How Durable Are Laminate Cabinet Doors?

Even though laminate cabinet doors are almost the cheapest selection for your cupboards, they are far from being the lowest in quality. When speaking from a standpoint of durability, I think high-pressure plastic laminate doors are the most durable of all.

Now I’ve been in the kitchen cabinet manufacturing business for many years and have owned several companies related to the industry. I’ve seen my share of old Formica cupboards that were in excellent shape. I have also seen some that were not in such good condition. Just like anything else, when something is maintained correctly, it’s possible “that” something will last a lifetime.

Laminate doors will last thirty to fifty years. The only thing that is required of the owners is to keep them wiped down regularly. Formica doors are easily cleaned with Windex, Formula 409 or just a damp cloth.

If you are considering having Formica in your kitchen or bathroom, may I suggest that you select white or off white for the color. Through the years these two colors have long withstood the ever changing kitchen cupboard trends. Many different shades and patterns of laminate get discontinued every year, but white remains on the color chip chains of all the suppliers.

Now it is important that you DO NOT confuse Formica laminate doors with Thermofoil doors. Raised panel Thermofoil doors WILL NOT last as long as the hard-shell, high pressure plastic laminate doors.

The two things that have a negative effect on Formica plastic laminate doors are how they are fabricated and cared for. If the manufacture did not use enough glue on the doors, then you will experience problems. In my expert opinion this only occurs once in ten thousand kitchens.

It’s important to understand the difference between a Melamine door and a plastic laminate door. Melamine is actually applied to the core board by the people who make the board. Formica laminate is applied by the people building your kitchen. Melamine is NOT as durable as laminate; it is thinner and not available in as many colors as Formica.

Here are a few cabinet door styles listed from cheapest to the most expensive:

  • Melanine
  • Plastic Laminate Doors
  • Thermofoil
  • Real Wood

Here’s a list of cupboard door styles from the lowest quality to the highest:

  • Thermofoil
  • Melamine
  • Real Wood
  • Formica

The way laminate doors are made is the sheet of plastic is purchased separately from the board. The board gets cut to the correct size for cabinet doors and then the plastic is cut a little over size. The laminate edges of the door are glued on first. Next, the front and backsides of the doors are covered with the Formica. Contact glue is used as the adhesive and routers are what the laminate is trimmed flush with the door’s edges with. Cabinet makers use a file to smooth off the sharp edges. Any access contact adhesive is cleaned off with lacquer thinner.

Kitchen cabinet doors are laminated with “vertical” grade or VT plastic. This is the thinner of the two choices. Countertops are made out of the thicker plastic that is called “standard” thickness. VT is generally one thirty second of an inch thick and standard is one sixteenth of an inch thick.

If you are considering getting Formica plastic laminate doors for your kitchen or bathroom, ask your cabinet maker if they can be three quarters of an inch thick. Five eighths thick laminate doors are durable and hold up well, but the thicker option will be more durable in the long run.

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