Factory Baked on Finish

Michele222October 1, 2012

We have been looking at a variety of cabinets. I am wondering how you feel about the quality of factory applied baked on finishes as opposed to other finishes including finishing the cabinets yourself. Do you think that the baked on finish is more durable overall or does it really make much of a difference?

I am enormously grateful to all of you for your many posts and experiences. It has been a big help to us as well as giving us a lot to think about.

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Sophie Wheeler

It makes a HUGE difference in wearability over time. HUGE. No "home" finish can approach the durability of factory applied finishes. Even the smaller cabinet shops who do the conversion varnish finishes do not usually have access to the higher end more durable products because they are restricted to those who can do the supplied air sprayers with a downdraft filter recovery system. That takes some bucks to do, and even a fairly large custom shop may not be willing to put in a 300K spray booth situation. Even so, if they finish with a lower quality water borne conversion varnish in a clean room, that's 10x better than any home applied finish.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:48AM
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The factory finish is miles above the diy finish.
Typically, the average factory kitchen finish is a two part post catalyzed conversion varnish that can stand up not only moisture but also chemicals. It is sprayed on using special spray guns that atomize the finish so It comes out super smooth. No brush marks, no puddling at the inside corners, no runs and that's just the application.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:54AM
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The factory finish is absolutely the best choice.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 12:52PM
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I second (fourth? fifth?) what everyone above has said -- a factory finish is light years more durable than anything you or your cabinetmaker or painter can apply, but I have to admit I don't really like it. It looks too perfect, too plastic to me, I sort of like the imperfections and brush marks of a hand painted surface. Am I alone here?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 12:58PM
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Cabinet makers can do factory finishes.

There is no difference whether its done in a woodshop or a factory. The steps are exactly the same, the product is exactly the same. The only difference is they can put out a greater volume.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:30PM
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Some states (such as California) will not allow certain types of finishes to be used for environmental reasons. Whether you look at that as good or bad, people will purchase their cabinets/floors, etc. from another state to get the more durable (usually factory) finish.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:50PM
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If you are saying that waterborne finishes like the ones they allow in California are less durable than solvent based finshes then you are mistaken.

Waterborne finishes in the US have come on leaps and bounds in the last ten years. The Europeans have perfected them a long time ago.

Both waterborne and solvent based finishes are factory finishes. The reason the factories like them is because they dry quicker and take less skill to apply, ie less money.

Waterbornes are a joy to use, they do not smell, they are not toxic and they clean up with water. And they can't cause an explosion!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:58PM
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I think a factory finish is alot more durable than custom, i had a coffee accident and it stained my cabinets, not sure that would have happ. with a factory finish. I agree though that some factory finishes can appear plastic.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 1:59PM
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"It looks too perfect, too plastic to me, I sort of like the imperfections and brush marks of a hand painted surface. Am I alone here?"

You're not alone on the "plastic" look. I can spot it immediately and absolutely abhor the idea of paying all that money to have that look. But I suspect I'm in the minority here.

While checking out a store display of Greenfield inset cabinets on Saturday, I asked about this question on finish, and was told the company can cut the sheen from #30 to #10 for an up-charge. The semi-custom Greenfield cabinets (a subdivision of Corsi Custom Cabinets) are very nice: all wood construction, great selection of inset and full overlay styles and colors, Blumotion, full extension drawers. I saw a lovely dark wood island with Silestone Lira double ogee edge. Very nice.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 2:04PM
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There are many types of factory finish.

The plastic look you refer to is a urethane, this is not typical of good cabinetry.

You can get a rich warm tone out of waterborne finishes, you just have to know what you are doing. Finishing is as much a skill as cabinet making, there's a lot of chemistry in it.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 2:30PM
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Sophie Wheeler

One issue that I've come across with custom shop finishes is that the wood's moisture content isn't as tightly controlled, or the cabinets are constructed in a non climate controlled environment where the humidity levels are higher than the average home. Then a water based finish is applied and the cabinet is placed in your lower humidity home. The wood attemps to shed it's moisture, and as the finish is water based, it clouds rather than remains clear like an oil based finish. This isn't the case with all shops, but not a lot of them opt to climate control the production areas, so it CAN be an issue that can arise in the more humid areas of the country.

