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Thermofoil Cabinets – Everything You Need to Know

The wonder of thermofoil cabinets is the reason they have become the best choice for cost-effective kitchen cabinetry. Yet it seems that Thermofoil as a material is often confused with melamine and other types of laminates. If you’ve had questions about thermofoil and want to learn how it works best, you’ll get great info from this thermofoil cabinet guide.


What Is A Thermofoil Cabinet Door?

applying thermofoil on MDF cabinet

First of all, thermofoil is just one part of a system that uses this vinyl foil on top of premade kitchen cabinet surfaces. Materials like MDF (medium-density fiberboard) is the material that is typically formed into kitchen cabinets. MDF is a lot cheaper to use for making kitchen cabinets since it’s an alternative to using natural wood. Once a cabinet manufacturer starts to assemble MDF cabinets, it then has thermofoil attached to each piece.

Thermofoil is attached especially by using heat and a vacuum which bonds the vinyl onto the MDF surface. The advantage of using thermofoil is the range of colors, simulated wood textures, and wood grains. The technology is getting so good now that many wood textures look highly realistic yet it’s much harder to spot MDF when simple solid colors are used.


Types Of Thermofoil Doors

thermofoil cabinet doors in different colors

Thermofoil cabinets come in a variety of styles and decorative surface detail yet there is one detail that most people can spot right away. Since thermofoil is formed over a premade surface, the edges of each cabinet door are slightly rounded compared to constructed wood cabinets. This makes them appear smoother on the inside edges where detail is normally crisp and angled. Almost as if this detail was filled in with heavy layers of paint or filler.


Are Thermofoil Doors Expensive?

kitchen with thermofoil cabinets and dollars illustration

The upside for looking at buying thermofoil cabinets is that they are a highly-affordable option. Because manufacturers are using wood composite materials (like MDF), the price is much cheaper than naturally assembled wood cabinets. On average, the cost of thermofoil cabinets starts at around $100 per linear foot. Not without surprise, semi-custom cabinets are more than twice as much with $300-350 (PLF) being the average.

Real wood cabinets will always be a higher selling price and rarely will ever see them covered with thermofoil for this reason. It just doesn’t make sense to cover natural wood grain with thermofoil. That’s not to say that some people will go through the trouble of having cabinets resurfaced from independent companies that specialize in thermofoil applications. This can cost as much as $1000 for a small kitchen to resurface everything.


What Materials is Thermofoil Made Out Of?

making thermofoil in factory

The material that thermofoil is made from is vinyl and comes in a variety of solid colors, shades, and simulated wood grain. At times, it also includes natural stone colors like granite and marble that are just printed onto the vinyl. There is no texture but the finishes can range from matt to glossy so you get different levels of shine.

A Short History Lesson On Thermofoil Doors

Way back in the early 1980s, a new process started to see the earliest versions of thermofoil cabinets for kitchens. This was long before vacuum technology was added to get sharper edges, so premade cabinets did not have sharp detail in the deep spots where detail was shown. Still, it was one of the few methods that achieved a heavily painted look without needing to add so many layers of paint- which back then was considered costly and time-consuming.

Now, the technology has greatly improved with thermofoil and detail is achieved by heating the foil and attaching it to a cabinet surface using a special vacuum so surface detail is easier to see.


Why Are Thermofoil Cabinet Doors So Versatile?

kitchen with thermofoil cabinets

Many of the negative aspects of thermofoil cabinets and doors are usually what you hear before hearing any of the versatile talking points. Luckily, new advancements in how vinyl is made and the adhesives used, so newer cabinets have more advantages for lasting longer than previous decades had produced.


The costs are much lower using the thermofoil method and also largely due to the inexpensive wood composite materials that are used.

Easy Cleanup

It’s common knowledge that vinyl is resistant to a lot of oily ingredients and is very simple to clean. It can still stain, but this is more common with white colors and for years it can become yellow because of age. By this time, it would be time to replace your cabinets anyway.

Consistent Colors

Vinyl is very effective to get a continual color that is nice and rich. Unlike painting techniques, even the best methods for painting will have different levels of density simply because gravity pulls paint into deeper cracks and pockets. Thermofoil cabinets have an even layer of color since the foil is one single color, to begin with.

Resists Moisture

Another great advantage of vinyl is keeping water from the surface. This is why it’s perfect for bathrooms where moisture is often high. In the kitchen, this is less of an issue unless there is a humidity problem of some kind.

Less Chance Of Warping

Real wood is a natural magnet for absorbing moisture from the air. An advantage of thermofoil allows the MDF core to resist moisture further on the surface. If there is any obvious humidity, the worst that can happen is that the surface of the MDF material can swell slightly but is held back by the vinyl.

Low Risk Of Delamination

The adhesives that are used these days are very effective at keeping vinyl glued properly onto MDF and composite material surfaces. The addition of heat and vacuum pressure further allows the thermofoil to resist any delamination.


Why Should Thermofoil Cabinet Doors Be Right For Your Kitchen?

budgeted kitchen with thermofoil cabinets

Thermofoil cabinets are a choice that always fits with any budget, but are often suited for budget-minded folks who need cabinets in a hurry. It can also be a good choice since premade cabinets are readily available from numerous manufacturers with no waiting required to install. These surfaces are low-maintenance and are good for kitchens that need minimal cleanup. Those who are looking for real wood cabinets will also need to understand the cost differences involved. For more information on what types of cabinets may be right for your home, contact us, Hunt’s Kitchen Design & Cabinetry at (480) 650-4402 and ask for Jeff or Josh Hunt!


Thermofoil Cabinets

What is thermofoil style cabinetry?

Thermofoil cabinets are manufactured using vinyl laminate that is heated and pressurized onto an MDF core similar to the older style of gluing formica to surfaces. But rather than working with glues, in this process the vinyl material is heated and molded to the surface of the MDF, creating a seamless and durable finish.

What are the defining features of thermofoil style cabinetry?

There really are no defining features as the process of thermofoil allows creating any type of surface imaginable. Often these types of applications create seamless surfaces that are durable and easy to maintain. Furthermore thermofoil style cabinetry provides a uniform look that is resistant to chips, scratches, and discoloration.

How did thermofoil style cabinetry come about?

Thermofoil style cabinetry was first introduced in the 1970s as an alternative to traditional wood cabinetry. It quickly became popular due to its affordability and low maintenance requirements, and it remains a popular choice for many homeowners today.

Why use thermofoil style cabinetry?

Since thermofoil is used on MDF rather than natural wood products that are far more expensive, these cabinets are always a more affordable option than any of their other counterparts. They are also very easy to clean and since they come in any color or even texture you can think of, they can be used in just about any home or even commercial applications.

What materials are used for thermofoil style cabinetry?

Thermofoil style cabinetry is typically made from a substrate of MDF (medium-density fiberboard), which is covered with a thin layer of vinyl material. The vinyl material is heated and molded to the surface of the MDF, creating a seamless and durable finish.

What colors are popular for thermofoil style cabinetry?

This really comes down to who is buying the cabinets. Thermofoil is made in every imaginable color and pattern so the color combinations are endless. This makes them perfect for someone who has a highly unique décor or color palette in their home. Or for those who really want to push the envelope of what kitchen cabinets could and should look like.

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When you engage our design team, we simplify the very complicated and tedious kitchen remodel process. We do this by listening to what you want, then translating your vision and expression into a virtual design that is uniquely yours.

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