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What Are the Types of Cabinet Finishes?


A cabinet finish is the final layer of color or laminate that gives the cabinet a lasting aesthetic. These can be subtle or stand out, but a good finish gives your cabinets more personality. Knowing what your options are for cabinet finishes lets you make an informed decision based on the style and design of your kitchen and your budget. Join Installation Services of Brevard as we guide you through the different cabinet finish types.

Waterborne Finish

Water-based finishes have low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), making them more environmentally friendly. It produces an aesthetic similar to varnished, stained, or painted cabinets. This quality makes them scratch-resistant, and they also tend to be thinner than oil-based finishes, so they don’t yellow over time. Because they’re thinner, water-based finishes highlight the wood grain more than other types of finishes. It also applies quickly, meaning less time is spent waiting between application and use. However, they’re also less durable than oil-based finishes, so they require more frequent touch-ups. Water-based finishes are also more challenging to apply than other finishes and slightly more expensive.

Stained Finish

A stained finish transforms wood cabinets. It can give the cabinet a different shade, enhance the grain, and shield cabinets from damage. A stain finish can be applied before a different finish to change the aesthetic altogether. For example, with the right stain, a cabinet could appear to be made of oak, walnut, or pecan. Different parts of the wood will absorb different amounts of the stain, giving the cabinet a highly crafted look. Since stain finishes are usually hand-rubbed, they usually need several rounds of sanding and re-staining. Stained finishes also have fewer color options than painted cabinets, so you may need to get creative with your stains to achieve the color you want.

Glazed Finish

A glaze is a clear or translucent coating applied over a base stain or paint color. Glazes come in various colors but are typically used to create an antiqued look. To achieve this look, the glaze is first applied evenly over the entire surface of the cabinet. Once the glaze is dry, it is then hand-rubbed off of the raised areas of the cabinet, leaving a build-up in the recessed areas. This technique creates depth and dimension, as well as an aged appearance. This finish is often followed by varnish to enhance the durability of the finish. The visual depth provided by a glazed finish is a big plus, but because it must be hand-rubbed, it’s labor-intensive. Glazed finishes are also more expensive than alternative finish options.

Natural Finish

Natural cabinets are simply unfinished wood sealed with a clear coat. There are no stains, dyes, or color alterations involved. This process involves sanding and oiling with Tung, mink, linseed, or mineral oil. This finish allows the beauty of the wood grain to show through and creates a rustic look. The durability of these cabinets is dependent on the kind of wood used. Because natural cabinets are unsealed, they require more upkeep than other types of finishes. They are also susceptible to staining and water damage if not properly maintained.

Painted Finish

Painted cabinets, also referred to as opaques, are usually made from MDF or plywood and then coated with paint or lacquer. This finish can easily create a clean, matching look with uniform colors. The type of paint used will determine the durability of the finish. As with glazed cabinets, painted cabinets often have a layer of varnish applied to enhance durability. High-gloss paints are more durable and easier to clean, but they can also show imperfections more easily. A matte finish is less likely to show scratches and fingerprints, but it may require more frequent cleaning. Paint in general is also more likely to chip, dent, or rub off from frequent use.

Varnished Finish

Varnished cabinets have a clear, protective coating applied over the wood. Most assembled kitchen cabinet manufacturers apply a polyurethane catalyzed varnish as a topcoat. Traditional varnish is composed of oil and resin, drying to create a hard surface that resists dissolving. This type of finish can be either glossy or matte. Varnish is more durable than paint and resists heat and corrosion, but it can yellow over time and may require refinishing every few years to keep its original appearance. Like paint, the varnish is also vulnerable to chips, dings, and general wear and tear.

Distressed Finish

A distressed finish has been purposely damaged or marked to give it an aged, antique appearance. To create a distressed finish, the wood may be scraped, scratched, or sanded to reveal the underlying layers of color. The wood may also be stained or painted and then distressed to create a unique look. For a single coat of distressed finish, the paint will be sanded or scraped, while using multiple coats will quickly wipe out the top coat. This type of finish is often seen on country-style cabinets and furniture, giving them a lot of character and a timeless quality. However, a distressed finish will likely chip and rub off in heavily-used areas.

Learn More with Installation Services of Brevard

At Installation Services of Brevard, we know our cabinets, but we also know our customers. We believe in creating a lifelong bond between our company and our clients, so we can advise you on exactly which kind of cabinets and finishes are suitable for your home. Installation Services of Brevard is an honest, professional, and reliable company you can trust to do what’s right for you. So don’t hesitate -call Installation Services of Brevard today for your new cabinets!


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