A Realistic Look at Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets


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Thermofoil kitchen cabinets are an affordable alternative that has excited much controversy. Aside from the cost savings, homeowners like it because it is easy to clean and maintain, and has enjoyed a good run for kitchen remodeling projects with a limited budget. However, critics liken it to modern inventions such as vinyl siding, which represents low quality in design and construction. Below is a realistic look at Thermofoil kitchen cabinets.

Thermofoil myths

Some people have the idea that Thermofoil has a metallic component because of the “foil” in its name. Thermofoil actually involves wrapping and heating a thin sheet of vinyl over MDF (medium density fiberboard) so that it binds permanently with the material, hence the term “thermo” . It has no metal at all in its composition. Other people also confuse Thermofoil with laminate or melamine cabinets. While they all have some type of thin, outer coating, usually a plastic material, melamine and laminate cabinets do not undergo a heating process. Instead, the laminate or melamine sheets bond to the base material (usually MDF) with adhesives, and the excess material snipped off using a router. No sophisticated machinery or process is required to produce laminated or melamine cabinets so even DIYers and small shops can do it.

Pros and Cons

Care and maintenance

The best thing about Thermofoil cabinets is that they require minimum maintenance and care. The smooth surface does not attract dirt and is easy to wipe down. Any stubborn residue such as oil or grease will come off with just a solution of mild dish detergent and water. The surface does not require additional coating to protect it as a wood cabinet would. And it will not crack or chip in conditions of high humidity as long as the vinyl coating is intact.


Thermofoil cabinets are available in many patterns and colors. It is available in solid colors, but it is usually white, which can be painted over quite easily. It can also be a wood grain pattern to match the most popular wood species. The vinyl coating can actually take on different shapes and patterns. So, you can choose a basic flat style or a more decorative look. You can also choose to have it in a glossy or matte finish.


While Thermofoil cabinets are relatively sturdy, they are not proof against heat. It is important to keep them away from any direct source of heat such as over a cooktop or in close proximity to an oven. There is a tendency for the vinyl coating to peel away from the base material with constant exposure to heat. You can prevent this from happening by putting in a metal strip between the cabinet and source of heat, also known as heat shields. Many appliances have this built in, but for those that do not have it, it is easy enough to put one in. It is also recommended to remove any cabinet doors and drawers that are in close proximity to the oven when going through a self-cleaning process, which involves extremely high heat.



The good news is Thermofoil cabinets work very well in moist environments, which is why they are a good choice for kitchens and bathrooms. It is non-porous, so regular exposure to water will not damage the surface. However, it is important to note that moisture resistance does not mean water proof, especially if there are some flaws or gaps in the vinyl coating. Most Thermofoil cabinets have MDF cores, which are highly vulnerable to moisture. Any seepage into the core material can cause irreversible damage to the cabinets.


Thermofoil cabinets tend to be a bit heavier than hardwood, melamine or laminated cabinets because it has a layer of vinyl over an MDF or other engineered wood core. This makes it harder to install, which is why it is recommended to have a professional install Thermofoil cabinets. This also means added cost for the homeowner, which may offset any savings from their purchase.


One of the benefits of Thermofoil cabinets is the lower purchase cost compared to hardwood cabinets. However, it is quite easy to chip the vinyl coating, especially along the edges of the cabinets. If this happens, it is not possible to repair Thermofoil cabinets once the vinyl coating is damaged, as opposed to hardwood cabinets, where cracks and scratches can be removed by refinishing.


Provided reasonable care is taken with Thermofoil cabinets, they can last for many years without trouble. Many homeowners have had no trouble with damage to the cabinets, including scratching and chipping, for 10 years or more, making it a good investment for a budget kitchen remodeling.


Thermofoil cabinets are still a good choice for many homeowners on a limited budget for a remodeling project. They are no longer as popular as they once were, but the benefits that made it popular back then still holds true today. It does pay to get Thermofoil cabinets from a reputable supplier to ensure quality. If you are in cities such as Chicago, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Des Plaines, Hoffman Estate, Elk Grove Village, and surrounding areas, Cabinets City is your best choice. We carry some of the best brands in the country, from Thermofoil to wood cabinets, and at the best prices compared to Cabinets to Go and Advance Cabinets. These include Schrock, Fabuwood, J and K, Forevermark, and Wolf Cabinets, each of which come with manufacturer warranties. We always deliver on time, so you will not have to worry about keeping your schedule to stay in budget.

We can advise you on the best Thermofoil cabinets for your kitchen or bathroom. Give us a call for a free consultation and quote, or visit our showroom in Mt. Prospect, Illinois. We can give you what you need faster and better than big box stores.

Bayram Gulsen

Bayram Gulsen is the owner of Cabinets City. He always had this passion to redefine cabinetry to be at its best along with his dedicated team and the author of Cabinets City blog: You can find Bayram on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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