Question

Who makes a non-wood kitchen cabinet? I mean NO wood anywhere in the cabinet.

Asked by R patel
Goshen, NY

I'm looking for standard sizes and affordable.

Answer

Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

September 12, 2010

I understand you are looking for cabinetry that has no wood components and I have to assume because you are posting on Green Home Guide that you are interested in an environmentally friendly product.

However, it is not clear where you plan on installing these green cabinets, i.e., indoors or outdoors, kitchen, bath, laundry room, etc., or what concerns you have regarding the use of wood in cabinetry.  I'll try to give the best general advice I can.

To begin, the most common installation for a non-wood cabinet is outside, and you have basically two choices of material:

  • stainless steel, or
  • a variety of polymers such as HDPE

Stainless Steel

I have found a few manufacturers that do not use any wood-based components in the boxes, doors or drawer fronts. These types of cabinets come in standard sizes; however, they are significantly more expensive than a quality wood cabinet.

  • Stainless Steel Kitchens’ Architect Series and Dwyer Products Corporation’s stainless cabinetry are both solid stainless cabinetry lines. Dwyer’s stainless steel as well as their Thermofoil line of cabinetry have been designated Greenguard Indoor Air Quality Certified. (Dwyer also offers a no-added-formaldehyde MDF core for their line of Thermofoil cabinets.)
  • There are several other manufacturers of stainless steel cabinets, but they typically use MDF or PVC door and drawer cores. Note: stainless steel is a durable, low-maintenance material that is typically comprised of 70% recycled content and can be recycled at the end of its useful life.
  • Lastly, you could consider purchasing used stainless steel restaurant equipment (cabinetry). These units are not typically sized for residential installations, but if you are creative, you can come up with a good layout. The benefit here can be cost. Due to the downturn in the economy, many restaurants have gone out of business, leaving auction houses and restaurant equipment supply companies awash in stainless steel cabinets, countertops and work islands.

Polymer cabinetry

Alternatively, a variety of manufacturers offer polymer cabinetry that is typically designed for outdoor and marine environments.

The polymers used in outdoor cabinetry are generally petroleum-based high-density polyethylene (HDPE). HDPE is a type of plastic. It is highly durable, but it does not contain any recycled content, generally cannot be recycled, does not biodegrade at the end of its useful life and is a petroleum-based material which has a variety of inherent environmental issues associated with it including extraction and refining.

  • Atlantis Outdoor Kitchens has a line of cabinetry constructed of a proprietary polymer call Perma Panel which contains absolutely no wood.
  • Wer/Ever Products, Inc. also manufacturers a wood-free polymer cabinet for which the primary ingredient in the polymer is not petroleum but natural gas.

Natural gas, when compared to petroleum, is a more efficient fuel due to its molecular structure and therefore requires less processing to be brought to a combustible state. Additionally, the price of natural gas is less prone to price fluctuations than petroleum; hence products manufactured with natural gas tend to be more price stable. All of this aside, natural gas extraction, processing and distribution are only slightly less detrimental to the environment than petroleum.

Indoor air quality

Alternatively, if your reason for avoiding wood cabinetry is the home air quality effects of offgassing from wood products with added urea-formaldehyde, you can search building material reuse stores for used cabinetry which may have already offgassed all added chemicals.

 

For more information:

Read George Mandala's tips article, "Getting Great Green Results from a Cabinet Shop."

Tagged In: formaldehyde plywood, cabinets, architectural salvage

Do you have a question about greening your home? GreenHomeGuide invites you to Ask A Pro. Let our network of experienced green building professionals – architects, designers, contractors, electricians, energy experts, landscapers, tile & stone specialists, and more – help you find the right solution.