Using plastic laminate on only one side of plywood.

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Forum topic by AndrewWilkerson posted 10-14-2013 10:28 AM 4831 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3 posts in 1673 days

10-14-2013 10:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: laminate plastic one side warping

I have a problem. I want to laminate the interiors of some cabinets I am making with white plastic laminate. I have laminated cabinets before, so I have the contact cement spray gun and all the right flush trim bits. I have always laminated both sides of the plywood to balance it out. In this project though I want the interior to be plastic laminate for durability and easy of cleaning but I want the outside to be bamboo veneer. I want to put on the bamboo veneer last so that I can cover all nail and screw holes. The problem is that I know that if I laminate one side of the plywood, by the time machine all the joints into it and assemble it the plywood will have warped. Does anyone know a trick to keep plywood from warping from laminate. Seal the other side with lacquer or shellac?


10 replies so far

View Nomad62's profile


726 posts in 2926 days

#1 posted 10-15-2013 04:26 PM

I have never done such a thing, so I’m guessing….take it for what it’s worth. It seems to me that the plywood will move no matter what (as it acclimates to the home environment), but since an unmovable surface will be attached to only one side the other side will do all the moving, causing said warp. Perhaps drying the plywood pieces well before attaching the laminate will relieve the problem? Could MDF be used instead? Simply my two cents worth, change is available ;-)

-- Power tools put us ahead of the monkeys

View Walt's profile


246 posts in 2806 days

#2 posted 10-15-2013 08:40 PM

instead of laminating the inside why not use two panels of plywood and put the bad face to bad face and glue the panel together then use several coats of polyurethane to the inside. That would make the inside washable and just as attractive as the outside.

-- Walt Wilmington Delaware,

View Earlextech's profile


1160 posts in 2658 days

#3 posted 10-15-2013 08:51 PM

First – you can buy prelaminated ply from cabinet suppliers
After laminating one side, cut your panels out, then clamp them flat until you’re ready for them
sealcoat the other side, which will help keep moisture out, but may not prevent warp.
No matter how you do this, make sure you are using a cabinet grade ply, which you cannot get at the big boxes.

-- Sam Hamory - The project is never finished until its "Finished"!

View Loren's profile


10276 posts in 3616 days

#4 posted 10-15-2013 08:51 PM

What kind of joinery are you planning to use?

I would use confirmats but you may not want to fuss
with setting up for those. Pocket screws draw
parts together just as well but with confirmats the
holes are pre-drilled so the parts line up. I might
drill the holes before laminating then drill out the
laminate where needed.

Glue won’t stick to the laminate obviously.

Like Sam says above, store it flat.

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 2937 days

#5 posted 10-15-2013 10:18 PM

I have to ask this, but are you sure plywood will warp laminated one side with melamine? (it is melamine right?).
The crossed grain layers of plywood should make it dimensionally stable in every direction. I’m only asking because I’ve never heard of ply going out of shape like this before. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

View MarkwithaK's profile


370 posts in 3146 days

#6 posted 10-15-2013 10:48 PM

Couldn’t you simply used the laminated chipboard (I don’t like it but I know it is used) and then simply attach a 1/4 panel to the show side with the veneer applied?

-- If at first you don't succeed then maybe skydiving isn't for you.

View Loren's profile


10276 posts in 3616 days

#7 posted 10-15-2013 11:00 PM

Plastic laminate. I think the plywood might warp a bit but
if the plywood is good stuff I don’t think it is likely to
be a problem as long as it is stored well in the interval
between laminating and assembly.

View AndrewWilkerson's profile


3 posts in 1673 days

#8 posted 10-21-2013 08:59 PM

Yes plywood does warp when laminated on one side. I have tried MDF, AC plywood. I don’t think I have ever tried laminating cabinet grade plywood. I have had 1/2” birch plywood warp when I veneered it with 1/4” bamboo plywood. And that happened even though I glued them and clamped them to a flat surface. It took less than a day for the bow to appear after I removed them from the clamps (clamp time was a few days). I am glad that you mentioned pre laminated plywood. I hadn’t thought about that option. I don’t want to use MDF or Melamine because of durability. These cabinets will be cash registers for a my hardware store so they will take a ton of abuse. 250K transactions per year over a 5 year plus life span.

As for joinery I was going to use mostly dado and rabbit joints. I doubt I will use dovetails for anything but the drawers boxes. That should take out some of the bow but I haven’t had great luck getting square carcasses when only laminating one side of the plywood.

Earlextech, I assume you where talking about Zinsser Bulls eye Seal Coat? I haven’t tried coating the exposed side with that.

At this point I think I might just go with 3/4” bamboo plywood. It would be stronger and since I won’t have to laminate anything it might be cheaper in the end.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2939 days

#9 posted 10-22-2013 04:04 PM

If you are using solvent based contact cement (not that water based stuff) you could coat both sides with shellac.
I’d be more concerned about water based glue on one side and solvent on the other so the seal coat should help avoid that.

View AndrewWilkerson's profile


3 posts in 1673 days

#10 posted 10-22-2013 07:04 PM

I am using solvent based contact cement, prayed with a gun for the laminate and extended set tightbond glue on on the bamboo veneer. I’ll try shellacing both sides. I am really leaning towards 3/4” bamboo at this point. once you add in the cost of prelam and the cost of 1/4” bamboo the price is almost the same as 3/4” bamboo. Factor in the time required and 3/4” bamboo comes out on top.

I’ll still try a 2’x2’ sample shellaced on both sides. I want to see what would work when this problem comes up again for me or anyone else.

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