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Background:

Builders of manufactured homes are always trying to upgrade the quality and apparent value of their product. Unfortunately they face two problems. First, the product is built around a monthly payment, so increasing the cost makes it harder to find qualified buyers. Second, increasing the cost reduces the price difference between traditionally built tract houses and manufactured homes, eliminating a key reason why home buyers select manufactured homes.
The kitchen of a manufactured home is critical to the success of the home. A beautiful kitchen makes buyers think the home is worth more. The kitchen is also a huge part of the cost for the manufacturer.

Cabinet doors add a large part of the cost of the kitchen. Beginning in the 1980s, cabinet doors were made from MDF (Medium-Density Fibreboard) rather than solid wood. These early slab style doors were made from a single piece of MDF with the edges routed and a groove several inches in to give the appearance of a raised panel. They were first offered in white then later in fake wood grains. The doors were cheaper than real wood, but they also looked cheaper than real wood. When interest rates were high, manufacturers switched to this style to reduce costs and keep the monthly payment required to own the home constant.

When interest rates fell in the 2000’s, manufacturers switched back to real wood. However, relentless price pressure on door manufacturers resulted in gradual erosion of standards and a serious decline in the quality of materials – especially the quality of the solid wood. The problem grew worse because the home building boom caused by the low interest rates led to shortages of all building-related raw materials. Poor quality lumber used on doors reduced the apparent value of the product undermining the rationale for using wood rather than MDF.

The Problem:

The customer came to us hoping we could produce a miracle. They wanted a good-looking solid wood door at a price so low the door could not be made with quality materials. After some discussion we convinced them they really wanted the best possible door for a price equal to what they were currently paying for a poor solid wood door.

We started our quest for a solution. First we considered offering an MDF slab-style door. Unfortunately the doors were ugly – slab style doors never looked like real wood. Furthermore, they used a large amount of MDF, which was starting to become more expensive. We discovered we could not offer a door that looked good with cheap wood.

We researched new furniture techniques developed by the RTA (Ready To Assemble) furniture industry in Europe. These techniques –followed a process called profile wrapping. Long pieces of wood or MDF are milled to create a constant profile (think crown molding). Then, using a combination of heat and pressure, printed polypropylene film is wrapped around the outside of the profile. When the film is treated with special priming agents and the profile is sprayed with heat-activated adhesive, the result is a film that faithfully reproduces the contours of the profile and is permanently bonded to it. Following the bonding process, the profile can be cut and assembled using conventional woodworking techniques.

Why Our Solution Worked:

Our solution reduced the amount of MDF used on the door. Our doors could be thick on the outside and thin in the middle. The thick outside rails coupled with dowel fastening provided a strong door. Thin central panels cut weight and thus cost. Rather than selecting the cheapest polypropylene film for use in profile wrapping, we paid a small premium that allowed us to access a much richer and more attractive selection of films. These films had realistic wood grains, registered embossing, and a lacquer coating that looked like real wood (see the photos at the top of this page). By fabricating the doors from rails and panels rather than a slab, we were making our doors from several pieces, just like solid wood doors, further enhancing their visual appeal.

Our doors enjoyed higher uniformity and consistency than doors made from lower-quality solid wood. MDF is produced in a factory; it does not grow in nature. It is more uniform than any solid wood and dramatically more uniform than low-cost solid wood. Polypropylene film is manufactured and printed on state-of-the-art equipment. Each batch and each roll is identical – creating perfect uniformity.

Call us today. Challenge us to create something that looks great and fits in your budget.