Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Wood too pricey? Choose melamine, laminate or thermofoil kitchen cabinets

by Shannon Lee
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Though many homeowners immediately think of wood as the best option for their kitchen cabinet refacing, the sticker shock on real wood doors can nip those plans in the bud. There are many budget-friendly options out there, but how do you know which one is best? Understanding the differences between the most popular suspects--laminate, melamine and thermofoil--can help.

Laminate kitchen cabinets

Laminate is a plastic product formed by fusing resin and paper together under pressure and heat. The result is a virtually indestructible covering for cabinet boxes, cabinet doors and countertops. Low pressure laminates are more affordable yet are prone to chipping or cracking over time. High pressure laminates are a more expensive option but they are very resistant to any damage, including scratches or bubbling.

Melamine kitchen cabinets

Melamine is a plastic-based product that has proven to be highly durable and affordable. The resin and paper are bonded under high pressure and then attached to particle board or some other type of backing. This is a very popular material for ready-to-assemble cabinet kits and other affordable cabinet options. The popular Formica brand is made of melamine.

Thermofoil kitchen cabinets

Thermofoil begins as a thin, rigid film that is heated and shaped over a substrate material. Thermofoil kitchen cabinets offer the bright, clean appearance of freshly painted cabinets without the telltale brush strokes. Since thermofoil adheres well to almost any material, homeowners can opt for new cabinet doors made of thermofoil or to simply have their old cabinet doors covered with the material.

Just how affordable are these options?

Cabinet refacing with high-quality wood veneer can cost from $7,000 to $9,000 or more. Thinner wood veneer brings down the cost to between $2,500 and $6,000, depending upon the size of your kitchen. Refacing with melamine, thermofoil or laminate kitchen cabinets can be a much more affordable $1,000 to $3,000. Thermofoil is the cheapest, followed by a slightly higher cost for laminate or melamine. If you choose to reface your existing cabinets with a layer of thermofoil instead of opting for new cabinet doors, the price can drop even more.

The price and durability is an advantage, but each material has a disadvantage as well. For thermofoil, it is the problems with heat resistance that can cause bubbling. For laminate or melamine, it is the introduction of water to the cabinets that can cause issues. Carefully research all aspects of the cabinets, not just the bottom line, to determine which material is best for your new kitchen.


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