Exploring Wood Veneer for Cabinet Fronts: Benefits and Alternatives

People are increasingly going for a natural look in kitchen design. Whether the design is contemporary or traditional, incorporating natural materials into the design allows the furniture to be not only decoratively attractive but also durable for constant use. 

Quality wooden furniture has been valued at all times for its durability, environmental friendliness, and attractive appearance. However, with the development of new technologies and in an attempt to reduce the environmental impact of the wood industry people take notice of more sustainable materials. This is how they discover wood veneers. 

What is wood veneer?

Wood veneer is a thin sheet made from layers of natural wood that are cut from a log, and then they are covered over the furniture by gluing or pressing. Veneers are made from softwood and hardwood, as well as valuable exotic species such as mahogany or ebony. Oak veneer is especially popular in kitchen designs.

To obtain quality wood veneer for kitchen cabinets, the wood goes through the following stages:

  • the careful selection (because knots and growths affect the quality of the veneer)
  • cutting thin sheets of wood
  • gluing them to the engineered wood (base board)
  • sanding to create a smooth surface 

Further wood veneer production includes sorting, testing of the obtained product quality, cutting, edge fusing, and packing into bundles with careful packaging.

It is also possible to produce wood veneer for cabinets with a colored surface, for example, for finishing kitchen facades. In this case, after processing and production of veneer sheets, they are additionally subjected to coloring. Thanks to this, the surface acquires a beautiful and shining shade, and the use of special paints helps to prevent the wood from drying out over time.

After the boards have been cut, applied with edge banding, and sanded, the wood veneer needs to be sealed for protection to ensure its durability and make the usage of the kitchen cabinets last longer. 

There are several types of lacquer coatings for wood veneer cabinets to name a few:

1) Acrylic lacquer with a matte or semi-matte finish

This varnish is characterized by moisture-resistant sealant and is recommended for interior rooms with high humidity. It is usually applied over semi-open pores.

There's a type of acrylic lacquer that comes with some extra moisture-resistant properties and it's highly recommended for rooms with high humidity or risk of water splatters.

2) Water-based lacquer. 

Its peculiarity is that it practically does not change the shade of the veneer. It is more environmentally friendly, however, it offers a very light layer of protection so it's better suited for furniture that won't be subjected to heavy use.

3) Soft touch acrylic lacquer, which has a silky finish that creates a real WOW effect on the surface for both tactile and visual sensations.  

This effect is achieved by applying a layer of Soft touch lacquer to the surface of the facade. This lacquer is very elastic in its structure, so it is difficult to scratch.

4) Gloss, which is only available for natural veneers.

Unlike previous lacquers, which are applied to semi-open pores, gloss is only applied to closed pores.

If we talk in detail about the application of coating on the pores, then there are such differences.

If the lacquer and paint material are applied on semi-open pores, then after the last layer of covering dries and is processed, a portion of the pores remains open. That means we not only see the wood pattern but also feel it, as the surface doesn't become perfectly smooth.

If the lacquer and paint material are applied on closed pores with a matte finish, all pores are closed after the last layer of lacquer dries and is processed. As a result, we get a perfectly smooth surface of the veneer. If the finish is glossy, the treatment is almost similar, but in this case, lacquers with very high glossiness are usually applied along with a careful sanding process between lacquer applications, giving the veneer surface a mirror-like shine.

To conclude wood veneer cabinets, if certain procedures and processes are followed, will have a beautiful appearance and significantly increase the functionality of the cabinets, while protecting them from damage and preserving the novelty of the appearance.

Wood veneer vs solid wood

Although solid wood and wood veneer are essentially made from the same material, they still have some differences. 

Because both materials are 100 percent wood, they have similar preparation for manufacturing.

Despite the common myth that water and wood do not mix, there is a certain amount of moisture in the wood structure itself. And wood can both absorb moisture and release it under certain conditions. The higher the humidity level, the higher the moisture content of the wood will be, and the wood itself will expand from this. If there is little moisture in the wood, it will contract. When wood is transported from one place to another, i.e. from one environment to another, it has to adapt to the humidity level of the surrounding air. Then the preparation for drying and processing begins.

Since the importance of wood changes due to its environment, it also means that the seasons also affect the internal changes of the material. This in turn causes furniture, particularly cabinets, to shrink in cold weather and expand in warm weather, even after production and processing. And since the moisture content of the wood will not dry out completely anyway, it can be brought under control. 

So what does this information give us when comparing solid wood to wood veneers?

Solid wood will succumb to changes simply through the seasons, and from that the cabinet material can bend, discolor, or break. Even if you avoid external mechanical damage and carefully protect the cabinets from any impact, the wood will change over time. 

And if it is not noticeable from the outside, it does not mean that there are no changes inside the material.

In addition, solid wood itself is quite heavy, and for furniture, especially cabinets, this option is not always suitable. Then again, if you think of the changes that wood can undergo, this will also lead to seizing and deterioration in performance.

It should also be remembered that using solid wood is not environmentally friendly. The more demand there is for wood cabinets, the more trees will be cut down for this purpose. The issue of ecology is now more acute than ever, so this issue is also being taken into consideration.

Wood veneer has many advantages that solid wood lacks. Its structure will not change significantly, it will easily fit into the renovation budget, and it is undoubtedly a much more environmentally beneficial option that will prevent more trees from being cut down. Because of its thin shape, wood veneer is not only lightweight but also flexible, which will make it easier to transform into the desired shape or suitable design.

Of course, the production of wood veneer and its processing do not seem like easy processes, but thanks to the professional work of experts in workshops, you can get a beautiful natural wood material that will truly become a decoration for the kitchen.

