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Old 08-06-2008, 09:57 PM   #1
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Refinishing kitchen cabinets

I'm stripping/sanding the varnish and stain off of old kitchen cabinets. What is the best finish to protect them from future damage?


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Old 08-06-2008, 10:39 PM   #2
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Probably with another hard coating, like a polyurethane "varnish" (over a new stain) or a polyurethane paint.

Basically, you always want to have the hardest coating you can over a working surface like a floor, counter top, desk top, table top or shelf. That's cuz the harder it is, the less it will show wear from traffic on it (in the case of a floor) or from sliding things across it (in the case of a table or counter top or shelf). So, the longer it will stay looking good, and the slower it's appearance will deteriorate from wear.

There are many coatings you can buy that are harder than polyurethane, but they're not very user friendly. You can get epoxy paints and clear coats, but once you mix the epoxy together, you have to use it or it'll harden up right inside then mixing container. That doesn't give you the option of stopping and correcting an unanticipated problem before continuing. You can buy moisture cure polyurethane coatings that are darn near as hard as epoxy, but they smell to high heaven as they cure. All things considered, you'd be best off with an oil based polyurethane paint or "varnish".

If it wuz me, I'd strip your old varnish off with paint stripper, sand your old stain off, restain your wood and apply multiple coats of an oil based polyurethane to the outside of your cabinet doors. On the inside of your cabinets, I'd use a "melamine" paint (which is an alkyd paint mixed with polyurethane for increased hardness) like Benjamin Moore's "Melamine" in the 303-90 tint base. This is a tintable white paint that you can tint to any pastel colour or lighter. You can also stain and use polyurethane "varnish" on the inside of your cabinets. Generally, tho, your cabinets are dark inside anyway, and using a stain and varnish on the inside isn't gonna help much. That's why I use the BM Melamine tinted a very light shade of off-white in the yellow direction to get as much light reflecting around inside my cabinets (for good lighting) as possible and to use a colour that is well suited to the natural yellowing that will take place with any oil based polyurethane.

If the natural yellowing with age that oil based polyurethanes exhibit is something you want to avoid, you can also use Rustoleum's "Diamond" water based polyurethane:

In the above web page, they show it as a spray can. You can also buy it by the half pint, quart and gallon. I don't know much about this water based polyurethane, but I've been told by people who've used it that it's hardness is close to that of an oil based polyurethane.

You should be aware, however, that the yellowing with age of oil based paints and polyurethanes is totally REVERSIBLE. If your kitchen has plenty of natural sunshine lighting through windows, that natural lighting will bleach out the yellowing that occurs in oil based coatings faster than it forms. So, the paint colour you put on will remain the same and there won't be any yellowing with age as long as there's plenty of direct or indirect sunlight available. INSIDE the cabinets, oil based paints will yellow as long as they're in the dark. But, if you can open up your cabinet doors and get some indirect natural sunlight in there, it will bleach out that yellow discolouration. So, wherever there is plenty of direct or indirect natural lighting, you don't need to be concerned about the yellowing that occurs with oil based paints and polyurethanes. (Maybe place a bloody great mirror in your kitchen to reflect sunlight into your cabinets!)

Also, don't be intimidated by the idea of using a polyurethane paint. You use it just like a polyurethane "varnish", and it cleans up with paint thinner just the same too. That is, you use it exactly like an oil based paint in every respect.

I'm Nestor Kelebay and I approved this message.


Last edited by Nestor_Kelebay; 08-06-2008 at 11:01 PM.
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Old 08-07-2008, 08:45 AM   #3
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oil vs water

Just curious why you suggested oil based over water.
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Old 08-07-2008, 10:28 AM   #4
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The reason why is that my experience with oil based and latex paints is that oil based paints dry to harder and more protective films than latex paints. Even the supposed latex "Porch & Floor Enamel" paints just don't provide as durable a film as you need to give good service on a floor.

I know there have been a lot of improvements in water based coatings over the past decade, and the truth is that I haven't used a lot of the new water based coatings to find out how good they are. What I have heard is that the Rustoleum "Diamond" water based polyurethane is very hard and water based polyurethane hardwood floor finishes are also hard enough to give good service. Since I haven't actually used these products myself, when I suggest that someone use them in a post, I just tell that person that I have heard that they are nearly as hard as their oil based counter parts. That's why in the previous post I said:

"I don't know much about this water based polyurethane, but I've been told by people who've used it that it's hardness is close to that of an oil based polyurethane."

That way, if the poster want's to avoid the yellowing associated with oil based coatings, I've given them the name of what I think would be my second choice. My own preference would be the oil based coatings simply because I've used them and know them to dry to a hard film that provides very good service on a working surface.

Hope that clarifies things.
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