Posts Tagged 'MDF Cabinets'

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

Get to Know Your Cabinet Sides

As our customers begin their kitchen design process they have numerous questions about what makes up cabinets. When it comes to the construction of the cabinet boxes themselves, the materials that I am asked about most frequently are plywood, furniture board (which is often called particle board), solid wood and MDF. Here are some brief descriptions of the strengths of these products:

Plywood, along with Furniture Board, is the most common of the materials used in the manufacture of a cabinet box. It is made by taking overlapping layers of wood veneers and glue and pressing them into sheets. The end product is comparatively light, very strong and long lasting. Plywood costs more than furniture board and can add to the price of a cabinet but it is still a very desirable product for cabinet construction.

Furniture Board is a modernized version of particle board. It is denser and made at higher pressure with better glues than its older cousin. Whereas particle board would have issues of swelling when exposed to moisture, the newer furniture board is stronger and more resistant to moisture. I was skeptical when I was initially told this by one of our sales reps. He stated that furniture board could survive direct contact with moisture without failing. I took a shelf from one of our displays and submerged it in my bathtub overnight. The next day the shelf was fine and once it dried out it went back into our display. Naturally, do not try this with your cabinets, but it does illustrate how far the material has come.

Some manufacturers will offer cabinet boxes that are made of solid wood. These are staves that have been glued up into panels and made into the sides, tops and bottoms of cabinets. This is not used as much because of the large amount of hardwood lumber it consumes and because of issues with cabinet stability. Solid hardwood still expands and contracts depending on the ambient humidity. A side panel on a base cabinet is 24 inches wide and can grow 3/8” to ½” in higher humidity and shrink the same amount in dry climes.

Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF), while an excellent material for wood and thermofoil laminate cabinet doors and center panels on painted doors, does not lend itself well to cabinet construction. It is considerably heavier than plywood, furniture board and hardwood. It also does not hold fasteners as well as the above materials. As a result, it is not offered as a material for cabinet boxes. Because they are both materials manufactured from wood residuals, MDF and Furniture Board are often confused with one another.

The vast majority of cabinets for the home are made from Furniture Board and Plywood. Each cabinet company manufactures their product with material that best meets their structural and budgetary specifications. Knowing the materials that make up cabinets will assist in making the best decisions for your design project.

John Allen, Showroom Manager
Kitchen Views at National Lumber
15 Needham St.
Newton, MA 02461

Don’t Fear MDF

Traditional vignette with cabinetry containing MDF

Would you have ever guessed that MDF could belong in a high-end kitchen?

“Don’t Fear MDF” by John Allen

When looking into painted cabinets, you will often find that the center panel on a painted door will be made of a material called MDF, or Medium Density Fiberboard. I have found that some customers that come through my showroom are resistant to the idea that part of the door would not be comprised of “real” wood. There are a number of benefits to such a product, and in most cases, it is a superior material to use in the panel for a cabinet door.

MDF is made from wood fiber and similar recycled products like paper and cardboard pulp. This material is mixed with resins and then pressed into sheets under very high pressure. The finished product is cut and milled into door panels the same way as a hardwood panel.

MDF is a strong and stable product. It does not swell and shrink with seasonal changes in humidity. As a result, door panels will not end up with unpainted areas showing during the dry winter months. MDF is much denser than particle board. Painted wood panels will show splits from time to time while the surface of an MDF panel will stay smooth and flat.

The only time where MDF is not used for a cabinet door’s center panel is when the door features an “antiqued” look where some of the painted finish has holes or areas that have been sanded through. When the material under the painted finish is visible, the panel must be the same wood as the frame of the door.

The rest of the time, there is no need to be worried about MDF. A customer who wants a painted finish for their cabinet door will have a better looking and more stable product with MDF panels. Also, since the manufacture of MDF uses wood that would otherwise be wasted, as well as some recycled content, it is a more eco-friendly material.

John Allen, Showroom Manager
Kitchen Views at National Lumber
15 Needham St. Newton, MA 02461

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