Fabricating a Laminate-Over-Foam-Core Door

Cabinetmakers consider how to lay up a large door with laminate on the outside and foam on the inside. September 27, 2008

As part of a much larger project, I am being asked to provide a series of 1 3/4" thick x 36" wide x 130" tall foam core doors covered in plastic laminate. I have questions regarding the core and the laminate application.

My intent is to build a wood frame with at least two mid rails, rigid insulation as the fill-in, and a sheet of 1/8" MDF front and back to form the sandwhich. Is there another method that would be more capable of providing the flatness and stability that I need?

As for applying the laminate, to my knowledge there is no press in my area that will accommodate this length. My supplier that would normally press this for me has suggested contact cement. I am concerned about the potential for de-lamination as I am not a big fan of contact cement in general. I could build a screw press, or use a series of cauls to cold press it. If I use this method, what would be the recommended glue, both for the 1/8" MDF being applied to the wood frame and rigid insulation, and for the laminate to the MDF?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor D:
One of the larger manufacturers in our neighborhood produces membrane press cabinet doors. These people also sponsor a race winning hydroplane that they built.

Several years ago, during a discussion of vacuum bag technology, one of the principals in this company told me that for epoxy work on the hydroplane they would make a temporary vacuum bag out of garden variety heavy duty visqueen. They didn't need an incredible amount of force, just even pressure. They went with a throw away material because the epoxy would ruin whatever it came into contact with.

You might experiment with something like this. If you started with a Formica deck that wouldn't breathe, all you would need to do after that would be to gasket the visqueen at the perimeter. I could be remembering this all wrong but it wouldn't take a big effort to test the concept.

From contributor M:
I agree with Contributor T. For a one off door like that, vac bag it, at least for the core. The key is to use a rigid glue like epoxy or a plastic resin to glue the MDF to the core.

As for the contact cement for the laminate, it's not a bad choice as long as you have a pinch roller you can run it through to get adequate pressure on it. If cost isn't an object use epoxy and vac bag it again. I can't speak for the plastic resin glue as I don't know for sure if it bonds to plastic laminate. If it does then that may be an option also.

From contributor C:
I have found that white glue will also bond plastic laminate. Use the vac bag concept, and leave it clamped for a day.

From contributor T:
I forgot to mention the glue part. I personally wouldn't use contact cement. I'd be inclined to use something like a two part marine resin glue (weldwood) and let it cure over night. This glue is fairly rigid when dry and would assist in keeping the door panels flat. I don't have any experience with epoxy type glues but these might work too.

From contributor S:
If you are going to be gluing the MDF to the rigid foam, you better test the glue on a piece of the foam. Some of the components of various glues tend to melt foam insulation.

From contributor E:
I hang laminate doors all the time, it’s cheaper to buy laminate doors than to buy a blank and lay it up. Why not just order doors form eggers or Oregon door or whichever big door supplier supplies your area? They will have to warrantee it and you can concentrate on your area of expertise.