Laminate on One Face of Melamine

A debate over whether it's okay to apply laminate to just one face of a melamine panel for cabinets and cabinet doors. March 26, 2009

I have a job coming up that requires me to copy some existing cabinets. The cabinets seem to be built from white melamine with a laminate on the outside only. Am I asking for problems by doing this, these cabinets seem to have held up as they are many years old. I expected the doors to be laminated on both sides but when I opened one of them I was surprises to find the melamine surface. Can I just order a one face melamine and laminate the other?

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surfacing Forum)
From contributor K:
Yes, you can order melamine G1S it comes with a glueable surface that you should scuff or just scuff the G2S with some 60 or 80grit. As long as you use contact cement you will not have warpage. This is a very common practice, don't be scared. You will be fine.

From contributor R:
If you are laminating a finished end that is attached to the cabinet you may be fine, although we don't even do this - if you are making doors and drawer fronts you are asking for trouble. What you are doing is creating an unbalanced panel, which is more or less likely to cup and warp depending on the climate where you fabricate and the climate of the building you are installing in.

Here in New Mexico, where it is very dry, this is still being done by some shops and we did it for years with relatively few problems, but it doesn't meet AWI custom grade so we changed to balanced panels- also because we work in different parts of the country. We recently lost a project in Nebraska by about $30,000 - the low bidder installed casework with melamine backs and laminate fronts and every door cupped. I found the contractor someone to help him fix the problem and it cost the him a little more than the $30,000 he could have paid me. So you can get away with it, but you might not. It's better to make a balanced panel with color on one side and a white or almond to match the melamine on the other. If there is any quantity involved you can find someone to lay it up for you, often for the same or less than you would pay for the materials.

From contributor K:
Yes, you will create an unbalanced surface but if it is melamine with 1/32 lam it will not warp and if it does it will be so minimal that no one will no. We did this for years on thousands of project's with no problems. I live in a very humid place and if it works here I think that it will work anywhere. It is better to build balanced panels, but like I said no problems ever.

From contributor D:
We have been laminating the face of two sided melamine for doors and drawer fronts for 20 years with no problems. Our shop is in Florida so it is a very humid climate. Be sure to scuff the surface with a belt sander or run them through a wide belt before laminating.

From contributor J:
If you had trouble with cupping then either the substrate wasn't sanded or not enough glue was used. As long as the substrate is sanded and an even coat of contact adhesive is used there shouldn't be any issues.