Pros & Cons of Thermofoil Cabinets

Previously, we have discussed the effects that humidity has on wood cabinets, as well as ways to control the humidity levels in your home. There are situations, however, in which wood cabinets may not be the best option. Perhaps you live by the water or you want to avoid the potential problems that painted wood cabinets may have and you want another option. One available option is thermofoil cabinets, but as with any cabinetry choice, there are pros & cons.

Schrock Thermofoil Cabinets

Schrock Thermofoil Cabinets

There are many benefits to thermofoil cabinets, especially their resistance to moisture. This makes them the ideal choice for bathroom cabinets, where humidity is always going to be a factor. Thermofoil is also less expensive and much easier to clean than traditional wood cabinets. Thermofoil cabinets are also available in a wide variety of looks, including high-end looking options for a mid-range price.

Small cabinet over toilet, small vanity with sink and under counter storage, and storage cabinets in a small bathroom.

White thermofoil was especially desirable to this homeowner because of the small size of the bathroom. Having white cabinetry helped to keep a bright, open feeling, where dark wood might have made the room feel smaller.

There are also some particular limitations to take into consideration. One of these important considerations is that they are not heat-resistant, meaning that if they are too close to an oven or other heating source, problems can arise, such as the laminate peeling away from the core. However, heat shields can be installed (which are essentially just metal strips) between the heat source (such as an oven) and the cabinets, which will handle this issue. Another thing to keep in mind is that while they are incredibly resistant to moisture, they are not completely waterproof. If the laminate becomes damaged in any way and moisture seeps in, the cabinet could be destroyed. One final consideration is that, since they are made of laminate melted onto a MDF core, they are heavier and a bit more difficult to install than traditional wood cabinets.

The good news is that thermofoil cabinets are made far better now than they were ten years ago and the limitations should not be too much of an issue if they are installed correctly and cared for well. Many cabinetry brands offer thermofoil cabinets, including Aristokraft and Schrock. They are an affordable solution, but you will need to decide if the pros outweigh the cons in your particular situation.

Kitchen Views
www.kitchenviews.com

46 Responses to “Pros & Cons of Thermofoil Cabinets”


  1. 1 Bill Formella April 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    Yes, thermofoil doors have improved over the years, at least when purchased from reputable sources. The availability of realistic woodgrains is one of the best improvements but not always available from major manufacturers that still push white. Five piece thermofoil doors are another great option and are made with an adhesive that holds up to much higher temperatures than the one piece.

  2. 2 estrahota@blackbros.com April 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Bill, I find it interesting that you mention the 5 piece thermofoil door. I’ve seen some beautiful product from manufacturers who make the 5 piece door. Not only does it show off a wood grain well (because it keeps the grain running in pattern with the real thing), it has such a clean, crisp, uniform look to it overall! I think it’s a very positive evolution of the 3D door. Also, some of the vinyl manufacturers have done some amazing details in their product, like the grain textures. I’m a wood guy from way back, and even I’ve had to do a double take at some of the product to see if it was thermofoil or wood!

  3. 3 Carmensandiego in Montecito September 4, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Never use thermofoil in a kitchen, especially if you cook!! I had a custom home and had the thermofoil put in. It was beautiful. I was told it would withstand heat and no problem. I’ve had to have them replaced 3 times over the last 10 yrs and they are STILL peeling. I cannot stand it. I don’t even use the oven unless the doors are opened.

    It’s maddening to think I’ve replaced these things so many times and still am having problems. Find an alternative. Do not use thermofoil if you cook!!

    • 4 Barb Feldman October 9, 2012 at 9:33 am

      We are having problems too! And not just because of heat sources – several of our cabinet doors and drawers have peeled and bubbled up, even across the room from the stove. My quest now is to find a way to fix the problem without replacing the product with more thermofoil. Is there a way to remove the thermofoil and reuse the underlying particle board in some way? I would appreciate any suggestions!

    • 5 Joe November 15, 2013 at 11:09 pm

      I’ve had IKEA thermofoil cabinets in the kitchen and a vanity in a very small bathroom for almost 10 years now. Not a single problem from any appliance with a daily cooked dinner. And they look as beautiful as the day i installed them.

