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ks-man 06-25-2012 07:46 PM

Cabinets/furniture for playroom
 
We are looking to have a built in cabinets installed in a play area with shelving for our kids. I'm getting a couple of quotes and within them a couple of different options. We are looking to have the furniture done in white.

Mainly I'm trying to understand the differences between birch wood and thermofoil. From some quick reading it sounds like thermofoil isn't necessary lower quality than true wood. Is that correct? I just naturally assumed that something done in birch should be more expensive and better and thermofoil would be a way to go to save money.

Also, a friend asked if this would be birch plywood. Does plywood mean just wood on the outside vs. wood throughout? Are cabinets naturally done with plywood? Should I be asking something with regards to this when getting a quote?

As you can probably tell from my post I'm not very knowledgeable in this area and just trying to gather information to best evaluate the options that come our way. Thanks for the help.

Millertyme 06-25-2012 08:29 PM

Plywood is made of multiple layers of wood that are glued perpendicular to each other. It is then veneered with a finish layer of wood of choice. This makes for a very strong, stable substrate. Thermofoil, I think is the same as MDF, which is made of compressed wood fibers. Built ins are often made of this. It is a little cheaper. It paints very well, better than plywood. Both would be good for builtins.

joecaption 06-25-2012 08:36 PM

Thermofoil is what they use on the cheapest cabinets you can buy. It's a plastic film applyed to MDF or partical board.
Birch would be real wood. Even if was Birch faced plywood it would be better then thermofoil.
Birch can be sanded and stained or painted. Thermofoil would be a real challange to get paint to stick to later on if you want to change the look.

Why custom cabinets? There's dozen of places on line and all the box stores selling these low end cabinets.

oh'mike 06-25-2012 08:42 PM

Thermo foil= a thin plastic coating over medium density fiber board (compressed paper fibers)

Nice because this is easy to clean--bad because the plastic coating can crack and peal when it gets old or is hit by something like a hard toy. Not easily repairable--almost impossible to paint. weak joints--it's just paper fibers and glue--

Solid wood---Birch---typically used for cabinet fronts and structural parts--seldom is solid wood used throughout a cabinet--while that would be nice--the cost would be to much for most peoples budget.

Birch plywood---layers of real wood sandwiched together with glue---birch used as the show layer.

Good cabinets are built of birch ply---strong ---good fastening ability----easy to paint--and repair if they are ever abused by the kids--

If the prices are similar--I would go for the birch ply cabinets---Thermo foil cabinets should be considered short term, disposable furniture.( in my opinion)

oh'mike 06-25-2012 08:43 PM

Joe types faster---and he's right--

joecaption 06-25-2012 08:47 PM

Thermofoil is what they use on the cheapest cabinets you can buy. It's a plastic film applyed to MDF or partical board.
Birch would be real wood. Even if was Birch faced plywood it would be better then thermofoil.
Birch can be sanded and stained or painted. Thermofoil would be a real challange to get paint to stick to later on if you want to change the look.

Why custom cabinets? There's dozen of places on line and all the box stores are selling these low end cabinets.
Ikea even has a 3D design program for free.

oh'mike 06-25-2012 08:48 PM

Joe--I build custom cabinets (every now and then)---custom built is often the best choice to end up with wood work that perfectly fits and area and fits the customers needs---

Sometimes a person just wants something special-----Mike----

oh'mike 06-25-2012 08:51 PM

If you say the same thing three times I will jump up and down and scream---

ks-man 06-25-2012 09:06 PM

I'm definitely only interested in custom. I'm not very handy and I also want it to look like it was supposed to go in the space. We're dealing with about 15 feet across the wall so it's a pretty significant area.

Just curious about the comment "selling these low end cabinets". Are you saying low end b/c I was asking about thermofoil or even based on birch wood? Essentially where I am right now is receiving quotes from the custom builders and I want to make sure I'm comparing apples to apples. One guy mentioned the cabinets would be birch wood and the other said birch plywood. I just assumed that those are the same but am now wondering. Do I need to clarify that?

I haven't received all of the pricing back. The guy who mentioned thermofoil did say he would price it out both ways but I didn't get the sense from him that thermofoil was a much lower end way to go. He actually spoke very highly of it for a playroom type area saying it was very hard to chip and should hold up well vs. painted wood that would show signs of wear pretty quickly. I'm curious if you would agree with that assessment. Even if it is true though, from further reading it sounds like with wood it could always be re-sanded and painted if needed which would be more of an issue with thermofoil, correct?

oh'mike 06-25-2012 09:44 PM

Very few cabinet makers actually build their own doors--so both custom shops may be talking about similar construction for the 'boxes' --Birch ply for the case work and shelves--solid birch (or poplar) for the face frames--

One is suggesting real wood doors--primed and painted---the other suggesting the much cheaper thermo foil doors.

The thermo foil doors will be easier to maintain --until the hit 8 to 10 years--at which point the plastic coating gets brittle --splits and peals--

I'm a wood worker and like to build with real wood--so I might be prejudiced against plastic coated paper fibers---Yep--Mike---

goosebarry 06-26-2012 01:58 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by joecaption (Post 951596)
Thermofoil is what they use on the cheapest cabinets you can buy. It's a plastic film applyed to MDF or partical board.
Birch would be real wood. Even if was Birch faced plywood it would be better then thermofoil.
Birch can be sanded and stained or painted. Thermofoil would be a real challange to get paint to stick to later on if you want to change the look.

Why custom cabinets? There's dozen of places on line and all the box stores are selling these low end cabinets.
Ikea even has a 3D design program for free.