And, if the finish looks shiny plastic, then you are dealing with a low quality product, whether it's from a factory or small shop. Today's protective finishes can be velvet matte in appearance with none of that glopped on glossy poly look of 1970's splotchy pine furniture that gave poly such a bad name.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 2:48PM
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I have never seen that happen and I am in New England, the worst area for humidity swings in the nation.

You are referring to what is called "blush" and the source of this is improper technique at the time of spraying.

The finishes are water "borne" not water based, water is the medium and acrylics are the product.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:02PM
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A plastic look can be had from some brands of mfg cabinets. It has to do mostly with sheen but also wet build. The contradiction here is that you want a reasonably high wet build when the finish is applied. The best way to avoid a plastic look is with a lower sheen while still getting a decent wet build. A few companies buff the finish after it is cured which gives an in between result. Interstingly I was recently interviewing reps from a few lines and several who had what I considered an overly glossy finish were fond of saying that their finish "Was just like..." (Qualtiy Custom, or Wood-Mode were the two they pointed to the most since I handle one and had dealt with the other) They were not.

Another options to avoid "plastic" are the relatively recent introduction of some newer oil finishes. Used extensively on flooring in Europe for years, now also in the states. At least one brand (higher end) I handle offers one now. Dead matte, renewable, and remarkably resistant. The downside is it does not look good on all woods.

As to a local maker spraying a finish as good as the factory...
It is theoretically possible, it just doesn't happen often. If spraying solvent based finishes the environemental and OSHA requirements are rarely if ever accomodated by a local shop...sufficient filters, scrubbers, waste recycling (even for water bornes) respirations sytems (also for water borne- look up isocyantate) I know of none who can bake a finish. Around here most small shops use a pre-catalyzed finish-good, just not as good as.

As to water bornes- there are a few that now approach the durability of fully catalyzed solvent based. The problem becomes what water borne is the maker using? Does the consumer have any idea which ones are good and which are not? I doubt it.
I recently saw a "solvent" type finishes with supposedly no HAP's. Dont' know anything about it.

FWIW- I've personally sprayed just about every type of finish that exists, have a number of friends who still do an assortment of finishing work, and consulted on finishing for a boat builder (though some years ago). For me, a factory finish wins for durability and environmental responsibility.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:51PM
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cabmanct, modern waterborne wood finishes do contain some urethane though don't they? I know they do in wood floor waterborne floor finishes.

Michelle222 and others, myself included, might like to know which cabinet manufacturers are known for not having that "plastic finish" look? It's a very common look on semi-custom cabinetry. So much so that I am now asking dealers now specifically about "finishes" just to hear them refer to the spec book (which are very general in description).

How have others with Duracraft, Medallion, Mousser, Brookhaven found the sheen on their cabinets?

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 3:51PM
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It looks too perfect, too plastic to me, I sort of like the imperfections and brush marks of a hand painted surface.

Some of the higher end cabinet makers offer a brush marked finish. We got that specifically to avoid that perfect, plastic look.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:03PM
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Sparkling Water, yes, there are urethanes in a water borne urethane finish but most kitchen cabs are finished with a conversion varnish which contains no urethane just acrylic polymers.

jakuvall.. There's the right way to do something and a wrong way, just because they are a local shop does not mean they take spraying any less seriously that a factory line. As for isocyanates, what kind of idiot would spray anything without respirators?
The consumer doesn't have to know which wb coatings are good, that's the makers job. If it's not durable, they will get callbacks, so they will search for a good product.
In terms of what is safest, I would say that the guys who spray this stuff day in day out have a much greater vested interest in using the most non toxic materials.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:27PM
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I also don't like that look. In talking to a few custom shops in New England, one told me they do the baked on finish and then hand paint over them to give you the look of hand painted with the protection beneath it.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:36PM
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I've worked in both, never been to a small shop with a scrubber, or water filtered spray booth. No doubt there are some out there.

