The kitchen is the heart of the home - selecting the materials that are going to be used in the space can have a significant impact on the overall result. Acrylic kitchen cabinets are one of the newest trends in kitchen design and have opened up new possibilities that can’t be achieved with traditional materials.
Though it may sound like an unconventional material, acrylic has distinctive properties that make it suitable for use in a kitchen space, while also providing a unique aesthetic for those looking for a modern and sleek finish to their space.
Designers and homeowners alike are drawn to its distinctive qualities, and their ability to transform a space in a way no other standard cabinetry material can. The unique appearance of acrylic cabinets has gained it popularity throughout the years, and the market is responding accordingly to expand its availability worldwide.
What Are Acrylic Cabinets?
Acrylic cabinets utilize a non-toxic acrylic material that gives the cabinets a smooth textured finish with the ability to reach a high gloss level and lustrous appearance. The material itself has shatter resistant properties which make it an ideal candidate to be used in a high traffic space, like the kitchen. This, coupled with its strong durability makes it less prone to nicks and scratches; a quality that has become one of their biggest selling points.
Acrylic cabinets are fabricated in two ways - with solid acrylic material, or with a thinner acrylic sheet laminated on a substrate like medium density fiberboard (MDF). As the name suggests, solid acrylic cabinets are fabricated from a thick sheet of acrylic, cut to size and shape. Meanwhile the laminated option is adhered to a substrate, and sealed with a coating that combines all materials together into one solid piece.
Solid acrylic cabinets can provide a deeper color profile than the laminated option, since there is more depth to the material itself. They are considered to be more durable, and are the more expensive option of the two. Laminated acrylic is the most cost effective option, and provides similar benefits to the solid acrylic option. If the color isn’t a deciding factor for the buyer, this could be a good option to save on upfront costs.
Other Kitchen Cabinet Materials
Throughout the past century, solid wood has been the standard material used for fabrication of kitchen cabinets. Following closely behind are plastic laminate cabinets, which have also been around for decades and are among the most used materials for interior cabinetry.
Solid wood: cabinets provide a traditional look and feel to the space, and can be stained to a variety of finishes. The wood species selection can affect the overall look, and is a great option for those looking for a more natural style.
Plastic laminate cabinets: are made by layering a thin sheet of plastic laminate on a substrate, like MDF. This option provides a multitude of options for colors, with manufacturers offering hundreds of colors to choose from. The downside to this material is that it is prone to chipping and scratching much more than its solid wood and acrylic counterparts.
Are Acrylic Cabinets Worth The Hype?
Every several years, a home design trend emerges and overtakes the market, only to be deemed “out of style” just a short while later. For those undergoing renovations, and considering installing acrylic cabinets, this is a perspective that should be taken into consideration.
As with most things, there are pros and cons to installing acrylic cabinets in the kitchen. It’s entirely up to the homeowner to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons to move forward with installation. Here, we are going to break down both ends of the spectrum, so that you can make an informed decision:
The Look - The acrylic material results in an ultra glossy appearance which can’t be achieved with any other standard cabinet material. The sleek finish gives a kitchen a clean, elegant, and modern look that offers a contrast to the surrounding finishes in the space. For those trying to achieve a more contemporary look in their home, acrylic cabinets would be the best option.
Material Durability - Another perk to using an acrylic material on cabinets is that it is known for its durability. These cabinets are proven to withstand the test of time, and will remain in good condition for several decades. This is perfect for a kitchen space given that it is a high traffic area that is prone to daily abuse. Acrylic material is strong, and scratch and dent resistant and can withstand the day to day use that comes from cooking, and cleaning. Even more so, it is not susceptible to warping or color fading over time.
Color Selection Options - Acrylic cabinets are made to order, which has its perks for the buyer. This gives them the opportunity to select the color that best suits the space and style they are trying to achieve. Manufacturers offer a multitude of color options, as well as sheen levels from matte to ultra gloss, and everything in between. The versatility in finishes is a massive benefit, as it allows for creative freedom when designing the space.
