Should You Get A Wood Veneer Kitchen? – Pros, Cons & Advice
When it comes to kitchen remodels, the choice of door materials alone can be overwhelming. Solid wood, thermofoil, laminate, acrylic —the list goes on. So where does a wood veneer kitchen fit into all of these options?
In this post, I’ll look into the world of ‘real’ wood veneer kitchens, exploring the pros and cons, and offering some expert advice along the way.
Let’s get into it!
What is a wood veneer kitchen?
A wood veneer kitchen refers to a kitchen design where the surfaces of the kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and end panels are covered with a thin layer of real wood, known as a veneer.
The veneer is a thin slice of wood cut from a log and is applied to a cheaper and/or more durable substrate material, like plywood, particleboard or MDF (medium-density fibreboard). This method allows the beauty and warmth of real wood to be showcased in the kitchen design, but at a more affordable price and with more design flexibility than solid wood.
The real wood veneer is typically between 0.5 – 2mm thick depending on the manufacturer and door quality.
The wood veneer can come from a wide variety of tree species, including oak, maple, cherry, birch, walnut and more. It can also be cut and arranged in different ways to show off different grain patterns and unique features of the wood. This design choice is popular due to the versatility, customization options, and overall aesthetic appeal of wood.
Advantages Of A Wood Veneer Kitchen
Wood veneer kitchens bring several advantages to your kitchen design, including:
- Aesthetic Appeal: Wood veneer kitchen cabinet doors offer the rich, warm aesthetic of real wood, allowing you to achieve a high-end look at a lower cost. The veneers can replicate the grain patterns, texture, and colour variations of many different types of wood, from oak to cherry to more exotic varieties. A wood veneer can also give a more contemporary, modern look.
- Affordability: Compared to solid wood, wood veneer is a much more cost-effective option. Since only a thin layer of the ‘expensive’ wood is used in the veneer, the majority of the material in the cabinet door is a cheaper substrate like MDF or particleboard. This allows you to achieve the look and feel of solid wood, without the high price tag.
- Less Likely to Warp: One benefit of a wood veneer kitchen door is that it is less prone to warping compared to a solid wood door. The construction of a wood veneer door, with a stable substrate material like particleboard or MDF as the core, helps to minimize warping. Warping is caused by humidity changes or moisture, which can be common in kitchen environments. While wood veneer doors are not entirely impervious to warping, their construction helps mitigate the risk, offering a more stable and durable option for kitchen cabinets.
- Sustainability: Wood veneer is a more sustainable choice than solid wood. Because only a thin layer of wood is used for each door, more kitchen cabinets can be made from a single tree. This means less deforestation and a smaller environmental impact.
- Design Flexibility: Wood veneer offers a great deal of design flexibility. Veneers can be cut and arranged in a variety of ways to show off different grain patterns or create unique designs. They can also be stained or painted to achieve a wide range of colours and finishes, allowing you to customize your kitchen to your exact aesthetic preferences. You can also create larger solid door and end panels using a veneer as there is no fear of them warping.
- Uniformity: Unlike solid wood, which can have inconsistent grain patterns and colour variations, wood veneers can provide a more uniform look. Since the veneers are sliced from the same piece of wood, they can have consistent patterns and colours, providing a seamless look across all your kitchen cabinets.
- Lightweight: Veneer cabinet doors are generally lighter than solid wood doors. This can make installation easier and reduce the strain on the cabinet hinges over time, potentially extending the lifespan of your kitchen cabinets.
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Disadvantages Of A Wood Veneer Kitchen
Despite the benefits, there are also some potential downsides to wood veneer kitchens:
- Not as Durable as Solid Wood: While a wood veneer can give the illusion of solid wood, it’s important to remember that it’s a thin layer adhered to a substrate. It doesn’t possess the same level of durability as solid wood. This means veneer can be more susceptible to damage from heavy use, heat, or moisture.
