Varnishes, lacquers, paints, oils, and waxes. There’s a myriad of finishes for kitchen cabinets. Which one is best for your kitchen remodeling project? Experts say there are many things you ought to consider.
- What is the environment like? For example, does the room see a lot of humidity in the summer?
- What about airborne contaminants?
- Does your kitchen get a lot of sunlight?
- How will the cabinetry be used? Is it durability you’re looking for or do you want a finished piece that looks like fine furniture?
Here’s a breakdown of the most popular finishes and how to incorporate them into your décor.
Painting your cabinets offers the greatest number of color options. Many of our clients choose a shade of white or a subtle hue, like grey, if they’re painting all the cabinets. Others choose a stand-out color like the blue pictured above for an accent piece or island and then stain the rest of the cabinetry.
If you want a light, clean look or you’re looking to match colors with the rest of your home’s décor, paint is the way to go.
There are a couple downsides to painted cabinets, but nothing that rules it out as a good option. The finish is more likely to show dents and nicks, and it may rub off in some high use areas, like around a handle. And since wood expands and contracts with the weather, you may see some cracks in the finish and the joints may be more visible.
If you have your heart set on painted cabinets, find out what the manufacturer recommends for maintaining them.
Designed to enhance the look of wood, staining is the perfect choice for showing off its natural beauty. The stain color is often secondary to the wood’s patterns. Hand-rubbed for a crafted, individualized look, stained cabinets can have an irregular look to them, but this is exactly what many people love about them. For example, if there is a knot or mineral streak in the wood, those areas will soak up more stain and look darker. Maple is typically used for this application.
Stain should not be confused with glaze, which is used to highlight the unique features in the design of your cabinetry.
Stained, painted, or custom finished, most wood cabinets have a varnish topcoat added. You can also find tinted varnishes that, when applied to red oak or maple cabinets, look like painted cabinets but with more grain.
Traditionally made from a combination of oil and resin, a varnish topcoat offers a lot of benefits, including durability and heat and corrosion resistance. It’s also great protection against fingerprints.
Many cabinet manufacturers now use a “catalyzed” varnish that is generally harder and more durable. There are also polyurethane varnishes that create a glossier top coat. Another plus: they resist age-related yellowing.
If you like a vintage, distressed look, milk paint is a non-toxic option for your kitchen cabinets. And, yes, the main ingredient is milk, which acts as a binder. It’s a budget-friendly choice that gives cabinets a customized look.
Some earth-conscious manufacturers now offer a water-based UV finish that has the same look of varnished, stained, or painted cabinets. It’s virtually free of volatile organic compounds and emits zero toxic fumes into the air during the manufacturing process or in your home once installed. It, too, resists yellowing and scratching, and it’s extremely easy to clean.
You can choose from a variety of glazed finishes which add visual depth and interest to painted or stained cabinets. Transparent or semi-transparent, they’re applied over the base finish with a brush and then rubbed off by hand. The glaze clings to recesses, corners, and wood imperfections, highlighting surface details. Because it’s a premium finish, glazing may increase the cost of your cabinets.
Random Cabinetry Thoughts
A few important points to keep in mind:
- If you order unfinished cabinets it may void the warranty, with the manufacturer waiving all responsibility for any modifications. That means if the finish doesn’t come out the way you like, you cannot return the cabinets.
- Because painted cabinets have texture, you’ll want everything else in the room to have it as well. This presents a design challenge, but not an insurmountable one!
- Don’t be afraid to mix tones. In this recent project our clients used a darker stain on the island, painted white cabinets, and a lighter wood flooring. It’s a fabulous look, if we don’t say so ourselves!
Choosing a cabinet finish can be a lot of fun and there’s bound to be one that perfectly complements your kitchen’s style and design.
Are you ready to get started on your new kitchen remodel? Our designers are here to show you how to choose the best cabinet finishes and so much more! To learn more about our kitchen remodeling process or to set up an initial consultation, get in touch with us today. We look forward to meeting with you!
Brittany received her interior design degree in 2010 and recently earned her kitchen and bathroom certifications. She sees her job as much more than just picking out pretty colors and materials – it also involves exact measurements, plenty of planning, and determining how to have a space accurately reflect the lifestyle of its occupants.