Longevity - Acrylic cabinets, specifically the solid acrylic option, are built with longevity in mind. Once they are installed, chances are that they will not need to be removed or replaced due to wear and tear. The remarkably durable material is built to last for decades, and buyers can rest assured that they won’t need to plan for their replacement anytime soon. That is, as long as they remain happy with the unique design. As long as it is cared for, acrylic cabinets will remain intact.
Low Maintenance Material- Maintaining acrylic cabinets is as easy as wiping them down with a rag and soapy water. Ensuring they are wiped down regularly helps them retain their glossy finish, and removes fingerprints and smudges with ease. Cooking messes are no match for this material; its non-porous qualities prevent it from staining, regardless of spills and regular kitchen messes.
Repetitive Cleaning: While the shiny appearance of the acrylic material is a pleasing aesthetic, it makes the cabinets more susceptible to fingerprints, and smudges through regular use. This can be a cumbersome result, as it would require daily wipe downs to maintain a clean appearance. If wiping down surfaces daily is not something you want to be doing for decades to come, this may not be a good option for such a frequently used space.
High Pricing: Getting acrylic cabinets is a more expensive choice than traditional wood or plastic laminate materials. While the pricing is high, buyers benefit from the value of its durability and longevity which can justify the high upfront costs. This, however, means that it is not within reach for all buyers looking to purchase new cabinets. If budget is a concern, buyers can explore the laminated acrylic option to reduce costs while still benefiting from the qualities of the material.
Color Matching: Since most acrylic cabinets are made to order, the color mix is made specifically at the time of fabrication. Using the same color mix for the entire set of cabinets ensures an exact color match throughout, which provides a more uniform and consistent result. Though it’s unlikely, there is always the possibility that a single cabinet, or a portion of the cabinets in a kitchen need to be replaced. If this were to happen, there is a high probability that there will be an inconsistency in tone and color of the replacement piece when compared to the originals. Despite the best attempts at replicating the original color mixture, manufacturers can’t guarantee an exact color match. When installed, it’s probable that the slight difference will become apparent based on the lighting and surrounding elements in the space.
Cost Comparison - Wood vs Acrylic Cabinets
If you’re wondering what the cost of acrylic cabinets is, the answer is that it can range significantly based on specific color and finish selections. Acrylic cabinets cost, on average, approximately $500 per lineal foot. In comparison, solid wood cabinets come in a range of styles, including framed and frameless designs that dictate their cost, but, on average, cost around $300 per lineal foot for semi-custom designs. This puts the cost for a standard 10’ x 10’ kitchen at about $10,000 for acrylic cabinets, and around $6,000 for semi-custom solid wood cabinets in the current market.
Supply and demand have a significant impact on pricing for both of these materials. In 2021, lumber prices hit an all-time high which directly impacted the cost of material to fabricate solid wood cabinets. Acrylic, on the other hand, did not increase in price, but suffered from limited availability due to backlog and delays in production related to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Having acrylic cabinets as an option expands the possibilities for kitchen designers to incorporate a unique element into the space. The vibrancy of the color options which can be obtained is unparalleled to other standard kitchen cabinetry materials, like solid wood.
They are an incredibly durable option, with the material being approximately seventeen times stronger than glass. Their little long term maintenance ensures their longevity, which in turn justifies the higher upfront costs. Compared to wood, they provide a more unique solution with a modern look that appeases crowds looking to freshen up their home.
On the other hand, they require constant clean up. Their customizability can also be a downside. Since they are made to order, this results in buyers having to wait longer to receive them upon placing their order. However, there is no shortage of providers. Sourcing acrylic cabinets is easier than ever before - manufacturers have caught onto the benefits of the materials, and the growth in popularity has been widely recognized.
Deciding whether they are a good fit in your home is entirely up to you. If the pros outweigh the cons, and you’re looking to furnish your kitchen with a statement piece, this is a great option. If constant clean up and high up front costs are not worth the aesthetics and durability, using a more traditional material may be a better fit.