      • 6 Bill Formella November 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        Joe, clearly the company that IKEA set up to make these used the right adhesive and fully activated it. The average buyer doesn’t realize that every piece to the puzzle is important. The adhesive, thermofoil, board, and machinery that is used to laminate all have different quality levels. When the right product is combined with the right process, you simply are not going to have the problems that many have reported here. The problem is that some of the major retailers either don’t care or simply are not educated enough themselves to make wise quality choices.

    • 7 heavystarch January 12, 2014 at 5:00 pm

      We have had Thermofoil in our kitchen for the past 9 years. We cook often and have had but two minor issues; both issues could have been prevented if we had been more careful.

      1. We dropped a metal pan that nicked the surface and pulled off a chunk of the vinyl wrap to reveal the wood. We patched and painted it. I never notice it unless I get close to it (normally owners would see these things like a sore thumb but it patched up really easily and is almost invisible). This cabinet face is directly beneath our kitchen sink and has zero issues.

      2. We had our toaster out and left a cabinet door open right over the toaster for too long. The heat from the toaster caused the cabinet to warp just a bit. We had to glue it back in place. We are just careful not to place the toaster directly under any cabinet with Thermofoil to avoid the heat warping issue.

      We love our cabinets because they are so easy to clean and maintain a beautifully crisp white appearance even after all these years.

    • 8 Cynthia Kester February 11, 2014 at 2:09 pm

      Ours are peeling also and it’s probably because I wanted “dropped” cabinets. . .so I could store “knick-knacks” on top of them. I think they’re too close to the heat and if they were higher we might not have had this problem. Maybe we can just replace the doors. it’s only 2 or 3.

  4. 9 Bill Formella September 7, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Carmensandiego….I’m sorry for your experience. I’d love to know whose cabinets they were. There are three basic types of adhesives used for thermofoil doors and all three have very different ranges of heat resistance. It could be that your cabinet supplier is using an adhesive that begins to melt at 140 degrees F, not high enough for lower quality self-cleaning ovens or above a toaster oven.

    The truth of the matter is the highest quality thermofoil doors will last for years/decades even in the kitchen. BUT….they have to be made right.

  5. 13 Ann May 25, 2013 at 9:24 am

    We have had these cabinets for over 15 years and I love them. I have not had any problems. They are durable and easy to clean.

    • 14 Sarah October 3, 2013 at 4:33 pm

      I was imagining that they would be more expensive but they are not? Interesting, definitely something to think about then. I hadn’t even heard of them before.

  6. 15 sal May 30, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Our bathroom cabinets with thermofoil have chiped. What is the best way to fix them? Is painting the best alternative?

    • 16 National Lumber June 3, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      Hi Sal,

      Thanks for your question regarding Thermofoil door repair. Although we are not sure how severe the chipping is, our cabinet vendor recommends using a touch-up kit designed for kitchen cabinetry. This kit would obviously be matched to the color of the door that is damaged. Some moisture may intrude into the interior, which is generally made of MDF, a composite board, and so it may be necessary to replace the entire door.

      If you need additional information, want to order a touch-up kit, or would like me to clarify this message, please do not hesitate to contact me.

      Thank you.
      John Gendron | KV Showroom Sales & Design
      Kitchen Views | 71 Maple St, Mansfield, MA 02048
      P: (508)339-8020 ext: 5708 | C: (617)212-8223 | F: (508)261-6426

  7. 17 Dee Norton May 31, 2013 at 1:43 pm

    I had thermofoil cabinets installed in my kitchen thirteen years ago.
    Not a problem one.
    They are virtuallly maintenance free.
    I would not, especially for the price difference have wood again.
    Also I know that some people just have to have high end, but,
    That is a personal preference.
    I just sold that condo and will be replacing the cabinets in my new home with Thermofoil cabinets.

  8. 18 laurel July 2, 2013 at 8:25 am

    I need to have my house heat treated for bed bugs. We have refaced cabinets in the kitchen and bathroom. Will the high heat damage the cabinets?

