Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Going wood-free in the kitchen: cabinet material options

by Karl Fendelander
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Wood cabinetry isn't for everyone. Whether you want to stick to sustainable materials, avoid outgassing from formaldehyde-treated wood, opt for something more durable or you just want to go against the grain by entirely avoiding any wood or wood-grained substance in the kitchen -- whatever your reason for wanting to go wood-free, you have a host of options.

Wood-free kitchen cabinet options

It may not be easy to find non-wood cabinets that are designed to be used in the kitchen, but with a little creativity, you can repurpose outdoor or work cabinets -- and you may be able to find them cheaper than storage solutions meant for the kitchen. When picking out anything for kitchen use, it's important to remember that the kitchen is one of the most abused and highly trafficked rooms in the house. Materials should be able to take some heat, be easily cleanable (and not easily stained) and be able to stand up well when wet (not rust or just soak it all up). Here are a few of the most popular options:

  • Stainless steel: These cabinets could possibly outlast your house. You could pass them on to your children's children. Beyond their durability, they look great (matching those stainless appliances), clean easily and don't give bacteria a chance to take hold -- all reasons why stainless steel is the material of choice for commercial kitchens. They are, though, a bit more expensive than most other cabinets. You may be able to save some money by seeking out used restaurant equipment. Many manufacturers use PVC or other plastics for drawers.
  • Aluminum: Aluminum costs less than steel, is just as resistant to corrosion and bacteria and looks a lot like brushed stainless. Be warned that ash can corrode aluminum, albeit slowly, so if you're adding in a wood grill in your kitchen, keep things clean. Just like with steel, you'll need to watch out for electrical shorts -- because every inch of your storage solution will be conducting that electricity.
  • Polymers: Most cabinet panels of this kind will be made of a petroleum-based, high-density polyethylene (HDPE). The extraction and production of these materials present numerous environmental issues, so if you're staying away from wood to go greener, these aren't for you. While they're easily cleaned, polymers tend to melt when hot pans get set down -- but on the the plus side, they wont conduct a current!

Talk to your contractor about your different options, and see if going completely wood-free is going to meet your needs.

About the Author
Karl Fendelander cut his teeth on web writing in the late nineties and has been plugged in to the newest technology and tuned in to the latest trends ever since. With an eye for design and an ear for language, Karl has created content and managed digital media for startups and established companies alike. When he unplugs, Karl can be found biking about town and hiking and climbing throughout the West.

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