Painting Kitchen Cabinets


Category Construction Glossary
Cabinet finishes

Cabinets may be finished with opaque paint or
transparent finishes such as lacquer or varnish. A
variety of decorative finishes is available. They
include distressing, glazing, and toning. There are
many aspects of the appearance of a finished
wood surface that can be perceived, color being
one. Another is sheen (referred to as satin, gloss,
and gradations thereof). There are several others.

Opaque finishes
High pressure laminate (HPL) has become
ubiquitous in the modern industrial world. HPL is
formed of a resin and paper components under
high pressure (ordinary wood does not sustain
such pressures, and can readily be crushed to less
than half its natural thickness in a hand operated
arbor press). The high pressure confers a density
and a resistance to damage simply because any
utensil, tool, or other object that may come in
contact with, or strike, the HPL will not impart a
force greater than what was employed to form the
HPL itself. In effect, the HPL has been "dented" in
advance. HPL can be decorated in any pattern and
is applied using contact cement and pressed in
place using a "J-roller." HPL is cut slightly larger
than the panel on which it is to be installed and
"trimmed" using a router-like laminate trimmer
along the edge. It may also be filed to obtain the
final edge. Since the 1970s the trend has been
away from HPL in favor of wood.

Melamine is utilized as a coating for furniture board
panels often utilized in building cabinet carcases.
Melamine is a unique white-in-color chemical
formulation which is advantageous for chemical
and impact resistance not unlike HPL. Melamine
coated boards are widely available in home centers
for purposes such as shelving.

Thermofoil is a plastic coating applied to
furniture-board which may have been milled,
shaped, or routed so that it can assume a fairly
complex profile (particularly when compared to
HPL). As a laminate, grooves and edges conform
to manufacturing requirements for minimum radius,
as compared to a milled solid surface such as
hardwood. Thermofoil can be made with a very
glossy sheen. In this sense it is unique. The
drawback is that thermofoil, which although durable
is less resistant to impact damage than HPL,
typically cannot be repaired.

Paint can be used over cabinets where desired.
Paint is considered very traditional and subtle
evidence of brush strokes in the finish are
considered by many to be attractive.