Choosing the Right Cabinet Materials & Finishes for Your Home

There’s more to home renovation than simply painting walls or switching light fixtures. Typically, most people start renovation projects in the kitchen and bathroom. You’ve probably heard a contractor or interior designer on your favorite home renovation show say, “Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes.” That means a well-designed space can yield a large return on investment (ROI).

According to Zillow, you see as much as an 81% ROI after a kitchen remodel. However, the trick is to make strategic changes that enhance the visual appeal of your home.

Do you need a little help choosing the right kitchen and bathroom cabinets to elevate the ambiance or get the most bang for your buck at resale? Mr. Handyman of Memphis is here to help you choose the right cabinet material and finishes for the best home upgrade results.

The Pros & Cons of Specific Cabinet Materials

Usually, the first question homeowners ask themselves before purchasing cabinets is, “what are the cabinets made of?” And this is a valid question as various cabinet door materials work better for different rooms. For instance, plywood is ideal in areas prone to moisture because they’re known for durability.

Check out the list below of various types of materials that may suit your home.


Plywood is a popular cabinet door material architects have used in kitchens and bathrooms for years because it’s long-lasting and resilient. It’s an inexpensive product made of thin wood veneer layers that produce a composite material.


  • Termite resistant
  • Lightweight
  • Eco-friendly


  • Difficult to cut
  • Raw and rough edges
  • Heat expanding


Many prefabricated homes are retrofitted with kitchen and bathroom cabinets made of particleboard. Why? Because it’s one of the least expensive cabinet materials to produce. Unfortunately, it’s so cheap to make because it’s basically shards of wood (wood chips) and particles held together by some type of adhesive.


  • Cost-effective
  • Eco-friendly
  • Lightweight


  • Not firm
  • Prone to damage
  • Possibly toxic

Medium-Density Fiberboard (MDF)

If you’ve ever purchased IKEA furniture, nine times out of ten parts (if not all) of it are made of medium-density fiberboard (MDF). This cabinet material is created using recycled wood fibers and resin. Homeowners gravitate toward MDF because it’s inexpensive and easily pliable, so creating customized decorative edges is no problem.


  • Less expensive than plywood
  • No cracking or peeling


  • Heavy
  • Dense

Stainless Steel

How many residential kitchens have you been in with stainless steel cabinets? While sleek and eye-catching, stainless steel cabinets are frequently found in commercial kitchens. This isn’t to say that you can’t install this cabinet material in your home kitchen; it’s just not very common. Nonetheless, stainless steel cabinets give your kitchen a unique industrial and modern look that other homes can’t match.


  • Semi-customizable
  • High quality
  • Easy assembly


  • Easily damaged
  • Dust is more visible
  • High maintenance

Natural Wood

Natural wood has always been an elegant and durable first choice over other cabinet materials, likely because solid wood is synonymous with luxury and status. Still, natural wood has gotten a reputation for being outdated and traditional over the decades. But as styles continue to evolve, solid wood is making a comeback for kitchens and bathrooms as an option that melds well with various styles like modern farmhouse, contemporary, mid-century modern, and more.


  • Customizable
  • Sturdy
  • Adaptable


  • Expensive
  • High maintenance
  • Prone to warping

The most important thing to remember when choosing cabinet material is to select products that fit your personal aesthetic and show off your home’s personality.

Types of Wood Finishes for Your Cabinets

Do you want to infuse your style into your kitchen and bathroom cabinets? Select a wood finish! There are several finishes that help protect cabinet materials, enhance the look of the space, and tie together your design vision.


If you’re looking for a high gloss shine on your wood cabinets, shellac is perfect for you. You’ll save time and money on this natural sealant, as there’s zero prep time, and application is easy. It’s non-toxic and moisture-resistant, ideal for cabinet doors in kitchens and bathrooms. Plus, it’s effortlessly repairable should your pets or kids scratch off the finish intentionally or accidentally.


Lacquer is a unique finish as it combines other finishes, including shellac, urushiol, and nitrocellulose. You have the option of a dull, medium, and glossy appearance to match your aesthetic. With just two layers of lacquer, your cabinets can last up to 10 years with proper care and cleaning. Lacquer is usually applied with a sprayer, and the finish dries quickly, so you can enjoy your space sooner.


As an oil-based varnish, polyurethane gives your cabinet surfaces a warm amber tone that works well in contemporary, industrial, and traditional designs. It brings out the natural tone and texture of the wood you’re working with and should be applied carefully with a natural bristle paintbrush to ensure even coverage.


Paint is one of the only universal finishes that works well with almost any wood material. Go crazy with various colors to create visual interest and contrast, setting a warm and moody or bright and airy ambiance. You’ll want to ensure the cabinet material you’re painting is cleaned thoroughly to avoid bubbles and debris creating unwanted texture.

Water-Based Stain

Need a finish that will dry quickly and provide adequate protection? Wood stains are for you. The only disadvantage of using water-based stain on cabinets is you can’t use water as a cleaning agent. You’ll need paste wax and a gentle cloth to clean water-based stains from surfaces.

Remember, before you apply any kind of finish to cabinets, consider humidity level, maintenance, color, durability, and sustainability. And always wear protective equipment to avoid exposure to harmful fumes.

Let Mr. Handyman of Memphis Help You Install Cabinets and Customize Them Effortlessly!

Whether you’re in the middle of whole-home construction or a kitchen or bathroom remodel, our Memphis team is here to help you install cabinets wherever you need them. We create a completely convenient experience that allows you to sit back and let us take care of everything. We’ll even pick up cabinet materials at an extra charge and deliver them to you.

When you trust Mr. Handyman of Memphis for home improvements and installations, you’re in the most expert and capable hands possible.

Call or schedule professional handyman services in Memphis today!