The Most Durable Painted Kitchen Cabinet Finish-13 Pros Weigh In

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Dear Laurel,

Hope you can help me. We’re redoing our kitchen.

The cabinets WILL be painted. Great, huh?

 

Here’s the problem. I’m pulling my hair out about which is the most durable painted kitchen cabinet finish.

 

It’s gotten so that I don’t know who to believe because the advice is frequently contradictory.

And there’s more.

Remember the post you wrote a while back about your living with a drove of pigs? Well, me too Laurel! Me too! And a gaggle of geese aka: “friends,” plus a large extended family of Tasmanian Devils.

That’s right. None of them clean up after themselves.

 

But here’s why I’m so confused over which is the most durable painted kitchen cabinet finish.

 

  • For starters, many sources advice AGAINST paint because the paint will crack at the joints from expansion/contraction of the wood.
  • And then, there’s the issue of paint chipping.
  • Some promote painted MDF as better option.

 

But what I don’t get it is why are there so many photos of high-end kitchens with what appear to be painted wood cabinet doors?

 

I LOVE the Devol kitchens. How do these kitchens looks in 3-5 years? Do they get scratched up and cracked and then replaced or refinished?

Or do they use some secret formula that doesn’t chip and wear off around the handles?

One local supplier is really (really) pushing 5 piece polyester costed doors from Miralis (a company up in here in Canada, Montreal, specifically). I don’t like the look or feel. To me they look a bit like Thermofoil.

However, with kids and husband in a hard-working kitchen with only one person cleaning (the others don’t seem to notice mess), the wipe-ability of a “plastic” finish is tempting.

Miralis also has a finish called “Similaque” that is supposed to be super durable – and apparently dents and scratches can be repaired with an iron!!!! But even if it is the miracle finish I need, it would add $10k to our cabinet bill and so is outside the budget….but would it be worth going into debt for in the long run?

 

SO – I beg you, some truth RE: painted cabinets and wear and tear. Go? Or no?

 

  • And how do I know if painted finish x is more durable that painted finish y?
  • Factory paint vs. local custom shop?
  • What to look for?
  • What questions to ask?

Thanks,

Kit Chenfused

 

Phew! A lot there! And Kit did write me about this topic the other day. And since painted kitchens are quite popular, I think that the topic of the most durable painted kitchen cabinet finish is one that a lot of us want to know more about.

 

So, what I did this week, is I posed these questions to my fabulous interior design colleagues whose combined experience with painted kitchen cabinets is hundreds of years!

 

Let’s recap the main issues and questions.

 

  •  Kit worries that the paint will crack at the joints from expansion/contraction of the wood. Is this avoidable?
  •  How to avoid chipped paint, scratches, wearing off around knobs, etc.
  • Factory paint vs. local custom shop vs. on-site painting.
  • Or skip paint and do a polyester (shudddddder, but I’ll keep an open mind if anyone disagrees with that) coated door. One company she mentioned is Canadian. (Miralis)
  • What to look for? What questions to ask?
  • Not sure of budget, but needs to reign it in somewhat from the sounds of things.

 

The only thing I’d like to say at this point is that a kitchen cabinet finish that gets ironed when there’s a nick in it sounds positively ghastly.

 

Take it away designers!

 

Susan Serra Designs – No, it is not avoidable for the cracking at the joints. That’s what wood does. If she wants, she can get doors painted on a stable substrate such as high quality flake board or mdf board. Neither of those will expand of contract.

 

Questions to ask manufacturers:

  1. How does the manufacturer recommend to maintain the cabinets?
  2. What is their process?
  3. What is their warranty?
  4. If doors are damaged, can they be matched later on?

Which is a good point…perfectly smooth painted doors are unlikely to be able to be matched well down the road if one or more needs to be changed. Time, air, indoor pollution takes its to toll.

white-kitchen-Susan Serra - most durable kitchen cabinet finish

Kitchen by Susan Serra

 

Patrick Landrum I’ve never had any issues with factory paint in the upper-end cabinet lines. Site finish paint just doesn’t last and is very likely what she’s seen in friends and neighbors homes that has made her question painted finishes in general.

 

Patrick Landrum Designs - elegant living room Austin, TX

Patrick Landrum

 

Christiane Allan – In my experience, lacquer sprayed on will crack; however paint, spray painted on site with good prep work and minimum 3 coats will last 10 -12 yrs even with slobs.

 

There is no discernible difference with shop painting or house painting other than dust, dampness and inconvenience. Paint will not chip unless it is OLD oil paint. Latex does not chip unless someone takes a hammer and chisel to it.

 

I would advise her to stay away from a lacquer spray finish because it is like a plastic coating, scratches easily and it will crack at the corner joints with expansion. The only wood that does not expand and contract is walnut.

All other woods expand and contract at different rates.

If she never cleans around the knobs, then human grease/oil will eat away at the finish. Who the hell guarantees that kind of behaviour? And if she’s going to have problems with the paint, it will happen within 30-60 days. Any good spray shop will come back and fix it. Spraying the cabinets is a lot cheaper and friendlier on the wallet than replacements unless she goes to Ikea.

Looking at DeVol kitchens…looks to me like a 35% gloss finish, solid colour. She can get the same with a good quality paint, of course depending on her cabinet style.

 

Chrisse Allan Designs living room vignette

Christiane (Chrisse) Allan

 

Christiane Allan – I have painted cabinets with oil paint and latex paint for 40 years. I have never had any problems with flaking or cracking. However I made the mistake of having a lovely little desk painted and lacquered for a client and in less than two weeks, all the corners split.

 

Gloria Graham Sollecito – Yep wood never dies, always expanding and contracting with temperature and humidity. I did not know that walnut was entirely immune from that either. An MDF door is stable and joint free so that’s a good solution. Also it is common practice to use MDF for the center panel and wood for the stiles and rails of the door. This is because an expanding center panel is usually what blows out the seams. Miralis is a decent line.

 

A catalyzed conversion finish is good for durability and that frequently comes with a factory finish, not necessarily with custom shop though.

 

Artful Kitchens - Gloria Graham Sollecito durable kitchen cabinet paint finish.jpg

Gloria Graham Sollecito

 

Susan Serra – I Agree with Gloria but there is an important difference to be aware of between cabinets painted in a local cabinet shop vs a factory with state of the art equipment applied in a controlled environment.

 

The durability of the paint in every way is superior when applied in a factory.

 

My opinion is to use the local shop cabinetry in every other room but the kitchen and bath.

 

Carlo Di Conza – Geovin Furniture We offer our furniture in any Benjamin Moore colors and it is a lacquer not actual paint. It’s commonly referred to as a pigmented lacquer. It shouldn’t crack and is very durable. Highly recommend enlisting a professional company to do the finishing.

 

Vanessa Francis nightstand - Geovin Furniture - Bedroom - most durable painted kitchen cabinet finish

Vanessa Francis – Lovely girl’s bedroom with a nightstand from Geovin Furniture

 

Amy Wax – I also have found that the paint finish that is factory applied is more durable. However, many of my clients are painting their stained wood cabinets. The painters I have been using stressed that using an oil base paint, sanding until glass smooth between multiple coats of paint, will give you a beautifully painted cabinet.

 

I have seen it done and the cabinets can be truly beautiful once they are done.

