Types of Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

Perry Hiiman
March 1, 2023
Types of Kitchen Cabinet Finishes

Updating the kitchen cabinets is one of the most effective ways to rejuvenate your kitchen’s aesthetics. Whether you’re refinishing your cabinets or installing new ones, your cabinet’s finish determines the compatibility with your kitchen’s design.
Cabinet finishes are available in different materials, colors, and textures. You can choose a simple laminate in standard colors or a more intricate glaze for that vintage look.
The type of finish you choose will depend on personal preference, budget, and maintenance requirements. Different cabinet finishes offer varying levels of durability, beauty, ease of cleaning, and protection against heat and moisture damage, among other benefits.
Let’s explore the most popular types of finishes to guide your decision.

The Different Types of Cabinet Finishes

1.     Laminate

Laminate is a popular option for cabinet finishes due to its affordability and wide range of colors, textures, and patterns. It comes in thin sheets bonded together with adhesive.
One of the biggest advantages of laminate finishes is that they are highly durable and withstand everyday wear and tear.
Laminate is more resistant to scratches than other finishes and easy to clean, making it perfect for busy kitchens or if you have children or pets.
It’s also easy to maintain since all you need to do is wipe down the surface with mild soap and water when necessary. You don’t have to worry about waxing, polishing, or re-sealing as you would with other types of finishes – making it an ideal low-maintenance option.
However, laminate can be prone to chipping or peeling over time due to moisture damage.

2.     Lacquer

Lacquer provides an attractive hard finish that adds depth and color while protecting the cabinets from wear and tear.
The beauty and shine of lacquer finishes are one of the primary reasons why they are so popular for kitchen designs. The high gloss finish enhances the visual appeal of cabinetry, and you can tailor it to fit any aesthetic, from modern to traditional styles.
Lacquer also provides a protective layer against everyday wear and tear, making it ideal for busy households with young children or pets.
One unique advantage that comes with a lacquer finish is that you can customize it in various ways depending on personal preference.
You can mix colors or add layers to create different effects, such as antiquing or crackle glaze, allowing you to get a unique look for your cabinet surfaces.
Lacquer offers excellent protection against water damage but may require regular maintenance, such as waxing or polishing, to keep it looking its best.

3.     Natural Wood

Natural wood offers timeless beauty and superior durability. The wood’s natural grain adds visual interest while providing resistance against heat, moisture, and light fading over time without special treatments.
The beauty and warmth of natural finishes make them an excellent choice for kitchen cabinets. The unique graining and character of natural wood bring an organic, homey feel to any space that is difficult to replicate with artificial materials.
Regarding durability, natural finishes are hard to beat; when properly sealed and cared for, they will last much longer than other types of finishes, such as lacquer or laminate.
Natural finishes offer superior protection against heat and moisture, which makes them ideal for high-traffic kitchens where spills are common.
However, you’ll need periodic re-sealing to maintain the protective properties against daily cooking elements like steam or oil splatters from cooking pans on the surface of the cabinets.

4.     Veneer

Veneer offers a beautiful finish without completely covering up what lies beneath, allowing you to showcase some natural wood detailing where possible.
Veneer cabinet finishes are an excellent choice if you want to add a touch of sophistication and elegance to your kitchen cabinets.
The thin layers of wood that create this type of finish offer a wide range of color and stain options so you can customize the look as you desire.
Veneer finishes have a superior ability to resist heat damage compared to other materials, such as laminate or natural wood. It’s perfect if you live where summer temperatures can get pretty hot.
Additionally, minor repairs like touching up scratches are easy without removing entire panels because these finishes lay on the top surface rather than covering what lies beneath.
Although the veneer provides excellent protection from everyday use, it needs occasional repairs if damaged by spills or other accidents within your home environment.

