So I wanted to test removing and painting thermofoil cabinets for a few clients. You may or may not know about Thermofoil cabinets. Basically they are MDF boards with a hard plastic-ish wrap that is sealed with heat during manufacturing - thus "thermo" "foil." The main problem with thermofoil cabinets is that overtime the wrap can peel and expose the not so moisture resistant MDF. What can happen next is a disaster. MDF that comes in contact with moisture can expand or bubble. Once that happens - the integrity of the door is gone.
Back to my mission - to see if I could successfully remove the thermofoil wrap and paint the MDF board. My journey started by picking up a sample board - (insert plug for my fave store - Habitat for Humanity Restore).
Then I used a razor along the edge to start the peeling process.
I didn't get too far with the razor because there is a bit of adhesive between the wrap and the MDF. So I busted out the heat gun (I assume a high powered hair dryer would work as well).
What I found is that you have to work in small sections - heat gun, let it cool down a bit (or maybe wear heat resistant gloves), then peel until you start to feel the tug of the adhesive stuck on the board. Then repeat. It's pretty cool because you can actually watch the wrap bubble as the heat gun removes the bond between the adhesive and the wrap.
Eventually, and by eventually I mean an hour or so later - I had removed the wrap from the front of the door. What I discovered was not pretty. When I was carefully peeling the wrap - there were still spots where the adhesive was still bonded to the wrap. The result was missing pieces of the MDF! Now it was only a few small spots but, enough that I was not happy. The second thing I wasn't happy with was a good portion of the adhesive was still on the MDF. Remember when I said that MDF doesn't like moisture? Well that makes it tricky to remove the sticky grossness! Lastly, the MDF just felt cheap and vulnerable.
The verdict - I wouldn't recommend removing the thermofoil and painting the MDF board for your kitchen cabinets. Yes, if you paint the MDF you will seal it but, its your kitchen...I think about all of the cooking, the steam, the spills, the dogs, the little ones, the soda, the juices, eeeeeeek! It could be a disaster.
If you have thermofoil cabinet doors that ARE peeling - my suggestion is that we talk about ordering new unfinished doors. It is not as expensive as you think!
If you have thermofoil cabinet doors that are NOT peeling - you are lucky AND we can totally paint them.
This is my opinion and my experience. I am a cautious person and consider longevity in our final product. Big hugs and a bottle (or two of wine) if you decide to take on the peeling thermofoil challenge.
I am Ashley Hall - Owner/Designer of Lexie and the Chi. Every single day is an adventure. My husband and I often feel like we should SO have our own reality show. Since we do not have a camera crew following us around - this blog will have to do. The good, the bad and the sometimes really ugly. :)