    • 19 National Lumber July 2, 2013 at 3:04 pm

      Hello Laurel,

      Thermofoil can withstand 100 degrees, but when pushed to 120 and above, it can be questionable. You should refer to the pest control company on how much heat will be used in the home.

      Brandy Souza | Kitchen Views Assistant General Manager
      Kitchen Views | 120 Welby Rd., New Bedford, MA 02745
      P: (508)990-8020 ext: 3163 | C: (508)328-2844 | F: (508)998-7058

    • 20 National Lumber July 2, 2013 at 3:06 pm

      Hello Laurel,

      Thermofoil can withstand 100 degrees, but when pushed to 120 and above, it can be questionable. You should refer to the pest control company on how much heat will be used in the home.

      Brandy Souza | Kitchen Views Assistant General Manager
      Kitchen Views | 120 Welby Rd., New Bedford, MA 02745
      P: (508)990-8020 ext: 3163 | C: (508)328-2844 | F: (508)998-7058

      • 21 Bill Formella August 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

        Wow! I just saw this post a month late. 100 degrees? Even the lowest level of adhesive, hot-melt applied to the 3DL (thermofoil) prior to pressing, has a heat resistance to at least 130 degrees F. The adhesive system that I recommend, a two-part polyurethane dispersion that is applied to the MDF, will give heat resistance to 200 degrees and even higher.

        Another good option is to go with the new 5-piece 3DL doors. In this case the stiles and rails are wrapped using a different process, a profile wrapper, and have heat resistance of 300 degrees and higher. If you have air temperatures of 300 degrees in your kitchen, get out!!! :)

  9. 22 Jason G. July 11, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    I too have thermofoil cabinets and have had no issues with them whatsoever. Would definitely recommend them.

  10. 24 karen July 14, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    Many of you have commented, both positive and negative, about thermofoil cabinets. I am about to purchase Kraftmaid brand. Do any of you have any experience with this brand in terms of heat resistance? I live at the beach and was leaning toward them due to the high humidity, but now after reading some of the comments, I am rethinking going with wood. We ordered a GE Cafe slide-in range and I’m concerned with damaging the cabinets. I would really appreciate any feedback! Thanks!!

    • 25 National Lumber July 17, 2013 at 2:22 pm

      Hello Karen,

      Humidity is typically not an issue with thermofoil cabinetry. It is made to withstand moisture and typically can do so better that wood. One concern here is if a “seal” is broken. Once a seal is broken,
      moisture can break down the base material inside, which is usually MDF. You can read more about the thermofoil process in this previous post: http://bit.ly/1916FjX.

      A main concern, especially going next to a range or oven, is heat. A Heat Shield can be applied, and is ordered from the respective cabinet company to prevent damage from heat, especially during your oven’s self-cleaning cycle.

      Thank you.
      John Gendron | KV Showroom Sales & Design
      Kitchen Views | 71 Maple St, Mansfield, MA 02048
      P: (508)339-8020 ext: 5708 | C: (617)212-8223 | F: (508)261-6426

    • 26 Barb Feldman August 8, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      Karen, I really don’t know why our refaced thermofoil cabinets failed and suspect it might have been due to something the contractor did. That contractor is no longer around and we are left to solve this problem on our own.

      Over the years I’ve become distrusting of new products and methods because we have not had good luck. I would stick with the ‘tried and true’ (i.e. wood cabinets in your case), or get a product with a really good warranty from a company that will be around in a few years.

      Just my humble opinion from a costly mistake.
      Barb

  11. 27 Fran July 20, 2013 at 10:30 am

    HI, We are renovating our church’s kitchen which will hold a commercial 6 burner electric stove and commercial dishwasher. We are looking at both options Cabinetsmith thermafoil ordered through BMR doors in natural maple or veneered wood doors. Since it is in a common area being used by different folks which would you suggest to help us make the right choice.
    Fran

  12. 28 Jan Simmons August 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

    Can thermofoil cabinets be painted? The salesman at Lowes said they cannot, but I’m not sure if that is correct. We want to have more of a cream color than a pure white. We are buying and remodeling a kitchen. Thank you. Jan

    • 29 National Lumber October 14, 2013 at 11:09 am

      Hello Jan,

      In response to your question as to whether or not thermofoil cabinets can be painted: Although it has been attempted, thermofoil cabinets generally cannot be successfully painted.

