Research: Thermofoil Cabinets

Problem:

Moderate-Use Kitchen areas in our Assisted Living projects.  The kitchens are not the main kitchen where almost everything needs to be stainless steel.  Rather, the kitchens are in our Community Room and Memory Care Dining where we don't cook full meals.  These kitchens need to look residential, not commercial, and they see a fair bit of use.  We have had problems specifically with steam from the dishwasher as well as aggressive cleaning products that attack the varnish of the cabinets.

Potential Solution: We have seen Thermofoil cabinets used in similar applications.  When we contacted the manufacturer they recommended Thermofoil for the application we described (above).  So we requested product samples.  As soon as they arrived we went to town on them.  Here is the unscientific process we applied...

Process:

  1. We 'keyed' a cabinet panel.  We attacked an edge and eroded the finish to expose a small sliver of the MDF beneath.  We also gave a pretty good scratching to the center of the panel.

  2. We decided to run it through a cycle in our dishwasher.  Admittedly, it isn't completely fair to put it through that kind of drubbing.  However, we reasoned that if it came out in good shape, we would feel highly confident in the product.

Observations:

  1. Not good.

  2. The MDF absorbed water and puffed up to almost twice its' original thickness.

  3. Interestingly, the affected areas were not limited to our scratches.  The product failed badly at almost all the edges.

  4. The scratches we applied to the center of the panel did not show any puffing or damage from the wash cycle.

Conclusions:

  1. Mixed.

  2. We expected failure at the entry points we created with the key.  And it did fail along those edges.

  3. However, the product also failed at virtually all of the other edges.  This is disconcerting.

  4. While the test was not entirely fair, we do believe that the cabinets near wet areas would eventually fail in much the same way as our test panel.

  5. Unfortunately we don't feel confident that this product will solve the problem.  In cooperation with our client we plan to specify it on one project and monitor performance.  But we will continue to search for a better solution.