Painted Kitchen Cabinets

Using Melamine For Cabinets?

Stanley Walter Cabinet Materials, Custom Cabinets

    Over the years melamine has gotten a bad name in the cabinet industry as an option to use for cabinet interiors or even exteriors because of issues relating to water damage, strength or even general long term durability. The technological advancements in the manufacturing process have significantly increased the quality and durability of melamine and as a result many of the issues that have existed in the past are no longer such a cause for concern.

    With the development in recent years of thermally fused melamines where the melamine saturated paper is thermally fused directly onto the particle board substrate, many more options, colors and textures have become available to use as an option for your cabinets. Some of these melamine panels are directly imitating the texture and look of real wood and to the untrained eye it would be hard to see the difference between a high quality thermally fused melamine door, and an actual wood door. However, as we mentioned above because of the different issues that melamine has had in the past, some markets have been slower to adopt many of the new designs and textures that are available from the many different melamine manufacturers. From our perspective this is often because many people do not understand how much melamine has advanced as a stable and durable option in the past 5-10 years and how many of the issues that have existed in the past have been completely resolved or at the very least radically reduced.

    So what is melamine? On the most basic level the melamine that Netley Millwork uses is made of 100% recovered and recycled wood materials that are specifically selected depending on the market and location of the manufacturing plants to create high quality panels. Some melamine manufacturers will use more hardwood content in their core, and some manufacturers will use more softwood content. From our experience there is no clear difference in quality between the two options. Often times certain manufacturers, like those located in Canada will have more access to recycled hardwood wood materials, and therefore it is more economically feasible and environmentally responsible to manufacture their melamine panels with a higher hardwood content.

    The recycled wood materials are taken together with a proprietary resin formulation and pressed into a raw particle board panel. All the melamine panels that Netley Millwork uses in the our daily production adhere to CARB Phase 2 certification. CARB refers to California Air Resources Board, and is a department of the California Environmental Protection Agency. The Phase 2 certification refers to the regulation that came into effect in 2010 that mandates that all products that adhere to Phase 2 regulations have formaldehyde emissions at .09 ppm or lower. This is considered industry standard in North America, however with the influx of cheap import melamine, many of which do not adhere properly to the the Carb Phase 2 regulations, it is important to ask your cabinet supplier about the Carb Phase 2 certification and to make sure the cabinets you are getting are manufactured using Carb Phase 2 standards.

    After the particle board panel has been pressed together, a melamine paper is taken and thermally fused onto the particle board. This process has been perfected to the point where most high quality melamine panels available on the market have strict thickness and quality standards that they consistently meet. In recent years many new textures and styles have become available that imitate the look and feel of real wood at a much lower price point. Many of the issues that are brought up against melamine still exist, however by taking proper care of your cabinets most problems can be avoided.

    The high quality melamine that Netley Millwork uses in all our products has superior strength and durability and while not exactly waterproof, the recent addition of new technology that allows us to take advantage of PUR glue, considered a highly water resistant edgebanding glue, our melamine panels now have more water resistance than melamine panels that would be edgebanded used standard EVA edgebanding glue that many manufacturers still use. This can be tested by taking a panel that is glued properly using PUR glue and placing it into a tank of water. Even after a week of full exposure to the water, a properly edgebanded panel will show no signs of swelling or water damage.

    Our standard interior melamine options also offer superior screw holding strength and maintains a highly consistent moisture content that helps keep your cabinets from warping after they have been installed. The other issue that is often brought up is how easily melamine can chip. Often times excessive chipping will happen because of improper tooling or low-quality equipment being used during the manufacturing of your cabinets. The development of diamond tooling for cutting and edgebanding helps mitigate many of these issues.

    To summarize, many of the issues that have existed with melamine cabinets in the past can be avoided if the cabinets are built with proper equipment and resources.  That is why it is important to work with a cabinet manufacturer that has the proper tools, equipment and resources to help you avoid those problems.  Contact us today to start talking about your dream kitchen!

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