Jul 25, 2015
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Plywood Construction for Cabinets, is it Better?

What’s the difference? Does it really matter if cabinets are constructed using melamine or plywood? Here are the facts pertaining to melamine:

    1. The way it looks. When I show a customer a veneered piece of plywood vs. a piece of melamine for cabinet construction, 9 times out of 10, after looking at the depth, construction, and strength of the plywood, they are more inclined to ask for the plywood constructed cabinets than the melamine.
    1. When it gets wet or damp, it swells and comes apart! Does this make any sense? Kitchen, bathroom, and laundry cabinets are in wet areas. I can’t count the number of customers who have asked me why their melamine cabinets smell musty, are disintegrating, moldy, and the doors and drawers no longer close properly – “We just had them installed a few years ago” they tell me.
    1. Traditional melamine is really heavy.
    1. Light-weight melamine is ridiculous! It breaks, chips really easily, splinters, de-laminates, can’t hold a screw or nail, and is so thin, I can’t figure out how they can even make something with a veneer the thickness of paper! The melamine substrate looks like stained cardboard.
    1. Will not hold a screw for long (even confirmats), especially after the customer starts opening the doors. A few months down the road – they fall off! For example, I recently disassembled a melamine kitchen that was only a few years old that was built using glued and stapled 3/4″ material from one of those big box home improvement retailers. With only a hammer, it only took 10-15 minutes to knock down about 12 cabinets. They literally fell apart with a couple of blows. I removed the doors by simply pulling on them with one hand… I merely ripped the doors and hinges off in a single motion.
    1. It smells!
    1. Chips easily when cutting if the blade is not sharp all the time.
    1. Difficult to work with.
    1. The ends use edge-band – basically melamine strips with glue on them that are affixed to cover the particle board (saw dust) between the melamine sheets using heat.
    1. De-lamination issues. The melamine separates from the particle board that’s between the melamine sheets.
    1. Surface breaks when using screws.
    1. Sub-materials degrade over time (joints loosen).
    1. Hinges loosen easier over time (door sags).
    1. Will not hold moldings well without glue or nailers.
  1. Cheap (both ways).

Choosing melamine cabinets or plywood cabinets is really a choice that is up to you. There are pros and cons to each of these materials. After reviewing the summary below of the pros and cons of each material, you can then make a decision on what to use for your cabinets.


Although melamine may be strong enough to do your cabinets, plywood tends to be stronger. This in turn makes your cabinets withstand more.


Hinges tend to break away a lot sooner using melamine cabinet’s verses plywood cabinets.


Drawers also tend to break away using melamine cabinet’s verses plywood cabinets. See Screws below.


Melamine doesn’t hold screws as well as plywood, and tend to chip away when screwing one in.


Plywood is more expensive than melamine.


Melamine wipes down very easy. Plywood is a bit harder to clean.


Plywood must be finished by a varnish, paint, or stain – of your choice. Melamine comes pre-finished in a variety of colors.

Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD’s Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation contractor, http://www.dadsconstruction.com.

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Jul 19, 2015
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Replacing Thermofoil Cabinet Doors

I am a professional cabinet maker. For the past eight years I have carved a niche in the area of repairs and alterations to kitchens and baths. Among the many request for repairs which I receive, replacing thermofoil cabinet doors is high on the list. First let me say that there are two other popular terms used to describe this style of door, MDF and vinyl wrap. There are usually two types of damage that are the most common with this type of door. The vinyl peels away from the board due to excessive heat or the plastic coating begins to loosen because the manufacture didn’t get enough glue on the surfaces of the board when the doors were being made. In both of these cases, the doors are usually beyond repair and must be replaced. Here’s the problem though, many customers have no idea where the actual doors came from. There are literally hundreds of MDF door manufacturing companies scattered throughout the United States and Canada. So, here’s what I do to get around this minor set back. Most of the time if I remove a vinyl wrapped drawer front from the drawer and look on the back side of it, there’s a sticker on it. This label will have the companies name, date of production, door style and color codes on it. Once we have this information we then contact the company to find out if the doors are still under warranty. Some MDF manufactures offer a five year guarantee against discoloration and de-lamination. Please note, heat damaged doors will not be covered with the guarantee. The next step is to request a catalog and color samples. Once these materials arrive we are then able to identify the door style, match the color and order the replacement parts.

