Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

There are several different types of kitchen cabinet finishes.  Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses, some more than others (quite a bit more). 

Common finishes found on kitchen cabinets include:

  • A Group Known as Conversion Finishes:  Catalyzed lacquer, pre-catalyzed lacquer, conversion varnish, epoxy finish, moisture-curing polyurethane, two-part polyurethane, polyester finish, and ultraviolet-curing finish
  • Lacquer
  • Polyurethane
  • Varnish (the two other than Polyurethane)
  • Shellac
  • Water-based

Each finish is further broken down: What properties does it have? What properties do you want?

Within each of these general groups of finishes, you'll find related products with different names, like moisture resistant lacquer rather than just lacquer.

These products will differ slightly from their true original.  For example, moisture resistant lacquer is just that, lacquer that is more resistant to moisture than regular lacquer. 

The differences will be defined even more.  Moisture resistant lacquer comes in different sheens, or what they call "rub" effect.  You'll find low, medium, or high rub effect.  What you choose depends on the look you want.

If you're finishing the wood yourself:

Take some time to study what you really need.  Check this and other web sites out for information about kitchen cabinet finishes.  Ask your local retailer what to use (they usually know, but not always).

It's a good idea to put the finish on sample pieces before you finish your real project.  If you don't like the finish on a sample piece, you'd rather just ruin a sample than your good project!

Kitchen Cabinet Finishes Most Commonly Found on Today's Kitchens:

Today, most often your kitchen cabinet finishes will be a conversion finish.  Conversion finishes are what the cabinet industry uses, both factory built and custom built.

They are fast drying, durable, very moisture resistant, and somewhat heat resistant (although candles close to the cabinets - even within 18 inches for prolonged periods of time - have been known to scorch the finish - nothing is full proof).

They've been around since the 1930's.

True "oil" finishes, like linseed oil, tung oil, or walnut oil, are rarely found on kitchen cabinets or used as finishes.

You keep these types of finishes looking nice by reapplying the oil (actually you can use any oil, it does not necessarily have to be the same oil that was originally used).

The only time you'll find cabinets finished like this is on antique furniture.  If someone is trying to get back to an "original" way of manufacturing furniture or cabinetry they might use oil finishes too, but they are NOT good finishes.

Interesting Tid-bit:  The steel on guns is still sealed with oil finish to prevent rust.  Here again, the oil needs to be reapplied every time you handle the gun, otherwise it does no good.

What about painted cabinets?

Painting your cabinets is really just using another type of finish.  Paint is an entire area of finishing in itself.

Paint is opaque.  If your color will be translucent, meaning you can still see the wood grain, it is really a "wash" (example: white wash).

There are more things you must know and consider when painting your cabinets.  Some painting options might be a better, more viable, alternative for you.  Click here from the Kitchen Cabinet Finishes page to the Ideas for Painting Kitchen Cabinets page, which is a simple how-to for painting your kitchen cabinets.

Also, take a look at our Other Related Sites for more information on some of the other finishes as well.

Return to our Home page.

And remember - HAVE A HAPPY KITCHEN!!!


Cleaning Wood Kitchen Cabinets  
It's Easy - you don't need to have "secret" cleaners or be a Pro! This page tells you how.

Home Improvement Resources - Some neat sites we've run across.

How to Stain Kitchen Cabinets
6 easy steps & 13 things you must have BEFORE you start.

How to Varnish Wood
7 Properties, 3 Types, 6 Application Steps to follow. Helping you keep it all STRAIGHT!!

Ideas for Painting Kitchen Cabinets
Some simple ideas how to paint and decorate your kitchen cabinets.

Kitchen Cabinet Finishing - Do your homework BEFORE you finish or refinish & you'll have an easy time of it.

Lacquer Cabinets
Why custom shops use it and how you can too.

Polyurethane Varnish
The "varnish" that works fast & furious. Tips and Tricks.

Repaint Kitchen Cabinets
Yes, you can repaint your kitchen cabinets in 5 easy steps.

Water Based Cabinet Finish
Pros, Cons. How to apply it so it lasts.

Wood Varnish
The 7 types and 3 properties of varnish.  Making sense of them.

The Woodworkers Depot
Online hardware store.  Great prices, great hardware.

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