I build quite a few MDF cabinets painted with white lacquer. I am tired of having to paint inside the cabinets, and it is hard to get a real smooth finish inside unless we spend a lot of time sanding.
I am looking for a new way to finish the inside or maybe use some new materials, white or natural that are prefinished, to build the boxes out of so that I will only have to paint the doors, faces and finished ends.
I agree that painting an interior is a total and expensive pain. When somebody wants a finished cabinet interior, I'm using prefinished maple plywood about 95 percent of the time. It's cost-efficient, lightweight, strong, and can be roughed-up to take paint if necessary (I'm more often using applied, finished ends in unfinished maple or MDF.)
My other choice is to have vertical-grade laminate panels laid up, usually on plywood, though MDF works fine. Customers get a distinctive look, choice of any color in any laminate supplier's line, and a solid cabinet that'll take some abuse and still look great. I pay about $1.50/SF for the maple ply, and about $2.70/SF for two-sided, laid-up panels both a far cry from the $.70/SF for melamine, but panel material is a minor part of my total cost (it might add $600 to $700 to a kitchen that sells for $10k).
Designers and customers love the upgrade, and it's definitely improved the quality of both my product and clientele, since I'm not out there fighting for my share of the low-profit, low-end market.
The idea had been brewing for some time but became possible when our sheet supplier offered us prefinished birch ply. It changed our method of work completely. Previously, we built boxes with frames attached but without backs, hauled them to the booth for finishing, etc. After we began subing out the finish, we could assemble face frames and drawer boxes, and ship them to our finisher. If we outsourced the doors our supplier shipped them directly to the finisher as well.
While we waited for the return trip, we cut up, machined and bored case sides, backs, shelves. Assembling prefinished material was a bit tricky at first but we quickly became accustomed it.
My customers liked the prefinished interiors. They looked great whether used on natural jobs or painted ones. In fact, we got a few calls asking for painted kitchens with natural interiors from folks who saw our work elsewhere.
Michael Poster, forum moderator
Also, the prefinished material is about $50 a sheet, which will raise the price quite a bit. I think I am going to try painting a few cabinets with the backs off also. Thanks for the input.