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Question DetailsAsked on 12/7/2014

what's the most durable kind of finish for wood kitchen cabinets - high gloss or flat paint?

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My personal opinion - except for textured ceilings where low visual impact is desired, and for certain decorative faux finishes where color, texture and finish sheen are combined to achieve a specific effect, flat has no place as a final surface finish - just holds dirt too well, and commonly looks smeary after being washed because the surface is so open to staining and discoloration.

A kitchen has constant exposure to greasy air - so for frequent cleaning environments like kitchens and bathrooms I recommend a semi-gloss or possibly satin finish - with high gloss on flat drywall ceilings. The reason - high gloss cleans easiest and is the most durable sheen, but also shows wear and smears the most - so a ceiling that is rarely cleaned (maybe yearly or less in most houses) works well in gloss as it reflects the most light and provides the least grip for dirt and dust to accumulate, but be sure to clean only with non-abrasive cleaners unless you are prepping for repainting - soft cloths with liquid dish soap, for instance. (BTW - never wash or scrub - as opposed to dabbing or wiping up spills - a painted surface with paper towels as they contain abrasive wood pieces and grit that can scratch and change the surface appearance of paint.)

For walls, I recommend a surface that is a bit more textured, which granted lets it hold dirt a bit better so is a bit tougher to clean, but can tolerate frequent washing - hence a good quality semi-gloss (close to gloss but minor surface variations do not show as well) for kitchens, or a satin if you like a "softer" surface. But, bear in mind a satin will definitely hold dirt and grease better and condensation drips show well also, so cleaning is going to be a multi-pass operation - so better for bathrooms if desired, not kitchens. Some people use a gloss or semi-gloss behind and around the stove and above the backsplash for easier cleaning in the "dirty" areas, with semi-gloss or stain elsewhere but with the realization that the glossy areas may need repainting more often as they develop a variable sheen appearance from cleaning. Full gloss is definitely more of a cleaning issue than other sheens - just like on a car where a shiny gloss or metallic coat paint job looks great when perfectluy clean and polished, but starts showing the dirt the instant you drive out of the drive, whereas the semi-gloss or matte finishes can accumulate a fair amount of dirt before they look bad.

One other consideration, particularly for repainting and DIY work - gloss shows imperfections in the drywall finish far more than other paints because every variation caues a difference in the angle of the surface, so the gloss reflection is redirected another way - makingthe surface look alternately shiny or duller - so if you do not have flawless drywall prep and priming, you might want to shy away from full gloss.

One other thing - in talking about gloss, I was referring to normal oil or latex or acrylic/latex wall and ceiling paints. True enamels, epoxies, and other specialty highly wear resistant finishes are far tougher, so while they have the same problem of showing (through variations in light reflectivity) imperfections in the surface, a gloss finish with them can perform very well in a kitchen cleaning environment - the reason in the old days (and some factory finishes today) were commonly enamels, like on your appliances. Ditto to hard-finish polyurethane surface finishes - either colored or as a clear-coat over say a stain. However, with those special finishes you have to be careful they are compatible with what is on there now so you don't get lifting or blistering - commonly a problem with highly wear resistant finishes, though there are many acrylic enamels out there that can go over most cabinet finishes - if you are in for the glossy look.

That is one other consideration in a kitchen - a high-gloss enamel or oil paint can look too glitzy and reflective, unless your kitchen is going for the antiseptic stainless look or for a 20's to 40's art deco look.

If you google this search phrase, you can see lots of photos of how different finishes look on cabinets - images for kitchen cabinet finishes

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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