Thermofoil or wood for painted cabinets?

dac21January 22, 2010

Newbie first question. We are dumping our 20 year old golden oak Kitchen cabinets for an off white painted style. Should I go thermofoil or real wood painted?. The Contractor I'm considering is saying go with termofoil so I won't have a paint chipping issue. That is obvious, but is there other reasons I should still consider wood?


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I've had painted cabinets for many years and haven't had chipping issues...and what's the worst case? You touch them up in 30 seconds or less, but really, I've never had to do that.

So here's my frank opinion on your second option...Thermofoil looks like cheap plastic. I have it in my house now and it will be ripped out and dumped in the trash, I would not even use thermafoil in the garage. YUCK It also peels over time and isn't that pretty :P

We looked at a wonderful historic home in Duluth. Anywhere else it would be a three million dollar home. There had been no remodeling since it was built aside from a new kitchen which appeared lovely, inset cabs, etc. Great in pictures. They were quite expensive as well (they bragged about the designer). But when we were there to view the house....turns out the white cabs were thermafoil (you can tell with just a glance in person). Yuck, beautiful home, plastic cabinets.

Obviously your contractor is not the person to discuss painting the cabinets with as they don't have the skill to do it right if they've had chipping issues. Be sure to use someone else to do that (preferably it's done in a shop by a professional cabinet company/person).

And that is my very frank opinion on thermafoil...don't ask about corian :oP heh heh

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 12:51PM
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Thanks for the quick reply. The Contractor does build cabinets as well, maybe more profit for him to recommend Thermofoil?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 12:56PM
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The choice is a personal one -- depending entirely on how you want the kitchen to look. If you like the look of painted cabinetry, then Thermofoil is a possibility. It looks very much like sprayed (not brushed) paint. Keep in mind, however, that under the PVC coating is medium density fiberboard (MDF), not wood.

Because the doors and drawers are essentially carved from one piece of MDF using a CNC router, the sharp inside corners associated with wood cabinetry are usually missing. Therefor it's pretty easy to tell that the door or drawer is thermofoil over MDF.

There have been problems with delaminating and yellowing in the past, but I think these are solved now.

You can touch up paint, you cannot touch up Thermofoil.

Given all that, I would probably go with a good 3-coat paint job, but again, that's a personal aesthetic choice.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 1:28PM
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I have my first painted cabs and I love them. I am not particularly careful, 2 yrs and no chips. BM satin impervo oil base paint.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 1:32PM
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You should look at both options in a showroom. In photos, they look the same, but in real life, I agree with Igloochic, thermofoil tends to look like plastic. It may be fine if you want a contemporary look, but it would look out of place in a traditional/transitional kitchen.

Painted wood can be touched up or refinished, not thermofoil.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 3:12PM
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I had my first experience with painted cabinets and Thermofoil in the house we built in 2001. Kitchen and most bathrooms were painted; laundry room and powder room were Thermofoil. Within 2 years the laundry room cabinets had areas where the finish was lifting. I kept gluing them back down. In the 6 years we lived there, I had not one problem with the painted cabinets.

A couple years ago, DD and DSIL peeled all the thermofoil off their 10 year old kitchen cabinets and painted the MDF underneath. On many of the doors, the thermofoil peeled in one big piece.

I suspect that there are different levels of quality . . . but based on our experiences, I'd never use it again. And I agree with Igloochic -- it just doesn't look "real."

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 8:49PM
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Thanks guys - I wasn't the asker, but I'll benefit from the info! I'm still in the early info gathering stage (only been living with our funky depresion-era kitchen for 25 years!). Thermofoil will never be allowed in our kitchen. I did always wonder what the hell it was - sounds like nasty stuff!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 9:45PM
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