 

In regards to wear and tear, the darker cabinet will show less staining and dirt from an active family using them on a daily basis. I did a blog post on painted cabinetry , and most if not all of it still applies.

 

Amy Wax

 

Tawna Allred – Agree with above and here is another way to handle it: let’s be real. Houses are maintenance. I have dogs and kids and I cook every day. We use our kitchen HARD. If the style allows, try painted finishes that absorb wear-and-tear. We painted and glazed and put “age” into our kitchen and a few other projects.

 

The same finish was used in this office. (below) Of course, it may not fit stylistically, but it’s how I handled it. And is anyone else tired of the request for homes to be invincible? It’s like expecting your car to stay brand-new when you drive it every day. Not going to happen.

 

millwork-interior-design-wyoming- Tawna Allred

Tawna Allred

 

Christine Conte – I completed a kitchen where the cabinetry was hand-painted on site. It came out amazing. The finish looks like glass. The cabinets came in primed and were painted with BM Super Spec. on site. The key is thin coats, a good brush and a light sand in-between by someone who knows what they are doing.

They are there now after 6 months, some minor cracks where the rails meet the slab face. It will be touched up. They expect that, especially with hanging uppers and as new construction settles. that’s how cracks happen, not because the wood is expanding and contracting.

 

The company did bring the cabinets in to sit in the home for a week to acclimate, just as you would do with flooring.

 

Chipped paint is more likely to occur on repainted cabinetry, if not prepped well. It also requires a light sand first. I have had great experience with using STIX primer for this followed by Benjamin Moore Advance.

I have not noticed a difference between off site spraying or hand painting on site if both are done right. The main point is you must use paint that is furniture grade for cabinetry and apply the appropriate primer using the right techniques. And nothing is a guarantee. You abuse your home, it is going to show no mater what you do.

 

Christine Conte

Jennifer Michelle Hyman Client with nearly $1M condo on Chicago’s lake shore decides my estimate for painted cabs is too high and hires the real estate agent’s husband who “does painting”.

 

He chose the white paint color without regard to the palette I’d designed because “it’s white”, painted on site, did not take doors off and painted over those expensive hinges, used a roller with a nap, and the whole kitchen plus 2 bathrooms looked like this with peeling paint after just a couple of days.

 

 

I get paid by the hour so, “you can cry when you write that expensive check to do it right the first time or you can cry when you write a second check to do it over,” but I’m fine with getting paid just once. And yes, the cabinet was previously black.

Note from Laurel:

ugh.

 

Jennifer Michelle Hyman

 

Barbara Dolan Brown I use a professional artist who sprays the finish on. It’s gorgeous and durable. I’ve also had good luck with quality, factory-painted goods. High quality paint, with all the necessary steps, is essential and what I specify to my clients.

On another note, when I was very young and on an elbow grease budget, I hand-painted my yucky kitchen cabinets. Did it right, as BM paints suggested, used gloss finish for durability, and the results were beautiful. If my little one banged a truck into it, I touched it up.

 

Barbara Brown

 

Lisa Mende – The main thing to know about any type of cabinetry is that the kitchen is the room in your home that gets the most abuse. So if a family is rough, no matter if it’s stain or paint. it’s all going to wear over time.

However, products like Wood-mode are expensive because they last! I have clients with Wood-mode cabinetry who still have beautiful painted kitchens 20 years later because the finishes are multi layered and hand applied. Devol makes a quality product, although I have never used them. Buy the best and only cry once motto especially applies to painted kitchen cabinetry.

 

kelli boyd photography - Lisa Mende Southern Style Now 2017 showhouse best kitchen cabinet painted finishLisa Mende for Southern Living Showhouse 2017. Photo: Kelli Boyd

 

Robin Segerman – I’ve done many painted kitchens. The best way to avoid cracking is to spec a painted MDF door, but it needs to be a factory-applied, catalyzed lacquer finish not a paint, so the MDF is properly sealed and finish is baked on otherwise you can get swelling, cracking and flaking the finish.

In my own house, I had a painted MDF Shaker door with kids, dogs, and a cleaning lady who insisted on using ridiculous chemicals when I wasn’t looking. And it looked great for over 12 years. A factory will give her a touch up kit for any small nicks and scratches and a matching wax crayon. But with a great finish, she probably won’t need it.

This, however, is what a cheap, crappy facsimile looks like after only 3 years …buyer beware. Price matters. Cheap out and you’ll get the shit in this photo.

note from Laurel:

That is indeed some bad shit.

 

Robin Siegerman

 

Thank you my friends and colleagues. You are all so awesome!

 

In a sec, I will sum up what these designers have to say.

But first I’d like to weigh in my personal experience.

For 16 years, I lived with painted kitchen cabinets. And we painted over the melamine that came with our townhouse. Melamine is a cousin to formica and a smooth plastic-like coating over particle board. Most would say that you cannot paint it! But that is not true!

 

The trick in getting paint to stick is in using a great primer as other designers stressed.

 

They are absolutely right. That is a step that must not be missed. The doors were sprayed off-site with oil-based paint that was probably thinned down and then sprayed with light coats. They did an amazing job!

 

The doors and drawer fronts except in a couple of spots held up perfectly for 16 years.

 

And make no mistake. My boys were very young when we did this and as wild and hyper as they come. Plus, there was a pass-through, where I set up two stools so that they could sit, eat and watch TV.

There really wasn’t quite enough room for the stools and they were black and right in front of the white doors under the pass-through.

 

No problem at all! 16 years and not one chip– on the cabinets, that is. I’m sure that I chipped some of my toe bones tripping over those damned stools. But they were a necessity!

 

The cabinet-maker I have worked with on a few kitchens, (see below) paints both on site and off, but for the on site work, the cabinets come to the home primed and then after installation, comes the laborious process of hand-painting with a fine brush, numerous thin coats, with a light sanding in between. That painted finish holds up beautifully.

 

However, this method because of it being very labor-intensive is quite expensive. It’s what we did in the Bronxville kitchen.

And this kitchen, also in Bronxville

And this kitchen in Chappaqua, NY

 

An excellent paint to use for this is Benjamin Moore Advance as it is self-leveling, like oil and is an alkyd paint which means it dries to a hard, durable finish. But there is no odor (low VOC) and the brushes clean up with soap and water, instead of mineral spirits or turpentine.

 

The other type of “painted” finishes include lacquer and catalyzed, pre-catalyzed/conversion varnish. This is what Robin Siegerman and Gloria Graham were discussing above and some of the others.

 

But the latter varnishes are what I’m ascertaining on what is meant by a “factory baked-on paint finish.” That’s layman’s marketing-speak I read somewhere. The durability occurs in the evaporation process. It does not require baking, but heat will speed up the process.

Bottom line. Who freaking cares what’s in it as long as it looks good, stays put, and doesn’t give us cancer!

 

Kit, after listening to everything the designers said about the most durable painted cabinet finish and then listening to your concerns, here’s my assessment of what I think will most likely work best for you. Of course, you are free to object. :]

 

As soon as you said that you didn’t like the finish of the Miralis, my feeling is– done. If you are feeling relief then it is absolutely the right decision.  And NEVER let some foamin-at-the-mouth salesman talk you into something you don’t really want. I hate that. If a client of mine said they didn’t like something, it was never mentioned again!

