Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Synthetic Veneers for Your Kitchen Cabinets

by John Tuthill
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

With the development of advanced synthetic materials, even kitchen cabinet refinishing has seen changes in the landscape of material options. Many homeowners now opt to reface their kitchen cabinets with synthetic materials, such as laminates or rigid thermal foil (RTF). Both of these materials are inexpensive and available in a variety of colors and textures.

Laminate Cabinet Surfaces

Regular laminate veneer consists of a synthetic PVC sheet that is cut to the shape of your kitchen cabinet exterior and fixed to the surface with long-lasting bonding agents. The advantage of this technique is the low cost and relative ease of production and application. Another benefit of laminate kitchen cabinets is the minimal effort it will require to replace the laminate exterior years down the road. However, laminated kitchen cabinets will not last as long, nor age as gracefully, as real wood kitchen cabinets.  

Rigid Thermal Foil for Cabinets

Thermo-foiling is a process in which a synthetic film is bonded to your kitchen cabinets, creating a tough, uniform synthetic veneer. The process uses heat and pressure to bond a thin PVC film to your cabinet surface, usually medium density fiberboard (MDF). This process lends itself to nearly any surface, including kitchen cabinet doors and drawers with intricate edges.  

The Pros and Cons of Cabinet Finish

Rigid thermo-foil veneer can have problems with melting and yellowing when repeatedly subjected to high levels of heat, particularly around ovens or stove-tops. You will have better luck with thicker RTF films that are resistant to heat. In comparison, kitchen cabinets with laminate veneer have been around long enough that materials have been developed that avoid these problems.  

Finally, thermo-foil films have the advantage that they can be applied to many designs that are out of the question for normal laminate veneers.  RTF film can be easily and attractively bonded to routed edges or kitchen cabinet doors with raised panels.

About the Author
John Tuthill is a cabinet maker and a regular FaceYourKitchen columnist. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

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