A common reason homeowners have to keep renovating their kitchens is that they never install the best kitchen cabinets for high humidity. Unfortunately, high humidity in kitchen environments can lead to various problems, from warping and peeling cabinets to mold and mildew growth. So, what is the best material for kitchen cabinets in humid climates? 

The best kitchen cabinets for high humidity can withstand high moisture levels without soaking or warping. Solid wood is a popular classic, specifically hardwoods like cherry, maple, and oak. Stainless steel also works as it’s moisture-resistant and withstands high temperatures. Others are PVC and thermofoil cabinets. 

In addition to material construction, proper installation and maintenance also affect the suitability of cabinets for high-humidity areas. This post will discuss the best materials for kitchen cabinets in humid climates, their pros and cons, and tips for installation and maintenance.

But let’s start by understanding what high humidity does to kitchen cabinets.

Understanding High Humidity in Kitchens

High humidity refers to the amount of water vapor present in the air. The moisture within a kitchen is usually much higher than in other rooms due to cooking and cleaning activities that release steam and moisture. 

When this moisture comes into contact with kitchen cabinet surfaces, it causes various issues, including:

  • Warping: The constant exposure to high humidity levels can cause wood cabinets to warp, making them uneven or curved.
  • Swelling: As the wood absorbs moisture from the air, it expands and swells, sometimes causing cracks, breaks, or distortions in the cabinet structure.
  • Mold growth: Moisture and warmth create the ideal breeding grounds for mold and mildew. These fungi damage cabinets and also pose respiratory health risks for homeowners.

Homeowners living in high-humidity areas like coastal regions or tropical climates have to deal with these issues more often than others. Selecting suitable materials for kitchen cabinets in high-humidity environments is essential to avoid such problems.

What Is the Best Material for Kitchen Cabinets in Humid Climates?

Let’s review a few options for materials suitable for high-humidity kitchens and their benefits. We’ll start with the most traditional kitchen cabinets for high humidity that folks used for centuries.

Hardwood Kitchen Cabinets

This option is not the most water-resistant, and different wood species react differently to humidity levels. Hardwoods like cherry, maple, and oak are the best options for humid environments. These woods have a tight grain, making them less susceptible to swelling and warping when exposed to moisture.

Varnishing hardwood cabinets can also improve their moisture resistance. Another perk of choosing wood cabinets is their aesthetic appeal. Natural wood grains create beautiful patterns on cabinet surfaces, adding warmth and character to kitchen spaces. 

Moreover, hardwoods are sturdy and durable, making them an excellent long-term investment for homeowners. They last centuries despite frequent use as they don’t quickly wear and tear, thanks to their tight grain structure. So, they’re ideal for busy kitchens.

However, avoiding wood and considering alternative materials is best if you live in extremely humid areas. Also, check out these top 5 characteristics of high-quality cabinets.

Stainless Steel Cabinets

Stainless steel kitchen cabinets are fruits of the industrial revolution and represent modernity at home. Stainless steel is alloyed from nickel, chromium, and iron in a blend that makes it lightweight, rust-resistant, and highly heat-resistant. 

It’s harder to scratch or corrode and does not rust. So, it’s lighter and stronger than both iron and hardwood. It can take a hit better than any other material. However, it isn’t invincible to dings and scratches.

Stainless steel makes the best kitchen cabinets for high humidity as it’s rust-resistant. It also doesn’t absorb water, so you won’t face issues like warping or swelling. Moreover, it’s easy to clean and maintain, making it a hygienic choice for kitchen cabinetry.

Another advantage of stainless steel cabinets is their sleek and modern design. They used to be a staple for wealthy modern families, and though middle-class owners love them nowadays, they still represent progress. 

Stainless steel goes well with most kitchen designs, and you can add custom finishes like brushed or polished surfaces to match your desired aesthetic.

On the downside, stainless steel cabinets can be more expensive than other materials. The material is costly, and the labor for installation and customization can increase the overall cost. However, their durability and low maintenance make them a cost-effective long-term investment.

Thermofoil Cabinets 

Thermofoil is a type of cabinet finish made from thin PVC film. It’s applied to MDF or engineered wood using heat, creating a smooth and seamless surface. Thermofoil cabinets are known for their affordability, durability, and easy maintenance.

These cabinets offer excellent moisture resistance due to the plastic film used in their construction. The material does not absorb water or swell, making it suitable for high-humidity areas. 

Thermofoil also has a non-porous surface. It’s usually easier to clean such areas, so thermofoil discourages mold and bacteria growth. 

As for installation, thermofoil cabinets are relatively easy to install compared to other materials. They come pre-made and ready to be installed, something DIY enthusiasts love. However, hiring professionals for a better finish and ensuring proper installation is still recommended.

Go for thermofoil cabinets, if not for anything else, for their cost-effectiveness. They are relatively cheaper compared to other cabinet materials like wood or steel. Also, thermofoil cabinets come in various styles and colors; you can customize your kitchen according to your preferences. 

However, one disadvantage of thermofoil cabinets is their susceptibility to heat. The PVC film can melt or peel off if exposed to high temperatures, making it unsuitable for placing hot items directly on the surface. 

Moreover, the material may also chip or crack over time with regular use. Handling and maintaining thermofoil cabinets carefully is essential to avoid any damage.

PVC or HDPE Cabinets

Plastic-based cabinet options such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and HDPE (high-density polyethylene) are becoming increasingly popular due to their moisture resistance and durability. These materials are best for outdoor cabinets, but you can also install them indoors in areas with high humidity.

One of the significant advantages of PVC or HDPE cabinets is their ability to withstand moisture-related damage. Plastic-based cabinets remain unaffected, unlike wood, which can warp or rot when exposed to humid conditions.

Design options for PVC and HDPE cabinets are also quite versatile. They can come in various colors and styles, so it’s easier to achieve the design and aesthetics you desire for your kitchen. Additionally, these materials have a sleek and modern look, adding an aesthetic appeal to any space.

However, PVC and HDPE cabinets may not be suitable for high-temperature environments. The plastic material can melt or warp when exposed to extreme heat, making it unsuitable for outdoor areas with direct sunlight or near cooking sources. It’s essential to consider the placement and usage of these cabinets carefully.

Marine-Grade Plywood

Another option for humid climates is marine-grade plywood. This type of plywood is specifically manufactured to withstand moisture and can be suitable for both outdoor and indoor use.

Marine-grade plywood is made with waterproof glue, ensuring it won’t delaminate or lose its strength when exposed to humid conditions. It also has a smooth surface finish, making it easy to clean and maintain.

Cost considerations are essential when choosing marine-grade plywood for your cabinets. While it is more expensive than regular plywood, it can be a cost-effective option in the long run due to its durability and resistance to moisture damage. 

Design options for marine-grade plywood are also versatile. It can come in different wood finishes and can even be painted or stained to achieve a specific look.

Final Thoughts on the Best Cabinets for High Humidity Environments

We’ve agreed that the best cabinets for high humidity are moisture-resistant and durable and have design options suitable for your space. PVC and HDPE cabinets offer a modern and sleek look but may not be suitable for extreme heat. On the other hand, marine-grade plywood is specifically manufactured to withstand high humidity conditions and can offer both durability and aesthetic appeal.

Ultimately, the ideal choice is the one that aligns with your personal needs and preferences. Please review these tips to help you choose the best kitchen cabinets, and consider consulting a professional for personalized recommendations. 

You can also find custom cabinets online.

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