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Thermofoil Cabinets

Thermofoil is another popular cabinet material offered by many cabinet manufacturers.  Though its name may sound a bit technical, its construction is fairly simple.  Thermofoil is made by heat fusing a very thin layer of PVC (which is polyvinyl chloride) to the core material which may be plywood, particle board or medium density fiberboard (MDF).  In other words, a thin layer of vinyl is applied by heat, pressure and adhesive to the cabinet doors, frames, shelves and/or drawers.  The result is a durable surface that is smoother than paint.


There are some key benefits to Thermofoil.  Let's first discuss how it is superior to the standard painted door.  First, it is much less likely to chip as compared to paint.  You don't have to worry about spending all that time to repaint your cabinet doors only to find out that your hard work is ruined by a small chip just days later.  Thermofoil is made to last so painting and repainting will not be an issue.  Second, its surface is going to be more consistent and smooth than a painted door.  Third, since the surface is essentially a thin layer of vinyl, it is easier to clean using standard household cleaning products.

Another benefit has to do with the money out of your pocket. Thermofoil is available for both budget conscious shoppers and those looking for a high end product.  The pricing typically will change according to the quality of the materials the vinyl is adhered to.  The underlying material type is a key component to understanding some of the drawbacks of this material (which we will get to in the next section)

Potential Drawbacks

Every product has it's weaknesses and Thermofoil is no exception.  Probably the most common complaint has to do with discoloration.  This can occur when the material is exposed to excessive heat (so be careful about having your cabinets too close to the stove).

Another problem is centered around the quality of the wood material under the vinyl coating.  As mentioned previously, there are several options of wood that the vinyl can be adhered to.  The main ones are plywood, particle board and medium density fiberboard (MDF).  The most budget friendly of these is particle board but buy this material with caution.  Particle board is not nearly as strong as plywood and is also less likely to stand up against moisture, heat and pressure.  It is also not the best material for securing screws.  If you are planning to stack those heavy dishes on a shelf made of particle board you're probably going to find that it sags over time.  Spending the extra money to get MDF or plywood may well be worth the investment.

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