Painted cabinets are some of the most popular and beautiful cabinets on the market today, they can give you different looks that stained cabinets just can't. There are elegant clean whites, contemporary blue or red, retro orange, or as a Cranberry or Sage island to accent rustic cherry or alder cabinets.
Many manufacturers are getting into the painted cabinet business because of the demand for it, but they are not all equal. When someone is trying to sell you cabinets particularly those of the low end variety they tend to stay away from any thing but the positive aspects. That's understandable, but if you intend to provide cabinetry for a customer or use it in an upsale project, you may need to answer for shotty quality later. So here's what you should know before making your decision on a painted cabinet manufacturer.
Around 2003 when I was first getting into the cabinet business, one of the larger manufacturers sold at most homecenters started to really gung ho with painting maple cabinets. All kinds of different colors and treatments. Many of these painted finishes we're already failing upon delivery. This was not a low end manufacturer, they are considered a very reputable semi-custom manufacturer that carry a lifetime warranty. The owner and customer service people at our company could not handle the burden all these problems were causing so we we're forbidden to sell several of the painted finishes that were having the most problems. The problems included peeling, checking, blue streaks (mineral streaks), and black lines along the joints of the doors.
There is still a stigma among the general public about using anything they consider particle board. It's a misplaced fear that was created when they or someone they know experienced a really cheap cabinet being destroyed by the smallest amount of water
By the time I started Cabinet Pro-Supply our first manufacturer Woodharbor was already way ahead of the curve on these problems. They were using soft Poplar wood for the rails and stiles of their doors and a much more stable mdf center panel for the doors. Most other manufacturers have since followed suit. Solid Maple doors are only used on doors that have added distressing so that you can sand the edges and pit and cut the surface. On that type of finish the natural streaks and wood characteristics are fine. So, problem solved right? Almost.
There is still a stigma among the general public about using anything they consider particle board. It's a misplaced fear that was created when they or someone they know experienced a really cheap cabinet being destroyed by the smallest amount of water. The truth is, that much of the particle board and mdf used in cabinetry is more rigid, and sturdier than plywood or some of the softer hardwoods.
Now that I've told you what every cabinet person worth his salt already knows , there are still other quality aspects to consider. There is the quality of material being used on the doors the amount of sanding and overall craftsmanship that goes into finishing it. When people come to us looking for an enamel finish the term painted is used because in the end that's the look you are getting, but the actual process being used is a little different. The enamel finish is actually a conversion varnish just like cabinets are stained with but instead of being tinted with a transparent stain, it is tinted with an opaque enamel color. Then it's sanded and given a few coats with sanding and UV curing in between. This gives you a nice hard painted surface that's made to last a lifetime.
Because painting cabinets has been an evolving technology over the last several years, I can only really speak for the manufacturers we represent. Most of them carry a lifetime warranty, which I think speaks volumes about the confidence in the process they are using. We have very little problems with enamel finishes from Woodharbor, Crestwood or Greenfield cabinetry. They have definitely done everything possible to ensure a very high quality finish, and they have even made it so you can choose your own paint color from either Sherwyn Williams or Benjamin Moore color palletes. Custom matching is available as well, it just takes a little longer and costs a little bit more.
What are some of your painted cabinet experiences?