Need help deciding between maple painted white and thermofoil

beckingtonJuly 23, 2010

I'm so confused! We are looking at probably either Thomasville or Aristokraft cabinets - can't decide between which, but also can't decide if we should go with maple painted white or thermofoil/laminate. The price of the thermofoil is certainly more attractive, but I worry about how long it will last and how well it will hold up, e.g heat and peeling or bubbling. Then with maple I worry about the cracks in the joints being too obvious, grrrrr. OK so I guess my questions are:

1. How long does thermofoil at the quality Thomasville and Aristokraft offer normally last? Wear and tear of a young family with two kids. We'd like the cabinets to look good for the next 5-10 years at least.

2. Is heat the only big concern with thermofoil/laminate? How about with painted doors?

3. With the painted doors, we have an option of 100% made from maple or just a maple frame and a veneer panel. Is one option better than the other re cracking?

4. Any sense of which company is better - Thomasville from HD or Aristokraft (which we'd get at Kent Building Supplies for you Canadians in the crowd)?

Thanks so much for any advice! I am sooooooooo confused!!

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I would pick the maple painted cabinets.

We looked at Thomasville painted cabinets and know they have a several stage process which makes the finish more durable than just painting alone so I wouldn't worry too much about durability.

The main reason I would go with the painted cabinets is that in the future you could easily repaint or even stain the solid maple doors. If you go with the thermofoil, which is usually over furniture board you won't have a stain option and repainting thermofoil is not an easy process.

Good luck with your decision.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 10:21PM
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Here's a great reason or two...first we have plastic coated....umm thermofoil cabs here and DS (4) loves to peel of the white :) It's fairly easy to do and even I often just rip a piece off instead of dealing with it catching on stuff constantly. Under the thermofoil is a finish that can not be saved so the cabs will literally go in the trash instead of being reused anywhere.

If I come in to buy your house and see plast/umm thermofoil cabinets, I don't care the price of the home, I will down grade the offer significantly because you used thermofoil (for the reasons above).

Painted cabinets give so many other options...plastic coated, not so much.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 10:33PM
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We had nice white thermofoil (Schrock--amish built) in our last house, which we built new. We lived there 12+ years (sold last year), and the cabinets pretty much looked like new. There was one small tear on the pull-out trash door, but I glued it down and used liquid paper on it. A big "however" is this---no kids lived there!

When we chose those cabinets, it was because I wanted a "white kitchen". I didn't have the internet back then, so I didn't know they were considered cheap or maybe I wouldn't have done it because otherwise, we overbuilt for the neighborhood. However, they did not lower our house's value at all. We got full asking price after being on the market for just 1 week (at a price equal to the newest house in the sub/div w/ granite countertops and stainless appl.--we had laminate and white appl). And, our particular market had not been affected by the housing down-turn. Just making the point that some people are not put-off by thermofoil.

Would I want it again? No, I wanted creamy white painted this time, but ended up with cherry--go figure--in our newly built home. I know I will miss my bright white kitchen at some point, though. The reason we didn't go with the painted maple cabinets is that with the particular brand we were buying, the painted cabinets looked plastic (and showed the separation/cracking) and no better than our old thermofoil (but for a whole lot more money). Their stained cabs looked "rich".

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 11:27PM
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Oh Beckington, you have asked the same questions I am struggling with.

We too are looking at a painted KM maple door, either dove white or willow, in a simple Shaker style for our cottage style home. I'm not certain yet about choosing the solid maple door vs. the door with the veneer center but I think that will be a matter of which door we like best followed by the price of the cab. I think the veneer door is slightly less expensive but again it depends on the door style.

I have heard about painted doors cracking but we have painted white wood doors and trim in our 70 year old house that have held up well and I would hope the same would be true with the new cabs. I agree that a painted maple door would be easier to fix down the road than a thermofoil gone bad.

We have thermofoil cabs now in a honey color that are peeling something terrible and that is what prompted us to look into a maple door although it seems like there are a lot more thermofoil cabs in white to choose from. Our thermofoil cabs were put in by the previous adult owner who lived by himself and are less than 5 years old. While they are pretty, they are junk according to everyone that comes in and our realtor, who is also a friend, told us we would have to put some $$ into the kitchen down the road.

I think maple doors are the way to go.

