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by Danny Proulx

What's the best way to build the carcass (cabinet box) for kitchen cabinets?
And, which material is ideally suited for kitchen cabinet construction?

Those are two questions that make-up a good portion of my email each month. Do I have the definitive answer? Unfortunately, there isn't one product that's flawless. Many cabinetmakers, including myself, have opted for 5/8" melamine coated particle board (MPCB) as the material of choice. That's not to say there aren't a few drawbacks with this material, however, in almost all situations MPCB is very acceptable.

Base cabinet boxes are built with two sides (gable ends), a bottom, and a back. The upper cabinets have two gable ends, a bottom, top, and back board. Base cabinets don't need the top board as the countertop covers that opening. Normally, with carcass construction using the Euro cabinet leg, bottom and top boards are attached to the gable ends. In effect, the width of the bottom and top boards determine the carcass interior width because the gable ends are attached to these boards using simple butt joints. The back board then covers all the edges of the bottom, top, and gable end components.

The back board is often an issue when constructing cabinet boxes. Should we use simple mounting strips, a 1/4" backboard, or full width material? I've opted for full 5/8" back boards on my cabinets because it stiffens the box and the cabinet can be mounted to the wall very easily. Additionally, the cabinet is very resistant to "racking" or twisting that can sometimes occur when mounting to a less than perfect wall. MPCB cabinet boxes built with butt joinery and fastened with two inch particle core board screws are very strong, particularly if you use 5/8" material for all the parts.

I don't believe it's worth the money to try and save a few dollars using ½" MPCB, 1/4" back boards or mounting strips. Over the cost of a total renovation it may mean saving two hundred dollars. In my opinion, the carcasses are the heart of your cabinet system and they should be well built.

You have two options after building the carcass. First, tape can be applied to the exposed front edges which is the basic Euro cabinet. Second, you can build a 3/4" solid wood face frame to cover the exposed edges which will give you a hybrid North American traditional style cabinet. Both systems are very popular and it's simply a matter of personal choice. Do you want a frameless Euro cabinet or a North American face frame cabinet?

Danny Proulx
Rideau Cabinets
P.O. Box 331
Russell, Ontario. Canada K4R 1E1

Phone: 1-613-445-3722
Fax: 1-613-445-1085


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