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.