Plywood Vs Melamine – Which Material Is Better?

Whether you are making a cabinet or another DIY woodworking project, you might be faced with the choice between non-wood materials, melamine and plywood.

Both melamine and plywood are great materials for making cabinets but differ in how they are made as well as their advantages and disadvantages, for example, melamine is plastic and is typically used as a coating to man-made wood rather than as a wood material itself, plywood is engineered wood, on the other hand, making it more natural.

To help you figure out the differences as well as the pros and cons between Melamine and Plywood we’ve gone into further depth about these materials down below. 

What Is Melamine? 

Plywood and melamine differ in many ways changing how they can be used in your DIY.

Melamine is often mistaken as an engineered wood like regular plywood, but it is made from organic compounds and does not contain any wood. Melamine is technically plastic and is made from a chemical reaction scientific formula C₃H₆N₆.

You can often find Melamine as a coating on particle panels and particle boards in woodworking which is why the material is often mistaken for wood. The chemical material is known for being fire retardant plus waterproof and scratch-resistant, it is not safe for use on surfaces that come into contact with food, however. 

Usage of melamine varies but you can often find the material in board building materials and plastic knives and forks. 

What Is Plywood?

Regular plywood on the other hand is an engineered wood made from veneers and layers of hardwood and softwood with some resin to glue it all together. Plywood cuts are made to mimic real wood except are cost-effective due to them being made from small fibres of wood, you will often find regular plywood in varying grades according to their quality. 

A board of plywood is very easy to work with and layers of plywood are often treated with chemicals to make them resistant to water or pests. Regular plywood is often used for structural and non-structural purposes for building.

The Pros & Cons Of Melamine 

To compared melamine and plywood cabinet material we must know the advantages and disadvantages of each type to see which one is better suited for your DIY. 

We’ve listed the pros and cons of Melamine below. 

Advantages Of Melamine 

Melamine’s main pros are that it’s fire retardant and waterproof making it very durable, it is also cheaper than plywood construction material and comes in a huge variety of colours and finishes without any extra finishing needed. 

This material is super easy to maintain and work with than plywood making it the better buy in terms of cost.

  • Range of colours and finishes. 
  • Fire retardant, scratchproof and water-resistant. 
  • Easy to maintain and work with.
  • Low cost.

Disadvantages Of Melamine 

Although melamine comes with a lot of advantages, there are also a few negatives to note, melamine can be easy to break when working with and does not have the natural appearance of wood like plywood does, it is also very hard to repair when broken. 

Melamine further produces a lot of chemicals when cut and has speculation around it when used as food cabinets due to the toxic chemicals. 

  • Toxic chemicals. 
  • Easy to break. 
  • Hard to repair. 
  • No natural look like plywood. 

The Pros & Cons Of Plywood 

If you looking at getting some high-quality plywood in comparison to Melamine it’s also worth knowing the pros and cons of this engineered wood in comparison. 

Advantages Of Plywood 

Firstly, plywood is much stronger and more durable than melamine is making it a better investment for long term furniture. With plywood, you also get the option to choose varying plywood cut thicknesses like solid wood. 

Another advantage of plywood is that it can also be water-resistant and fire-resistant when treated correctly, it is much cheaper than solid wood too although more expensive than melamine. Chipped kinds of plywood are easy to repair in future projects. 

  • Better mechanical strength. 
  • Natural wood-like appearance. 
  • Varying thickness.
  • Can be fire and water-resistant. 
  • Cheaper than solid wood.

Disadvantages Of Plywood

Plywood materials are better than melamine for construction work thanks to their high strength, but this doesn’t mean plywood doesn’t have any cons too. 

For example, plywood needs to undergo extra treatment to be pest and water-resistant, in comparison to solid wood it is also not as strong. There has also been speculation about the resistant glue used inside of plywood too and how toxic it is. 

  • Toxic glue for binding. 
  • Not as strong as wood. 
  • Needs extra treatment for resistance. 
  • More expensive than melamine.

Melamine Vs Plywood – Which Material Should I Choose?

To conclude our pros and cons of the two materials above, if you are doing heavy-duty construction work or your building kitchen cabinets and want to avoid using solid wood, we would suggest plywood over melamine as a replacement for wood. 

For construction material, in general, to use as a board, melamine is a cheap alternative but does not work in the same way as plywood, to avoid disappointment do not use melamine for long term construction or in furniture products since it can be hard to repair.

Frequently Asked Questions About Melamine Board Vs Plywood

Can I use melamine for building? 

Melamine itself cannot be used as a building material but it can be used as an overlay top cover for materials such as MDF or plywood or you can find melamine particle boards. Melamine itself is an organic compound, so it can be used for the building when found on top of these materials. 

Is melamine toxic for food?

Melamine has been speculated on before about the material coming into contact with food, it should never be microwaved if found in a container.

Is melamine a type of engineered wood? 

No, melamine is a chemical plastic and is not an engineered wood like plywood which is made from intertwined wood fibres.

Can I paint melamine? 

You can paint melamine but it is more common to buy the board in a pre-made colour already, you will need a primer for painting this kind of material.

Is plywood made from real wood? 

Plywood is made from thin wood veneers put together in layers, it is not real solid wood since it is man-made engineered. 

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Scott Buckley

I'm Scott, a Woodworker by day and book geek by night. I love making things out of wood. While I have and still, on occassion do, work with metal and plastics, I find them to be cold and somewhat boring. Wood is warm and I feel close to nature with it. I started TeachMeDIY.co.uk as a means to help like minded creative folk to answer burning questions. I hope you enjoy reading and learning, and always feel free to reach out to me should you have any questions!

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