I think that you would do best with a good cabinet company that offers one of the catalyzed lacquer finishes as Robin Siegerman and others suggested. Robin said that it’s like car paint for cabinets!

As to which company, Wood-Mode that Lisa Mende mentioned is a wonderful company, but if that’s not in the budget, at least you’ve narrowed down the field considerably and know what you’re looking for. Plus, thanks to Susan Serra, what questions to ask!

Well, that was fun. And I don’t know about y’all but I certainly learned a lot from this exercise.

Thank you again to all of the wonderful designers who helped out. I think that we should do roundup posts like this every once in a while if you guys liked this.

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it!

xo,

PS: The hot sales are super hot this weekend. And please be sure to check out the hot clothes on sale!

 

 

5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Theresa - April 9, 2018 - 5:58 PM

    Laurel, can you share the name of the cabinet painter you use? I’m in NYC and am looking for someone to do the work. Thank you so much!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 9, 2018 - 11:52 PM

      Hi Theresa,

      I don’t have a painter at the moment. The ones who did the kitchens I’ve worked on were supplied by the cabinet maker, JEM woodworking.ReplyCancel

  • Fenella - April 8, 2018 - 12:41 PM

    Me again … I can tell I’m not going to get much done today!

    Laurel, did you see the recent Devol kitchen with copper countertop and backsplashes, and blue-stained cabinetry? It’s on their fb page (posted March 21st 2018), not sure it’s on their website yet. Curious to know what your expert team thinks of staining wooden cabinetry vs painting it! I’d have thought it would wear better, if you’re ok with seeing so much grain and character inherent in most woods.ReplyCancel

  • Fenella - April 8, 2018 - 9:58 AM

    Given “Kit” is just up the road in Montreal, I thought she might like to talk to The Swedish Door Company here in Ottawa, Ontario.

    The Swedish Door Company is a clever little offshoot of a larger high-end cabinet-making company, and they specialize in manufacturing doors, etc, to fit Ikea cabinets, in any material, style, colour or finish your little heart desires. At least one of their salesmen is an expert in finishes, ie paint finishes.

    But for “Kit,” they don’t just make stuff to fit Ikea stuff, they also manufacture cabinetry from scratch.

    Google for more info (as a newbie, I’m not sure of your rules n regs yet, Laurel!). And I don’t have anything to do with the company, by the way, except as a very happy customer. 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2018 - 11:12 AM

      Hi Fanella,

      Welcome to the blog! I love when people share wonderful sources. I can’t always use links people give me, however. But I will definitely look into this source. It sounds wonderful!

      Did Kit say that she was from Montreal? I don’t recall that, but sometimes I miss stuff.ReplyCancel

      • Fenella - April 8, 2018 - 12:29 PM

        Yes, I believe she mentioned she was from Montreal and was looking at cabinets from a company there … Mirales or something?

        I found your blog the other day while scrambling around looking for Farrow & Ball equivalent colours. You are SO generous with your expertise, it’s very refreshing and inspiring, and I love your enthusiastic tone of voice!

        And then you got to play with Ben and Charlie in Dorset, so, well, you’re obviously an OK person. 🙂ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 8, 2018 - 3:11 PM

          Hi Fanella,

          Thanks so much!

          Re: Ben and Charlie. Unfortunately, I had to share them with 23 other people and I had maybe two sentences with Ben at an opportune moment, plus the pics with him and Charlie where I really was giggling like a little girl.ReplyCancel

  • Jackie - April 3, 2018 - 5:21 PM

    Hi Laurel. I loved this post. I live in the Midwest where the majority of homes have stained cabinets. Only recently have painted cabinets become popular in new construction in my area. We built our home over 13 years ago and I wanted a white kitchen. My builder thought I was crazy and tried to talk me out of it. I ignored him and did what I wanted…after all it was my house…not his.

    After living in this home for over 13 years, having grown children with small children that visited often, my cabinets to this day look new. Not one scratch on them. They are MDF in the middle and wood styles for the cabinet fronts. They were custom built and painted on site.

    So many people are wanting to change their stained cabinets and paint them so thank you for such a great post. It was a wealth of information that I will be passing on to several of my family members.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 4, 2018 - 12:47 AM

      Hi Jackie,

      I’m from the midwest too. Born in Chicago. Raised in Evansville, IN and then spent five years between Madison and Milwaukee, WI.

      A couple things. I live in the shadow of New York City and oak is prevalent here too! I’ve written about it a number of times because it boggles my mind!

      And this is interesting. My mom built her home in 1980. A contemporary home with lots of big windows, white walls, and wood-stained trim and ceiling. And of course wooden kitchen cabinets.

      But my mom painted her cabinets a warm white in the 90s and they looked so much better!ReplyCancel

  • mrsben - April 3, 2018 - 11:10 AM

    I don’t claim to be a paint expert, however as I have always done my own painting have learned a few things along the way. That being no matter the project; proper prepping of your surface is of the utmost importance followed by the use of quality tools and choice of paint. Also in respect to MDF usage in cabinet making (factory made or otherwise); if CUT or PROFILE edges are not properly ‘sealed’, there will definitely be problems with eventual warping! (This you can count on.)

    To conclude; for the process of painting I agree with much that Margaret Van Erve has stated in her comment; however my go to primer is Zinsser’s Bullseye 1-2-3 Primer and my choice of paint is CIL SMART for Furniture and Cabinets which ‘Kit’ might wish to consider if she opts for unpainted cabinets. Reason being; IMO the CIL not only outperforms BM Advance in both application and durability, but its finish/sheen falls between BM’s Matte & Pearl so doesn’t have a plastic appearance even though it is classified as a melamine.

    Excellent article Laurel as I certainly learned a lot from the pros.

    -Brenda-
    P.S.: I am not sure if CIL Is sold in the U.S.A. but it is available in Canada at both Home Depot and Canadian Tire for sure. It can also be colour matched to any other brand but please, please do a sample board … ☺.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 4, 2018 - 12:42 AM

      Hi Brenda,

      I’ve not heard of that brand, but good to know and also for the Canadian readers.ReplyCancel

  • Julie S - April 3, 2018 - 2:27 AM

    This was great! I had the orange maple cabinets in my kitchen painted white before we moved in. Being on an “elbow grease budget” as one decorator in this post so picturesquely said, I did lots of reading beforehand on what sort of DIY finish would have the best chance of lasting. I prepped them myself prior to getting them paint sprayed, bought the proper primer, and an alkyd paint (not Advance – Ace Hardware’s alkyd Cabinet And Door Paint is half the price and good reviews from pros so given our budget… yeah!) We have only been in the house 3 months and I am daily paranoid/careful about it, luckily am the main user of the kitchen, but except for a few tiny chips the first couple days it has been holding up fine even with little girls occasionally crashing through. I kept touch up paint of course!ReplyCancel

  • Addy - April 2, 2018 - 11:03 PM

    I love this post. It’s a topic that is super important at this time when so many people are trying to paint their cabinets to get out of the Tuscan trend.
    I recently used a wood refinishing service called NHance Lightspeed for a client. You can check it out here https://www.nhance.com
    The Lightspeed process cures wood surfaces with a powerful ultraviolet (UV) light that provides a professional and durable factory finish. It’s dried in an instant. Really!
    I was able to choose a BM color for my client and it turned out beautiful. I didn’t read all the comments and I’m not sure if anyone else have heard of this service but it works amazingly well
    I’ve also know of BM Advance as a great paint for cabinets.ReplyCancel