      John Gendron | KV Showroom Sales & Design
      Kitchen Views | 71 Maple St, Mansfield, MA 02048
      P: (508)339-8020 ext: 5708

    • 30 heavystarch January 12, 2014 at 5:05 pm

      We took a small nick/chunk out of the face of one of our Thermofoil white cabinets. The nick was about 1/8 – 1/4″ wide. We patched the hole with a very small amount of putty; let it dry and then painted the spot. It blends perfectly with the cabinet.

      If you want to paint the entire surface of a Thermofoil cabinet I’m sure it can be done but you’ll need to make sure the surface is:

      1. Cleaned extremely well.
      2. Find the correct Primer and use that to cover all the Thermofoil surfaces (check with a pro painter for this). Maybe you need two coats of primer…
      3. Then use any paint from that point. Again check with the pros.

      Anything can be painted IMO if you follow the correct steps in cleaning, prepping and priming.

  13. 31 CDS September 6, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    We are refacing our kitchen and have made a thermofoil cabinet selection from Home Depot. We are also considering an additional electric single wall oven where our pantry is. We will have cabinets above and below the oven. Is it possible that the heat from the oven will melt away the thermofoil cabinet doors and refacing?! PLEASE ADVISE!

    • 32 National Lumber October 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

      Oven cabinets do require a “heat shield” of some kind, used to “deflect heat
      from self-cleaning ovens away from cabinet doors and drawer fronts”, according
      to the Schrock cabinetry company. Heat shields are often provided with, or built in to,
      the appliances, or can be ordered through the cabinet companies.

      John Gendron | KV Showroom Sales & Design
      Kitchen Views | 71 Maple St, Mansfield, MA 02048
      P: (508)339-8020 ext: 5708

  14. 33 loans4apartment.com February 6, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Everyone loves it when people come together and share ideas. Great website, stick with it!|

  15. 34 Chuck February 10, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Although Kitchen Views does not recommend painting Thermofoil cabinets, we are passing this message along for those who would find it helpful to the ongoing conversation with people participating from all over the country. For those in the New England region, we hope you will contact Kitchen Views for high-quality Thermofoil cabinets from Schrock. Thank you.

    For those that find this site like I did due to issues, here is a fix I learned;

    I recently bought a home in Ft Myers. Unknown to me when we bought it, the kitchen cabinets (which looked amazing) are thermafoil. Doing a final inspection, we noticed 3 cabinet doors and 2 drawers had part of the foil unwrapping from the MDF. We panicked. We also found they were only 3 years old and were bought and installed by a company in Ft Myers that had since gone out of business, I believe Kitchen Innovations on Metro.

    Anyway, the ladies in the paint dept at the Tamiama Home Depot store said they had seen this problem many times and had an easy and inexpensive fix.

    I used a razor knife to carefully, and not very deep, cut the peeled up aprt off by cutting past the loose foil and into the foil that was still glued securely on. I then peeled the foil off and used 1-2-3 Kilz ( I think it was the 1-2-3 can, light blue and white quart can) to seal the MDF and seal where the foil and the open wood met to seal it. I then brought in a cabinet door (has a nice multi colored cherry wood appearance) and they color matched a sample paint for me and I painted it on with 2 coats using a foam roller so no brush marks would be visible.

    It was easier to do than I imagined when I was at Home Depot, and it looks MUCH better than I thought it would. My wife was very impressed ( at my handy work AND not needing to buy new cabinets) as was the realtor.

    One of the cabinet doors is directly above the microwave and the fan from the microwave is venting out the top (almost nowhere for the air to escape) instead of venting out the front. Another door and the 2 drawers that had this problem are near the top of the range (which seems like its a heat issue). The other door is a upper cabinet door above the dishwasher and its vent. Again, seems like the steam (heat) is the issue.

    There were no heat shields on these doors and drawers, so I am going to call see if I can get some to help prevent this from happening again. I am also going to change the microwave from a top vent to a front vent, as soon as I can find directions on changing the top front plate to allow the air to get blown out the front.