There is no passive respirator rated to protect you from Isocyanates, only air assisted which are also rare in small shops.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:38PM
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SparklingWater- We have Woodmode cabinetry, both stained and painted which of course has the baked finish and I don't find it plastic looking at all. The finish has been extremely durable for going on 12 yrs. now. We are getting ready to have them painted an antique white and I worry about my lower cabinets that will be brushed on site vs. the uppers that will be taken out and refinished. All of my doors will be replaced with Woodmode doors.

cabmanct-I have a question for you regarding painting my lower cabinets. Since our bottom cabinets will be painted in my kitchen while the uppers are refinished off site and sprayed, what type of paint would you recommend for the lowers. I want something very durable and that won't yellow over time. Thank you .

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 4:48PM
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Here lies the problem... not all shops are the same.

Some guys pack their workers in like rats and give them crappy paper masks and no dust extraction & then some guys take this stuff seriously and put the space helmets on.

To think that large cabinet factories are as clean as Swiss laboratories is just asking for trouble.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:02PM
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I am not a fan of paint but if there is one to choose I prefer Muralo.

Here is a link that might be useful: Muralo Ultra

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:04PM
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Oh yes, I read a bit about Muralo Ultra the other night. NJ based company. It is a highly valued hydrophobic (uncharged molecules not interacting with water) waterborne paint amongst professional finishers of custom cabinets. Do look into it sis2wo. I'll link a woodworking site below where this was discussed. Long but fascinating read. Addresses Michelle222's second part of her question too.

Thank you all for your comments. I hope Michelle222 is finding as much satisfaction with this thread as I and others are.

Here is a link that might be useful: Custom cabinetry opaque finish

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 5:36PM
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You know, there is some confusion as to what might be considered "durable" enough. I think that even the "good" stuff available today for pros is still light years ahead of the old stuff that used to be used. Is it as good as the "best" stuff that requires supplied air and water filtration in order to be able to apply it? No, but at that level you are talking small incremental differences in durability, not the difference between a wax only finish and an acrylic waterborne DIY applied finish. Even that DIY finish will be superior to most old coatings used on your mother's cabinets. Just keep oil based cleaners like Murphy's and citrus oil based crap like orange oil "wood moisturizers" away from it, and it will stand up to Junior splattering cake batter on it. Nothing will stand up to Junior playing hockey in the kitchen, but that's not a cabinet finish issue, it's a discipline issue. And if your water heater in the attic lets go and it's right above your kitchen, nothing will stand up to the cabinets being inundated with water either.

So, how durable do cabinets have to be to be considered for a kitchen? Check out the KCMA testing procedures for cabinet construction and then ask any cabinet maker if their custom cabinets will stand up to those same tests. I'll list their testing procedure below, but the entire test for certification is worth reading through.

To test the ability of the finish to withstand high heat, a cabinet door is placed in a hotbox at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent relative humidity for 24 hours. After this test the finish must show no appreciable discoloration and no evidence of blistering, checks, or other film failures.

To test the ability of the finish to withstand hot and cold cycles for prolonged periods, a cabinet door is placed in a hotbox at 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 percent relative humidity for one hour, removed and allowed to return to room temperature and humidity conditions, and then placed in a coldbox for one hour at -5 degrees Fahrenheit. The cycle is repeated five times. The finish must then show no appreciable discoloration and no evidence of blistering, cold checking, or other film failure.

To test the ability of the finish to withstand substances typically found in the kitchen and bath, exterior exposed surfaces of doors, front frames, drawer fronts and end panels are subjected to vinegar, lemon, orange and grape juices, tomato catsup, coffee, olive oil, and 100-proof alcohol for 24 hours and to mustard for one hour. After this test, the finish must show no appreciable discoloration, stain, or whitening that will not disperse with ordinary polishing and no indication of blistering, checks, or other film failure.

To test the ability of the finish to withstand long periods of exposure to a detergent and water solution, a cabinet door edge is subjected to exposure to a standardized detergent formula for 24 hours. The door edge must then show no delamination or swelling and no appreciable discoloration or evidence of blistering, checking, whitening, or other film failure.

Most factory cabinets built today in the US will pass these tests. Cabinets built elsewhere often do not even apply for the certification.