Good luck with your remodel.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 11:43PM
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have you seen both options in person? there is no comparison ...two very different animals. quality of materials directly affects the value of your home. also consider your neighborhood. if you can afford NOT to go with wood and the look of thermofoil doesn't bother you then save yourself some money. as an aside: i expect painted wood cabinets to develop tiny cracks and consider these tiny imperfections as proof positive of what i'm getting. if it's really going to bother you, then again, go with the thermofoil. good luck!

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 1:50AM
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I've had both. There is a cheap looking thermafoil, and there are ones that will trick most people. I had a shaker style door, but the corners were kind of rounded instead of square...because they can't get the plastic in there so square. Mine held up great, and cleaned easily. I think the key to a nice look is to have a painted cabinet box, instead of a laminated box. Laminated is cheap and will peel.

The second time, we had custom made wood cabinets from a large shop in our area. He is considered the best in our metro area. They are beautiful, but the paint has cracked in several places around the sink and trash can. The bottom line is wood moves with humidity, making hairline cracks and water can get in there. Kids splash and drip. I don't have a problem with the cracked joints--that just looks authentic. I do have a problem where the paint wanted to peel off because of it.

This time we are doing inset doors made out of MDF.MDF is a solid piece with no seams to crack and move with water and humidity. Inset doors will hopefully keep them from getting bumped and banged. I will also have the option to repaint (unlike MDF)them a different color.

I think you need to get a sample door of each of your options, think about your budget, and consider if you would want to repaint a different color sometime in the future.

A high end thermafoil door with a painted box wont be detectable to most people. But there are many, many cheap looking ones which is what most people think of when they hear themafoil. I have no idea about the cabinet companies you are shopping.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 7:20AM
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts! I have seen the various doors in person. The thermofoil is not the ugly bumpy finish - I'd go for a satin finish which I think looks pretty good, but not as good as the maple, of course.

At first I was all set on painted maple doors, with the idea being in the future they could be refinished a lot more easily than thermofoil. But most of the maple doors actually seem to have a veneer panel - could that be easily refinished? I have found one door that uses all maple, but am worried about cracking with that. I *think* the veneer panel means less chance of cracking???

Ugh. This is such a hard decision! I normally go for wood with things - we went with new wood windows and patio doors, wood shutters, etc, so my preference is for wood certainly. But I am worried about the cracking. Ugh ugh ugh.

Off to look at kitchens again today. Any other input much appreciated! :)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 8:09AM
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My Mom did thermofoil and is quite happy and having seen the Thomasville paint finishes I don't think there is a world of difference in the way the finishes look. Having said that my Mom went with one of the Canadian made lines at HD from Fabritec and in my opinion and according to the store staff we worked with there is a world of difference between the quality of thermo in the US and Canada. Thermo is quite popular in Canada (it doesn't have the same cheap connotation - in fact a lot of Canadian cabinet manufacturers have premium thermo doors that are quite expensive) and it is quite a competitive industry in Quebec. Door samples and in store vignettes from Thomasville in Thermo were not great quality in my opinion. We have some Mill's Pride ones in our office and the thermo has a very uneven application.

My Mom wanted a shaker style and with Fabritec they cheat the rounded corners on this style by routing the inside edge of the recessed area (by extending it to the outside edge at the top and bottom they strengthen the optical illusion). You can see on the drawer in this picture that the corners are rounded. They also use a matte finish thermo.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 8:21AM
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First off you may know this already but you did not state it Aristokraft does not sell a painted cabinet. All white and off white finishes are thermofoil based. Aristokraft will not offer modifications other than drawerbox and soft close drawer glides. There for the Aristokraft cabinet is a mass production set up that is good for its target customer. If the price for the Aristokraft is similar to the Thomasville cabinet you are paying to much as a rule of thumb for the Aristokraft cabinet. Also if box construction matters to you The Aristokraft cabinet in Ply Select will not be plywood on all sides of the cabinet box. I sell Aristokraft and like its product for the price point. Just be aware that the 2 bands build the cabinets differently looking for different customers. Be sure you chose what you want and that you pay fair price for it not to much or to little! FYI

I have been in a meeting with 5 competitors for a kitchen remodel and 3 of them were offering Aristokraft cabinets when the written specs requested by the home owner were not compatible to the Aristokraft method. For one the customer wanted painted white cabinets and 3/4 thick box construction none of which Aristokraft offers! I politely asked the competitor if he knew if Aristokraft offered a new painted door I was unaware of tho which he had no answer! He honestly did not know they were thermofoil.

