You Can Glue Thermofoil Back on MDF Cabinets

Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets
Thermofoil Kitchen Cabinets. Getty / Per Magnus Persson

Cabinets with thermofoil facing are a mixed blessing. The good part of that blessing happens when you are standing at the cash register in the home improvement store or ordering them online at an RTA store: thermofoil cabinets are the least expensive you can buy.

The bad part is when you are "blessed" with thermofoil peeling off of the medium-density fiberboard (MDF) later on down the road.

Are you stuck with these cabinets?

Why is this happening in the first place?

Prime Areas Where This Happens

Whenever you have a laminated or veneered material, you run the risk of it delaminating. Thermofoil cabinets especially are prone to delamination.

Woodworkers and cabinet installers report that thermofoil will often delaminate above coffee makers, toasters, toaster ovens, and convection ovens.

Heat, moisture, and a combination of the two loosen the bond between the thermofoil and the MDF.

Are Your Cabinets Too Far Gone?

If this is a spot repair in places like this, then proceed with the repair. But if this is a kitchen-wide problem, you should consider replacing your cabinets entirely or installing new doors.

If your base MDF itself is bulging or anything other than completely flat and smooth, you cannot re-glue. Warped MDF cannot be sanded down or planed. If this is the case, your best bet is to purchase new cabinet doors.

How To Do It

You can re-affix thermofoil. As long the MDF core is smooth, flat, and not itself bulging out, then you have a proper surface to glue the thermofoil back onto.

  • Purchase a contact cement intended for home repair use (DAP/Weldwood Contact Cement is one such brand) from your local home improvement or hardware store. A little contact cement goes a long ways.
  • Have a helper hold the peeling thermofoil away from the MDF while you apply the contact cement to both surfaces. Yes, you need to coat both the back of the thermofoil and the top of the MDF. The cement instructions will specify how long you must wait until pressing the two together, but it's usually about ten minutes.
  • Press the two materials together.
  • Hold firmly in place for about an hour. I like to sandwich the work between two flat pieces of scrap board, held in place with woodworker's clamps.