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Cabinets 101
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Lesson #2 - Wood/Thermofoil Prev Next
Wood usually refers to the type of wood used to construct the door, drawer face and frame face, not the cabinets. Doors are built using many different types of wood, however the most common are: Oak, Maple and Cherry. The type of wood used accounts for about 10% of the price, meaning cabinets made with an expensive wood (like Cherry) will run about 10% more than cabinets made with an inexpensive wood (like Oak). The major difference between the types of wood is how smooth vs grainy they look. Below is a summary of the different types of woods and a description:
  • Oak has a very strong and distinct woodgrain pattern. It also tends to have random knots and wormholes.
  • Maple has a smooth, even appearance, with a subtle woodgrain pattern. It may have small black dots.
  • Cherry has a smooth woodgrain pattern with random markings and red undertones. Cherry will change color as it ages.
Thermofoil refers to doors that have been sealed in a plastic like material. The door's core is usually MDF (medium density fiberboard, an engineered type of wood) and the thermofoil is molded over the front and sides and a sheet of melamine is applied to the back. Once done the wood is sealed, very stiff and easy to clean. However, themofoil will melt if exposed to a source of heat and will scratch if it comes in contact with a sharp object and scratches are not easy to repair (just like plastic). The main advantages of thermofoil doors are they are unlikely to crack, easy to clean and can come in very bright colors (like bright white with a high gloss). In fact, the only way to get a truly white cabinet is to go with thermofoil. Thermofoil cabinets are priced similar to wood cabinets. In fact, only the door is different, the rest of the cabinet is the same. A subset of thermofoil cabinets is laminate and melamine. Laminate cabinets have doors that simply have a sheet of plastic laminate attached to them. It is the same laminate as that used for countertops which makes it durable and easy to clean. The main advantage, of course, is that you can pick any of the thousands of colors and patterns available from formica, wilsonart or pionite. Melamine is similar to laminate except it is thinner and cheaper. Melamine cabinets tend to be the lowest priced cabinets available (the price for a 3030 particle board wall cabinet in white melamine would be $120)