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Kitchen Cabinet Finishes


Know Before You Go

You have figured out the door style you like – now it is time to bring some personality into your space with cabinet door finishes. This choice will establish the final aesthetic of your kitchen cabinet design. We will cover the different types of kitchen cabinet finishes in this post, the manufacturing techniques used, and the pros and cons of each type of finish.

Painted Cabinet Finishes

Your color choices are unlimited when you choose painted cabinets. Our manufacturers offer a full palette of readily available colors, or you can choose from custom-matched colors. As you can see in our featured photo above, painted cabinet finishes can be applied to either obscure or highlight the natural characteristics found in the wood.

How It Is Done

Cabinet manufacturers use a multi-layer application process of primers, pigmented color, and a topcoat. An industry term for painted cabinet doors is opaques. In addition, many painted finish cabinet doors are constructed with high-density fiberboard or maple to ensure a smooth finished product.

Pros: Can match any color in a favorite rug, the living room walls, even a piece of upholstery fabric.
Cons: Even with a professional application and topcoats, painted finishes can need to be repainted in high-use areas. Cabinet Hardware can help protect painted finishes.

Alder Wood with Autumn Stain

Stained Cabinet Finishes

Stain is applied on wood to add color, enhance the grain, and protect cabinets from damage. Cabinet stains range from pale to very dark. Pale stains show more of the wood’s natural grain, while darker stains hide much of the grain and create a deeper, richer final color. Check out our blog on natural wood kitchen cabinets to get an idea of the varieties of hardwoods available.

How It Is Done

Whether sprayed or hand-rubbed, stained finishes often require several rounds of sanding and re-staining followed by a finishing topcoat.

Pros: Variations in natural wood tones and the stain and topcoat finishes lend themselves to a unique and natural finish. Check out our Natural Wood Kitchen Cabinets blog to see the large variety of woods available, including alder, maple, oak, and cherry.
Cons: Fewer color options than painted cabinets.

Paint Finish with Glaze

Glazed Cabinets

A glazed cabinet finish can be applied over painted or stained cabinet finishes to alter the color and visual texture of the cabinetry.  On painted surfaces, a glaze is often used to highlight cabinetry details, as in our example, which uses a taupe glaze over a white painted background.

How It Is Done

Applied over a finish base coat of paint and then removed by hand to either change the overall color or highlight a detail or profile area. Usually finished with a top coat as well.

Pros: This finish ads visual interest to painted cabinets
Cons: This finish takes extra handwork and will be more expensive than a regular paint or stained finish.

Distressed Door Finish

Specialty Cabinet Finishing Techniques

Specialty cabinet finishes are ideal for either accent cabinets or evoking a distinct look (rustic, farmhouse, artisanal) for a whole kitchen.

How It Is Done

A base coat of stain or paint is applied. The finish is created by making the paint coat seem worn or scratched using sand through or distressing techniques to create an aged look.

Pros: Color variations add character and a unique, timeless look to the cabinets – no one else will have kitchen cabinet doors precisely like yours.
Cons: Also requires extra handwork and can wear unevenly.

Textured Laminate

Laminate Cabinet Finishes

Today’s laminate cabinet finishes are mechanically superior to earlier versions and come in many colors and textures, including glossy, matte, and textured. Textured laminate surfaces can even replicate organic colors and patterns, as you can see in our example.

How It Is Done

Thermally structured surfaces (TSS) are bonded to a substrate with heat and pressure using a textured steel plate. The result is a durable tactile surface with greater color uniformity and ease of maintenance compared to natural hardwood.

Pros: A laminate cabinet finish is affordable, durable, moisture-resistant, and easy to maintain.
Cons: Laminate cabinets are not easy to paint if you want a change in a decade or so.

Conclusion and Resources

Want to see all these finishes in person? Come visit our Palm Desert Showroom to view over 250 door styles and 100’s of finishes. In addition, you can check out cabinet door samples to take with you while you shop for countertops or flooring and then take them home to see how they might look in your space.

An innovative kitchen cabinetry resource, Cabinets of the Desert was formed to be highly responsive to the professional design and installation needs of discerning homeowners, architects, designers, and contractors. Click the button below to call and make an appointment for a free personalized kitchen cabinet design consultation.