Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors – Which Woods Paint Best & Which Woods To Avoid?

Painted-Cabinet-Doors

Paint-Grade-Cabinet-Doors-–-Which-Woods-Paint-Best-Which-Woods-To-Avoid

 

Paint-brush-adobe-15

Many folks searching the internet for Poplar Cabinets or Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors find our website, Cabinetdoors.com, and ask questions about painting cabinet doors. After explaining the pros and cons of painting a cabinet door, we decided to add the question-and-answer to our Blog.

Because we manufacture kitchen cabinet doors, and have built many ten’s of thousands of paint grade cabinet doors, we have acquired significant experience with the different wood types. Some wood types paint well and some not so well. Usually if we are told that the cabinet door is going to be painted, and the wood requested will not paint well, we can offer a suggestion that another wood type might be a better candidate for painting.

Most Popular Woods Used On Paint Grade Cabinet Doors

The woods typically used by professionals on their paint-grade cabinet doors are the tighter-grained woods like Poplar, Soft Maple, Alder, Pine, Birch, Hard Maple, and MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard). The woods we offer can be seen here.

Woods like Oak are rarely painted because of the “Orange peel” look the open grain causes.
If an open grain wood like Oak is the only choice you have, it is recommended that the grain be filled with Drywall putty, Bondo, or a similar thick sealer then sanded to a smooth surface before painting.

The prices for the recommended paint-grade woods run from Poplar (cheapest), Soft Maple, Alder, Pine, Birch, and Hard Maple being the most expensive. Birch Wood is actually the same wood most pull out shelves are constructed with.

Each of these woods have their own advantages and disadvantages, but there are a few practices that will apply to whichever wood type is chosen to paint.

  • The first is the “prep-prep-prep” rule. That means that every hour spent preparing the cabinet door for painting saves two hours in repainting.
  • The second is the 5-F’s rule. This rule is “Fine Finishers Finish Firewood First”. It simply means that experimenting with your finish on scrap wood can prevent ruining a door with a failed finishing attempt.
  • The third is always break all sharp edges with fine sandpaper before painting. Sharp edges will not hold paint and will give the dried paint an unpainted spot to absorb moisture.
  • The forth is to keep in mind that all wood types will expand and contract with changes in humidity. The paint will slow these humidity-caused wood movements, but no paint is totally moisture-proof, and paint will not stop the movements. This humidity-movement of wood presents another potential issue for the painted cabinet door. When the paint dries, it will no longer have the elasticity to move with the wood; so it will crack, usually along the glue joints where the Stiles & Rails join.
  • The fifth relates to the hardness of the paint-grade wood. The softer the wood, the more easily it will dent, if hit with a pot or frying pan. The dent in the wood may be slight and hardly noticeable, but dried paint doesn’t dent without cracking. The weakest link in any painted cabinet door is not the door. Regardless of the wood type used, the weakest link is always the paint.
  • The sixth practice covers the method of application of the paint. The desired look from painting a cabinet door is usually a high gloss finish, similar to the finish on a piano. A finish of this quality will certainly require a highly experienced finishing professional, and a dust-free spray booth. This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve an excellent finish, but it does mean you won’t get this piano-finish with a paint brush in your driveway. To get a professional looking finish you will need to spray-on the paint. Not from a Krylon can, but from an compressed-air, or airless, spray painting system.

Blame The Grain

Wood that is used to paint for cabinets or other purposes typically features tight grained wood species.  These are woods such as maple, poplar, pine, and others.  The tight surface of the wood provides a good surface for the paint to be applied to and covers the natural ripples and texture in the wood. Open grained wood as more prominent grain which has rougher texture.  To look good when painted these open grained woods need to be covered with filler to have that smooth look when painted.

Soft Maple & Poplar

Soft maple and poplar are common for the door panels, end frames, and face frames in cabinet doors. This is because they are workable and keeps cost down. Many carpenters and cabinet makers find that poplar can dent easily and tends to absorb more paint than other species. Other tight grained woods are easier to work with and paint yet are more costly and sometimes have limited availability.  Some homeowners choose hard maple yet there is greater likelihood of humidity causing the wood to move slightly.

MDF & Cabinetry

The frames and end faces can be built from medium density fiberboard (MDF).  It can also be used for door panels, however it can be difficult to finish.  Due to the difficulty to finish MDF other varieties of wood are preferred for stiles and rails. MDF is used for larger sections as it is dimensionally stable. Other options for larger sections are birch plywood and prefinished plywood.

Which Woods Are Best For Paint-Grade Kitchen Cabinet Doors?

Here is a brief summary of our experience with the various paint-grade woods. Like just about everything in life the world is full of opinions, yet there is some consensus on which are the best types of wood that is best for painted cabinets.  Wood that is tight grained but also workable produce long lasting durable cabinet doors. Whichever wood is preferred just about everyone agrees that the surface of the wood needs to be prepared first.  This is done by applying shellac and filler to knots and rough spots so there isn’t any bleed through. Sharp corners should also be sanded so they will hold paint better.  Here are some of the types of wood that are best for painted cabinet doors.