I would not say thermofoil is inferior to the point of not considering. As the posts above show some are more happy with thermofoil than others. My expierence is peeling is very likely over time. How much you as the consumer do not know until you learn by expierence. If you like the look of the thermofoil and the price the answer is you will be happy with it until it peels if that ever occurs. I do not honestly know if a certain brand in thermofoil will hold up better than others. If you can get a life time warranty on the finish of a thermofoil cabinet you are safe over the peeling issue. Now that I think about it my Brandom brand has thermofoil doors and a lifetime warranty. The written language of the warranty does not exclude the thermofoil in any way. I will have to read it again when I am at my product binders on Monday.

My education from cabinet makers I have sold is that painted finishes on cabinets are trickier to get right than a stain. It is easier to have difference in color from one cabinet to the next with paints particularly if it is mass produced and kept in stock to be resold off the shelf. Thermofoil solves this issue in many ways.

MDF is medium density fiberboard. Think of sawdust glued into sheets. Wood fibers glued together with heat and pressure to make panels cut to width length. The woodfibers held together with glue do not tend to expand or contract as much as solid wood strips direct from the tree. Wood expands with temp and moisture more in the length of the grain and the width then in thickness. So a board cut 36 inches in length will at 50% humidity will be over 36" long at 100% humidity and less than 36" at 0% humidity. Wood flooring when installed is void of warranty if it is not installed where the humidity is in a range of acceptable values stated by the manufacturer. The structure and the wood floor materials in the box have to both be at the same accpetable range for the floor to move in tamdem with the house if humidity and temp changes occur after install. Cabinets have the same problems. Mdf center panels do not change size as much as a solid wood center panel of glued stips of wood does. The risk is the center panel shrink or expand and have areas that become exposed to view that were not exposed when the paint is applied. You would see a section of the door that is not painted but raw material. The MDF center panel costs lest to make and the cabinet company either sells the cabinets for less or makes more money on the MDF center panel door.

A veneer center panel is a cheaper way to make the cabinet then a solid wood center panel. A veneer panel is a engineered (man made center panel) the wood material making the center panel can be all layers of natural wood peeled from a tree that has been boiled to make plywood. Or there can be cheaper layers in the panel that are wood with glue holding it together like particle board. The last layer of the panel when it is a veneer is a thin layer of wood that is the same species of wood as the solid wood pieces the cabinet is made out of. To make a veneer means "layer" more or less. A veneer log cut out of a tree means that section of the tree is free from defects so the lumber mill can boil the log untill the rings of the tree are soft and can be peeled like an onion ring and pressed into flat layeres of wood that will be used to be the exposed surfaces the consumer will see.

So yes you can refinish a veneer center pannel. The layer of wood that is maple for maple cabinets is thinner than a solid wood maple center panel. So if you sand it you can not sand very deep per say or you will wear thru the vener layer of wood to the next layer of the engineered panel that is a different species of wood that is cheaper or a particle board or mdf type of layer. This is the risk of veneer products when you discuss refinishing possiblities.

The veneer center panel cabinet is just meant to be a less expensive product for a consumer with the same look. MDF center panel cabinet is meant to be cheaper in my opinion more than anything but it does not react to moisture as much as solid wood does.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2010 at 4:47PM
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Wow, thanks again for all the info! I think we've decided to go with a wood frame with veneer panel from Thomasville - found a door that I like that is about $100 linear foot cheaper than the door that is all maple - can't really pass that up! This is the one we are planning:

Now we are getting to the nitty gritty of design - ack! Am sure I'll be posting more questions. Am certainly busy going through all the archives here - such great info!!


    Bookmark   August 5, 2010 at 8:17AM
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We went to the Home depot and ordered Thomasville painted cabinets, We spent over 15,000.00 just on the cabinets. The cabinets came in and they look just like Plastic and they are Painted Maple, I hat them I waited my entire life for a new Kitchen and sew all theses Beautiful white Kitchens on line. and ended up with thomasville, I was told they were top of the line. I ended up with cheap looking junk. Now they are being installed and it's costing me another 2,000.00 in labor and I'm beside myself. Since we received the cabinets we have called and email several times and we haven't received a call back. It's a nightmare

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 12:20AM
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