30/01/2023  •  , ,

Thermofoil vs. Melamine Kitchen Cabinets

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minutes 

When most people think of kitchen cabinets their mind immediately pictures two things: natural wood or a painted finish. 


There’s good reason why, as decades of painted and stained cabinets have become a timeless staple in kitchen design. 


But that’s no longer the case. There are plenty of modern, man-made cabinet materials that can add their own unique charm to your kitchen renovation; two of which are thermofoil and melamine. 


At Deslaurier Custom Cabinets, we have over 40+ years of experience manufacturing custom kitchen cabinets. In that time, we’ve designed countless kitchens using thermofoil and textured melamine cabinets.


With that, this article will compare thermofoil and melamine kitchen cabinets, side-by-side, to help you better understand which material is right for your home. 

Table of Contents

What are Thermofoil Cabinets?

What are Melamine Cabinets?

Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: Appearance

Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: Durability

Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: Cost

Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: What’s Right For You?

Design with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets 


Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets 


Thermofoil kitchen cabinets is a PVC vinyl material that is applied to MDF doors through heat and vacuum pressure, fusing the two together. 


The thermofoil process produces a seamless surface, typically in a solid colour, but sometimes also a faux wood grain pattern.


Due to the nature of the manufacturing process of thermofoil, the backs of cabinet doors aren’t finished. That means only 5 of the 6 sides of your cabinet door (the front and four sides) will have thermofoil. Most manufacturers leave the backside with a simple white melamine finish.

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Melamine Kitchen Cabinets


Textured melamine boards consist of a strong, raw particleboard substrate with resin-infused decorative paper permanently fused to both sides under immense heat and pressure. 


They are designed to reproduce the look and feel of realistic paint, wood grain, and even metal cabinets. 


When it comes to melamine cabinets there are different levels of quality. At Deslaurier, we offer standard textured melamine, as well as a premium, high-end product referred to as European Textured Melamine (ETM).


Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: Appearance 


Both thermofoil and melamine cabinets are known for their impressive replica of other materials. Thermofoil offers an alternative to painted cabinets, while textured melamine provides the most convincing imitation of natural wood cabinets you can find. 


Thermofoil Appearance

Thermofoil offers a variety of solid colours and faux wood grain in textured, matte, high-gloss and even metallic styles. 


The most common application of thermofoil is on solid colour slab door cabinets. White is an extremely popular choice, as matte and high-gloss options can replicate a painted aesthetic at a more cost-effective price point.  


Thermofoil only comes in 1-piece doors, as opposed to 5-piece options available in natural wood or painted MDF. While slab (flat) doors are a popular choice, there are various detailed profiles that are available in thermofoil.


All edges of thermofoil doors will be rounded to an extent. This is because in order to apply thermofoil to a cabinet door, there needs to be a radius.  

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Because this radius is required, the edges and corners of the detail in thermofoil doors won’t be as sharp as painted, stained, or even melamine cabinets.


Melamine Appearance 

Melamine cabinets are most commonly used to replicate various wood grains but they also come in solid colours and are even capable of surface and texture decor matching. In fact, most manufacturers will carry hundreds of different melamine selections from which to choose. 


Solid colour melamine comes predominantly in a variety of blacks, greys, beiges and whites. Some manufacturers will offer a small number of colourful options such as deep blue or green. 


However, if you’re after a painted aesthetic, thermofoil is the far superior option. 


Textured Melamine

Textured melamine is the most common style of melamine cabinets. Textured melamine allows for the use of deep, congruent visuals perfect for a wood grain aesthetic. 


Since textured melamine is printed images, they can accurately replicate a vast amount of wood species’ grains or alternative surfaces. 


In fact, melamine will produce a more uniform, constant wood grain than a natural wood species. This is because hardwoods are natural materials and in turn, no two cabinets will have the exact same grain patterns. Melamine will.


European Textured Melamine 

ETM produces a prestige material with deeper textures and colours, a more realistic-looking wood grain, and it even feels more like natural hardwood.


In contrast with standard textured melamine, ETM does not feel as “plasticky” and is a much more rich and more convincing imitation of natural wood. 


If you’re looking for a perfect, consistent hardwood aesthetic, European textured melamine is the highest quality option available on the market today. 


Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: Durability 


Durability-wise, thermofoil stands up to daily use and general wear and tear better than a painted cabinet. 


The finish holds up strongly against regular household damage such as water spills or light hand scratches due to its plastic coating. With thermofoil, you won’t have to worry about door chipping which is commonplace for painted finishes. 


The primary concern with thermofoil is that it is vulnerable to heat damage. High temperatures can cause the thermo to delaminate from the cabinet and essentially “unstick” from the surface


Thermofoil cabinets regularly exposed to steam, be it from a dishwasher, oven, toaster, kettle, or even coffee maker can melt, peel, or blister. This is often the biggest maintenance-related complaint about thermofoil from consumers and an issue you need to be prepared for before purchasing thermofoil cabinets. 


Melamine is one of the most durable cabinet materials on the market today, noted for its strong resistance to excessive moisture, heat, and stains


Since the resin-filled paper is permanently fused to the particleboard substrate, melamine will not peel away. It also won’t delaminate like other fused products, such as thermofoil


Although textured melamine and European textured melamine are quite similar to one another, ETM is thicker and holds up better to everyday bumps and damage. 


While regular textured melamine is still a durable product, issues can arise. The corners, for example, can be somewhat prone to chipping. That won’t be an issue for high-quality ETM products. 


Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: Cost


The real benefit of thermofoil as an alternative to painted cabinets is its price point.


Thermofoil has cabinet options for almost every price range, and their standard products are significantly more cost-effective than painted MDF — making them a great budget-friendly option!


High gloss, matte, and textured thermofoil all come in at relatively the same price point, so you won’t feel limited when choosing your preferred look. 


Textured melamine is also considered cost-effective in pricing, making it a popular, budget-conscious choice for kitchen cabinets. 


However, with regards to European textured melamine, pricing is a lot steeper than standard melamine. European textured melamine is a premium, high-end product, and is priced accordingly. 


Therefore, it is not uncommon for the price of ETM to rival that of painted MDF or stained natural woods such as cherry. 

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Thermofoil vs. Melamine Cabinets: What’s Right For You?


Choosing between thermofoil and textured melamine cabinets ultimately comes down to your style preferences. 


If you want a fantastic natural wood appearance, you can’t get much better than textured melamine, particularly ETM which. 


If you'd rather a painted aesthetic, thermofoil offers far more variety of solid colours than what you’ll find in a textured melamine. 


Design with Deslaurier Custom Cabinets 


Want to inspect the differences between thermofoil and melamine cabinets for yourself? Book a free consultation with a Deslaurier kitchen expert at our Ottawa showroom!


If you have your eye on custom cabinetry, Deslaurier Custom Cabinets has everything you need. With over 40 years of experience to our name, we provide our clients with a fully customized design process with our talented team of designers

Interested in becoming an authorized Deslaurier dealer? Visit our Become a Dealer page to learn more! Live outside the area? Find a Dealer to connect with a Deslaurier dealer near you!

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