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The Pros & Cons of Thermofoil Cabinet Doors

December 12th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

There are so many options for kitchen and bathroom customers to choose from in the area of cabinet doors. Thermofoil (or, “MDF”) cabinet doors pros and cons are something that you need to be aware of before you make your decision. What is an MDF door? Well, the term stands for medium density fiber board. When refereed to by cabinet makers, it means a vinyl wrapped door. MDF and vinyl wrapped doors are both the same as thermofoil cabinetry doors.” There are basically four price categories that I feel cabinetry doors fall into. The MDF style  falls  into a medium price range cabinetry doors category with a high end look. Eventually, I will be adding an article about the different types of doors and the price ranges of each category.


The Benefits of Thermofoil Cabinetry Doors:

Below is a comprehensive list showing the pros of MDF doors. I have added an explanation, further below, about the disadvantages of thermofoil cabinetry doors.

  • Seamless
  • Cheaper than the traditional style painted door
  • Less expensive than real wood with a similar look
  • Easy to clean


The MDF (or, “medium density fiberboard”) doors fall in a medium price range (cabinet door price ranges). They were originally designed as an alternative to the traditional five piece painted, real wood doors.

In comparison to the traditional option, the MDF doors do not have any seams. Painted doors with seams will eventually show cracks in the paint due to the expansion and contraction of the wood. This is why the thermofoil cabinet doors gained such popularity when the were first introduced to the market. The cost of them is about two thirds less than having a painted traditional door.

With the rising demand, manufactures began to get creative and simulate a real wood door with the natural finish or stained look. At first, the styles had the grain running in one direction and several years later the thermofoil doors took on the five piece look, with wood grains running in different directions. Among the benefits of having thermofoil doors is that they are easy to clean. The round inside corner style option separates them and gives them a unique look as well.

The Disadvantages of Thermofoil Doors

Here’s a short listing of the disadvantages of thermofoil doors. There may be other problems but, these are the ones that I have encountered the most.

  • Possibility of the glue letting loose of the core underneath
  • Not heat resistant
  • After long periods of time the colors change
  • Doors are not easily replaced for several reasons

The cons are certainly something to consider but , it really has been my experience that people go for this style because it is very good looking and the price is right. Many people in my area, who buy houses to remodel and sell, use these doors often.

Most manufactures of the MDF doors will have a five year guarantee against thermofoil problems such as  De-lamination and discoloration. It’s an inconvenience when all of the doors have to be replaced because the glue coating was not thick enough to hold the plastic for longer than a couple of years. With thermofoil a very common problem is people are not informed that the doors are not heat resident.

So, when they self clean the oven, the extreme amount of heat effects the vinyl and it peels away from the core. Installers can place a heat shield between the stove and cabinet doors but many companies do not. In fact, manufactures of the doors recommend a 5” spacer to be installed between the two.

After long periods of time doors that need to be replaced are hard to match colors to. The reason is because some of the lighter solid colors have a tendency to yellow. Also, the vinyl colors vary with different batches that the doors are made with. Sometimes there is just a shad difference in color from doors manufactured within a year from each other.

How Are The Vinyl Doors Made?

There are two machines that are used for fabricating these specialty items, CNC router and a vacuum press.

  • The door specifications are entered into the CNC machine’s computer and the MDF panels are cut.
  • Once the medium density fiber board has been transformed into a raised panel look, it is placed on the vacuum press table.
  • Glue is applied to an oversize piece of vinyl and then placed over the board. The vacuum press presses the plastic to the board and heat is used to accelerate the drying of the glue.

These thermofoil style cabinet doors are an excellent product for the person who is looking for the high end look but does not have a large budget. Although there are problems with heat sources, now that you understand this disadvantage you could guard against it ever occurring. There are advantages and disadvantages to every type of cabinetry door. My personal opinion is that the pros far out weigh the cons.

  1. admin
    May 25th, 2011 at 04:07 | #1

    Gary, it is OK to paint vinyl wrap doors.

  2. Craig
    June 20th, 2011 at 06:02 | #2

    Here there, this is Craig. The beginning of the post makes it sound like MDF and Thermofoil are one and the same, or at least that using MDF means also using Thermofoil. I didn’t see anything later on contradicting this, and wondered why you never mentioned painting raw MDF without involving thermofoil at all. I’ve heard that using mdf, at least as a panel (but still making wood stiles and rails) makes for a more stable door, as it warps less and won’t expand and contract like a wood panel.
    I’ve not studied this, but have just heard about it.

  3. admin
    June 20th, 2011 at 06:06 | #3

    Craig, many people refer to vinyl wrapped cabinet door as MDF. You are correct, the two are different. Both can be painted though.

  4. Mandi
    June 24th, 2011 at 08:11 | #4

    My Thermofoil facings are lifting from the MDF underneath. What glue should I use to re-attach them? I had the kitchen facings removed and the cabinet doors/drawers painted; however, I am not happy with them. The paint chips and wears off. I have decided to leave the bathroom facings on and just try to re-glue them.

  5. admin
    June 28th, 2011 at 12:54 | #5

    Try reading this article on Gluing Loose Thermofoil Door Edges.

  6. Hal
    June 28th, 2011 at 13:32 | #6

    I am interested in knowing what brand cabinets are having Thermofoil problems. I have thirteen year old CANAC cabinets and they are like new. I am going to renovate a rental kitchen and I want to use thermofoil but I want to avoid the problems.

  7. admin
    July 5th, 2011 at 08:29 | #7

    The best of the best is Doormark Doors

  8. Sharon Wilson
    October 5th, 2011 at 11:05 | #8

    I have “shrink wrap” cabinets. I notice that the cabinet doors closest to the stove are melting somewhat. I want to use the Rustoleum kitchen resurface kit. Can the cabinets take it?

  9. November 29th, 2011 at 14:59 | #9

    I am putting a new kitchen into my cottage. I am trying to decide between thermofoil doors and wooden doors. The cottage has a furnace but in the winter we keep it at 45 degrees when we are not there. The cottage also has central air conditioning, however when we are not there it is turned off.
    What is my best bet for kitchen cabinets……….. thermofoil or wood?

  10. Paul Sykes
    March 3rd, 2012 at 13:04 | #10

    We just replaced our fridge and because it is taller we can not open the two small cabinet doors above the new frige. Can I cut off 1 inch from the small thermofoil doors?

    Thanks
    Paul Sykes

  11. sandy
    April 11th, 2012 at 13:15 | #11

    I have 12 year old Kraftmaid Thermofoil cabinets that I still love them but on 12 cabinets the entire cover is literally popping off the doors. I have called Kraftmaid and there attitude is they are no longer under warranty. I have had someone come out and try contact cement and gorilla glue but nothing seems to stick. Do you have any suggestions??

  12. sylvia
    May 9th, 2012 at 15:24 | #12

    What is the best way to clean grease build up off of thermofoil white cabinets? Also, just everyday stains after 20 yrs.

  13. shuloo
    July 30th, 2012 at 13:08 | #13

    would it be a good idea to have mdf thermofoiled doors with plywood interior?

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