  • Poplar, for years has been the paint-grade wood of choice for furniture makers and cabinet shops. It has Soft Maple as a competitor because Poplar tends to be more labor intensive to sand and finish, but Soft Maple is more expensive. Poplar has a tendency to “fuzz-up” during sanding, and if any of the fuzz is missed before painting, it certainly is never missed after painting. Both woods tend to be absorbent and require more sealer or more paint that harder woods. The finish obtained on Poplar and Soft Maple is excellent, and both woods remain the most popular paint-grade woods.
  • Soft Maple rivals Poplar as the wood of choice by Custom Cabinet Shops for their Paint-Grade Cabinet Door jobs. Both are low cost. Both are available over most of the country. It sands easier than Alder and it doesn’t “fuzz-up” like Alder or Poplar while sanding, and it sands faster. It doesn’t absorb sealer quite as much as Poplar and finishes very smooth, and doesn’t telegraph it’s grain through the paint, like Pine.
  • Alder makes a good paintable cabinet door but tends to absorb primer at a high rate and is among the “softer” of the hardwoods. It grows in the Northwest and may not be available in all parts of the country and it is more expensive. Painted Alder is used more in the West, where it is more available, than other parts of the country, and it gives an excellent painted finish look.
  • Pine is available everywhere and is widely painted in furniture applications. It is reasonably inexpensive and is carried by all lumber yards and Big Box Stores. Furniture grade Pine is different from Frame grade Pine, like framing 2×6’s. Frame Grade Pine is typically not kiln dried to the 7-9% moisture levels required of furniture Grade woods. While Pine paints well the prominent grain can “telegraph” its texture through the painted surface, and knots and pitch pockets may bleed through the paint.
  • Birch is an excellent wood for painting and is starting to be carried by the Big Box Stores. Birch plywood is also available as 9-ply in 5’x5′ and 4’x8′ sheets. Birch is harder than Alder, Pine, and Soft Maple, so it will stand up better to “Kid abuse” than the softer woods. It does tend to be more expensive but will require less sealer or primer than the softer woods.
  • Hard Maple is the best wood available for paint-grade cabinet doors. Unfortunately, It’s also the most expensive of the paint-grade woods costing about 2 1/2 times the price of Soft Maple. Because “color” is not an inspection criteria under the National Hardwood Lumber Association (NHLA), heartwood and mineral are not considered defects and lumber buyers purchasing the highest grades still receive some of this off-color maple. Because of this, cabinet door manufacturers often have Hard Maple with dark heartwood, or mineral streaks, which they have sorted out. Custom Cabinet Shops that purchase our doors depend on the cabinet doors for the overall appearance of their cabinets, so door manufactures cannot use this off-color Hard Maple for Select Maple Cabinet Doors. If we have a sufficient stock, we will use this off-color Hard Maple for our Paint Grade doors if it is requested by the customer, and we will make the substitution at no additional cost. When painted, off-color Hard Maple requires less primer, sands smoother, and is significantly harder that any of the standard paint-grade woods we offer.
  • Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF) is an engineered wood product formed by breaking down hardwood or softwood residuals into wood fibers. MDF is used as the panel in all of our Recessed Panel Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors, and is used as the Raised Panel in some of our Raised Panel doors. MDF paints well and it is a good idea to coat all sides of the finished piece in order to seal in the urea-formaldehyde. Formaldehyde resins are commonly used to bind MDF together, and testing has consistently revealed that MDF products emit urea-formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds that pose health risks at sufficient concentrations, for at least several months after manufacture. Most cabinet and furniture manufacturers have been using MDF for several decades and the risks of Formaldehyde resin emissions, when the products are painted is considered negligible.

Thank you for reading “Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors – Which Woods Paint Best & Which Woods To Avoid?”. Stay tuned for more from the expert cabinet door manufacturers at CabinetDoors.Com. Return to CabinetDoors.Com/Blog

Visit the Cabinetdoors.com website to get cabinet door prices.

How to complete inter-coat sanding steps when painting Cabinet Doors

Sanding between paint of lacquer coats can help insure a great looking finish on your painted or stained kitchen cabinet doors.

Here is a link to a video from the Woodworking Network explaining the proper sanding method between coats. (for more of the Chemcraft finishing videos click here).

We’ve talked about the importance of primer and sanding steps in several prior posts and this video from Chemcraft is another vote about the necessity of these steps.

Here are some additional links covering finishing steps in more detail.

The six rules for painting replacement kitchen cabinet doors

Paint grade cabinet doors: Which woods paint best and which woods to avoid

How to finish paint-grade cabinet doors and get a finish you can be proud of

How to paint unfinished wood and not screw it up + Links to dozens of web posts

How a do-it-yourselfer can stain and finish replacement kitchen cabinet doors

 

Browse our other CabinetDoors.Com Blog posts.

See and price our cabinet door selections on the Cabinetdoors.com manufacturers website.

The six rules for painting replacement kitchen cabinet doors

Here are some tried and true rules of thumb that relate to painting Kitchen Cabinet Doors.

* The first is the “prep-prep-prep” rule. That means that every hour spent preparing the cabinet door for painting saves two hours in repainting.

