Opinions on 'paint-grade' cabinets....

Laurie NeumannAugust 1, 2009

Hi everyone, brand new here and I have read many of the messages before posting. Here's my question: What kind of painted cabinets do you think will look the best, and stay that way? We are getting bids on a kitchen/bath/laundry room remodel and both contractors are suggesting "paint grade" (I would like a nice creamy paint color, maybe with glaze). These will be custom cabinets but I have looked extensively at Lowe's and Home Depot samples. I love the look of the painted maple but have been told by the contractors it would make no sense to paint maple because it's too expensive. The paint grade had a raised mdf panel with some wood. It was not laminate. Any help would be greatly appreciated as we will be getting our quotes next week. Oh, and these will be painted by a professional painter. Thanks. Laurie

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There are many opinions on using the MDF, but personally, if I was going with painted, I would not use a solid wood door because of the potential for expanding and shrinking, which wood naturally does, which then can crack the paint. For me, even if it was a remote chance of cracking, I wouln't take it because from everything I've read, good quality MDF painted over is just as good in every respect as wood anyway - some would argue it's even better. It's strong and stable and won't warp, and is a great material when used in appropriate places.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 3:13PM
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Fori is not pleased

I can spot painted MDF when it's on a curve, but on a flat surface it's fine. My cabinets are paint grade maple with MDF panels. They look fine. There will probably be cracks from expansion on the wood bits some day, but painted MDF doesn't get that nice crispness--it's like comparing pressed glass to cut glass. To me. But not everyone is that picky. My spouse was impressed I could tell by looking at the samples at the cabinet shop which parts were wood and which MDF. Coundn't tell on flat panels, but get a little detail in there, and it shows.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 3:55PM
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Laurie Neumann

So paint-grade sounds good, at least what you're telling me is what the contractors did. Anyone else? I see a lot of painted cabinets off-white and white cabinets in the gallery and am wondering what theirs are made of. It will be interesting to see samples at the cabinet shop and to see the difference in cost with all maple. Custom cabinets are probably much different (and I hope better) than the store-bought.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:59PM
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Laurie Neumann

It also sounds like maybe a glaze wouldn't look as good when you're talking about detail on mdf? I pretty picky too. I am leaning towards glaze but my husband thinks it looks dirty. He does have a point. I know the cost for glaze is more so I may just settle for a perfect paint color. I have also seen some ugly glaze too so I am definitely rethinking glaze.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 7:06PM
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I am GC for our home and I've been going to several cabinet makers for bids. I've found that the wood definitely looks "crisper" than mdf. But to me there's not enough difference to offset the cost. Wood is double the cost. Had I chosen to go with all wood it would have been double and one company triple. So..it's just a quick decision for me. MDF is what I'm choosing. I too was concerned with how well the mdf took paint and glaze. It looks absolutely beautiful! I've looked at dozens of house with cream paint and coffee glaze, it settles into the recessed panels great! Just looked at one yesterday that was paint green with a glaze it looked awesome. I am also having the end panels done. Hope this bit of info helps and when mine are installed I'll post pics. I'm going with a cream paint and coffee type glaze.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 9:11PM
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Laurie Neumann

Well, now I'm thinking glaze again and feeling even better about MDF. This information is so helpful. Sounds like we will be doing this at the same time. We all know cost is a definite factor and if less $$$ means I get a new kitchen (or not), then I will go with MDF. I guess I was getting spooked because years ago my sil had white laminate cabinets that fell apart. They weren't painted and I was thinking MDF might have some problems. I have also found it's helpful to ask the contractor what he would do if it was his house and what are others doing? They want me to have what I want but are more open when I ask these kinds of questions. Thanks everyone. Also, I'm still curious to hear from others who actually have painted cabinets that are new what theirs are made of.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 11:05AM
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I'm not sure if you mentioned if these are being made by custom cabinet maker or not, but it might make a difference. We have custom creamy painted cabs on the perimeter & cherry island. When it came time to order the doors the cabinet maker then told me that the original sample which we showed us (which was stained not painted) was hard maple, but that b/c we were painting, that using the more expensive hard maple was not necessary & we could use paint grade maple. The paint grade maple seemed rather light to me & I felt that it might feel flimsy when used on large doors. I asked about cost for upgrade to hard maple and it was $800 for the whole kitchen. I know $800 sounds like a lot when you're hemorrhaging $ in remodel, but in the scheme of the kitchen it really was little. To me, it gives the kitchen a nice sturdy feel that feels like it will really hold up over the years. Can't hurt to ask- I figured the upgrade would have cost much more. Glad I did it.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 9:10AM
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I am getting high density mdf painted cabinet doors. The cabinet boxes are trimmed in maple and will be painted on site. The doors and trim will be sprayed at the painter's
shop. The painter said that the mdf makes a nicer painted door than maple or poplar. The cabinet maker would have done maple if I wanted it. He said it would expand and contract but they put a little ball in the corners so that it can move separate from the frame. We decided to go with the painter's choice. It is not done yet, but before the month is over. The mdf is a special order high density mdf, so make sure that the mdf they are using is the highest density they make. It does make a difference.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 4:01PM
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Laurie Neumann

Good ideas from all of you! Thanks, I'll make sure and ask about high density mdf and the surrounding wood quality. I'll also be able to ask my hair dresser in 2 days who built a beautiful home 3 years ago with paint-grade cabinets. I have a lot to think about, plywood, pressed wood, dovetails.....

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 1:25AM
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Fori is not pleased

It's really best to look at samples made by your cabinet maker. I think "paint grade" refers to a quality of wood--good solid stuff that is too ugly to be stained.

MDF is good enough stuff if it looks right to you (unless of course it's crummy materials or workmanship) and everyone's finishing process is a tiny bit different so you really do have to see samples of exactly what you're ordering.

(Just don't get those fake paneled MDF doors that have the entire door made out of one chunk and a panel carved into the middle unless you're really on a budget. Please!)(When did I become such a snob?)

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 10:27AM
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Ok, if you are looking at something like Medallion/schuler, their paint finish is much stronger than any painter applied paint. It's not actually paint, it's a baked on coating underneath of a baked on conversion varnish. Their glazes are applied by spray before the final coats of conversion varnish. Some companies use catalyzed lacquer instead of conversion varnish.

"Paint grade" is usually soft maple or poplar.

What Fori said. Except that sometimes I wonder if mdf panel will turn out any better because the frame will still expand and contract and rub the paint off the mdf panel.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 11:48AM
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