    • mrsben - April 3, 2018 - 11:28 AM

      @Addy; I have heard of it but only through advertising so may I ask where are you located as what concerns me is; it is franchise so the excellence of workmanship might vary.
      Thank you -Brenda-
      P.S.: I live in Canada but note, that the telephone area code serves both Canada and the U.S.A.ReplyCancel

      • Addy - April 4, 2018 - 10:47 PM

        @MRSBEN the job I did was in Corona CA, we found the person who did the work through a Home Depot. I really liked the results and even tried to scratch it and it wouldn’t scratch. I was pretty impressed with the results. I’m a designer so I was able to pick the right color for the cabinet with the right undertones and it really did turn out beautiful. The clients cabinets where old and beat up and now she’ll be able to have them for a long time before having to replace them.
        @Laurel yes that’s exactly what I was thinking about when I learned about the process. As soon as they apply the light it’s dry and hardened instantly! 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 3, 2018 - 12:04 AM

      Hi Addy,

      That sounds like they lacquer stuff we’re putting on our fingernails instead of regular nail polish. It lasts twice as long and dries in one minute with the UV thing you stick your hands in. But thanks for the info and the link too!ReplyCancel

  • Candace - April 2, 2018 - 4:13 PM

    Hello Laurel, Always enjoy your posts! You are amazing!

    I am in the process of painting my oak laundry room cabinets. All the cabinets were stained and sealed (original to the house 27 years), but I had 1 door of a set under the sink cabinet that was damaged.

    I live in Calgary, AB Canada, and took my door to a store called “Multi-Wood”, where they measured, matched the profile as close as possible to my original cabinets, and quoted me $85ish to make 2 doors. Very impressed. They are unfinished oak, so I decided one primer for all. I used an oil-based Kilz primer, as I had read somewhere that water-based primer might swell the grain on unfinished oak, and there is always enough grain with oak!

    I am also using the BM Advance with a good roller and brush. Love the coverage of both products, but…. I find them both rather thick to apply, and thinner coats seem to be the advice of the professionals. Do you have any info on whether either of these products can be thinned? Maybe Floetrol or Penetrol but I am nervous to try. Thank you for your blog.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 3, 2018 - 12:01 AM

      I have not use Advance, but everything I’ve read says that if anything, it is on the thin side. However, I believe that I did read about someone adding Floetrol. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s an additive to thin water-based paint. But maybe try googling “can you add floetrol to Benjamin Moore Advance?” Also, you can talk to your local BM dealer. But try the google thing first, because there are painting/contractors forums and they love to dish about this stuff!ReplyCancel

  • Charlotte - April 2, 2018 - 4:02 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    Thanks so much for all of your helpful posts! We are planning a kitchen remodel after living in our new house for 18 months. I’d like to have painted cabinets so this post is really pertinent. Current cabinets, circa 1990, are encrusted with dozens of layers of dark paint, glazes, crackle and faux peeling finish — just hideous. I can’t wait to have new cabinets and really appreciate your helpful advice. The funny thing is that 18 months before we moved, we thought we were staying (in Charleston, SC) and I designed my dream kitchen. Sigh. But at least I learned a few things from the experience that should prove helpful this time.

    Best,
    CharlotteReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2018 - 11:57 PM

      Hi Charlotte,

      Those cabinets do sound hideous! And I guess everything happens for a reason. Now, you can design another perfect kitchen!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah - April 2, 2018 - 3:37 PM

    Just some anecdotal advice, my parents’ cabinets were white painted birch. They looked lovely and held up without repainting for 20 years before my parents moved and bought a condo in the city. Of course my mom was pretty OCD re: cleaning everything regularly, but I don’t see why people get so stressed about the “risks” of painted wood cabinets.

    That said, for my new kitchen I think we are going with MDF shaker cabinets with real wood rails/stiles. Because I want inset style cabinets but was worried about warping wood, it seemed like a reasonable choice. If I were getting overlay doors I would 100% go with painted wood though! Painted on-site because I don’t love the look of factory finished paint jobs, and because I want a very specific Farrow and Ball color 😉 .

    p.s.All of these decisions are also based on working with a design/build team I actually trust to do quality work with the painting and installation. I wouldn’t trust just anyone to do inset cabinetry these days.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2018 - 11:55 PM

      That’s sounds great Sarah! I too, love inset style cabinetry!ReplyCancel

  • Michele - April 2, 2018 - 10:46 AM

    For DIY’rs … my oak kitchen cabinets were peeling. So I figured painting them was worth a try. I had great results with General Finishes Gel stain previously, so I decided to try the General Finishes milk paint. It is not milk paint, but has a similar finish. I used Antique White, as it worked best with my Cloud White trim. It took me most of last summer (I work slowly), but I did 3 coats of paint and two thin coats of GF flat water-based top coat. I sanded between each coat. They came out beautifully and so far are very durable. Only caveat is that the top coat yellowed the paint a tad. It has to go on very thinly. Next time (I may be moving into a similar kitchen situation) I will try mixing the Snow White with the Antique White. This paint line is amazing for cabinets. I have not yet tried Advance. I do use Benjamin Moore everywhere else, so hesitated about buying premixed colour. But for me, the finish (durability and levelling properties) was important, and the colour tests I did worked. GF apparently works really well if you spray it, but that is way beyond my DIY comfort level. I live in Canada and bought it at Lee Valley.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Ohrtman - April 2, 2018 - 10:14 AM

    Great post. I do a lot of painting, rental properties and my own home, and I always enjoy learning something new. I always stress to other people, homeowners in my office, the need for a primer coat. People always want to skip this part. I also really enjoyed the opinions of other designers. It was like being part of inner designers discussion circle. I loved it.ReplyCancel

  • Margaret Vant Erve - April 2, 2018 - 9:27 AM

    I work as a professional painter and have done many kitchen cabinets. Contrary to some of the opinions, it is actually reasonably economical to have your cabinets painted on-site. The key is to find a good painter who knows what they are doing. All doors should be removed and all hardware removed. Cabinet doors get numbered so you don’t lose track of which one goes where. Here is the order of process: sand, prime (BM Stix is great), sand again, how ever many coats of BM Advance paint is needed to get the coverage needed; usually three). Sand lightly between coats and follow the rules exactly – 16 hours between coats. That means only one coat a day. I like to use a little low mat mohair roller to apply the paint and then brush it out with a purdy brush. The Advance paint has a beautiful finish with a long working time. Note that it takes a full 30 days to cure but that does not mean you can’t work in your kitchen. You just need to be careful for the first couple weeks. Best to get it done when you are away on holiday. The great thing about getting the job hand done, if one of your gang does bang into a cupboard, it is so easy to repair, and not noticeable, unlike the lacquer finishes. But the most important thing is; do you like the style of your existing cupboard doors. If you don’t like them, go get new ones. There is a great company out there called Swedish Door. They have many styles to choose from and they do an in house spray lacquer finish. They are Canadian.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2018 - 12:48 PM

