Refinishing Failed Thermofoil Doors

Is there a reliable way to strip and paint RTF doors that are delaminating badly, or is it wiser just to buy new MDF doors and start from scratch? May 12, 2013

I have a client that has a kitchen with all rtf doors. Every door is delaminating. The foil is simply lifting off. The kitchen is 10 years old. What would cause this? They want me to remove the foil and paint the MDF. This is a first for me. Is what's causing this going to effect the new paint job as well? The job is located in Irvine CA.

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Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From Contributor B:
We have seen this happen with upper doors above ovens, coffee makers and toasters, but not an entire kitchen. I would be concerned about painting over existing doors as there could be residue from the foil still on the doors. Is the foil so loose that the cost of labor to remove the foil would be less than ordering new MDF doors?

From the original questioner:
The foil easily lifts off. Doesn't seem stuck much at all anymore. I used lacquer thinner to remove the glue on one door and it seemed to work decent. I will sand them after I clean the glue off. The layer on the back of the doors seems very stable, so I will only be doing the fronts and edges.

From Contributor J:

You can get new MDF doors very cheap. Look into that first as it may be more economical than the labour to strip the current doors.

From Contributor H:
There are a couple of possibilities here. This could have been a weak glue bond, and the heat is not helping. But I think it's related to the glue itself. I have heard about some manufacturers changing their glue formula and not letting their customers now. They pressed the doors using the new formula and it is causing problems down the line years after the product was delivered.

I would be hesitant to paint these doors. Usually the glue will soak into the MDF and make it difficult for the paint to get a great bond. If might be a good idea to test a piece and see what happens and how good of a bond you get.

It would be better to order new doors and then just paint the raw ones to guarantee a good, clean surface for paint.

From Contributor E:
I have to think new MDF doors are cheap insurance against the possibility of the paint not sticking well to the old doors. For the cost I can't see any advantage in gambling on such a project.

From Contributor C:
Don't paint. You will regret it. Just price it to trash and replace. Been there, done that. Do yourself a favor and listen to everyone.

From Contributor W:
Even if you did get the paint to stick, you would end up with an unbalanced panel and your next phone call would be to come back to fixed warped doors.

From Contributor O:
Ditto on the unbalanced panels! Let client know it will be cheaper for them in the long run to go with new MDF doors. They (or you) can do this once... or do it twice.

From Contributor D:
The best thing to do is just replace the MDF doors with new. Nothing wrong with being economical, but this would go bad. The few bucks saved would not be enough to take care of the problems later.

From Contributor B:
I took the foil of some doors, sanded and painted them. Didn't have a problem, and don't know why you would. Use a heat gun so the foil that is stuck doesn't pull the MDF off.