021, 11:46 PM »
I had to use Home Depot but the product was ordered and fulfilled by Columbia Forest Products.

Offline Wood_Slice

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Re: Opinions on cabinet plywood grades/quality
« Reply #37 on: February 23, 2021, 03:17 PM »
I have used independent Lumber stores as well as HD's Columbia Birch and Maple plywoods. In all honestly there is nothing better than actually inspecting every piece yourself as it will save you a ton of headache during the build. The HD's Columbia plywood is good but you need to sort trough the entire stack to find good or passable for work ones. For example I have to look through about 15 sheets or so to find 3-5 good ones. I always have another person with me sorting through the sheets and rent a HD truck and get about 10 sheets of 3/4" for carcass construction, about 4-5 sheets of 1/2" for drawers and such and about 4 sheets of 5mm underlayment plywood. The key in cost saving is with the 5mm underlayment ply, pick to find good enough looking face, less than half the cost of a 1/4" columbia birch/maple ply.

Independent lumber store near me had great white birch ply, B2 and it was back in the day about a 1-2 years ago was $50 a 3/4" 4x8 sheet. However, the outer veneer was extremely thin compared to the Columbia outer veneer a good thickness and was less than 23/32, felt like 21/32
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