      Thank you for your expert comment and methodology Margaret! Prices vary according to region. But yes, new paint is always going to be less than changing the entire cabinet.ReplyCancel

  • Red Ellie - April 2, 2018 - 8:52 AM

    Read this before there were comments. Excellent. And now the comments are so useful too! Thank you Laurel!
    I’m about to paint my own kitchen cabinets and hope they come out nice. Very small galley kitchen-shaker doors on oak 20 yr old cabinets. I don’t expect pristine/perfect but it’s going to make a real difference-plus going from former owner’s deep red walls and beige laminate to Stonington Gray walls with creamy counters will make me happy no matter what.
    Like all women, I LOVE a clean beautiful kitchen. But whether there’s just two of you or whether you have the teeming hordes of the original questioner, it takes work and attention to even keep it decent. Three things that truly help with high-end kitchens or basic older cabinets and in-need-of-remodel kitchens…Use a mild cleaner and wipe down all your cabinets at least twice a year-They need it. Teach your kids to stack the dishwasher, wipe the refrigerator door handle, wipe the counters and clean the kitchen sink. Even younger children can learn to help keep things clean. (If a five yr old puts chocolate fingerprints on the cupboard door, grab the dishcloth and Show him how to clean it up. Kids who learn this early will be more aware of what they do. Make it fun)
    And if you’re having unplanned company, take five minutes shine up that faucet so it sparkles and place the pretty fruit bowl in front of the chipped cabinet like the photographers do. Grab some flowers put them in a vase or bottle on the island. Distract people (and yourself) with something pretty.

    RedReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2018 - 12:46 PM

      Hi Red,

      Hell, even one person can trash a kitchen. I should know! haha! And I’m in complete agreement up to the part about the children.

      Some can and some can’t and until you’ve walked in the shoes of someone who has children who CAN’T, please try not to judge. And that goes for anyone who thinks that if children aren’t behaving as expected, it’s the parents fault.

      Oh, make no mistake. I thought that too before I had two exceedingly high-maintenance boys. We’re talking neuropsychologists, IEPs, CSEs, meetings, emails, program review, psychologists, CSEs, social workers, teacher meetings, emails, psychiatrists, medication, emails, CSEs, meetings, medication, psychatrists, occupational therapists, emails… 20 years of this. One of them just gave me fits,(he’s the loveliest young man now!) the other one is seriously impaired in some ways.

      Not exactly what I was expecting.

      If you have children and yours are the type that can, then please consider yourself mighty blessed.

      However, both of my children are musical geniuses. Like, ridiculous. Their music gave me an incredible amount of joy while paddling through the muck of dysfunction during those years. Despite the difficulty, I miss those days a lot.

      Said with love for all parents who are dealing with special needs children who struggle in certain areas.ReplyCancel

      • hjc - April 15, 2018 - 7:26 PM

        Laurel, we had a family therapist once who told me (while I was in the throes of despair over my two “exceedingly high-maintenance” boys) that parents take too much blame and too much credit. This was a big Aha! for me. Kudos to you for raising those boys and having empathy for those in similar situations. I have a humility now that never would have developed had my boys turned out as I had “planned.” Love them both to pieces, but they are very different than I ever could/would have envisioned!ReplyCancel

  • Noel G. - April 2, 2018 - 8:34 AM

    Just wanted to chime in and say that I went with IKEA cabinets and I absolutely love them! They are very affordable, especially if you place your order during one of their 20% off kitchen sales. All cabinets come standard with soft close, and cabinets have a 25 year warranty. If you were interested in IKEA cabinets, but don’t love any of the doors, there is a company called Semihandmade that makes doors specifically for IKEA cabinets. I have no idea on pricing, but it adds another nice option for customization! Saving on my cabinets allowed me to splurge on my beautiful walnut counter tops from Craft Art, and my gorgeous orange 36″ range from Big Chill. Love how my kitchen turned out!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2018 - 12:19 PM

      Hi Noel,

      Thanks so much for sharing that! Not that I expect you to know this, but I’ve written about Semi Handmade here before. And there are other companies that make doors for Ikea cabinets and dang, I just read about them, but forgot to make note of who they are.ReplyCancel

  • Laura - April 1, 2018 - 6:48 PM

    Does anyone have any knowledge of Brookhaven cabinets? They’re the less expensive option made by Woodmode. I’m considering using them to replace our “new” home that has the original 50’s cabinets. Thank you.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 7:55 PM

      Hi Laura,

      I’m a big “googler.” Whenever I want to know something… so for instance here, I would do a search “reviews Brookhaven cabinets.”

      That link is exactly that and you’ll find all sorts of info.ReplyCancel

      • Naomi - April 2, 2018 - 11:31 AM

        Hi Laurel, re Brookhaven or Wood-Mode: my designer used Brookhaven for the standard sizes and Wood-Mode when custom was required to maximize inches in my 1916 kitchen; she said they were the same quality and this has been my experience. The cabinets, all in the white we chose, are in perfect condition after many years of high use.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 2, 2018 - 12:56 PM

          Hi Naomi,

          Well, that’s very interesting. Thanks for letting us know!ReplyCancel

  • Genie Harris - April 1, 2018 - 3:57 PM

    LOVE your blog. And this one could not have come at a more timely moment as I am getting ready to remodel an old house In St. Louis. I have been to cabinet show rooms with supposed custom factory finished cabinets….forgive me, but they look like crap. Like plasticy crap and they cost a friggin fortune. I had a cabinet maker make my cabinets in the house I have now and used Ben Moore oil based enamel paint and they still look almost as good as new. My kitchen is 8 years old.

    I want my cabinets to look like real wood and I want my paint to look like real paint. I guess I’m a purist. My builder thinks I’m nuts and can’t understand why I don’t want to have the “beautiful” plastic expensive cabinets in my house. 🤔

    Um no…just no. There are literally only two local cabinet makers in St Louis, and it seems like this whole cabinet business in St Louis has been highjacked and folks are brainwashed with these ugly cabinets. I might as well go to Lowe’s or Home Depot. They hold zero appeal to me. Love Devol and the look. Spent time in Europe and You’re right, it’s only the American market that wants everything pristine and perfect.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 5:18 PM

      I feel your pain Genie. But how is a caged bird to learn how to fly?

      Even in the shadow of New York City, it’s not that different. But since it’s a larger population area, it can be possible to find a cabinet maker who gets it. The only other thing I can suggest is to find a source that’s not local. Of course, the installation has to be local. I’ve not done that but I know that other people have.ReplyCancel

  • Patty - April 1, 2018 - 3:15 PM

    This is a really helpfull post! My house is 30 years old with oak cabinets that need a remodel. I have seen painted finishes that were hard and slick looking that I didn’t like. I want painted wood to look like wood. Are these hard, slick finishes the catalysed laquered ones? Based on your reply to Susan you prefer hand painted on site finishes if done correctly, right? I can still buy Benjamin Moore oil based paint. Am I correct that this would be a better choice than their advanced? I have used their satin impervo for more than 30 years and love it. I really appreciate your posts on paint colors. Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 5:13 PM

      Hi Patty,

      I am not sure if one can still get their oil-based paint. I know that in New York, you cannot. And they don’t sell their paint online. The Advance formula is an alkyd which I had originally learned = oil-based, but this is a water-based alkyd but it takes the same amount of time to dry as oil. In other words, it has all of the properties of oil, but it’s waterborne and low VOC.

