The inside of a garage with gray cabinets and blue flooring.

What Type of Wood Is Used for Garage Cabinets?

Want to add permanent storage to your garage? Putting in cabinets is a great way to make space for your tools without losing out on your covered parking spot. 

But what type of wood is used for garage cabinets? It all depends. In general, engineered wood is the best choice for garage construction because it’s less susceptible to changes in temperature and humidity. Most garages aren’t insulted, creating an environment that can damage hardwood. 

Some of the most commonly chosen materials for construction in areas without insulation or heating and cooling include:

  • Medium-density fiberboard
  • Exterior-grade birch plywood
  • Melamine
  • Plain MDF
  • Particle board

Let’s review the pros and cons of each material.

Ready to add storage to your garage? Call Cabinet Coatings today! Our quality craftsmanship and expert advice mean you have a durable and long-lasting storage solution. Contact us online or call 480-641-9611 for a same-day, no-obligation quote so you can get started quickly.

Medium-Density Fiberboard

Medium-density fiberboard, or MDF, is an engineered wood product that uses the byproducts leftover from felling trees to create an additional building material. Sawdust, dried wood shavings, and glue all come together under heat and pressure to create smooth, flat boards that don’t have any distinctive grain patterns. This material also has none of the knots that can create problems in hard and softwood planks. MDF sheets are readily available in sizes ranging from 1/4 to 3/4 inches thick and are available in pre-cut pieces or pre-painted. Some boards may come already treated with fire-retardant or moisture-repelling products. 


  • Inexpensive
  • Hard and dense
  • Accepts paint well 
  • Easy to glue
  • Veneered MDF can create the look of more expensive hardwood 
  • Expands and contracts less than solid wood 
  • Resists pests 


  • Heavy and can be hard to maneuver with just one person 
  • Easily scratched and is difficult to restore
  • Vulnerable to water damage
  • Can’t use water-based products for the initial paint 
  • Unsupported shelves may sag
  • Can split easily when drilled

Ultimately, MDF is a great option for your garage cabinets, but you’ll likely want to let professionals install them. Working with MDF can be challenging and requires a well-ventilated area to avoid the dust and fumes given off during construction. 

Exterior-grade birch plywood

Created using thin sheets of natural birch that are then laminated using resins and adhesives, birch plywood is a strong and durable building material. Each layer of the material is attached at a right angle, so the layers of grain are clearly visible when cutting a sheet. The cross-graining process makes every sheet incredibly strong. It comes in sheets ranging from 6mm to 32mm thick. 


  • Very strong and durable compared to MDF
  • Not particularly susceptible to water damage
  • Easy to polish or paint
  • Holds screws
  • Can be cut into custom shapes and sizes
  • Resists shrinking, warping, and cracking
  • Economical compared to solid wood


  • More expensive than MDF
  • Edges need finishing to cover exposed grain
  • May splinter during transportation
  • Often requires professional assistance during cutting
  • Can emit toxic Volatile Organic Compounds that irritate the eyes
  • More expensive than particle board and other engineered wood materials
  • May be prone to termite damage


Melamine is a synthetic wood product that combines wood particles, glue, resins and paper to create strong, durable sheets of material. Heat and pressure combine to create the finished sheets, with the surface a resin and paper composite that allows for many color and finish options. 


  • Highly durable
  • Easy to clean
  • Heat and moisture resistant
  • A virtually endless number of finishes and color options
  • Substantially more cost-effective than solid wood


  • It’s prone to chipping
  • Difficult to install
  • May splinter when using nails or screws
  • Highly susceptible to water damage

Plain MDF

Plain or unfinished MDF is made like all medium-density fiberboard, combining wood shavings and sawdust with glue and resins to create processed sheets. When unfinished, you will need to sand the surface and create a custom surface to protect the construction. In general, it has the same pros and cons as standard MDF, with a few exceptions. 


  • Inexpensive
  • Hard and dense
  • Accepts paint well 
  • Easy to glue
  • Resists pests


  • Heavy and can be hard to maneuver with just one person 
  • Requires finishing
  • Highly vulnerable to water and moisture damage when unfinished
  • Can’t use water-based products for the initial paint 
  • Unsupported shelves may sag
  • Can split easily when drilled

Particle board

Particle board is a wood-based material that uses compressed wood chips and glue to form planks. During processing, the surface is given a denser coating of wood chips, making it stronger than the center of each plank, which helps keep it lightweight and maneuverable. Particle board is one of the most affordable options for creating cabinets in your garage. 


  • It’s smoother than plywood
  • Eco-friendly and a way to minimize waste material
  • Comparatively lightweight and easy to install
  • An affordable option


  • Not as strong as plywood
  • Soft and brittle, it may not take screws
  • May swell in humid environments
  • Not a great choice for heavy-duty storage

All engineered wood options are more economical than solid wood, though the two standouts are MDF and particle board. For more information about your options and what to choose, consult with the professional cabinet installers at Cabinet Coatings.

Ready to upgrade your garage with new cabinets?

Contact Cabinet Coatings today for a no-obligation quote!

Call 480-641-9611 today to schedule a same-day consultation in your home or virtually. Our cabinet experts always give you honest and upfront prices along with outstanding service.

Chuck Derouen

For 20 plus years chuck has been helping homeowners make decisions on how to bring new life into their kitchens. Most homeowners know what they want but don’t know how to communicate it. When chuck does the in-home consultation he draws from the client and uses his expertise to help them bring their imagination to life (achieve the look they imagine.) Chuck dubs himself a “professional mind maker upper.”

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