  16. 35 Ian Rice February 12, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    We have high gloss thermofoil doors installed. Keep the coffee maker and kettle out from under the uppers No problems after 2 years. Our manufacturer warrants the finish for 12 years. Looks terrific.

  17. 36 Zibby April 19, 2014 at 9:15 pm

    Few of my cabinet door faces came off completely.Is there any way to glue them back to the door ,or order just thermofoil and glue it somehow ,or I have to buy the whole door? Please help.

    • 37 National Lumber April 21, 2014 at 8:29 am

      The glue cannot be re-activated if the face is lifting off the door. Because heat is needed when applying Thermofoil to doors, you will need to order new doors.

      Brandy Souza
      General Manager of Kitchen Views

    • 39 John May 15, 2014 at 8:21 pm

      A new customer wants me to paint and re-glue her kitchen cabinets. I’ll try the two part system for re-gluing mentioned in a reply. I’m going to test two primers, Stix and Aqualock from Insl-x . Let them cure for five days and see what works. Order a heat shield for the doors above the range

  18. 40 National Lumber May 16, 2014 at 10:28 am

    Please tell us what worked. We would really like to know!

  19. 41 PAULA June 3, 2014 at 10:20 am

    I AM CONSIDERING THERMAFOIL CABINET REFACING FROM SEARS. SHE MADE NO MENTION OF THE HEAT PROBLEM AND I HAVE A JENNAIR STOVE(WHICH HAS A GRILL) . IS THIS GOING TO BE A PROBLEM?

    • 42 National Lumber June 4, 2014 at 2:53 pm

      Hello Paula,

      You don’t mention your location. Are you in the New England region? Kitchen Views now offers cabinet refacing, too. If you are in our area, we hope you’ll consider coming into one of our showrooms to discuss your project. In answer to your question, here are my thoughts:

      The grill could produce enough heat to separate the Thermofoil from its core. You may want to:
      1) Use a wider hood that covers an extra 3″ on each side of the cooktop (so if you are using a 30″ cooktop, use a 36″ venting hood), or
      2) Shorten the wall cabinets on either side of the cooktop to get them farther away from the grill, or
      3) Use open cabinets on either side of the cooktop

      Just some suggestions. Always use your vent while using the grill and that may cut down on some heat issues.

      Regards,
      Brandy

      Brandy Souza | General Manager of Kitchen Views

  20. 43 Cliff June 12, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    Hi – Thanks for all the helpful posts here. I am looking to purchase just slab style thermofoil replacement doors with concealed hinges. I haven’t found much selection in finishes but there is a product at Lowes from Latitude Cabinets that I like but they will not sell just doors. This company makes exclusively for Lowes.They have a horizontal wood grain pattern called “Moda” that I like (or something similar). Is this something National Lumber can help with?
    Thanks very much!

    • 44 National Lumber June 13, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Hello Cliff, are you in the New England area? If so, please contact John Allen of Kitchen Views at 617-244-8020 x2119 or jallen@kitchenviews.com for information about our new “Refacing & More” product line. We are launching this program this summer and there are many options for you. Within the next month we’ll have information available through the Kitchen Views website. With this new product line you can purchase just new cabinet doors in a wide range of materials and styles. Ask him about the “Duet” slab-style door. Usually this is completed with laminating the existing cabinet boxes to match the new doors. But if all you need are the doors, then I’m sure he can help you. ~ Brandy Souza, General Manager of Kitchen Views

  21. 45 Dell July 24, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    The home we are purchasing has about 4 doors that have bubbles on the front panel (not knicks or tears). Is there a way to fox these without replacing those 4 doors?? The kitchen has 41 doors/drawers. Other cabinets are great. Hate to redo whole kitchen. Help!?!?!?

    • 46 National Lumber July 29, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Unfortunately, they can’t be repaired. If you look in the drawers or sink base, you may be able to find the manufacturer name. You could order replacement doors from them for the cabinets. You can also ask the previous owner of the home if they know where the cabinets were purchased.

      Brandy Souza | General Manager of Kitchen Views


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