Should Garage Cabinets Be Wood, Metal, Plastic or Other?


Once you have determined what sorts of storage solutions you will use – cabinets,  shelving,  pegboards,  etc. — the next question is what material to use.   This is largely an aesthetic choice, but there are some practical implications of metal versus wood choices.  There are pros and cons with each alternative that the garage planner must really consider.

Wood Storage Cabinets

“Wood” refers to all sorts of wood — plywood, veneer, natural woods, and even pressboard or particleboard.  There are major benefits to using wood. Normally it is less expensive.  It is easier to paint and maintain.  It is easier to install.  And it is normally it is easier to modify for your particular needs, for example, changing hinges or decorative hardware.

That said, however, wood is susceptible to a destruction by pests, moisture, and age if not properly maintained. This is particularly true for particle board if it is not kept dry.

Another benefit of using wooden cabinets is that they do not need to be “special made” for the garage.  You can repurpose kitchen cabinets, old furniture, and even shipping crates and convert them to use as garage storage cabinets.  By painting them a common color and unifying hardware, you can create the look of a custom-made solution.

Metal Storage Cabinets

Custom Made Aluminum Cabinets

Custom Made Aluminum Cabinets

The most common metal cabinets are steel, primarily stainless steel, and aluminum.  Steel cabinets can be very effective, especially when carrying a heavy load.  Stainless steel and aluminum cabinets are resistant to rust, but still need to be maintained.

Buying metal cabinets works best when you know what you need and want and can buy a complete set of cabinets.  Adding or changing cabinets later is difficult, as the model may no longer be available.

Consider, for example, the cabinets at the left.  What would you do if one of them were damaged?   Or you decided that you needed another one with drawers?   Unless the manufacturer were still making this model, you might have to replace the entire set.

Plywood, Particle Board (MDF) or Melamine Storage Cabinets

Melamine is heavy, hard to modify but resistant to moisture.  (You will sometimes find melamine cabinets categorized as plastic storage cabinets, by the way.) Plywood and particle board is the opposite — not good around water, but easy to modify, paint, install and maintain.   And veneer-covered plywood can be very attractive and durable if not subjected to moist conditions. Largely, this is a matter of aesthetics and personal choice … and cost, of course. I’m not going to argue for one over the other.

Whatever you decide, work with what you have … and it will serve you well!

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