CUSTOM CABINETS: Thermofoil vs. Wood

Have you been wondering which is the better material? With the recent advancements in materials technologies, it might be worth reconsidering your options for your custom cabinets or cabinet refacing project. 


                                       A white thermofoil door sitting atop phenolic backed 3d laminate sheets.

Rigid Thermofoil is called by a variety of names including RTF, thermofoil, and 3d laminate. It is a vinyl material that is flexible and durable. To make doors, drawer fronts, moldings, phenolic-backed 3d laminate sheets and other cabinet millwork, it is glued and vacuum-pressed onto a machined cabinet component, resulting in a finished component with the vinyl wrapped around the front and sides. Resulting parts have a durable, seam and joint free surface that is easy to clean and requires little maintenance. 

These materials have had great advancements recently. Some 3d laminates have extremely realistic wood grain, with texture and chatoyance that mimics real wood. Other laminates have a velvety feel and ultra-low sheen. Some even have self-healing and/or repairable surfaces. These laminates are highly stain resistant, durable, and affordable, making them an excellent choice for cabinetry in busy households.

For examples of cabinetry built with 3d laminates, see these projects below:

Cabinet refacing in coto de caza

Kitchen cabinet refacing with new custom island cabinets

Cabinet refacing in black satin


                                                       Walnut and White Oak cabinet doors, and Maple veneer.

Real wood is still a great choice for custom cabinets, but I usually do not recommend it for a painted finish in kitchens or bathrooms. Kitchens are busy areas, and paint chips easily. Unless you are prepared to repaint your cabinetry as needed as part of its normal maintenance, paint is not a recommended finish for a kitchen. Bathrooms are also busy areas, especially if you have young kids, and are subjected to high fluctuations in temperature and humidity. 

It is more expensive, usually running 25-50% over thermofoil depending on the wood species and finish. Although more expensive, it can be a great choice for those who most appreciate the natural look and feel of real wood. Popular options right now include riftsawn white oak with a natural look finish. Walnut is an elegant option. There are many great choices with wood, and each species will have its own characteristics. Quartersawn red oak is a timeless classic, with heavy “flaking” of iridescent bands flowing through the wood.

Another great way to use wood is in the use of wood veneers. The most beautiful lumber in the world is used to create veneers. The most common use of veneers is to make flat fronts with an exotic species or highly figured wood. It can also be used for the flat panel on a five-piece door or the back panel of a display cabinet. It can be bent and formed around curved components and can also be sliced and stitched together with other veneers to create elegant patterns.

Urban wood is also becoming a great alternative to traditional lumber. Live edge wood slabs are readily available and can be used for a variety of purposes including floating shelves, counters, and tables.

See below for examples of projects built with wood products:

Custom Entertainment Center Cabinets

Custom Kitchen With Inset Maple Fronts

Custom Vanity With Birdseye Maple

If you are looking into cabinet refacing services or new custom cabinets, give me a call to discuss your project! I can build you beautiful custom cabinetry, entertainment center cabinets, bathroom custom cabinets, kitchen custom cabinets, or cabinetry for any area of your home. I can even reface your existing cabinets to bring new life and functionality to you home.

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