Face Your Kitchen
Your Guide to Kitchen Cabinet Refacing

Refacing Your Kitchen for Less: Advantages and Disadvantages of Rigid Thermofoil

by Melissa Bullard
Face Your Kitchen Columnist

Have you decided to reface rather than replace your kitchen cabinets? Congratulations! You could be spending about half (or less) of what it would typically cost to replace the same cabinets. Of course, if you're going to put so much effort into a project, you want to make sure you choose the best options for your house when it comes to style, color, cost, and durability. And if you're on a tight budget, you want to consider the advantages of refacing with rigid thermofoil (RTF).

Advantages of Refacing With Rigid Thermofoil

  • RTF costs less than wood: Having solid wood cabinet doors would look beautiful in most kitchens, but the simple fact is--wood is the most expensive of all refacing options. So if you want a material that can look a lot like wood even from fairly close up but is considerably cheaper, go with RTF.
  • RTF is versatile: While it's not as cheap as laminate, it is more versatile because of its ability to conform to various shapes. RTF is actually a vinyl that has been pressure-molded into the shape of the cabinet door, which is usually constructed from medium-density fiberboard (MDF). Thus, whether you prefer Shaker, square, arch, or cathedral door patterns, you can still have them and, at a lower cost.
  • RTF is easy to clean: Because vinyl is easier to clean than wood, and can handle a wider variety of cleaning substances, RTF cabinet doors are also easier to clean than traditional wood cabinet doors.
  • RTF is seamless: While the patterns are constructed to resemble natural wood cabinets and thus look as though there are seams, there really aren't, which means that you don't have to worry about wood expanding and contracting and the seams showing, particularly if you decide to paint your cabinets later.

Of course, RTF does have a few disadvantages that wood or laminate cabinet doors don't have. It is not heat-resistant, may discolor, and occasionally the laminate can separate from the MDF underneath. These problems can be addressed with heat shields and by choosing companies that offer guarantees against the separation, so purchase your materials carefully. But in spite of these disadvantages, if you need a refacing job but also need to cut back on spending, RTF is definitely an option you should consider.

About the Author
Melissa Bullard earned a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, then a Master's Degree in Spanish Language and Literatures from the University of Nevada, Reno. She has taught writing, literature, and Spanish classes, and is currently working as a fre

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