The Impact of Heat and Steam on Kitchen Cabinets

There are many great appliances on the market that can make cooking and cleaning more pleasurable experiences, but some of these appliances have a dirty little secret. Some of them may be slowly damaging your cabinets, and you don’t usually find out about it until it’s too late. The culprits are certain built-in and countertop appliances that discharge heat and steam, and these elements have a huge impact on your kitchen cabinets. Let’s discuss.

The Impact of Heat and Steam on Kitchen Cabinets


Cabinets, as well as any material made of wood, MDF, Melamine or Thermofoil, do not like extreme heat or moisture. Cabinets are like fine furniture and require the same care and considerations. The most common impact of heat and steam releasing appliances is damage to your cabinets. The resulting damage depends on the substrate or material of your cabinetry. For example, wood cabinets can become steam burned (a white film develops) and Thermofoil, Melamine or wood alternative cabinets can discolour or even melt.

Another impact is heat burn on countertops. For example, a slow cooker on certain granite or quartz countertops can cause heat rings, which is why it is recommended to place your slow cooker on your ceramic cooktop or place a trivet beneath it to prevent the heat from penetration to your countertop.



Dishwasher Side Vent

There are a couple of brands of dishwashers that have a side vent in the door, which releases steam and will cause cabinet damage if the dishwasher is installed improperly. These dishwashers are meant to be installed proud or forward from the cabinetry so this vent isn’t covered and can be exposed. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when installing your appliances as damage due to improper installation is not the responsibility of the cabinet provider.


Self-cleaning appliances create a great deal of heat during the cleaning process. Since there is a chance that some of this heat may escape through seals or gaskets, it is recommended you either pull your oven out approximately eight inches or remove the cabinet doors and drawers that are directly beside the appliance while the self-cleaning feature is in use.

STEAM RELEASING APPLIANCES: Coffee Makers, Kettles, Toasters, Pressure Cookers and Electric Steam Ovens

These countertop appliances can produce a lot of steam right beneath the upper cabinets. Steam will travel across the doors and eventually cause steam burn or even melt your cabinets. It is recommended that you pull steam discharging appliances forward, beyond your upper cabinets, so the steam discharged directly below your upper cabinets will not touch the doors. This will help preserve your cabinets for many years.

Kettle Steam

Pressure cookers release a large amount of steam at a very high density, which is why it is recommended to place them under a working vent hood, while in use, in the event you need to release the steam.


Over-the-range (OTR) microwaves are common culprits of steam damage. There are many types of OTR microwaves, but here are the two most common offenders relating to damaging your cabinetry.

Over-The-Range Microwave Tilt Vent

Top Venting OTR Microwaves: Have a small vent right on the top of the microwave, which means you can’t have a 15” deep cabinet over the range or the vent will be completely blocked.

Tilt-up Venting OTR Microwaves: Have a tilt-up vent that opens to help push the steam upwards, which can sometimes remain on the cabinets above potentially causing premature cabinet damage. Ultimately, you will want to check the venting style with your appliance specialist to ensure it fits your current or future cabinet plans and doesn’t cause you a headache down the road.


Certain built-in fridges require a stainless venting panel that needs to go directly above the fridge. Omitting this can cause incorrect heat distribution and can damage the cabinets above the appliance. It also has the potential of causing your appliance to prematurely fail due to lack of breathability. When in doubt, ask your appliance professional for guidance and follow the appliance specifications to ensure all correct parts and panels are incorporated into the design.

Built-In Fridge


There are many considerations for a homeowner when choosing the perfect appliances for your dream kitchen. It is always recommended to discuss these concerns with your trusted appliance specialist to identify any potential impacts of the appliances you might be interested in. From there, obtain the specifications for each appliance and make sure you have a good understanding of. Also, share these specifications with your kitchen designer. This will enable them to more efficiently lay out your space. At that point, you and your kitchen cabinet designer can discuss any other opportunities to improve the design of your new kitchen.


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