The pros and cons of aluminium kitchen cabinets

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An aluminium kitchen can be just as attractive as a wooden one. (John Michael Kitchens pic)

Most kitchen cabinets are made with wooden frames, wooden doors and a stone countertop, but aluminium kitchen cabinets are becoming more popular here in Malaysia.

The main benefits of aluminium kitchen cabinets are that they are waterproof, rust-proof and easy to clean. Wooden cabinets, on the other hand, are easily damaged by moisture or humidity, due to leaking pipes or drains for example.

If you’re considering redoing your kitchen, you might want to consider aluminium cabinets over the conventional wooden ones. Here’s some food for thought before you come to a decision.

What is an aluminium kitchen cabinet?

An aluminium kitchen cabinet is just like a regular cabinet but it is made out of aluminium components. Any kitchen has these main parts:

  • The carcass, or frame. Instead of using block wood, square aluminium tubes are used for the framework.
  • Face panel and end panels. Aluminium sheets are used instead of plywood or laminate.
  • Shelves and drawers. Made from rectangular aluminium tubes with aluminium sheets.
  • Countertop. For floor standing cabinets, a granite, quartz or solid surface worktop is added.

To build the cabinets, the aluminium tubes are joined to make the frame. Then, aluminium sheets are used to cover the frame and make the back, side and front panels. Finally, aluminium shelves, drawers and cabinet doors are added, along with a countertop.

Here are the main reasons aluminium cabinets can be better than wood, and why they sometimes are not.

The pros

  • Won’t bend or warp in Malaysian weather

Wooden cabinets are typically made from compressed wood or plywood panels with a blockboard core. Over time, humidity and heat in the kitchen can cause the wood to bend or warp, the shelves to curve downwards or the laminate to peel away.

Aluminium is unaffected by moisture or heat, so it will not bend over time (unless you overload the shelves).

  • Immune to termites or other infestations

Wooden cabinets can attract insects. Termites can eat away at the structure, or ants start to move around through the porous fibres. This becomes worse if the wood begins to split or expand from humidity. An aluminium cabinet suffers no such problems.

If you have ever accidentally touched a hot pan to your wooden cabinet, it can leave a burn mark that is hard to remove. While plywood chars at temperatures of about 110ºC to 150ºC, aluminium can stand much higher temperatures without damage.

Wooden furniture uses glue and varnish, which over time can emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde. No glue is used in the construction of aluminium cabinets, so these emissions are not an issue. If the aluminium panels are spray painted or varnished, the VOC dissipates quickly, unlike varnish on wood, which is slowly released over time.

Aluminium is completely waterproof. Since it is non-porous, water cannot seep through and cause swelling or bacterial growth. A layer of oxidation also protects the material from rusting, so you do not need to worry about spills or leaks from the sink.

The cons

If you tap bare metal, it makes a harsh clanging noise. Wood emits a duller sound. However, the noise can be reduced by adding soft-closing hinges and rubber bumpers. Aluminium cabinets are not as noisy as bare metal, because they are spray painted, powder coated or have a design layer wrapped around them.

Just like a car door, a metal cabinet door can dent if you kick it. Small scratches can be painted out, but doors will need to be replaced if large dents occur.

What designs do aluminium kitchen cabinets come in?

An aluminium kitchen can even be made to look like wood. (Bel Kitchen pic)

Aluminium kitchens are best for modern, minimalist kitchen designs with clean lines and drawers/doors without handles. But an aluminium kitchen can be made to look like wood using advanced painting and coating processes (either powder coating or sublimation).

Depending on whether you prefer a light or dark wood grain, common colours include Oak, Walnut, Cedar, Chestnut, Cherry, Gum and more.

If you prefer the feel of a traditional kitchen, such as louvred or shaker doors, this can be done with aluminium too. Louvred doors can be created by attaching several interlocking planks together, each having an angled profile or cross-section. Then, the planks are put inside a frame to create the door.

Are aluminium kitchen cabinets easy to repair?

Aluminium panels are tough, but they can still scratch or dent. A small scratch can be lightly polished and painted. For noticeable dents, you will need the help of a cabinet specialist to push the panel back into shape. But if that fails, the panel will need to be replaced entirely.

Prices of aluminium kitchen cabinets

Generally, the per-foot-run (pfr) price for aluminium cabinets starts from RM400, but it can go up to RM600 pfr. This is higher than melamine or compressed wood that starts from RM290 pfr.

The pfr price can increase depending on the thickness of the aluminium panels used, whether the frame is made of stronger aluminium planks, or simpler sheet panels, as well as the choice of wood grain textures or colours.

This article originally appeared on Recommend.my – Malaysia’s No 1 Home Improvement Services Platform.

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