I can't believe I'm going to defend something I don't like. You will use see a lot of cheap schlock cabinets from China use Thermofoil for white cabinet doors. You will also see Thermofoil used in some expensive American made white cabinet doors. What makes them cheap vs expensive has more to do with the quality of the other components in the cabinet, but also the thickness of the Thermofoil. It is like comparing a sandwich bag to a freezer bag, same material but one is obviously better quality (and more expensive). Go to home depot and compare the Thermofoil doors on the custom cabinets to the CaC cabinets.

As the name implies Thermofoil is the heat and vacumn sealing of vinyl completely around the doors and drawers. It is used for doors and drawers because it is more durable then white paint. It is not used for carcasses. The carcasses will probably be melamine (glued plastic laminate) over plywood (good), MDF (good) or particleboard (avoid). They may also be painted.

I said I didn't like Thermofoil. Primarily because I don't like white cabinets (Thermofoil is available in other colors now). It is stain resistant, but because the doors and carcasses are different material, even though they were color matched they tend to age to different colors. Most importantly, you can't paint or refinish Thermofoil.

For the OP, I would recommend for a kid's room you use birch plywood carcasses with paint grade solid wood stiles and panels. That way as they grow up, and their tastes change, the cabinets can be repainted. The cabinets in my room started baby blue, then army green, then Batman, then Hair, then Yes and Roger Dean, and finally black and orange.

goosebarry 06-26-2012 02:11 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ks-man (Post 951617)
I'm definitely only interested in custom. I'm not very handy and I also want it to look like it was supposed to go in the space. We're dealing with about 15 feet across the wall so it's a pretty significant area.

Just curious about the comment "selling these low end cabinets". Are you saying low end b/c I was asking about thermofoil or even based on birch wood? Essentially where I am right now is receiving quotes from the custom builders and I want to make sure I'm comparing apples to apples. One guy mentioned the cabinets would be birch wood and the other said birch plywood. I just assumed that those are the same but am now wondering. Do I need to clarify that?

I haven't received all of the pricing back. The guy who mentioned thermofoil did say he would price it out both ways but I didn't get the sense from him that thermofoil was a much lower end way to go. He actually spoke very highly of it for a playroom type area saying it was very hard to chip and should hold up well vs. painted wood that would show signs of wear pretty quickly. I'm curious if you would agree with that assessment. Even if it is true though, from further reading it sounds like with wood it could always be re-sanded and painted if needed which would be more of an issue with thermofoil, correct?

You should get samples of the material they plan to use and if possible cut away so you can see what they are really made of. The quality of plywood, MDF and even real wood varies. A good quality MDF is better than poor quality plywood. Be careful "solid wood" is not a regulated phrase. Most people think solid wood includes real wood and plywood, but many cheap cabinet makers also include MDF and partcleboard because thet are made of wood fibers.

ks-man 06-26-2012 11:51 AM

I heard back from the second individual I spoke with and he quoted it two ways. The first was with "shaker style rtf ( vinyl) door with melamine exterior to match" and the second was "include a painted exterior on all exposed surfaces" I'm not fully sure what all this means but am trying to read up.

The quote from the first individual was birch wood painted white.

Both my wife and I were more impressed with the person quoting it with the synthetic. We really liked both but that guy walked us through the details thoroughly and made a lot of design recommendations that made a lot of sense. He also just seemed a bit more professional and provided a scaled computer drawing. Both came with high recommendations. That said, his pricing with thermofoil/rtf door isn't cheaper than the guy pricing it all with birch wood.

So I'm kind of left in the situation if we should go with the builder that we felt more impressed with and pay the same money (or more) for a lower quality material or with the other guy who also was highly recommended but we didn't get the same vibes from so we get the better quality product (wood).

Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

woody4249 06-26-2012 12:35 PM

Having manufactured custom cabinets for over 40 years, there are some things more important then others.
CABINET INTERIOR
Under "normal use" circumstances particleboard with a melamine finish is good for cabinet interiors.
If they are to be used for heavy items like books, or in contact with moisture / water then they are not practical.
A good quality furniture grade plywood like birch or Maple would hold up better under high use situations.
EUROPEAN v FACE FRAME CONST
This is a design feature depending your taste. Face frames should be solid wood like Birch, Maple, Poplar or Alder when painted
DOORS
A good thermofoil door is usually over MDF, check the foil thickness
A poor thermofoil door is usually over particleboard and defect telegraph through
A poor painted
door like a solid wood raised panel will be lacquer based paint
A good painted door
like a solid wood raised panel will be a conversion varnish [or conversion lacquer]
HARDWARE
A good hinge would be a 170 degree opening concealed self closing like Blum or Grass
A poor hinge would be a 95 degree opening concealed self closing of some obscure mfr or even worse a Youngs Y5
A good drawer slide would be a Full extension 100 LB or better like Accuride or Diamond or KV
A poor slide would be a Fisher price or an off brand
DRAW BOXES
A good box would be 1/2" or better birch or maple plywood with dowel construction
A poor box would be particleboard nailed together
CABINET BACKS
A good back is a 1/4" thick dado into all cabinet sides
A poor back is nailed onto the back of the cabinet

CONSTRUCTION
A poor construction is a butt joint stapled or nailed together cabinet box
A good construction is a dado, biscuit or dowel construction If uncertain of their terminology in their written specifications ask for a sample.
Ask if they are manufactured to AWI standards
American Woodwork Institute
Remember that you generally only get what you pay for.
Hope this helps
Mike


ks-man 06-26-2012 07:12 PM

Thanks for the help.

I got clarification on the language in the second quote (which was quoted two ways). Both have a white melamine interior but one quote has an exterior which matches the interior (thermafoil) and the second way is with a painted birch exterior with painted birch doors. I think this method is similar to my first quote that was quoted as birch wood.

I'm pretty sure most cabinetry isn't made with real wood on the inside.


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