Are Melamine Cabinets Right for Your Home?

Jacqueline Zenn
Written by Jacqueline Zenn
Updated September 24, 2021
A couple talking in the kitchen while woman making coffee
Kentaroo Tryman/Maskot via Getty Images

Melamine cabinets are a popular choice due to their durability and variety of color options and styles

Get quotes from up to 3 pros!
Enter a zip below and get matched to top-rated pros near you.

When renovating a kitchen, bathroom, or storage area, new cabinets are one of the most important decisions you’ll make. That’s why melamine cabinets have become an increasingly popular option for homeowners, from durability to style. Learn what melamine cabinets are, and if they’re right for your home.

What Are Melamine Cabinets?

Melamine cabinets work well in the kitchen, bathroom, and more—but what exactly is the material? Melamine is a laminate that’s made by heat-sealing a substrate, such as pressed wood, medium-density fiberboard, plywood, or similar material between paper saturated with thermally fused melamine resin or TFM.

While melamine has a reputation as a dangerous material on its own, the resin used in cabinets and similar products is made from melamine that’s been chemically bonded with formaldehyde, resulting in larger and safer molecules. This means melamine is safe for use in cabinets and storage as well as for kitchen utensils and other products.

TFM paper can be printed with almost any color or pattern before being heat-bonded to the substrate material. Once attached, the melamine hardens to form a decorative surface that is scratch-resistant, colorfast, and highly durable. All of these characteristics make melamine cabinets a popular choice with homeowners and interior designers.

Melamine Cabinet Pros

Whether you’re looking for your kitchen or garage, you can put melamine cabinets in any room of your home. There are many reasons to choose melamine for your cabinets, from durability to style.

Range of Colors and Styles

Melamine is a popular material for cabinets since it can be crafted in virtually any color and print and customized to fit a variety of spaces. Melamine is available in a wide range of cabinetry styles and types, including framed or frameless cabinet variations, so you can easily find an option that fits your needs and aesthetic vision. 

From sleek blonde wood for a Scandinavian inspired look or all white and chrome for an ultra-modern feeling, you can match melamine cabinets to any style, personality, or vibe.

Longevity and Durability

Melamine can last for years or even decades if kept in good condition, and it’s also lower-maintenance than natural wood and less subject to swelling, splitting, or expanding due to moisture and weather conditions.

Since TFM or melamine cabinets have a printed paper surface, there is no end grain visible, which would be the case with genuine wood. Furthermore, no painting, staining, or other treatments are required, since the surface arrives printed and sealed from the outset.

Eco-Friendly

Another pro of melamine cabinetry is that it’s environmentally responsible since you can make sure the materials used in melamine cabinets come from sustainable-growth forests or recycled wood. It’s also easy to clean and requires little effort to maintain in most circumstances.

Melamine Cabinet Cons

While melamine cabinets offer lots of upsides, there are some less-than-positive aspects to consider before making your decision.

Potential for Damage

Melamine cabinets can absorb water, causing the underlying substrate to swell or change shape. If your cabinets are near the kitchen sink or wet bar, this can be problematic since damaged melamine can be tricky to repair. 

While melamine cabinets will not split like natural wood, they can shatter, or the edge of a melamine cabinet can break off and expose the rough wood inside. 

Some melamine cabinets do not hold screws or anchors particularly well, depending on the grade of the substrate material (the wood, fiberwood, or plywood) used. This results in cabinet hinges eventually loosening, which leads to sagging doors or doors coming off their hinges.

Weight

Lastly, melamine cabinetry is also typically heavier than alternative wooden options like genuine wood or plywood. This is something to consider if you’re planning on placing them above countertops or higher on the wall, or using them to store extremely heavy items.

Installing Melamine Cabinets

Melamine cabinets or any other new cabinetry can be installed as part of a new build or a complete kitchen renovation, or added on their own for a single-element refresh or upgrade. You can get pre-made melamine cabinets or have them customized to fit your space. 

While it’s possible to install melamine cabinets yourself, hiring a local cabinet contractor is often recommended to ensure you not only get the look you want, but also the proper installation. Modifications may be necessary that could be hard for a homeowner to install on their own if lacking DIY experience.

Repairing and Maintaining Melamine Cabinets

A close-up of a melamine kitchen cabinet
Julien McRoberts via Getty Images

While melamine is quite sturdy, it can still break or suffer damage. For example, the TFM top layer can start to peel off and need to be glued back into place or chip and need to be filled in with wood cavity filler, sanded down, and sealed. 

If there are small chips or scratches, you may be able to do the repair work yourself if you have the necessary tools and supplies. However, if your melamine cabinets suffer extensive damage, you will likely need to hire a contractor to repair or install new melamine cabinets. 

Dealing with swelling or otherwise damaged laminate and heavy cabinetry can be a complex project that requires heavy lifting and professional expertise.

Do Melamine Cabinets Add Value to Your Home?

Like nearly any other upgrade, new and improved kitchen cabinets can increase your property value and make your home more attractive to potential buyers. After all, the majority of home buyers consider the kitchen to be one of the most important rooms in the house. 

Accordingly, new melamine cabinets can be a big plus, particularly if you select a classic wood grain or another light neutral color that provides a blank slate for other design elements.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.