Thermo foil/Melamine is a popular plastic material used in modern home cabinetry. It is very durable and has a wide variety of hue and pattern possibilities. Thermo foil/Melamine fused with plywood is also the most sustainable option for cabinetry. Designers utilize its consistent coloring ability to provide modern minimalist design at an affordable cost.

Solid wood expands and contracts - which is not ideal for cabinetry. Not to mention "Save the Trees."

Engineered products using Thermo foil/Melamine are less expensive and as reliable as wood. HPL or TFL is Melamine fused with MDF or Particle Board, which are made from wood chips.

BOTH Melamine Laminate types are stain, heat, moisture and abrasion-resistant. There are clear distinctions between the two:

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Several examples of Melamine with a wood grain pattern on a variety of wood colors.

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HPL - High-Pressure Laminate - one well-known HPL brand is Formica


    1. Most sturdy laminate.
    2. Includes layers of kraft paper - which results in a more flexible product
    3. The more flexible HPL can be applied to more types of substrate (board) - Can be bent for curved surface
    4. A wider variety of design: hue & pattern options
    5. More moisture resistant

Thermally Fused Laminate

TFM - Thermal Fused Melamine also called LPL


    1. Less expensive
    2. More commonly available
    3. More slender than HPL so it is much stronger against scratches and chips.
    4. As it is fused directly to the particleboard it is also peel resistant
    5. Plenty of design options
    6. TFM cannot be bent

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Patterns and colors of every kind are being created with Thermo foil/Melamine.

Thermo foil/Melamine is used to laminate a design onto a substrate like plywood, particleboard or MDF. This sandwich is heated and fuses together. Because melamine hardens when heated, the surface of the decorative cabinet is scratch-resistant, colorfast and highly durable.

The thermo foil/melamine used in kitchen cabinetry is more specifically, Thermally-Fused Melamine, or TFM. This is a different Melamine than the one chemists talk about. While thermo foil/melamine itself is poisonous, the Processed Thermo foil/Melamine Resin used in woodworking is treated and safe to use in project construction.

The real strength of a thermo foil/melamine cabinet is the design versatility. The variety of hues and designs is boundless, from the full spectrum of single colors to all manner of simulated finish, like faux-wood grain. There are no unexpected wood grain patterns.

Textured Melamine {or Thermo Structured Melamine) helps complete a rustic feel.

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Kitchen remodel by I&E Cabinets with Thermo foil/Melamine cabinets.

The Pros of Thermo Foil/ Melamine

  • durability
  • fire-retardant
  • variety of design
  • cost effective
  • uniform finish

Fire Retardant - Thermo foil/Melamine releases nitrogen when burned which dampens fires.

Durability - Thermo foil/Melamine is highly durable and costs less than the alternatives.

Heat Resistant - Thermo foil/Melamine has a higher heat tolerance than raw wood

Moisture Resistant - avoids the shrink/expand cycle of wood

Abrasion Resistant - Thermo foil/Melamine is harder to scuff and scrape

Stain Resistant - Thermo foil/Melamine cleans up with ease. When cleaning, use a light-duty white scrubbing pad. No harsh cleansers.

Consistent finish - Designers achieve an affordable minimalist design with Thermo foil/Melamine




The Cons of Stained or Painted Wood

With paint, you have the option of touching up the bare spots with a paintbrush or having your cabinet manufacturer perform a factory refinish. Not so with thermo foil (however the thermo foil and melamine from china is very cheap like ikea, home depot, lowes etc. If thermo foil and melamine are made in the USA they are of the highest quality and can easily be replace)

Generally speaking, thermo is highly resistant to damage. However, if your thermofoil cabinets do get cut or scratched to the point where the material underneath is exposed, it's almost impossible to repair. (however the thermo foil and melamine from china is very cheap like ikea, home depot, lowes etc. If thermo foil and melamine are made in the USA they are of the highest quality and can easily be replace)

Thermo foil/Melamine is a type 7 plastic meaning it cannot be recycled in traditional methods.

It can be ground down and used with other plastics.

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If you are looking for more design freedom with an affordable material, Thermo foil/Melamine is your answer. 

It is easy to keep clean and it retains the color and finish because it is resistant to water, scuff marks and stains.

A uniform finish makes Thermo foil/Melamine a great choice for a Modern Minimalist design.

*Actual kitchen thermo foil of I & e cabinets


Source: Kitchen Learning Center