Ever wonder why cabinets can differ so much in price from one store to the next? Or why “all wood” is better than “furniture board”? Solid wood consists of homogeneous wood through out. The boards or panels are joined together via wood working joinery methods, which there are many. Particle board is an engineered wood product made from wood chips and particles that are combined with an adhesive and made into boards and panels. Particle board cabinets are typically the lower end of cabinet types. Medium density fiberboard (MDF) is also engineered wood products made up of wood fibers combined with adhesive under pressure and formed into boards and panels. Its denser and heavier than particle board. Some will argue MDF is lower than all wood or plywood but if you live along the Gulf Coast like we do, then MDF resists humidity and moisture intrusion better than wood. You can see the separation occurring in the pic below.
Plywood is the considered the better option over particle board and MDF and is the wood engineered product most familiar to folks. The wood plies or layers of wood are glued together in a sandwich manner. Plywood is typically an upgrade and found in the higher end product lines. “All wood” cabinets means that plywood is being used whereas “solid wood” denotes whole lumber, not a fabricated or wood composite like particle board, MDF or plywood. Be careful when asking this question and ensure you know what you are getting. All wood cabinets are typically custom cabinets and come with a relative higher price tag.
Many cabinets are a combination of the above materials. Solid wood door rails/stiles may be actual wood for example whereas the cabinet box may be plywood or MDF.