5.     Acrylic

Acrylic cabinet finishes providing a modern look thanks to their glossy sheen, which helps resist dirt buildup and is very easy to clean.
They’re also highly durable and resistant to scratches and chips- yet still relatively lightweight compared to other options. And because it is water-resistant, it won’t warp or swell over time, making it an excellent choice if you live in areas where humidity levels often fluctuate.
The transparency of acrylic finishes makes them unique in an eye-catching way. You can see the natural wood grain underneath, which adds character and depth to your kitchen design.
The light refraction from the glossy surface further enhances this effect making it perfect for modern, contemporary homes where aesthetics is important.
Additionally, these finishes are lightweight, so if weight restrictions are an issue, this could be a great way to get both style and function without putting too much strain on your walls.

6.     Melamine

Melamine offers a vintage look with its matte finish and is highly resistant to scratches and chips. It is also highly resistant to yellowing, making it perfect for kitchens where the sun shines directly onto the cabinets throughout the day.
The vintage look and feel of melamine finishes make them a great choice to bring an old-fashioned touch to your kitchen design. The matte finish has a slightly muted effect, giving it a classic appeal that is perfect for traditional or antique-style homes.

7.     Glaze

If you’re looking for a unique vintage look, glaze finishes offer the perfect solution. This type of finish gives your cabinetry an aged patina that is difficult to achieve with many other materials. It’s an excellent way to bring a timeless style into your home without feeling too dated.
You can apply a glazed finish on top of the stain or paint to highlight the details in the wood species in the cabinetry.
Since glaze finishes protect against heat and moisture damage, they are great for areas where temperatures can get pretty hot. However, they require more maintenance to keep their luster and prevent cracking.

8.     Varnish

When it comes to beauty, varnishes offer unparalleled shine. The glossy finish adds character and depth without overwhelming, making it a great option if you prefer something subtle but still eye-catching.
Varnish combines resin and oil, which undergoes a chemical reaction during drying to create a hard, insoluble surface. Furthermore, you can apply multiple coats to increase protection and luster even further, giving you a truly unique appeal on your kitchen cabinet surfaces.
One major benefit of choosing varnish over others is its resistance against weathering.
Unlike lacquer or natural wood, which may crack or peel due to changing temperatures and humidity levels throughout seasons, this finish remains durable despite these external factors. This resistance makes it a wise investment if you live in areas where weather fluctuation is common.


The type of kitchen cabinet finish you choose can make a huge difference in your kitchen’s look and functionality. You can go bold with bright colors or maintain uniformity with a natural finish.
Acrylic, melamine, varnish, and glaze are all excellent options for achieving a specific aesthetic or providing superior protection against scratches and chips. If you’re going for a unique vintage look, glaze finishes have a beautiful, aged patina that oozes style and function.
When it comes to durability, melamine stands out as one of the most long-lasting finishes. Its matte finish has a slightly muted effect, giving it a classic appeal that is perfect for traditional or antique homes.
Varnish finishes offer unparalleled shine and superior protection against heat and moisture damage. Whichever cabinet finish you choose, don’t shy away from taking personalization a notch higher with exquisite countertops and top-of-the-line appliances.
Experts from NYKB are ready to help build your dream kitchen from the planning and design stage to installation. Book your free consultation today and let the experts make your dream kitchen a reality.

The goal of renovation and remodeling is to ensure satisfaction upon completion of your project. Construction can be very frustrating, and without a professional contractor, things can go wrong.

About Author

Perry Hiiman

Perry Hiiman was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel. He planted his roots in Manhatten, New York in 1992. A few years later, Perry met his wife and had three lovely daughters. Perry has always been excited about home improvement and design. He has been in the service industry for over 25 years. Perry and his partner founded New York Kitchen and Bath in 2001. They pioneered the One Stop Shop concept of home improvement and design firms. In addition, Perry is a New York State licensed contractor, OSHA certified, and a New York State licensed mold assessor. He specializes in custom design and is genuinely passionate about what he does—bringing people’s dream projects to life.
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