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. 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 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.

High Pressure Laminate 1

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 Melamine.

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 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 Melamine itself is poisonous, the Processed Melamine Resin used in woodworking is treated and safe to use in project construction.

The real strength of a 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 Melamine cabinets.

The Pros

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

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

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

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

Moisture Resistant - avoids the shrink/expand cycle of wood

Abrasion Resistant - Melamine is harder to scuff and scrape

Stain Resistant - 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 Melamine




The Cons

  • recycling - it's complicated
  • requires heavy-duty hinges and glides, is heavier than some alternatives.
  • susceptible to splintering during careless installation.
  • in the event of splintering, water damage is much greater than real wood cabinetry

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, 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 Melamine a great choice for a Modern Minimalist design.