      The doors and door fronts can be painted off-site as well. It also might be possible for a professional painter to spray the cabinets with Advance, but my rec is to find a painter with experience and have him make some samples for you so that you can see if there’s a difference in techniques. Or if you want to do this yourself, the same thing.ReplyCancel

  • Tara Marr - April 1, 2018 - 2:29 PM

    I think I’m sold on the Benjamin Moore advance, just wondering if semi gloss is the best for kitchens cabinets? What do you recommend?ReplyCancel

    • Susan Telfer - April 1, 2018 - 8:29 PM

      I have painted a Victorian dresser with advance and it is beautiful and has lasted very well for several years. I used the satin finish because I used Georgian Green and I think that colour doesn’t look good in semi-gloss.
      I have used Advance in semi-gloss Cloud White on moulding and bead board and again it looks great and lasts. They say at my Benjamin Moore store that it is the closest thing to oil. I find it does smell very bad and I do it outside and with all doors open, so summer only.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 3:09 PM

      I’ve never actually used Advance, but I’ve always done semi-gloss. But for things like this, I recommend talking to them at the paint store. They are a fountain of information and can better help you make a choice about which sheen you prefer.ReplyCancel

  • Gail Caryn - April 1, 2018 - 12:52 PM

    Good Easter morning Laurel. I’m catching up on the blog after returning from 2 weeks in Mexico. First vacation in years and it was wonderful.
    I painted a maple kitchen for our suite as a weekend project. It took almost a year so I wouldn’t do it again! I stripped down to bare wood, sanded, primed with Zinsser and painted with BM Advance in Coventry gray. It’s gorgeous and, since I’ve got the paint, easy to touch up if needed.

    For the main kitchen everyone was trying to convince me to go with MDF but I HATE the look of it! The wood kitchen is on order. I have a 1911 house so if the joints crack it will fit the character. I’d rather that than a flawless but fake-looking finish. I cook and my house is lived in. The magazine pictures we look at are of new projects staged for photos, not of real houses that families and animals live in. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect our homes to look like a magazine picture. Sure I want durability but I go with the Japanese wabi-sabi aesthetic for peace of mind.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 2:26 PM

      I’m with you Gail. But it’s difficult for us who LIKE the imperfections,(particularly in an older home) because from what I’ve seen, we’re more the exception than the rule. And magazines aren’t always nearly as perfect as they appear to be. They stick a plant in front of the crack or just photo-shop it out! Maybe this is what perpetuates the belief that we must also be this “perfect.”

      This post when I went to England shows either new homes or renovated homes and there are cracks all over the place. I love the image with the doorknob! What a pity it would be if it were a solid plastic-looking door.ReplyCancel

      • Gail Caryn - April 1, 2018 - 10:13 PM

        Love that image too. Love all of your England posts. Love England! Yes, the pressure to be perfect – ugh. It’s good to take a reality check now and again. But I do love looking at and learning from the work of wonderful designers like yourself and those that you post. Thanks for all that you’ve taught me.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa D. - April 1, 2018 - 11:46 AM

    Wow. Lots of info here. Do you or your readers have an opinion about Mark Wilkinson kitchen cabinetry? (In a previous post about sinks and sink hardware I asked you about Sherle Wagner, and you replied that they reminded you of bunt pans, so I don’t know if you like Mark Wilkinson or not, but mainly I am inquiring about the quality.) This is probably another post, but I thought I would ask since we are on this subject. I know this is a British company, so I don’t even know if it is available here in the US, I just assume that if a client can afford something and they want it, then it would be available.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 12:17 PM

      Hi Lisa,

      I took a look at the MW website which is very pretty but runs slow. I looked only at the English designs and some of it is great, but too much of it has rounded corners, shapes which are not traditional. In the US, I would look at Christopher Peacock. I adore his Scullery collection!

      But this is a matter of taste. I’m sure that the quality in all of these high-end kitchens is superb. And if there should happen to be a defect, they’ll make good on it. I have heard of people in the US ordering a DeVOL kitchen and having it shipped over.ReplyCancel

  • Dean Malambri - April 1, 2018 - 11:43 AM

    This is a continual question from our clients- thanks for such a thorough set of explanations. We’ve had one client who researched this topic to the enth degree and took on the challenge to paint his cabinets himself. The cabinets came out beautifully- problem is it took him 9 months to do it himself!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:56 AM

      Hi Dean,

      Wow, that probably made you a little nuts, but hey, it sounds like it was his weekend project and yes, nine months sounds about right. Glad he got a great result!ReplyCancel

  • Eleanor - April 1, 2018 - 11:33 AM

    I painted my golden oak cabinets BM White Dove using BM Advance in satin. I have only has cracking on two doors where the joints meet for the cathedral door. I had two small chips that need touched up in 2 year of use and I do have toddlers/preschoolers. I used TSP initially, then Zinnser Smart Prime, then sanded between coats and used a microfiber roller. We plan to replace our cabinets eventually since I don’t like cathedral style or the configuration and they are not high quality cabinets. If the cabinets were better quality and the right style I would hire a professional with cabinet painting experience. However, for about $300 paint and supplies I got a beautiful kitchen for 5 years or so until we replace them. The finish doesn’t look like a factory finish and I am not a professional but I am a very experienced painter. Prior to doing the cabinets I painted all of the oak trim in our home as well as many pieces of furniture over the years.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:54 AM

      Hi Eleanor,

      Sounds great and like I said before, I admire those with the patience to do a thorough and careful job!ReplyCancel

  • Sarah McGee - April 1, 2018 - 11:08 AM

    I am SO excited about this post!

    I’ll be bookmarking this and referencing all the tiiiiime. Thank you!

    *That Lisa Mende kitchen is freaking UNREAL.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:30 AM

      Hi Sarah,

      I KNOW! Lisa Mende is a creative genius for real! And she was on the KBIS blog tour last January (her 12th blog tour with Design Hounds/Modenus, my second.) and she’s just as nice and sweet as they come. Plus she has the most infectious laugh. Really fun to hang out with!ReplyCancel

  • Susie - April 1, 2018 - 10:55 AM

    Great info. I will add my experience. Factory finish is best, especially if you’re starting from scratch. High quality MDF will not expand and contract. Gentle regular cleaning is a must (soapy water on a damp microfiber cloth). I told my builder (who paints on site) that I would rather have ikea than site painted cabinets. I ended up paying a lot more for the factory finish, but it’s been great. Meanwhile, my next door neighbor is miserable with her site painted maple cabinets that are cracked and peeling. Speaking of ikea – we did that in a rental property and the thermofoil is awesome and looks great. It is a rental, so I wanted something that would hold up to who-knows-what. And walnut definitely expands and contracts, but I cant imagine anyone would paint it anyway. As much as I love painted cabinets, walnut is my fav!
    https://www.popularwoodworking.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/WoodMovement.pdfReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:25 AM

      Thanks for all of that Susie. And it just goes to show that everyone’s experience is different. There are so many variables and then, we’re talking about things like wood which is a wonderful material until it gets wet and then there’s paint. Plus all of the reasons the paint didn’t stick such as there was an oil residue that nobody noticed.

