Refacing Vinyl-Wrapped Cabinet Face Frames

A contractor gets advice on quick, effective ways to tackle a tricky refacing detail. December 28, 2005

We have been asked to bid on refacing 246 apartments. The existing cabinets are vinyl on particle board; the new doors will be foil wrapped. They have suggested laminating the face frames with matching laminate, but I think this is a problem waiting to happen. It seems that if we try to sand the vinyl faces of the frames, the belts will clog quickly. The other problem that may occur is the vinyl might not stay stuck to the face frame edges (the face frames are particleboard wrapped on 4 sides) and come loose after time.

We can get new face frame material that is wrapped with the same foil material as the doors. We would then make new face frames, knock off the old ones, and nail on the new ones. The existing frames are face nailed to the cabinet boxes, so we should be able to get away with this. A little putty could be used to fill the nail holes. There is only one inside corner in some apartments to deal with - most of the job is wall to wall conditions or finished ends, so removing the frames seems easy.

Has anyone out there done this type of project? Am I overlooking anything else that would cause me to wish I never quoted this? It seems like possibly a good job in that it would be only 2 or 3 apartments per month, a good fill-in job, and steady work. We recently completed a job supplying 10 cabinets per week for 22 weeks, and that came out sweet for us.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I think you could leave the old frames on and screw your new frames on through the old frames into the PB box. I think price is what apartment managers look at.

From contributor B:
The bad part is the way most of those cabs were made. When you knock off the faceframes you will end up with a good chance of having cabinets that will fall apart due to poor construction methods and substandard materials. I would leave them as they are, get some contact adhesive and laminate, and laminate over everything. These jobs don't allow any extra time in the budget for trying to nail every other cabinet back together. You may need to look at using either a WB contact adhesive, or, if that doesn't stick, one of the pressurized cylinders, which would bond better and be a lot faster as they are ready to stick in just a few minutes. You can also probably get a PSA veneer or thermofoil that would work too.

From contributor C:

I contract for a national retailer refacing cabinets. On my jobs, I often use 1/4" MDF for multiple uses - on cabinet sides, to flush out bottoms, etc. The laminate sticks easily with contact adhesive. Instead of ripping the face frames, do you think you could apply MDF or thin plywood over the frames and laminate over the top of your new surface? You could use good wood glue and a brad nailer to attach the MDF in strips over the frames, or in a full sheet and rout out the openings. This would mean no sanding and the laminate would stick great. It may also improve the stability of your cabinets.