Have you looked at melamine as a cabinet material lately? Great strides have been made in textures and décor, making the material ever more beautiful. Think how much “greener” the material is. The virtues of using virgin hardwoods are become ever more unsustainable. Added to that, think of finishing. While water-borne finishes have certainly become better and more available, too many cabinetmakers are still using lacquer and varnishes without proper treatment of the environment.

Education is key 

Educating architects, developers and customers alike to the benefits of melamine on a national level would be welcome but difficult. But nothing stops us to educate one customer at a time. Considering the changes taking place in the market, what better time than now?

The economy is soft; people are reluctant to spend money on remodeling their cabinetry in spite of a growing pent up demand to do so. Let’s show them an alternative.
By sharing the differences between melamine as a finished product versus veneered plywood with regard to the effects on price and hopefully on the environment, you might indeed secure work which otherwise is not available.

Case in point 

I recently got involved with the costing and pricing of a 12 foot wide by 10 foot high bookshelf. We initially priced the item in maple stained as walnut and finally in melamine. We used ¾-inch plywood with red maple veneer for the uprights and shelves. For the backs we used ¼-inch plywood to suit. The alternate was a walnut décor melamine in similar material thicknesses.

The lower section of the unit consisted of eight flat panel doors using red maple. The unit featured a library ladder as well. For the sake of simplicity in presenting this argument, the ladder has been omitted here. Initially we included the solid wood maple doors in both the melamine and wood units. The thought was that we can match the doors to the melamine, but that is not always possible in such custom work. Assuming it was possible in this case, the price difference between the two is $2,000 or about 30 percent in favor of the melamine cabinet.

If now we replace the solid maple doors with five-part foil covered doors to match the melamine, in our pricing model, the price difference is a little better than $3,000 or 45 percent. The material between the cabinet parts and the faces is now a perfect match. Possibly even more so than using veneered plywood and solid lumber.

Are these two products comparable, you ask. It depends in whose eyes.

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