Finish Choices Explained

Claudia Veihl Marketing Director, Designer and CAD Developer at Connecticut Closet & Shelf.

June 2nd, 2016 No Comments

The lamination process is ever evolving and produces more and more high end, realistic looking finishes. Their advantages are ease of cleaning, scratch and wear resistance as well as affordability. In this short article we will explain different finishes and how they apply to closet systems.

Different melamine closet systems with thermafoil or solid wood drawers shown in shaker and classic style (Color: Maple, Ivory and Summerflame)


A paper, impregnated with resins (colored or wood grain), gets fused to a core (usually particle board or MDF) thus resulting in a permanent bond between the surface treatment and the core substrate. Laminate comes in numerous colors, wood grain finishes and wood grain textures. It is easily cleaned, scratch and wear resistant. There are two different types of laminates: High-Pressure (HPL) and Low-Pressure (LPL) also commonly referred to as melamine. The main difference is how the melamine laminate gets attached to the substrate panel. In HPL the melamine gets fused to the panel with a lot more pressure and at higher temperatures. This will result in a more durable but pricier product. If you are installing furniture and cabinets for a lab, commercial kitchen or medical facility melamine high-pressure laminate may be the way to go otherwise LPL laminate (melamine) will suffice for most other applications.

door colors

Thermafoil laminate doors. Bottom row, middle door is the only solid wood door in white maple.


Melamine is the common term for a low-pressure laminate that is applied to a core board, usually particleboard, as seen below, or MDF. It is highly durable, scratch and wear resistant and easily cleaned and one of the best choices for closet panels.



Thermafoil is a thin vinyl film that gets shaped over a substrate to create a seamless, very durable finish. It comes in numerous colors and wood finishes.

All of our door and drawer fronts consist of MDF with a thermafoil finish unless a customer specifies real wood fronts. The following are all thermafoil door styles in Ivory or Froth of Sea (white):

600by450 thermafoil door styles

In the following pictures you can see the difference between a 5 Piece Construction Shaker door (thermafoil), a solid wood shaker door, and a thermafoil shaker door. All three show realistic wood patterns but the 5 Piece Construction door resembles a wooden door construction more realistically.

shaker door construction

Our Experiences:

Over time we have seen a shift from wood veneered closets with wooden fronts to laminated closets.

In the past year we installed:

  • roughly 95% of laminated closets (melamine over particleboard)
  • less than 5% of MDF closets to be painted
  • and less than 1% of plywood veneer

For style selection we have seen a trend towards the more timeless and contemporary looking shaker fronts with the classic front still holding its own. The breakdown last year was along the lines of:

  • Classic roughly 40%
  • Shaker 36%
  • Slab 12%
  • Aimesbury and Cumberland 6% each

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