      I was reading about Ikea and not all of it is thermofoil, but mine definitely is! It has held up quite well. (but I don’t usually play with my light saber in the kitchen) ;] Just a little area in the toe kick around the dishwasher, but that is undoubtedly due to moisture.ReplyCancel

  • Marianne - April 1, 2018 - 10:36 AM

    Hi Laurel thank you so much for your post. It is so timely as I have just downsized from a home to a condo and I have inherited MDF boring beige kitchen cabinets. I had talked to my painter who I have used before and like a lot and he did mention using the primer STIX and the Benjamin Moore Advance and he has had very good luck with it. I am not prepared to buy factory kitchen doors at this point. But thanks again for your great advice I read your blogs even if I don’t think I need it I find something interesting Marianne TorontoReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:20 AM

      Hi Marianne,

      I am always one that if the kitchen is otherwise satisfactory and the cabinets are in good shape or can be fixed, to paint. High quality new cabinets for an average sized kitchen with installation are going to run tens of thousands of dollars. Painters vary, but will be much less and with new hardware, the cabinets will look good as new. Maybe better!ReplyCancel

  • Maggie S - April 1, 2018 - 10:24 AM

    After I got divorced I moved into a smaller house with ‘plastic’ paneling and kitchen cabinets. My then boyfriend (now husband of 30 years) and I painted everything white!! None of it -even the paneling walls in the family room chipped in the 7 years I lived there (with 2 boys). The secret was in the prep! We cleaned them well and used a super primer (that said you could paint it on glass )-it was a Kilz primer but I don’t think it was oil.
    I’m not sure I’d paint ‘good’ wood cabinets myself but these looked so much better. So I know it can be done. Wasn’t I lucky to find such a great guy!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:05 AM

      Yes, Maggie, you were very lucky to find such a great guy. Does he have a brother who’s available? He doesn’t have to paint, but if he’d take care of the dishes, I’d be a happy girl.ReplyCancel

  • Karen - April 1, 2018 - 10:07 AM

    I have painted the kitchen and bathroom cabinets in two homes. My current cabinets I painted 14 years ago in my 60 year old home. The cabinets were in great condition and solid wood so I was not going to replace them. They were just very dark and I have always loved white regardless if it was in style or not. I removed cleaned and sanded each door. Used a good primer and 2 to 3 coats of paint. They never cracked. I touch up any nicks from toys chairs etc. I even painted all the insides. I use dish soap and water to clean them.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:02 AM

      Hi Karen,

      Sounds wonderful and IMO, white cabinetry is ALWAYS in style!ReplyCancel

  • Jean - April 1, 2018 - 9:31 AM

    Got my ham in the oven so I can take a moment to share my experiences with painted kitchens. First, about thirteen-fourteen years ago we had a golden oak kitchen painted by a local painter. He warned me that oak was not the best wood for painting as the grain will show through no matter what. This was my best option at the time so we proceeded to have the kitchen and master bath done. The grain did show somewhat but it was SO MUCH BETTER that I was happy with the outcome. We ended up selling that house rather unexpectedly and it sold quickly and close to listed price. We built a lake home in 2003 and had manufactured white cabinetry installed throughout. We have had no chipping or cracking. They look brand new. Third, we built again in 2006 using custom cabinets with a glazed finish. I have one chippped spot on the flip down under the kitchen sink. My kitchens have all been well used with four children and various dogs, friends etc. now we’ve downsized to a kitchen with cherry cabinetry and I’m researching painters again. I know I won’t regret it! Good luck and just do it!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:01 AM

      Ham in the oven sounds so good! What time should I arrive? We’re Jewish (supposedly) but no matter, my mom made ham now and then and covered it with pineapple and brown sugar! Yum!

      Love your story too and yes, JUST DO IT!!!ReplyCancel

  • Linda Weisberg - April 1, 2018 - 9:27 AM

    I painted 25 year old Woodmode cabinets with Ben Moore Advance Simply White, and they came out great. Would totally recommend it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:59 AM

      I’m so glad to hear that. And also glad that I’m hearing that it’s not difficult to work with, because formerly, had read mixed reviews, but maybe there’s an Advanced version of Advance? Or maybe you’re just a very skilled painter!ReplyCancel

  • Elle - April 1, 2018 - 9:14 AM

    Please don’t use Miralis to do your kitchen. On the third delivery of replacement doors, I refused to accept them because they were already cracked in one corner, on another door the finish was gritty and on the third door I looked at, they didn’t even have the holes drilled for the hinges. I refused to accept it. The kitchen company I am dealing with is now using another company to replace my wood kitchen doors. I would be more than happy to send you pictures of the shoddy workmanship.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:08 AM

      Thanks for the heads up about Miralis, Elle. I hate hearing that their quality is so poor. That always makes me crazy. Like isn’t someone inspecting this stuff before they send it off?ReplyCancel

  • Dale Almond - April 1, 2018 - 8:52 AM

    I highly recommend Fine Paints of Europe. We live in the country and had access to Amish and Mennonite cabinet makers so that is what we chose – way less expensive and 100% solid maple. I hadn’t known about FPE – the cabinetmakers claimed to be able to match any color in a lacquer but they couldn’t match what I chose. I called a trustworthy house painter and he said that hands down, FPE was the way to go. He considers it the finest paint in the world. They were able to match my color perfectly, and it is the most beautiful and durable paint I’ve ever seen. We used the satin finish but there is a high gloss that’s even more durable. It’s been a little over a year now, and even with expansion and contraction (150 year old house, no central air, weather extremes) the paint is perfect. The downsides: it’s expensive, and you need a contractor who is willing to use oil paint with thinner and be patient and careful with the sprayer, dust control and dry time. Ideally, you would paint new cabinets off-site, and then install. The best situation for existing cabinets is to remove the doors and spray them off-site in a dust free environment.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:57 AM

      Hi Dale,

      Fine paints, indeed. And while the paint is manufactured in the Netherlands, the company is situated in Woodstock, VT. And there’s more interesting information about the company here. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine_Paints_of_Europe – I did use their paint once when we did black trim. I had heard that their black, gloss is especially nice and it is! Thanks so much for sharing all of that!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey Putzier - April 1, 2018 - 8:39 AM

    We used a good primer and BM Advance on basically all of the wood in our home – both wood that was previously painted a hideous pink beige, and wood that was still stained. 3 years later, it still looks great! Has it chipped where my son rammed a light saber into it with the full force of his 40-pound body? Yes, but it’s super easy to touch up. And BM Advance self-levels so well, you can’t even see where the touch ups are.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:47 AM

      Hi Lindsey,

      Thanks so much for sharing that and great advertising for Benjamin Moore Advance!ReplyCancel

  • Joan - April 1, 2018 - 8:30 AM

    A GREAT post Laurel! Thanks for doing. I just put in a new kitchen and this confirmed that even though I went over budget (gulp!), I think it was done right and should last.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:45 AM

      Hi Joan,

      That’s wonderful! Not the going over budget, but that you got a great result!ReplyCancel

  • Sue Roberts - April 1, 2018 - 7:44 AM

    I had factory painted cabinets in a bathroom. The super hard finish cracked and moisture got in the MDF doors and they swelled up. Horrible looking and had to order new doors and drawer fronts. MDF cannot be fixed!!!! Do not use MDF ever. Only wood.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:44 AM

