P-lam Cabinet Door Backs

Construction considerations when backing cabinet doors with plastic laminate to match cabinet interiors. March 20, 2006

We don't usually do commercial laminate work, but have one to do this month. Boxes are white melamine. Does anyone out there make the back of the laminate door match the cabinet interior? To me, it kind of makes sense. After all, you aren't really going to see the backside of the door until you open it and then you will see a white interior, so why not make the back of the door match? The process would be to cut 1 sided melamine to door sizes, band edges with PVC, apply laminate to face of door. What do you think?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
Makes sense to me. Practical and efficient, time/material saving.

From contributor H:
What are the specs for this project? If doors are more than 30" high and you apply laminate to one side only, they will warp over time. If you apply a PVC edge first and then laminate, you risk cutting into the thin PVC layer when you trim the laminate face. If you are going to go that route, have the sheets laid up with the laminate, then cut to size and edgeband. Many commercial jobs require a matching laminate edge or a 3mm PVC edge, not thin PVC.

From contributor L:
This has been covered before, but the front and back of a door should be laminated with the same thickness and the same orientation (as it was in the sheet.) This is to provide balance and keep away from oil can doors later. Specs will govern edge treatment but lacking any, we use 2mm PVC in a matching color. Lay up the laminated panels in full sheets and cut them out on the panel saw, then band. I'd never use .5mm banding if I could avoid it, as it's not durable enough for commercial work.

From contributor A:
Where do you find 2mm PVC? We buy our PVC from Louis & Company and they only stock about 12 colors in the thicker bandings.

From contributor H:
Charter Industries carries all types of edgebanding, including 2mm PVC. Colours are limited, though.

From contributor M:
I don't think there is any problem with the thin PVC edgebanding on commercial work. I have used it for 20 years and have never had a callback. However, my work is generally in offices rather than stores or restaurants where there can be a lot more abuse. I have found it much easier over the years to cut the pre-laminated panels and then apply the edgebanding after. You get no overspray from the face laminate glue onto the edgebanding, and you eliminate the black line showing at the edge of the plastic laminate. Almost all plastic laminate colors and patterns are duplicated in PVC edgebanding.

From contributor P:
Cabinet doors with HPL on the front and LPL on the back will warp and almost certainly result in a callback. The simplest way to make decent looking laminate doors is lay up the back first with the same colour laminate on a good grade Canadian particleboard (I like Tafisa Tafipan), tape the edges with the same laminate and then lay up the front. This method keeps the core of the HPL oriented away from view when the door is shut. If you really want to go supersonic, I'd recommend taping the edges of the box with the same laminate as well.

I've probably made thousands of doors and drawer fronts using this method and haven't found an easier way to do it. The only alternative would be convincing the customer to use one of the stock Panval or Panolam colours and getting the matching tape from Canplast. Melamine-clad board is, of course, much more sensitive to chipping than p-lam, so you'll have a bit more difficulty over the aforementioned process if your shop isn't already set up to cut and fabricate LPLs.

From contributor L:
1, 2, or 3mm PVC produces a much more durable edge than PLAM! The edges and corners can be rounded over so they are more friendly to the body.

From contributor P:
Maybe so, but how much actual wear does that vulnerable edge of the cabinet door get? Seems minimal at best. Not all shops have the right bander for applying 3mm tape and doing an efficient job of it.

From contributor L:
We do mostly commercial interiors, offices, medical and retail and the doors and everything else get beat pretty hard. I've seen a lot of HPL band failures. There is a lot of difference in how well the banding is adhered to the edges, too. I'm not sure how much of it is due to poor machines, poor setup, or poor adhesive.

From contributor H:
There is a release agent that can be on the back of laminate sheets that stops it from adhering to the panels, even with a glue bander. It is best to prime the back of the sheets before stripping with contact cement. Spray it or roll it and let it dry well, then cut in strips and apply as usual.

From contributor P:
I've seen some HPL tape failures on older cabinets as well, typically due to inadequate contact adhesive application. I'd add that we use an edgebander to apply the tape. Never had a laminate door or cabinet edges fail on us. We often roll the edges of our doors with a postformer to soften the look and feel of the product. One other advantage to using HPL tape on your doors is that you don't end up with lots of half-used rolls of PVC tape lying around the shop for all eternity.