- Difficult to Repair: Unlike solid wood cabinets, which can often be repaired by sanding down and refinishing, a veneer is trickier to fix if damaged. If a section of a veneer cabinet door gets chipped or peels, it’s usually not possible to repair just that spot. You might need to replace the entire door.
Additionally, if the veneer layer is punctured due to chipping and any water gets through to the substrate layer or particle board, then water damage can be a big issue.
- Susceptible to Fading: Over time, exposure to sunlight can cause the colour of wood veneer to fade. If your kitchen gets a lot of natural light, this can lead to noticeable colour differences between cabinet doors that are in the sun and those that are in the shade.
- More Expensive than Some Alternatives: While wood veneer is less expensive than solid wood, it’s still costlier than other cabinet options like laminate or vinyl wrap doors. If budget is a primary concern, these alternatives may be a more suitable choice.
- Slight Variation in Grain and Colour: While still more consistent in colour and graining than solid wood doors, there are still some slight variations. It is real, natural wood after all. Some people appreciate the natural variation in wood grain and colour, while others might find it inconsistent or unpredictable, especially when compared to synthetic materials that offer uniformity.
Are wood veneer kitchens expensive?
The cost of wood veneer cabinets can vary widely depending on several factors, including the quality of the veneer, the type of wood species used, the complexity of the design, and the size of the kitchen.
That being said, compared to kitchens made with solid wood cabinetry, wood veneer kitchens are generally less expensive. However, when compared to vinyl-wrapped or laminate doors, they tend to be more expensive.
It’s important to note that while the upfront cost of a wood veneer kitchen may be more affordable than solid wood, there could be additional costs down the line. If the veneer becomes damaged or wears out, the repair or replacement cost can be substantial since it’s often necessary to replace the entire damaged piece rather than just fixing a small area.
On the other hand, while wood veneer kitchen cabinets may be more expensive than those with laminate or thermofoil cabinets, they can offer a more natural look and feel that many homeowners find appealing.
So, are wood veneer kitchens expensive?…It depends!
They can be more costly than some options but are generally more affordable than solid wood kitchens. It’s a balance between your budget, your desired aesthetic, and the longevity you expect from your kitchen. Always consider both the upfront and potential future costs when planning your kitchen remodel.
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Is a wood veneer kitchen worth it?
Deciding on whether a wood veneer kitchen is worth the investment or not significantly depends on your personal preferences, needs, and circumstances.
Budget is a crucial factor to consider. Wood veneer kitchens provide the aesthetic allure of solid wood but at a more affordable price point. So, if you’re working with a budget that doesn’t allow for solid wood, yet you’re drawn to its warm and natural look, a wood veneer kitchen could be an excellent middle ground.
The visual appeal of your kitchen is another key aspect. If you have a penchant for a specific type of wood grain or species that are prohibitively expensive or hard to find in solid wood, wood veneer offers a way to achieve that look. You can get the same look and texture as natural wood but at a reduced cost.
However, it’s important to factor in the long-term durability of your kitchen cabinets. Wood veneer may not be as robust as solid wood. If your kitchen experiences heavy usage, or if you expect substantial wear and tear, investing in a more reparable material, such as solid wood, maybe a smarter long-term choice.
And while wooden veneer doors are likely more cost-effective than their solid wood counterparts, they are still typically more expensive than any vinyl-wrap or laminate kitchen door.
As with everything, ultimately it depends on your particular needs, budget and circumstances.
There you have it! Wood veneer kitchens, cabinets and doors!
Ultimately, the choice to opt for a wood veneer kitchen is a personal one, influenced by your taste, lifestyle, and budget. It’s essential to understand the pros and cons, weigh your options, and make an informed decision that you’ll be happy with for years to come.
If the allure of real wood, reasonable affordability, and design flexibility outweighs the potential repairability concerns, a wood veneer kitchen might be a perfect fit for your home.
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Michael is a kitchen designer from the UK. He's been designing and project managing new kitchen installations for over 10 years. Before that, he was an electrician and part of a team that fitted kitchens. He created Kitchinsider in early 2019 to help give people advice when it comes to getting a new kitchen.