Here is a link that might be useful: KCMA testing

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 6:21PM
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Where do you find the Muralo Ultra? I live in Virginia and will need to have it customized to match a Woodmode door in Antique White? Thanks.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:18PM
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Type in your zip code on the Muralo website, sis2two and a couple of Virginia sellers will pop up. Closest one to Northern Vriginia was in Fredericksburg. Paint matching is very common nowadays. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:39PM
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I did it and found there is one in Charlottesville, which is only 22 miles away! Yea! Thanks SparklingWater.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:50PM
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I thought I might add this in speaking of paint. I used Fine paints of europe. I think it's 140 or so an euroquart. Best paint I've ever used. My cabs have been painted for only four months now, but they look great and they clean up like a dream. I did spray them, but the ones that I did actually paint by hand (above the fridge) look great. And, the trim I painted around the house looks great too. I think it was pirula who had painted her home with the FPE on here. Looks great. I know a few of the bigger (ie. more expensive) cabinet companies use FPE on their cabs. I'm pretty sure it's Peacock kitchens, too. I think that he has his named paint mixed in FPE now (renamed). Was FPE before he started his own paint. Just a thought.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 10:58PM
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cabmanct- I forgot to thank you. So sorry! When you said that you are not a fan of paint, what do you mean? I take it that you are a cabinet maker. Thank you.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Durability for one.

My pet peeve with paint is that its typically done by a house painter when the it should be applied by a finisher, a la Peacock. A finisher is a master of different coatings and surface preparation.

The difference between the two is night and day. I have had nice doors ruined by bad painters. I guess it annoys me that I go to all that trouble to make something as perfect as it can be and then some guy comes along and slaps latex paint on my work in between cigarette breaks.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 8:55AM
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cabmanct-I can see where you are coming from. That is actually my concern with having my lower boxes painted which will be brushed. At least the doors will have the Woodmode finish, so not so much of my boxes will be showing. I do plan to look into the paint that you suggested. Thanks so much.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:49AM
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Bring them to a finisher and tell him to use Muralo, if you can find a restorer that would be great.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 10:54AM
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I wish I could. They are the lower cabs with soapstone on top of them. We won't be taking them out. The uppers are going to be taken out and professionally done with all doors being replaced by Woodmode.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2012 at 11:07AM
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So, in line with this thread, we had completely custom cabinets crafted as part of our kitchen remodel one year ago. We had a good many difficulties with our cabinet maker and believe that the painting was done hastily because he was late. We were told that painting was done 'in the booth'. He used a pre-catalyzed lacquer color matched to Benjamin Moore Atrium White (not BM paint,however), formulated to California requirements.

Well, the doors (and cabinets) under/around our sink have been repainted twice and the doors are peeling and chipping yet again. Yes, water does drip down (we have a farmhouse sink and water drops down the front tend to be a pitfall), but we are very good about monitoring this and these doors DO need to be able to stand up to some moisture (they are flush inset doors). In any event, the paint cracks follow the joints of the doors and the peeling always starts at a seam or joint. The latest painter who's attempting to fix this says that the doors weren't primed properly in any of the previous paintings.

This is not just ridiculous -- it's expensive to have these doors repainted 3 times a year.

I know about the restrictions on formulations in CA. So, I'm wondering if there are cabinet companies elsewhere where we can send our doors and a paint swatch for repainting -- and appropriate baking to make the finish more water resistant. That won't help failures on the cabinets themselves, but the doors are by far the worst.

Any ideas or recommendations out there?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2012 at 3:30PM
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The use of a pre-cat lacquer in a kitchen is always a no-no.
The optimal finish is always a post-cat conversion varnish.
Therein lies your problem.

The problem for you I fear is that the doors will need to be striped. Thats expensive and you run the risk of rounding out corners and knocking down profiles. It will have to be done carefully.

There should be professional finishers in CA who use a waterborne post cat cv.

About the baked on finish, the reason for the baking is that they cure quicker and can be shipped quicker, the oven adds no greater strength than letting the door sit in a drying room for a longer time period. The strength of the finish is in the choice of coating.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 10:24AM
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Joyce721 - Are you located in the LA area?

We are trying to figure out the kitchen cabinets for our remodel/rebuild. I can't seem to get straight answers about the factory finish vs the custom cabinet maker's finish.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 11:50PM
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