Although laminate closet doors are almost the cheapest selection for your closets, they are far from the lowest quality. When we talk from a durability point of view, I think high pressure plastic laminate doors are the most durable of all.
I have now been in the kitchen furniture manufacturing business for many years and have owned several companies related to the industry. I have seen many old Formica cabinets that were in excellent condition. I have also seen some that were not in such good condition. As with anything else, when something is properly maintained, it is possible for something to “last a lifetime.”
Laminate doors will last thirty to fifty years. The only thing that is required of the owners is that they clean them regularly. Formica doors are easily cleaned with Windex, Formula 409 or simply a damp cloth.
If you are considering having Formica in your kitchen or bathroom, I suggest you select white or off-white for the color. Over the years, these two colors have long withstood the ever-changing trends in kitchen cabinets. Many different shades and patterns of laminate are discontinued each year, but white remains in the color chip chains of all vendors.
Now it is important that you DO NOT confuse Formica laminate doors with Thermofoil doors. Thermofoil raised panel doors will NOT last as long as hard shell high pressure laminated plastic doors.
The two things that have a negative effect on Formica plastic laminate doors are the way they are manufactured and cared for. If the manufacturer did not use enough glue on the doors, you will experience problems. In my expert opinion, this only happens once in ten thousand kitchens.
It is important to understand the difference between a melamine door and a plastic laminate door. Melamine is actually applied to the center board by the people who make it. Formica laminate is applied by the people who build your kitchen. Melamine is NOT as durable as laminate; it is thinner and is not available in as many colors as Formica.
Here are some cabinet door styles listed from cheapest to most expensive:
- Plastic laminated doors
- Real wood
Here is a list of closet door styles, from lowest to highest quality.:
- Real wood
The way laminate doors are made is that the plastic sheet is purchased separately from the dash. The board is cut to the correct size for the cabinet doors and then the plastic is cut a little larger. The laminated edges of the door are glued first. The front and rear of the doors are then covered with Formica. Contact glue is used as the adhesive and routers are what trim the laminate flush with the edges of the door. Cabinetmakers use a file to smooth sharp edges. Any access contact adhesive is cleaned with lacquer thinner.
Kitchen cabinet doors are laminated with “vertical” or VT grade plastic. This is the thinner of the two options. The countertops are made of thicker plastic which is called “standard” thickness. The VT is generally thirty seconds thick of an inch and the standard is one sixteenth of an inch.
If you are considering buying Formica plastic laminate doors for your kitchen or bathroom, ask your cabinetmaker if they can be three-quarters of an inch thick. Five-eighths thick laminate doors are durable and hold up well, but the thicker option will last longer in the long run.