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What is the Most Durable Finish for Kitchen Cabinets?

What is the Most Durable Finish for Kitchen Cabinets?

Taking up most of your wall and floor space, kitchen cabinets are an eyeful. Being used every day means that your kitchen cabinets are most likely to get bashed, dinged, dented, and slammed. Your kitchen cabinets can start looking lifeless and worn out throughout the years as the finish wears off. Therefore, you must use the most durable materials and products for your kitchen cabinets. Remember that cabinetry will take up 40 percent of a kitchen remodel budget, so you want to ensure they will last.

Once you've nailed down your kitchen layout, you can add a bit of personal preference and personality. Cabinet finishes come in subtle variations as well as stand-out colors, which highlight detailing. With so many options, it is easy for homeowners to get overwhelmed and to go with whatever product is put in front of them. But it would help if you remembered that finishes come at different price points and desired durability. Before you make your final decision on the perfect finish for your kitchen, we suggest ordering various samples. In this blog post, we breakdown various types of kitchen cabinets finishes and let you know which is best and most durable for your kitchen.

What Is A “Finish”?

A person brushing stain on wood.

Once applied to your kitchen cabinets, the “finish” refers to the sheen or shine. Not only does it add a beautiful shine to your cabinetry, but it also adds a protective layer that should be durable and long-lasting. Even though unfinished cabinets are somewhat more cost-effective, kitchen cabinets need a finish to protect them.

Semi-Gloss Finish

If you're looking for a finish that will shine and reflect light once it hits it, opt for a semi-gloss finish. As the most popular sheen, semi-gloss provides your kitchen cabinets with a nice shine that is not overbearing.

Durability of Semi-Gloss Finish

Semi-gloss finishes like polyurethane are known for their easy application and high durability. A good quality semi-gloss finish should be resistant to a wide variety of things, including heat, chemicals, scratches, water, fungus, and mildew. Additionally, a semi-gloss finish is also resistant to scratches, dents, and even smudges. If you go with polyurethane, go with the oil-based version. Oil-based polyurethane will give your cabinets a lustrous finish, deepen the wood's color, and work well with almost any wood species.

Needing three or four coats to ensure the maximum durability, semi-gloss finishes may take on a plastic-like finish, which some homeowners do not like. Even though durable, this type of finish may yellow over time. Perfect for busy kitchens as this finish is easy to maintain. Unfortunately, it will reflect any dirt or grime, so it is essential to keep it clean.

If you love the look and feel of semi-gloss kitchen cabinets but don't want to go through the effort of applying, painting, or refacing, we have the perfect solution. At CabinetNow, we offer all our customers a clear coat and painted cabinet doors with a semi-gloss finish. Order online, and we'll deliver these ready to install semi-gloss cabinets straight to your doorstep.

Gloss Finish

Both modern and on-trend, high gloss cabinets give your kitchen a luxurious look and feel. There are various finishes that will give your kitchen cabinets this beautifully rich gloss, including the following:

  • Lacquer: Commonly found in commercial cabinets, lacquer has an intense high-gloss finish that is suitable for almost any type of wood. Smooth to the touch, lacquer is usually applied via a sprayer as it is much thinner than other finishes. To use this type of finish to your kitchen cabinets, you'll need a high-volume, low-presser (HVLP) sprayer in a room that is well ventilated. Lacquer is a quick-drying finish that will give your kitchen cabinets a beautifully rich look and feel especially with light-colored woods.
  • Shellac: Often found in older houses, shellac is one of the oldest wood finishes, with its history stretching into antiquity. If you're looking for a natural finish, shellac is a great option. It is made by combining a secretion from the female lac bug with a solvent such as alcohol. Once it is dried and hardened, it is non-toxic and safe to use within your kitchen. The high-gloss finish is easy-to-apply, dries quickly, and enhances the beauty of any natural wood.

Durability of Gloss Finish

Overall, gloss finishes are very durable, but to fully understand what is best for your kitchen, here is a breakdown of gloss lacquer and shellac finishes:

  • Lacquer: Lasting as long or sometimes longer than its competitors without chipping or flaking, lacquer is an extremely durable finish. However, over time it can discolor and, through wear and tear, become scratched. Due to its application with HVLP sprayer, lacquer penetrates deeper into your kitchen cabinets, providing a durable seal that protects the wood from the inside out. Your cabinets will be fully protected with just two coats of lacquer while still getting a beautiful sheen.
  • Shellac: Shellac wood finish is not as hard as polyurethane or lacquer finishes, and therefore is not as durable. But unlike most other finishes, shellac can be easily retouched if damaged without looking repaired. With just two or three thin coats, you can get a beautiful high-gloss finish that will not discolor like other finishes.

Satin Finish

Often described as velvety, satin finishes have a mild gloss finish or soft sheen. A satin sheen is easy to care for and will show the least amount of dirt, grime, and imperfections on the face of your cabinets, compared to gloss and semi-gloss finishes. This type of finish is ideal for a busy kitchen. Unfortunately, this finish will reveal application flaws such as roller or brush strokes if not applied with care.

Durability of Satin Finish

Satin finishes are not only highly durable but also long-lasting, especially in busy kitchens. Unfortunately, they do not hold up as well as semi-gloss and gloss when it comes to resisting mold and mildew.

The Verdict: Which Finish Is The Most Durable?

A paint brush sitting next to open paint cans seen from above.

There are many elements to consider when deciding on a kitchen, including how often you use your cabinets, your kitchen humidity, and your preference for the look of your kitchen. But if having kitchen cabinets that are long-lasting and durable, we'd suggest opting for a gloss finish.

Even though both satin and semi-gloss finishes are both durable, both have minor disadvantages that gloss does not have. At the end of the day, the finish that you choose is a personal preference. Whether you opt for a gloss, semi-gloss, or satin finish, it is about the look and feels that you want for your kitchen cabinets. But if your kitchen cabinet finish's durability is a high priority, there is no better option than a high gloss finish. A gloss finish will give you the durability you need in a busy kitchen where scratches, dings, and dents are likely to occur.