What Is The Most Durable Kitchen Cabinet Finish?

So, you’ve got a fanciful cabinet that makes your kitchen look heavenly, but how do you ensure that beauty stands the test of time? A durable finish!

On average, semi-gloss oil-based paint is the most durable finish for kitchen cabinets. Because of its sheen, semi-gloss paint can reflect light and remain durable for a long time.

So if you’re looking for the most durable finish for your kitchen cabinet, an oil-based polyurethane semi-gloss would be a fine choice to maintain that lustrous effect.

However, your cabinet installation matters to how durable the finish is because a well-prepared surface will hold the paint longer than a poorly prepared one. It’s therefore important to get professional cabinet installation rather than doing DIY and compromising the durability of your finish.

Importantly, the type of material your kitchen cabinet is made up of will determine how much prep work is needed and what painting would be most appropriate.

Repainted cabinets

Types of kitchen cabinets and finishing recommendations

Wood cabinets

  • Works perfectly with any paint, including semi-gloss
  • Little or no sanding is required if it’s unfinished
  • If the surface is already stained or has a glossy finish, it should be deglossed and primed with sandpaper.

Wood veneer

  • Must be sanded before painting to promote adhesion
  • Inspect for loose edges and cracks, and repair them before painting.


  • Laminate is a great painting candidate when properly prepped
  • Use an oil-based primer for the first coat
  • Water-based latex paint will work well for subsequent coats.

Medium-density fiberboard (MDF)

  • Has a smooth surface and even grain and therefore requires priming with sandpaper
  • Works best with laminate-specific primer or paint
  • Intense prep work is needed.

If your kitchen cabinet is made of laminate, you can use little oil paint for the first coat and finish with latex paint. This will save you some money since oil-based paints are more expensive than latex.

Note that the surface matters to paint adhesion. A scuffed surface — one that’s a little rough, possibly by scraping with sandpaper — binds better with paint. That’s why a real wooden kitchen cabinet needs little or no prep work because the surface is already scuffed.

However, if the surface is already primed and glossy, then you’d need to scrape it off to create some roughness for proper paint adhesion.

If not, your finish wouldn’t be as durable as expected, even though you use the best quality semi-gloss oil-based paint.

Painted cabinets

Why you need a durable painting finish for your kitchen cabinet

Choosing the right paint finish for your kitchen cabinet is important because it affects the cabinet’s durability. There will be frequent sliding of objects into and out of shelves and a lot of touching and slamming cabinet doors and drawers. You’d also often need to wash the cabinet.

When you use the wrong cabinet painting finish, the cabinet’s aesthetics may get ruined quickly, and you’d need to schedule another makeover.

Avoid eggshell or flat finish paint because they’re not as washable as glossy finishes. You may wash off the paint while scrubbing.

Refinished kitchen cabinet

Final words

Note that oil-based paints do not dry as fast as latex paints. They also emit toxic gases into the atmosphere. On the other hand, latex paints are not as durable and washable as oil-based.

So if durability is your priority, then an oil-based semi-gloss finish would be your best option.

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