Essential Facts about Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets

kitchen with Thermofoil cabinets

If you are looking for a budget-friendly option for your new cabinets, you might want to consider Thermofoil kitchen cabinets. They are easy to maintain, which is always a good thing for busy homeowners, and they give a sleek and modern look to a kitchen. However, just like Formica was an affordable alternative to natural stone countertops, some people consider Thermofoil a cop out in terms of quality of construction and design. Here are some essential facts about Thermofoil kitchen cabinets you should know.

Common misconceptions

Thermofoil process()
The term “Thermofoil” gives some people the notion that there is some type of metal in its components, mostly because “foil” is usually associated with aluminum. However, Thermofoil kitchen cabinets has no metal in it whatsoever. They are actually medium density fiberboard (MDF) wrapped in a very thin sheet of plastic material (vinyl). Manufacturers apply heat (thermo) to bind the vinyl permanently to the MDF.

Another myth about Thermofoil is that it is the same as melamine or laminate cabinets because they all have a thin plastic coating and most have MDF cores. However, the process of making laminate or melamine kitchen cabinets does not involve any application of heat. Adhesives provide the bonding for laminate and melamine, and do not require any special equipment. As such, any DIYer can take pieces of MDF, glue a sheet of vinyl or melamine on them, and make a kitchen cabinet from them. This is not true of Thermofoil cabinets.


Kitchen with shiny, red or other bright colored Thermofoil cabinets

Low maintenance

One of the main benefits of Thermofoil cabinets is ease of maintenance. It has a smooth, non-porous surface that repels dust and dirt and is easy to clean. Any grime that does succeed in sticking to the surface typically comes away quite easily when wiped down with a mild solution of water and dish detergent.

Since it is vinyl, it provides waterproofing for the MDF core. So, there is no need to put on additional coats of sealer or any type of waterproofing. It will not bloat, chip or crack even in conditions of high humidity as long as the vinyl layer is in good condition. This is a clear advantage over wood cabinets without Thermofoil.


You can choose among a wide range of colors and patterns with Thermofoil cabinets. Some homeowners prefer them in a solid white so they can customize it with their own paint or patterns. Other solid colors are also available, such as red or black. Some manufacturers produce Thermofoil cabinets in popular patterns, from wood grain to a Moroccan print. Because the vinyl can accommodate almost any design you can imagine, the options are endless. Most people prefer their Thermofoil cabinets with a glossy finish, but you can also choose matte.

Moisture resistance

Thermofoil cabinets with water beads
As mentioned earlier, Thermofoil cabinets do well in extreme kitchen environments because of its protective vinyl coating. As long as the coating is intact, it will not sustain any type of water damage. This does mean you need to be extra vigilant when it comes to keeping the coating in good condition. Any crack or chip in it can lead to moisture seepage, which is not good for the MDF core.

Return on investment

Thermofoil cabinets in kitchen
If you take reasonable steps to keep your Thermofoil cabinets in good condition, you can enjoy them for 10 years or more. Considering its affordability, it is a good return for your investment.

Heat sensitivity

Thermofoil cabinets are quite sturdy and will last for a long time with reasonable care. However, it does have a poor record with heat. The vinyl reacts to prolonged or constant exposure to heat by peeling or debonding from the MDF core. This usually means permanent damage to the cabinet, and will need replacement.
You need to make sure it has some type of protection from sources of heat such as a microwave oven, the back of your refrigerator, and cooktops. Most appliances have built-in heat shields, which are metal strips between the appliance and any surface with which it may come in contact. For appliances that do not have it, you can make your own heat shield by placing a thin sheet of metal in the right spots. It is far cheaper than replacing the cabinets.

Installation issues

While Thermofoil cabinets are actually an engineered wood-vinyl combination, it is more dense than other types of cabinets, including solid wood. As such, it is harder for an amateur to install it, especially alone. We recommend having a professional install your Thermofoil cabinets for you to avoid problems during installation and later on.
The cost of installation may somewhat offset any savings you got from the purchase. However, in most cases, it is better to have a pro install kitchen cabinets anyway, especially wall cabinets, so it is not much of a drawback.

Repair not possible

damaged Thermofoil cabinets
The biggest drawback about Thermofoil cabinets is that you cannot repair it once it sustains any damage, and it is quite easy to damage it along its weak spots such as along the edges. That is the big advantage of solid wood cabinets, which you can refinish to remove signs of damage.
You can avoid damaging Thermofoil cabinets by wrapping the edges with some type of adhesive edging. But that might spoil the line of the cabinets. At any rate, if you do damage it, you will probably need to replace it sooner than you would like.


While Thermofoil cabinets may not be the first choice of many homeowners, it is actually a good option for homeowners on a tight budget. They used to be much more popular when they first came out, and although that has tapered off somewhat, they are still popular because of their many benefits.
One way to ensure you make the most of your purchase is to get them from a reliable supplier specializing in top quality cabinet brands. Cabinet Land Kitchen and Beyond offers free consultation services and quotes, so you can have the benefit of our expertise without spending a dime.
We are a local remodeling company with a showroom located in Schaumburg, Illinois. We work only with the best cabinet brands at the best prices compared to our competitors such as Advance Cabinets and Handsome Cabinets.

Visit us today to see what we have to offer. We service Chicago land and have the expertise and resources to complete virtually any type of kitchen cabinets – ON TIME and ON BUDGET with top quality craftsmanship that will exceed your expectations.