Beautiful wood will always be popular, but the rising cost of solid wood cabinets is becoming more and more of a problem. This is one reason wood is showing up less often in new Canadian homes, even though homeowners want wood more than ever. The challenge is getting the look of wood in a way that’s also financially attainable, environmentally sound and practically efficient, and a technology called wrapped laminate profiles can help. Even though I’m a hard-core wood guy, I’m impressed. Let me show you why, then you decide if wrapped laminate cabinet doors and drawer faces make sense for your next kitchen or bathroom.
Wrapped laminate technology allows amazingly authentic wood grain reproductions of cherry, walnut, mahogany and dozens of other luxurious hardwoods to be applied to kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors and drawer faces at the factory. Even though I’ve worked professionally with wood for more than 25 years, I can’t tell the difference between wrapped laminate doors and drawers and real wood without looking from several inches away. Besides good looks, good value is the main reason homeowners consider wrapped laminates. Some homeowners find they can even pay for a granite countertop with the money they save moving from a solid wood kitchen to a wrapped laminate alternative that looks at least as attractive. And it’s not just a matter of appearance, either. The best wrapped laminate products also have woodgrain textures, so they have the rich feel of fine hardwoods.
According to my research over the last four years, Olon Industries (www.olon.ca) offers the widest variety of wrapped laminate products in Canada. Their NEXGEN doors and drawer faces are used by kitchen and bathroom cabinet manufacturers and trim shops across North America. One reason these are popular is the way species and colours are made to match the prefinished sheet goods used by cabinetmakers to build kitchens and bathrooms. It’s one thing to have a decent looking set of doors or drawers, but that’s not much good if those doors don’t exactly match the rest of the kitchen.
Besides lower cost, greater durability is another reason wrapped laminate kitchens are taking off. One recurring problem with solid wood kitchen cabinets, for instance, is the way wood gets discoloured with grease and oil around door and drawer knobs. It’s a widespread issue and virtually impossible to fix without complete refinishing. Wrapped laminate doors and drawers are completely impervious to staining like this, and their durability goes beyond just grease resistance.
It’s actually quite difficult to harm wrapped laminate profiles. I know because I’ve tried. Car keys, a screw driver or even a letter opener didn’t make a mark on the surface of NEXGEN doors during my tests, even if your rub fairly hard. Most kitchen cabinet manufacturers offer a five year warranty on these doors and drawers, which is much longer than you’ll find with wood. Materials for making these doors can also be specified as certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council, and offered with built-in anti-bacterial properties. If you’re concerned about indoor air quality, NEXGEN doors and drawers have super-tight corner joints, so there’s no chance for off-gassing of formaldehyde from the MDF inner core, as verified by independent testing.
From everything I’ve seen, wrapped laminate kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and trim have all the features that will let them take off. That’s already happening in Quebec where about one-third of new kitchen cabinets now use wrapped laminate doors and drawer faces instead of solid wood. For those who can pay the price, solid wood will continue to go into the fanciest kitchens. But for the majority of us, it looks to me like something new and better is about to become mainstream.