What You Need to Know: Laminate Cabinets

The bare facts of custom-built laminate cabinetry straight from the industry experts

Updated on June 06, 2017 10:06 am



Article originally published in SquareRooms Issue 95 March 2013. Visit their website here.

Synonymous with custom-made cabinetry, laminates are pretty much the prime material in every home. Look into any household today and you would most probably find laminate kitchen cabinets, wardrobes, shelving and design features like pillars and wall coverings. To better understand the characteristics, variety and maintenance of laminate, we got a group of laminate experts to answer some common questions and share tips on the maintenance of the material.

Q: What is laminate?
High Pressure Laminate (HPL) is manufactured through fusing multiple layers of impregnated paper under high pressure and temperature to create a hard wearing, durable and hygienic surfacing material. It’s robust, hygienic, and offers countless design and application opportunities for a wide variety of environments. It can be used on vertical and horizontal surfaces and can be heated to hold a curve, making it the ideal solution for furniture pieces, column casing, wall panelling, counter tops, doors, and more.
Paula Shih, Marketing Director, Formica Asia

Photo courtesy of Admira

Q: How is high pressure laminate (HPL) different from low pressure laminate (LPL), and why is HPL the more common choice?
Although HPL is pricier than LPL due to complicated manufacturing process, it has higher resistance to stains, household chemicals, heat, impact, and constant pressure. It is also much more durable and long-lasting than LPL and offers much more choices in terms of design and colour.
Greenlam Asia PAC

Nove Vintage, from S$26/sheet, Admira

Q: What are some other cabinetry materials available, and why is laminate the most popular choice?
Other materials include veneer, spray painting, acrylic, sheet metal, solid timber, solid surface, stone and melamine foil. But laminate is the most popular pick because of its extensive variety of designs, low maintenance, resistance against heat and impact, ease of fabrication and replacement and its low cost.
Jason Yeo, Senior Manager (Marketing & Creative Development), Lam Chuan

Photo courtesy of Lam Chuan

Q: What are the different grades of high pressure laminate available?
Normal grade: Used straight because it can’t be bent. Edging is used to cover the corners and is at least 5mm thick.
Post-form grade: Laminate can be rolled to give a radius curve at the leading edge, and can be 0.8mm or thinner.
Greenlam Asia PAC

Q: What’s the general lifespan of laminate cabinetry?
High pressure laminate is a highly durable material that doesn’t stain or scuff easily and with proper care, remains colour fast and need not be replaced for as long as 20 years.
Jansen Tan, Product and Brand Director, TAK products & Services

Q: What are some care tips for laminate cabinetry?
* Avoid using gritty or abrasive liquid cleaners and cleansing powders.
* Liquid cleaners (without abrasive ingredients) are effective on decorative laminate surfaces for the removal of superficial stains that may not come off with soap and water. Some liquid cleaners also provide a thin protective film of wax on the surface.
* Avoid the use of bleaching compounds or solutions.
Jason Yeo, Senior Manager (Marketing & Creative Development), Lam Chuan

* For stains, simply use a clean damp cloth and mild household cleaner to wipe the surface.
* Water should be prevented from pooling or flooding at laminate joints to avoid compromising the integrity of the laminate’s backing.
Jansen Tan, Product and Brand Director, TAK products & Services

Photo courtesy of TAK

Q: What causes sagging and warping, and what can be done when that happens?
Sagging and warping of laminated surfaces can be due to plenty of factors like humidity, improper installation and maintenance, as well as expansion and contraction of the surfaces over a long period of time.
Melvin Lim, Business Development Manager, Admira

Rectification depends on the extent of sagging or warping. If the cabinet has not been exposed to moisture, you can add hardwood stretchers to straighten it out. If the cabinet is sagging because of water damage, it will likely need to be replaced. However, if the sagging or warping occurs on a specific unit of the cabinet (eg. a particular door or compartment), you will only need to replace that particular unit instead of the entire cabinet.
Paula Shih, Marketing Director, Formica Asia

Photo courtesy of Formica

Q: Can laminate cabinetry be resurfaced or painted over if homeowners want a new look?
Homeowners can engage the services of a carpenter to strip off existing layer of laminate surface entirely and sand to even out the backing material before fitting over a new laminate surface layer. Alternatively, a more unorthodox method would be to apply a new layer of laminate directly by pasting over the existing old surface, also known as overlaying. Painting over laminate cabinetry is not encouraged as the material is naturally stain-resistant, so paint might not stick well on its surface and eventually peel off.
Melvin Lim, Business Development Manager, Admira

Cover photo courtesy of Admira


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