Kitchen Cabinet finishing norms

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Forum topic by Trevg posted 08-23-2021 10:38 AM 1086 views 0 times favorited 26 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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17 posts in 2459 days

08-23-2021 10:38 AM

Topic tags/keywords: sealer paint norms protocol kitchen custom cabinet cabinets

Hiring a custom cabinet guy. My wife wants to paint the cabinets inside and out. The custom cabinet guy did, which to my knowledge, the usual thing and got wood with a sealer on it. He then planned to just paint the outside of the kitchen cabinets. Which is normal? Is it taboo to paint inside of kitchen cabinets? Is there a benefit to sealing instead of painting the inside of the cabinet? We need to make a decision soon, so I appreciate everyone responding quickly. Thank you very much.

26 replies so far

View bondogaposis's profile


6193 posts in 3842 days

#1 posted 08-23-2021 01:24 PM

Personally I hate finishing the inside of cabinets, it is very time consuming and labor intensive and makes the cabinets a lot more expensive without much visible benefit. My preferred method is to build them with pre-finished plywood. That way the insides are done when the cabinets are done.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View bilyo's profile


1563 posts in 2593 days

#2 posted 08-23-2021 02:33 PM

I guess it makes a big difference whether you are paying some one to do it onr doing it yourself. Personally, I like having the inside painted a light color (usually white) for two main reasons; it makes the interior easier to clean and also it makes the interior lighter/brighter and easier to see into. When I re-painted all of my old kitchen cabinets, I also painted the interiors. It is a pita, but I sure like it better. However, if I had to pay some one to do it, I’m not sure i would.

View CaptainKlutz's profile


5733 posts in 2985 days

#3 posted 08-23-2021 03:09 PM

+1 Prefer a white wood interior with clear finish, paint outside only.

Won’t ever paint the inside of cabinets any white color in my house, unless it was painted previously.

Cans, tins, most any un-coated metal leaves gray rub marks on even best colored finish. In couple months, interiors look a decade old. Softer enamel pigmented finishes are the worst. Pigmented lacquer is only marginally better. Even harder pigmented 2K CV will eventually show metal rub marks as gloss wears down.

If you do use pigmented paint on cabinet inside; add a clear top coat for protection. IMHO – Nothing uglier than a scraped up colored interior that needs shelf paper to cover the marks.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, Doom, despair, agony on me… - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View Jared_S's profile


496 posts in 1450 days

#4 posted 08-23-2021 03:13 PM

Painted interior is not the norm, clear prefinished interior is standard with real plywood cabinets.

Nothing wrong with painted interiors (common enough for painted cabine with glass doors) Just expect to pay more.

View Robert's profile


5005 posts in 2971 days

#5 posted 08-23-2021 03:32 PM

Melamine = no paint, durable surface. He’ll probably snort if you even mention it.

Very much maligned and sneered at, people think it = “cheap cabinets” or say “I will NEVER use anything but plywood!”

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7500 posts in 3984 days

#6 posted 08-23-2021 03:57 PM

The pre-finish that’s on cabinet plywood is so tough (UV cured) it’s hard to imagine an applied paint being more durable or easy to clean. But I would think with custom cabinets you could do anything you want…after all, one reason to get them custom made is that they are NOT the “norm”.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Rich's profile


8258 posts in 2080 days

#7 posted 08-23-2021 04:19 PM

Personally, I use melamine for cabinets under sinks, and the rest get either pre-finished plywood or I spray it with lacquer.

The fact is though, you can do whatever you like. There is no right or wrong.

If you do go with paint, a chalk paint (General Finishes labels theirs Milk Paint) topped with something like their High Performance Top Coat will look good and be durable. Just don’t be a cabinet-abuser like CaptainKlutz and everything will be OK.

-- Half of what we read or hear about finishing is right. We just don’t know which half! — Bob Flexner

View LesB's profile


3500 posts in 4934 days

#8 posted 08-23-2021 04:39 PM

I wouldn’t paint the inside of cabinets but I have used Melamine for drawer bottoms and shelfs. It is pretty much “non stick”, durable, and easy to clean. I refurbished the kitchen drawers and shelves in a rental house I own with Melamine and so far it has stood up through three tenants over the last 10 years. I have a rule for tenants….no adhesive backed shelf liners or the removal labor cost will be deducted from the deposit.

If the inside is to be painted I would insist on a catalyzed lacquer for it’s hardness and durability…expecially on the shelfs and drawer bottoms.

-- Les B, Oregon

View hotbyte's profile


1156 posts in 4466 days

#9 posted 08-23-2021 04:45 PM

More about how you want them to look and the durability of finish you desire. As mentioned, the prefinished ply is much more durable. But, you may want the look of paint matched interior of cabinet…especially if you have any glass panel doors.

View Jeff's profile


330 posts in 876 days

#10 posted 08-24-2021 06:01 AM

I believe the true answer to the question is the second sentence. “My wife wants to paint the cabinets inside and out.”

View Underdog's profile


1917 posts in 3526 days

#11 posted 08-24-2021 11:11 AM

In the three cabinet shops I’ve worked for, the standard material for interiors is prefinished ply, unless they’re open bookcases.
Also, if you do paint the inside, I definitely wouldn’t use latex to paint interiors, because it’ll stick to stuff for the next umpteen years.

-- Jim, Georgia, USA

View hotbyte's profile


1156 posts in 4466 days

#12 posted 08-24-2021 01:50 PM

I’m familiar with that concept!

She wants painted insides.
He wants prefinished insides.
They compromise and do painted insides. :) :) :)

I believe the true answer to the question is the second sentence. “My wife wants to paint the cabinets inside and out.”

- Jeff

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

7500 posts in 3984 days

#13 posted 08-24-2021 04:23 PM

Trevg, what’s it gonna be??

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Kelly's profile


3899 posts in 4435 days

#14 posted 08-24-2021 04:27 PM

Being grown ups, so having lived in a lot of houses, we insisted on painting the interiors of our cabinets.

First, there is that corn syrup passed off as syrup thing (the maple stays in the fridge). It does not play well with raw wood. As such, everyone puts some kind of finish on the interior of their cabinets, or they deal with occasional and repeating chaos. Even with liners, something always gets around it.

Next, there is that every time I painted the interior of someone’s cabinet, it COMPLETELY changed them. The white reflected light all over the contents, rather than darker woods (even the light ones) absorbing it.

On ours, I went simple – oil paint interiors to avoid the latex problem of things sticking to the paint, and to not have to purchase more expensive mixes of acrylics said to be formulated to solve the problem.

I re-did a farmer’s existing cabinets. He wanted new, but I pointed out to him the cost of building custom cabinets, versus refacing the styles and rails of his plywood cabinets and just buying the doors and drawer fronts. The sticker shock and idea of what it cost to get beyond particle to plywood, like his were, convinced him to update what he had.

When done, they were dark. He agreed painting the insides white would be a good deal. It was. The difference was “night and day.”

Then came the fun. He had sheets of aluminum laminated over plastic he’d picked up at auction. I cut some to size and installed it under the cabinets so steam from coffee pots, crock pots and whatever would not beat on the plywood.

The same done on the inside bottoms of the shelves made for the ultimate (white) “liners.” On others, I’ve used light colored laminate (thanks Re-Store (Habitat for Humanity)) for the same effect.

View controlfreak's profile


3867 posts in 1092 days

#15 posted 08-24-2021 04:32 PM

Sealed and clear finish is done once and cleans easily. Painted will always need repainting when dirty or color change. Another thing to consider is that to prep and paint you will need to empty them for a day or more. So many negatives to painting insides makes me give it a thumbs down.

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