If we talk specifically about kitchen cabinets, wood veneer seems to be the best and most convenient option for design, as it does not complicate the operation of both doors and cabinets in general. In addition to different shapes, various colors and patterns are available. So, you can go beyond the natural shades of wood and stain the veneer in the desired color or shade to match the overall design. 

Benefits of the wood veneer cabinets

What makes wood veneers a popular choice in kitchen cabinet making after all? Several advantages make this choice undeniable. These are what we're going to look at now.

Accessibility

Wood veneer kitchen cabinets, instead of being completely made of wood, are more affordable. MDF, which is often used to make cabinets, is ideal for this coating because its backing is very secure and the material itself does not cost as much as solid wood. As a result, such furniture is not expensive but has quite an expensive look. 

Durability

Since solid wood is supported by all kinds of changes, which will gradually lead to its quality deterioration and subsequent destruction, furniture made of it can be reliable, but not durable. Wood veneer is not only resistant to temperature changes and other natural conditions, but can also withstand any loads.

Sustainability

Because wood veneer is sliced thinly into multiple layers, this means that you can assemble a lot of material from just one piece of wood. This in turn means that less wood is used to make one kitchen cabinet. MDF in turn has wood in its composition and is almost as good as natural wood in its qualities.

Also, the thinness of the wood veneer indicates its high flexibility, which helps a lot in its processing and subsequent fastening.

Aesthetics

Wood will always look classic and beautiful in any design. With its many varieties in addition to different shades and coatings, you can match the desired look to your kitchen cabinets. Whether it is light oak or dark American walnut, it will adorn the kitchen in the overall range of colors, decorations, and other aesthetic solutions.

Alternatives for the wood veneer for cabinets

Still, wood veneer is not the only material you can use for kitchen cabinet fronts, no matter how good it is.

Saviola

Saviola is an Italian company that manufactures panels, laminates, paper, and other products for renovation and design.  They use recycled wood in their manufacturing process, and the output is an environmentally friendly product and no trees are cut or damaged. Saviola has also developed customized textured surfaces with imitation wood.

Among Saviola's products are panels, which consist of 100% recycled chipboard, covered on one or both sides with decorative paper impregnated with melamine resin, featuring color, wood, or prints of various kinds. Their range includes many panels made to look like wood, in both light and dark shades; both natural colors and painted. As reported by the developers themselves, during the production process, the surface of the panel can be applied with certain textures, some of which coincide with the decorative pattern (E.I.R.), to obtain a product that will suit any interior.

Saviola, as well as other similar brands like Egger, are quality imitation wood veneer cabinets and can be used for fronts if the client is on a tight budget. Our company usually uses these boards for the inside of the cabinets, with wood veneer on the outside to make it match the overall design. This is even more budget-friendly than if they were fully veneered.

Laminate

Laminate is a material that is made of plastic or paper and bonded to a composite backing. It usually consists of several layers bonded under high pressure and heat.

There are two types of laminates:  

  1. High-pressure laminate

It is made by attaching a high-pressure decorative paper to kraft paper. They are usually laid over plywood and MDF when making furniture. High-pressure laminate is known to be extremely durable and can withstand heavy loads.

  1. Low-pressure laminate

It is also known as melamine. In its manufacture, paper is impregnated with melamine resin and then the laminated paper is bonded directly to particleboard or fiberboard (MDF and HDF) under low pressure.

Laminate is quite resistant to all sorts of mechanical damage, it's easy to care for, and it's budget-friendly, so it can be suitable for cabinet doors as a material as well as a coating. Especially with a wide range of designs, textures, and colors. However, this material if it gets damaged, in which case it will need to be replaced in its entirety. It can also become weak when exposed to liquids and heat. 

Although laminate can mimic wood, it will be very difficult to confuse the two. If you touch this material, even by feel it will resemble plastic rather than wood. It also can be easily recognizable visually as fake wood, so the client's choice will depend on how much they care about a natural look.

Laminate and its certain types can be an alternative to wood veneer kitchen cabinets, but will not be a substitute for them as they are only imitations of wood. Since some people prefer to not only see wood in the kitchen but also feel the texture of it, this option may not be suitable for everyone. However, as a replacement for wood where there is no room or funds left for real wood, why not consider it?

Arpa HPL boards

A good source of HPL boards and manufacturer of high-pressure laminate. In addition, it also produces such material as Fenix, which can also become a beautiful and integral element of kitchen design.

Arpa laminate is resistant to water, scratches, and heat, so it can be another excellent substitute for wood veneer cabinets. It is also easy to care for, especially because of its non-porous surface, which can be wiped clean with any type of cleaner. This laminate is anti-static, which means that it does not attract dust and does not need to be treated with wax or wax-based products. Manufacturers also emphasize that their HPL boards can be antibacterial and fireproof, which can be very useful not only in the kitchen but also in other places where a high degree of hygiene is important.

The choice here will depend not only on the interests of the client but also on the intensity of work in the kitchen. Many will prefer veneer for its quality characteristics and for the naturalness of the material itself. However, if the client is looking for wooden cabinets for a kitchen that will be used quite intensively, then HPL boards will be recommended first. 

Conclusion

Wood veneer is and continues to be a popular cabinet design solution. Whether you renovate your kitchen or simply customize your furniture, wood veneer is a versatile and elegant solution to give your interior the timeless beauty of natural wood with a harmonious blend of aesthetics, functionality, and sustainability.

This is why wood veneer kitchen cabinets can be considered not only for producing and designing new cabinets but also for refinishing existing ones. This will save not only resources but also time. Regardless of the design choice, full-blown renovation, or refinishing, wood veneer cabinets are more often than not a part of those kitchens that many people dream of.

June 2, 2024
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6 min read
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