Convenience Store Cabinet Materials

Advice about durable materials for a cabinet in a convenience store. June 4, 2012

I have been hired to make some cabinets for a local convenience store and am worried that my usual construction materials will not stand up to the everyday abuse these cabinets will be subjected to. Usually I make mostly modern European style cabinets made from materials like melamine edge banded with a PVC material. Was wondering if anyone had any ideas as to construction materials, and what edge treatment might be suitable to this application, there will be no doors on these cabinets, shelves only.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor F:
I see a lot of laminate in these types of situations. A bit more work involved, but it will hold up better than melamine.

From contributor C:
3mm edgebanding is also more durable.

From contributor T:
Nearly all the light commercial I've done has had melamine boxes and laminate fronts banded with .5mm PVC.

From contributor F:
European hinges won’t stand up to the abuse of a convenience market. Use either a five knuckle type I hinge or a piano hinge.

From contributor E:
Contributor F - no doors per the OP.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input so far. I thought I might explain the cabinet a little more as I was pretty vague in the original post. It is basically a long cabinet for the cash registers, lottery tickets, etc. On the front side of the cabinets (customer side) he wants some slanted shelving to hold boxes of candy and on the back side (employee side) he just wants some simple shelving for supplies and stuff. There will be no doors and probably a simple laminate counter top on top.

I do believe melamine will stand up to the wear and tear, it is the edge treatment that concerns me. I have thought of solid wood edging but that would be a lot of work, iron on treatment makes me a little hesitant in this situation, laminate would be a good solution but again a lot of time edging off each cabinet. The run of cabinets is about 16 feet in length.

From contributor T:
I would consider laminated plywood for the interior using cabinet liner as this will hold up to moisture the melamine will not. On the edges use 3mm edge banding or aluminum extrusion powder coat if needed, nothing else will hold up. On the top you might consider Corian. This may be more expensive, but replacing the cabinets every six-twelve months will also be expensive and I would sell the customer on this point.

From the original questioner:
3mm edgebanding can this be applied properly without an edge banding machine. I have done some plastic laminate work using contact cement and a laminate trimmer, are the installation techniques similar?

From contributor Y:
We make lots of this sort of thing. Normal practice is melamine boxes with 3mm PVC banding. Laminate edges won't hold up and neither will .5mm. The floor of the boxes is subject to employees using it for a foot rest. If you ever do get one of these jobs with doors don't use kitchen cabinet type hinges (Blum) - they don't hold up. Salice institutional, Terry 5 knuckle, piano are the alternatives. Laminate tops will last at least five years, avoid sharp outside corners.

From contributor C:
Just build them like everything else you make and support them well. Most stores don't have the budget or are going to tear out and remodel in a few years, so they limit the expenditure. If they are asking for a p-lam top, I would venture their budget is limited. Slat wall works great for the front of the counter and you can get them a catalogue to choose the display hardware.

From contributor L:
To the original questioner: You need a (good) bander for 3mm PVC. Laminate tops are used in the majority of commercial work, fine if done well.

From contributor T:
To the original questioner: If the desk is specked out just follow the specs. If not and there is not a moisture issue use the melamine. Have someone who has 3mm capabilities do the edge banding for you. Do shop drawings with specifications, and have the customer sign the drawings. If this is a chain store it could turn into a good thing, make it turn into a good thing.

From contributor C:
I agree with Contributor L, we have done boatloads of commercial applications, P/lam tops and melamine boxes with 3 mm PVC edging, or p/lam boxes with p/lam edging, for p/lam boxes we always glue up sheets in the hot press, cut and then edge.

If you don't have an edgebander you can use melamine with iron edge tape, or the other option would be p/lam. P/lam would be more durable, I would use contact cement and apply the edges first, and then apply the faces. It is easy to do a better job this way. You can run your laminate trimmers on the faces, rather than the edges. We also never use a straight flush trim bit, we always start out with an eight degree flush trim bit, this way you never damage the edges.