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Choosing the Best Finish for Kitchen Cabinets

Choosing the Best Finish for Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets contribute significantly to the function and design of your kitchen, so you should pay special attention to choosing the best you can get. While you probably give due consideration to the size, style, and color, chances are you have no strong opinions about the finish. That can be a mistake, as each type of finish will have a dramatic effect on the cabinet’s esthetics. Below is a quick description of available finishes for kitchen cabinets, and some tips for choosing the right one for you.

Coating options

Most cabinets will have some type of coating to protect it from the elements. No matter what type of materials from which your kitchen cabinets are made, there is a coating material that will work for it. Solid wood cabinets, for instance, can do very well with just a simple coating of oil to keep out moisture. You can also use polyurethane, either clear or tinted, to provide a more substantial seal if you want.
For medium density fiberboard, particleboard, or other types of manufactured board materials, you can use either paint or polyurethane. Paint manufacturers offer products specific for kitchen use, so you can use that. If you use polyurethane, two coats are usually sufficient to add a protective coat to the cabinets. You can also use vinyl wraps, laminates or veneers to give the cabinets an entirely new look or to match other elements in your kitchen. For example, if you have particleboard cabinets, you may want it to have a wood veneer that matches your hardwood floors.
Whatever type of coating you use, it will still give you options for the actual finish. It may be high gloss, semi-gloss, or matte finish. Below is a brief description of the pros and cons of each finish.

High Gloss

A high gloss finish is the most common finish for many homeowners. It began trending in the nearly 50 years ago, and it is still very popular today. It is most suitable for modern-style kitchens with their flat-paneled cabinets, and particularly white contemporary kitchen.
This is because a high gloss finish, also known as 100% gloss or ultra-high gloss, is very shiny and reflects light very well. By doing so, it makes any space look lighter, bigger, and more open. This makes it a good choice for small, dark kitchens, because reflecting the light keeps the dark colors from absorbing the light in the room. Naturally enough, lighter colors tend to reflect more light, so white cabinets will reflect the most light.

High-gloss finished cabinets are also very easy to clean, a clear benefit for busy homeowners. You simply need to wipe it down with a soft, clean cloth, and any dirt will slide right off.
However, a high-gloss finish will also reflect colors of other surfaces in the room, which can change the look of your cabinets. If your kitchen or nearby room has a number of strong colors, you may not get the effect you want from your cabinets, especially white cabinets. In addition, a high gloss finish easily picks up and shows fingerprints and dirt, although it just as easily wipes off as mentioned earlier. Showing up imperfections and scratches in dark colored cabinets are not so easy to remove, though, so if you prefer a high gloss finish, choose lighter colors for your cabinets.


At the opposite end of the spectrum from high gloss is the matte finish. A matte finish will not reflect light at all, and looks quite flat compared to a gloss finish. It is the most popular finish for country or traditional style kitchens, which typically have more decorative cabinet doors than cabinets found in contemporary kitchens.
That is not to say that a matte finish would not look good in modern-style cabinets, however, A matte-finished flat cabinets imparts character and depth to the surface, which is why the matte finish is more popular than gloss in European countries.
The best thing about a matte finish is it renders imperfections, scratches, fingerprints, and dirt less obvious than with a gloss finish. They may be there, but you don’t see it as plainly because there is no light reflecting off the surface, you also get a more uniform look to cabinet fronts with a matte finish because of this lack of reflecting quality. On the other hand, this means it is no help at all in making a dark kitchen look any brighter or bigger, and some people may find the muted appearance of this finish as dull and uninteresting. In addition, a matte finish is just a tad harder to clean than a gloss finish because it is not completely smooth, but not all that much.


A happy medium between these two extremes is the semi-gloss finish. It combines the benefits of high gloss and matte finishes, including the ability to reflect light, hide imperfections on the cabinet surfaces to some degree, and keep clean. This is a great option for any kitchen style and cabinet color, and a good compromise if you are unable to commit to any other finish.
When you are in decision limbo when deciding on your new kitchen cabinets, or trying to get it together for your kitchen remodel, you need an expert and reliable contractor. Fairfax Kitchen Bath guarantees you will love it for life. We sell only top quality products for all your kitchen remodeling needs, including custom and RTA cabinets in different finishes, manufactured by leading brands in the industry.
When you contract with us, you can be sure you will get a quick turnaround on your products, and receive it much faster than ordering what you need from big box stores. We specialize in carrying out kitchen remodeling projects within budget and on time.
We carry the products you need for your kitchen renovation, from natural and engineered stone slabs, cabinets, shelves, sinks, faucets tiles, backsplashes, knobs and pulls, and hardwood flooring. We carry only the top brands for these products, such as Schrock Cabinetry, Silestone, Blanco, Kohler, and Mosaic Décor.

You can see the products before you buy so you can decide for yourself if the quality is what you expect. We have a showroom in Fairfax, Virginia, which houses all our products.
Our products come with manufacturer warranties that ensure your satisfaction with the quality and installation.
Fairfax Kitchen Bath services the DC, MD and Northern Virginia metropolitan areas. We are a Class A, licensed and insured contractor, registered in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Contact us today to get a free quote for your kitchen remodeling project.

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Picture of Sam Kazanci <br/><span id="position">Owner</span>
Sam Kazanci

Sam Kazanci is the owner of Fairfax Kitchen Bath Remodeling. He has experience to build and remodel the kitchen and baths with his team and the author of fkb blog: You can find Sam on LinkedIn and Twitter.