Kitchen cabinets are hardworking and tend to get splashed on, dented and otherwise damaged through regular use. They also are scrutinized heavily when a house is on the market. Signs of wear or peeling, or a sloppy paint job, can do equal damage in the minds of potential buyers, because they will think the entire home has been neglected. Because the surface area of most kitchen cabinets is usually not very large, it is essential to pick top-of-the-line paints that have a reputation for durability, finish quality and easy-cleaning surfaces, the characteristics that are so essential for cabinets.
There are three basic types of paint that can be used on kitchen cabinets and each can produce a good result. Each paint has aspects that should be considered before making a choice. First, you have to think about how often you intend to repaint your cabinets. If you intend to continue living in the house and using the same cabinets for many years, then the long-term durability of the finished surface will rise to the top as your primary consideration. In that case, you might consider an alkyd-oil base paint. If you're not as concerned about long-term durability and want an easier clean up, then you might consider an acrylic-latex base paint.
Alkyd-Oil Base Paint
This type of paint produces a very nice, strong finish that can withstand cleaning fairly well. The downside of the alkyd-oil base paint is that it requires solvent clean up and you must have excellent ventilation in your kitchen for the duration of the painting process and cure time. In addition, this paint dries more slowly than other types of paint. The positive aspect of a slower dry time is that corrections can be made in the finish if there are mistakes. The negative side of the slower dry time is that it will be that much longer before you can go back to using your kitchen, and during the cure time, your house needs to stay properly ventilated and your children and animals must be kept away from the work area. These are inconveniences, but important things to consider for the scope of the project. An additional concern is that you cannot dispose of solvents or solvent-soaked rags and materials in your regular garbage or landfill. Frequently, waste centers require special handling of these types of products, which may not only be inconvenient but may add additional costs to your project.
Acrylic-Latex Base Paint
The second type of paint that works well for kitchen cabinet applications is acrylic-latex enamel paint. This paint produces a good finish and the color integrity is superior to most alkyd-oil paints. The paint surface isn't quite as durable, but the cure time is faster, so if you are subject to painting errors you will have less of an opportunity to correct your finish. Acrylic-latex tends to have slightly better adhesion and, although not odor free, the paint can be applied with normal ventilation, and the cleanup of spills or tools is done with soap and water. Acrylic-latex is the more popular choice, but the finish surface isn't quite as durable, so it may need repainting sooner. The addition of an extra coat or coats of a poly acrylic (a water-based lacquer-like finish) that is sprayed on can add years to the finish.
Tinted shellac can be used, but the product is not as consumer friendly as standard paints, since it comes in powdered forms that need additives in order for the shellac to be applied. It does produce a decent finish, but it is not as water or fluid resistant. Several coats can be sprayed on in a single day, so the dry time is fairly fast. It is a good choice if your intention is to produce a colored-stain effect rather than a more opaque paint finish. If you choose tinted shellac, you should work with your paint-store expert to purchase the type of shellac finish that will produce the finish you want.
It's important to keep in mind that the results of your painting project often center on how well you degrease, clean, sand, prime and resand your cabinets prior to applying the paint. Preparation is the key to producing a quality finish and optimizing your painting dollar. The best quality paint and primers will wear their value over the life of your cabinets.