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Thread: Best finish for kitchen cabinets

  1. #1

    Best finish for kitchen cabinets

    What is the best kitchen cabinet finish to resist oily hands? I have been using brushed lacquer (DEFT), but I find that after 10-15 years of use the lacquer dissolves or degrades in areas that get handled a lot. e.g. the top of the panel on the dishwasher. The same thing happens to a drawer front on the bathroom vanity.
    Last edited by Dave Erickson; 05-23-2019 at 11:30 PM.

  2. #2
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    The answer is going to vary based on how you need to apply the finish, but in general, catalyzed finishes with KCMA rating tend to be the most durable in the kitchen environment. Many of the most durable finishes are best sprayed or require spraying. I personally am using Target Coatings EM8000cv in this kind of environment, either as a clear over wood or as a clear over EM6500 (tinted Target acrylic "lacquer").

    That said, it's still realistic to expect that any finish is going to show signs of wear after 10-15 years in a kitchen unless it's just a "show kitchen" where folks might fix breakfast, but tend to "make reservations" instead of cooks meals. It's not just oily hands and abrasive effects from the same hands being dirty...it's also various cleaning agents and cooking effects, such as grease and steam.
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    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  3. #3
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    If you want to apply the finish with a brush, good ol' solvent-based varnish is a good choice. It is more durable against household fluids than lacquer. On the downside, brushing takes more time than spray. Also, solvent-borne varnish has an amber tint. I don't like it on lighter woods like maple and beech, but it looks great on darker woods -- cherry, mahogany, walnut, and the like.

  4. #4
    Thanks for the suggestions. I don't have a good place for spraying, so I will stick with brush-application. I like the way lacquer wears, it is just the problem with oily skin I am trying to solve. The lacquer finish is actually 28 years old, and there is no sign of wear except for the places that get handled by the person with oily skin. They have been refinished once and need it again. I was think of using satin polyurethane, it certainly has held up on my workbench where it gets lots of abuse. I will probably stay away from varnish due to the yellow tint and I want the finish to match.

  5. #5
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    Unless that satin "polyurethane" is water borne...it's oil based "solvent varnish". Polyurethane is just the resin in the chemical formula for the varnish and the solvent/reducer is akin to paint thinner. Water borne products are made a bit different in that they are essentially acrylics and water isn't the solvent/reducer...it's just the carrier.
    Last edited by Jim Becker; 05-24-2019 at 5:41 PM.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Becker View Post
    Unless that satin "polyurethane" is water borne...it's oil based "solvent varnish". Polyurethane is just the resin in the chemical formula for the varnish and the solvent/reducer is akin to paint thinner. Water borne products are made a bit different in that they are essentially acrylics and water isn't the solvent/reducer...it's just the carrier.
    I think you are using a strange definition of varnish. Varnish is an old finish that predates polyurethane. aka spar varnish. It is made from a combination of linseed oil and other oils. Polyurethane is not varnish.

  7. #7
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    Dave, "Polyurethane" can be a marketing name for a finishing product that contains polyurethane resin in its formula or be the resin, itself. In the same sense, while the term "varnish" is "technically" the old-world product, people and the industry often use a more flexible definition.
    --

    The most expensive tool is the one you buy "cheaply" and often...

  8. #8
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    A varnish is made by cooking an oil and resin together until they form a new compound. Any oil and resin may used. Polyurethane resin may be newer to the game as the resin component compared to phenolic or alkyd resins but it's still
    varnish.

  9. #9
    Dave,

    Another thing to consider is color. Like Jim said, it depends on how the kitchen is being used and by whom. Although the most popular, obviously, white cabinets are going to show everything.

    Will be refacing our kitchen and after putting our heads together and looking at a lot of pics on Pinterest, we've decided to go to a two tone color combination, uppers lighter and lowers darker.

    Just thought I'd throw that out there.

  10. #10
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    Most durable clear coat out there is going to be a post catalyzed 2k Poly. Many manufacturers make a version. I believe some are even releasing a WB version.
    -Lud

  11. #11
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    I just re-read and noticed you can only brush. Benjamin Moore's BENWOOD WB Stays Clear is extremely friendly to brushing. It lays down real nice and is extremely durable. I've sprayed it a few times and when I got a run, I had a sponge brush at the ready that was damp and presoaked with material to back brush any runs. Every spot I used it looks just as smooth as all the sprayed-only spots.
    -Lud

  12. #12
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    Is there a reason, after 28 years, you don't want to simply clean the surfaces well and then just apply a fresh coat or so of lacquer in the needed places? Since the new coat of lacquer will dissolve the previous coat, it should be a "perfect" repair.

    I have similar damage from hand oils and lotions on lacquered drawer fronts, and that is my intended solution.

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