      Hi Sue,

      Actually, MDF is an engineered wood and has certain advantages such as stability, but apparently not if it gets wet. I’m so sorry that you had this problem. That should not have happened. It appears that there was something wrong with the finish, or some other defect.ReplyCancel

  • Kathy O - April 1, 2018 - 6:16 AM

    Great post on a topic many of us obsess about (based on my group of friends). I echo the advice about using Benjamin Moore Advance (or is it Advanced? I’m too lazy to go down into the basement to check.). Anyway, I’ve used it on furniture and it covers like mad and holds up beautifully.
    Just FYI, it seems that the link to Amy Wax’s blog post about painting kitchen cabinets is not working.
    Happy Easter. I’m trying-but-failing to stay calm while preparing Easter dinner for my husband’s foodie family!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:34 AM

      Thanks so much for letting me know about the link not working. I went in and fixed it. Serve the foodie family hamburger helper. They’ll love it! ;]ReplyCancel

  • Laura - April 1, 2018 - 4:08 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    I feel I must chime in on this with our experience. In our home in the UK, we have a beautiful painted kitchen done by a well known company. It’s now three years old with no cracks, chips etc. I would send a pic if could work out how! The house is a converted Victorian school.
    Our home in White plains had a well made cherry kitchen. It is about 20 years old but the doors are solid wood, and in good condition. Six months ago, I had a Peekskill cabinet company paint it in a cream lacquer. The company took the doors away to sand and paint them. The rest of the kitchen was sanded and sprayed institu. The results are beautiful. It cost a tiny fraction of what a new kitchen would cost. I spent months convincing my husband it was a good idea and now he is so happy with it! So in my opinion, go for painting, but get it done properly and you will love it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:25 AM

      Hi Laura,

      I was tripping a little when you said “converted Victorian School” in the UK and in the next paragraph, I read “White Plains.”haha For those who don’t know, White Plains, NY is the largest city in Westchester County where I live. And to be sure, there are some lovely parts, but it’s a city that grew wildly fast and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost with its crazy configuration of nonsensical one ways apparently design to demean and confuse. lol In fact, one New Year’s eve before I moved to southern Westchester, I was meeting friends and even my GPS got lost; I was driving around in circles for 45 minutes before I gave up and went home.ReplyCancel

      • Laura - April 1, 2018 - 10:31 AM

        Lol, we live in White plains now, but still have our little school house too. Ps I love your blog.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:06 AM

          Oh great! Let’s have lunch! I’m serious! We can meet in Scarsdale.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Wax - April 1, 2018 - 4:03 AM

    Thanks Laurel, great article! I’m so glad you listed my comment and the link to my Color911.com blog post! This is a great question, I love the way you addressed it so thoroughly!ReplyCancel

    • Susie - April 1, 2018 - 11:06 AM

      Hi Amy & Laurel, when I click the link to color911 I get a 404 error message. I am enjoying reading the blog, though!ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 11:26 AM

        ugh, I fixed it and then forgot to hit the update button. But it’s all fixed now.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:20 AM

      My pleasure Amy and thanks so much for your contribution! xoxoReplyCancel

  • Christine Anderson - April 1, 2018 - 3:29 AM

    I am having to live with white cabinets made by a local “custom cabinetry” craftsman who is not nearly as particular as I am, took short cuts, used a piece of wood that had water damage, crooked handles, shelving pins that are off balance (thus, rocking shelves), and paint coming off at 2 weeks post installation date of 12/31/17. It was supposed to be my dream kitchen, compliments of my mother’s estate. Can you say, “sick to my stomach?” No legal recourse as to definition of “quality craftsmanship”. I prayed for a miracle to somehow return them for a refund, to no avail.

    Big manufacturers have this “white painted cabinet” thing down to a science and have the equipment/supplies to create a hard finish – this guy didn’t. I’m a perfectionist, so accepting the quality of craftsmanship of my kitchen has been a BIG pill to swallow. I know there are worse things but simply put, my heart is broken.

    Good luck, Kit. ♥ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:18 AM

      Oh, I’m so sorry for this experience Christine. I’m hoping that he can at least come back and adjust the shelves. Oh, he’ll say that it’s the floor, and it might be. But, he should be able to add some shims or something to at least fix the shelves and straighten out them handles! And he should fix the paint. Otherwise, I would take him to small claims court. They’ll make him fix his “quality workmanship.” Oh, and a few bad reviews on yahoo, google, bing, louzzy houzz if he’s on it, plus the BBB (Bogus Business Bureau) based on what I heard from the Houzz post.ReplyCancel

  • Vicki - April 1, 2018 - 3:01 AM

    I agree there’s nothing as durable as a factory finish. As a furniture painter, I refer kitchen cabinet jobs to painters who have done them before. In summary tho, these painters sand the wood, wash the cabinets with a cleaner like TSP (or other) to remove oils, apply primer (very important), and spay on thin coats of an oil based paint.

    If I were to hand-paint cabinets I would choose valspar cabinet enamel (I only paint with water-based). While I love how BM Advance levels out, cabinet enamel hardens so much quicker and better.

    One warning… if the cabinets have furniture polish buildup and it’s not completely removed thru sanding and washing before priming then the paint will crackle. If this happens you have to apply a clear shellac to seal it in (not a clear polycrilic) then repaint.ReplyCancel

  • Nancy George - April 1, 2018 - 1:43 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Years ago when I had lots of energy and not so much money, I decided to paint my kitchen cabinets. I removed all the doors and hardware and washed them all with TSP. Then I prepped them all with Benjamin Moore oil based enamel underbody, 2 coats each side. I then painted them with 2 coats of oil based semi gloss sanding in between. ( I know the oil based paint is not available now). They were painted a grey/blue colour and looked terrific. No chips or scratches for several years when I had the kitchen remodelled. People thought they were factory finished. Was a lot of work but worth it.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 10:08 AM

      That’s such a lovely story Nancy. I don’t have the patience to do that, but I admire those that do!ReplyCancel

  • Susan Telfer - April 1, 2018 - 12:48 AM

    Thank you Laurel for this abundance of information which has convinced me not to paint my “rustic” wood cabinets which appear to be coming into style thanks to hygge and have been holding up amazingly well-easy to wipe etc. for 12 years and lasting through three teenagers. I think I will wait until I need a new kitchen and get them done in factory.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - April 1, 2018 - 12:55 AM

      Hi Susan,

      I guess I didn’t make it clear enough, but if one already has cabinets, I think it’s absolutely fine to paint them and can save a lot of money if the cabinets are in good shape and you otherwise like the style. I probably did at least a dozen of these types of kitchen facelifts over the years with clients. And they were immensely successful.

      And we painted out own crappy cabinets.

      But, custom-painted new cabinets are quite expensive. If money is no object, personally, I would go for that. There’s just nothing like hand-painted. That’s how they did it for 200 years! and I actually like the subtle cracks.

      I noticed in England that they are not as hung up as we are, (on the whole) with things being just so. Scratches, dings, what nots are a part of life. They add character. ReplyCancel

      • Susan Telfer - April 1, 2018 - 1:07 AM

        Thank you, Laurel. OK, I might paint some. Or maybe get my painter to do it with Advance.ReplyCancel