Working with High Gloss Laminate

High gloss laminate telegraphs imperfections in the substrate. September 5, 2011

I have a client who wants a real high gloss, Italian lacquer look finish for his kitchen. I am thinking about doing the doors with a high gloss laminate and some metal trim around the edges that cover the edge of the laminate and maybe come on to the front and back surface of the door by 1/8" or so. I've seen this before, maybe Ikea. Is there a system out there that anyone knows of? Any tips for working with really high gloss laminate? I guess number one would be to leave the protective plastic coating on until last.

Forum Responses
(Laminate and Solid Surface Forum)
From contributor B:
Your choice of substrate material is going to be really important. High gloss laminate telegraphs anything under the laminate. Chips, heavy, uneven applications of glue, anything. So you need to make sure everything is flat. And yes, leave the protective coating on the laminate. Watch filing the edges also - you can cut through the gloss cover sheet easily.

Metal trim to cover the edges of cabinet doors and tops goes back a long, long time. In my opinion, it's a dirt catcher and doesn't do a good job of sealing the edge of whatever surface you apply it to. I'd recommend that you self edge the doors in a metal laminate if that is the look you want.

From contributor R:
We used to make wall units with high gloss HPL and had many issues with telegraphing. We were laminating with a cold press with a panel cleaner and PVA glue and had to use 1/16 laminate as even the pattern from the glue rollers would show through the laminate. For the edges we applied high gloss PVC edgbanding with our edgebander. We were constantly remaking parts due to scratches, as even with the plastic on, it is very easy to scratch the laminate.

It was not uncommon for us to finish a unit and then find out as we peeled the plastic that there was a dimple in the laminate due to a speck of dust underneath when we laminated.

From contributor P:

What I love is that a speck on the bottom sheet will telegraph through on all of the sheets above it.

From contributor G:
How is that possible?

From contributor P:
This is in a press with as many as 40 sheets pressed at once, similar to the Princess and the Pea story.

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor A:
I've done hundreds of high gloss projects over the years with HPL as well as prefinished veneers. I have found several sheet products that not only offer better scratch resistance than conventional HPL, but also come with a PSA back that can be used on flat as well as curved surfaces. It just takes some finesse and not a "mass-produced" approach.