Tips for protecting your thermofoil doors against heat damage:

1) Remove the drawers and doors that are next to your oven when you are using the self cleaning feature. When cleaning is in process there is a small amount of extreme heat that escapes through the edges of the oven door. This will melt the plastic and cause it to shrink and curl.
2) Avoid placing deep fryers directly underneath of the upper cabinet doors. Here again the heat will affect the edges.
3) Either pull or push toaster ovens away from the door edges so that the rising heat does not cause any damage to the doors.

A few words about the warranty coverage on thermofoil cabinet doors.

It’s important to know that even though your doors may be replaceable at no cost from the manufacture, you will still have to pay a professional cabinet man to make the exchange. Just as an example, if your cabinet man charges $50 per hour from start to finish the cost of 21′ of uppers and 21′ of base cabinets should cost around five to six hundred dollars. The company who originally made the doors should cover all of the shipping costs. So if the cabinet man says you will have to pay for having the doors shipped, I suggest calling the company directly and finding out for yourself.

Hire A Professional

Replacing thermofoil doors should be done by a professional. So, “don’t try this at home.” If you hire someone to do the work for you, it will save you a lot of time and aggravation in the end. Professional cabinet men have special drilling machines and templates that allow them to produce excellent results when they are replacing MDF doors.

If you would like to learn more about thermofoil cabinet doors visit the Fix My Cabinet website. There’s a special section that is all about cabinet doors.

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Jul 11, 2015
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Adding Glass Adds Class to Cabinets

hey say that “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”. Given the view afforded the neighbors though, stones are the least of their worries. On the other hand, using glass in your cabinets is a worry-free way of adding class to custom wood doors. Homes that feature custom wood exterior doors already stand out from their neighbors thanks to the unique, distinctive look that only custom service can provide.

By incorporating glass with the custom approach in other areas such as the kitchen, your home will be much like the perfect partner: Beautiful inside and out.

Leave Them Wanting More

Depending on the look you desire, there are a number of ways to incorporate glass inserts with custom wood doors. Homeowners who want a sleek, modern feel for their kitchen may opt for fluted-glass in cabinet doors. The effect will be to partly obscure the items in the cabinet while still giving onlookers a good sense of what’s inside.

Again, the appeal is similar to that of your better half; fairly open and inviting with just enough mystery to keep you intrigued.

Frost in the Forecast

Another popular approach involves a row of frosted-glass panels in cabinets with custom wood doors. Kitchens that are quite narrow really open up when this type of glass is inserted in place of standard doors.

As an added bonus, the cabinet contents will be more blurred than with fluted glass, an advantage if you want to conceal the clutter or have a place to quickly stash unwashed pots when company drops in; it’s okay, everyone does it.

Welcome the World

Even if the all-glass house idea was ill-conceived, you can do the same thing on a smaller scale with custom wood doors. Buyers may wish to show off an exquisite assortment of dinnerware (after it’s washed, of course), and cabinets with clear glass fronts were made just for that purpose.

Make sure that cabinet handles and the pulls on drawers underneath are simple in design so as not to distract from the collection being showcased. Then sit back, absorb the compliments and be prepared with your modest reply: “Now that you mention it, I guess they are quite attractive. I never thought of that.”

Bring it Down and Lighten Up

Cabinets with bold colors can brighten up a kitchen and make a dramatic statement. But as the neighbor with the shelf full of baby pictures has shown, it’s easy to go overboard.

One way to tone it down in a vibrantly colored space is through strategic placement of cabinet glass inserts in custom wood doors. Designers understand this need for balance and can show you how to achieve it; now if only they could do something about those baby pictures.

Testing Patterns

Sometimes the best way to exceed expectations is to do the unexpected. For example, try affixing some patterned wallpaper behind glass-front cabinets with custom wood doors. Houses can enhance visual interest this way and add a punch of personality to any space. Because the choice of patterns is virtually unlimited, you can easily find one to fit your style.

As with bright colors though, don’t overdo it or you’ll be underwhelmed by the reviews.

Including glass in your cabinet doors opens up a world of possibilities. How you do it will hinge on your specific tastes and the look you’re going for. Whatever route you take, rest assured that you’ll add a touch of class in the process. And as for those people who choose to live in glass houses, they’re clearly in a class by themselves.

Ramp up the “wow” factor with custom wood doors.

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