* The second is the 5-F’s rule. This rule is “Fine Finishers Finish Firewood First”. It simply means that experimenting with your finish on scrap wood can prevent ruining a door with a failed finishing attempt.

* The third is always break all sharp edges with fine sandpaper before painting. Sharp edges will not hold paint and will give the dried paint an unpainted spot to absorb moisture.

* The forth is to keep in mind that all wood types will expand and contract with changes in humidity. The paint will slow these humidity-caused wood movements, but no paint is totally moisture-proof, and paint will not stop the movements. This humidity-movement of wood presents another potential issue for the painted cabinet door. When the paint dries, it will no longer have the elasticity to move with the wood; so it will crack, usually along the glue joints where the Stiles & Rails join.

* The fifth relates to the hardness of the paint-grade wood. The softer the wood, the more easily it will dent, if hit with a pot or frying pan. The dent in the wood may be slight and hardly noticeable, but dried paint doesn’t dent without cracking. The weakest link in any painted cabinet door is not the door. Regardless of the wood type used, the weakest link is always the paint.

* The sixth practice covers the method of application of the paint. The desired look from painting a cabinet door is usually a high gloss finish, similar to the finish on a piano. A finish of this quality will certainly require a highly experienced finishing professional, and a dust-free spray booth. This doesn’t mean you can’t achieve an excellent finish, but it does mean you won’t get this piano-finish with a paint brush in your driveway. To get a professional looking finish you will need to spray-on the paint. Not from a Krylon can, but from an compressed-air, or airless, spray painting system.

Now for the step-by-step process I’ve learned through years of both success and a few failures.

Lets get started by working through the process step-by-step.

Lay the door on a flat surface and lightly sand the door with a flexible-foam sanding sponge (I like the 3M sanding block sponges best) or 220-grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand “with the wood grain” on the front, back, and sides.

Remove any residual grit with a clean cloth (tack cloth is best) or a vacuum.

Next comes what is probably the most important step in the entire process. Sealing and priming the wood.

The priming coat, is also called a sealing coat, or a Sealing indicating coat. These are essentially the same thing. It’s purpose is to seal the wood so that the final paint will adhere evenly and also make it easy to spot uneven areas in the wood while it’s still easy to correct the blemish. Primer can be applied by brush or roller. I like to use a roller for the bigger areas followed by a good quality brush for smoothing and painting the finer details on the cabinet doors. You won’t need the $25 brush but don’t get the $1 brush either. Expect to pay $6-$10 for a good, fine-bristle brush. Try not to get paint all over the brush, dipping only about 1/2″ to 1″ into the paint is best. Also, between coats you can place the brush in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out, and avoid cleaning it until the end of each day.

Any hardware or paint store will have a wide selection of sealer/primer and paint for your doors. Be sure and match the primer with the paint you plan to use. If you are going to use latex (water based) paint, use a latex primer. If using an oil based paint, use an oil based primer. Also try to use a primer with a drying time of 30 minutes or less. White primer works best because it will show the uneven areas of the door better. This allows you to spot (and correct) the areas that need filling before painting.

Once the first coat of primer is dry you will be able to see some small, uneven areas, scratches, or dents in the wood. Now it’s time for the filler. This is the most important step in obtaining that perfect painted finish.

All hardwoods have voids, which cannot be seen until it is primed. I use a filler to fill all of these spots. The two types of filler I’ve used with success are Bondo 907 Glazing and Spot Putty and Elmer’s Wood Filler Max White. The Bondo putty works best, mainly because it is an orange color than makes it easier to see where you have filled. The Elmer’s is white. Fillers must be sanded smooth after drying and then sealed with primer before painting to prevent the color from bleeding through.

After filling, sand the filled areas (use the 3M sponge to keep your fingers from sanding dips in the filled areas), wipe the dust off, and apply one last primer coat.

When the primer has dried, give the doors a light sanding and wipe them clean of any dust. If the final inspection doesn’t show any unfilled scratches or small voids, you are ready to paint.

Now comes the actual painting, which is actually the easiest phase of the project. But without going through the priming-sanding-filling-priming process, there would be little chance of obtaining a truly great painted cabinet door.

Using the same technique you used with the primer–roller for the large areas, and paint brush to smooth and paint the smaller and detailed areas–apply your paint to the doors.

There is no need to sand between paint coats but it is a good idea to insure there is no dried paint on the brush that could work its way into your finish on the following coats.

Although the finish may look good after one coat of paint, two coats are normally applied to assure durability of the finish. Just follow the directions on your paint (and primer) and follow the drying time recommendations.

Here is a link to the CabinetDoors.Com Blog where you will find several other posts on finding, sizing, ordering, painting, and staining Unfinished Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors.

Our complete line of Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors can be browsed here at CabinetDoors.Com

How to find Top-Quality Replacement Kitchen Cabinet Doors

The most serious problem to overcome in purchasing a high quality kitchen cabinet door is to locate a source of custom cabinet doors as opposed to the lower quality modular doors. Here are the differences between the custom and modular marketing models, and how the two approaches will affect the end consumer.

The hardware retail chain (selling modular doors) will forward your order to the stocking warehouse where the doors in your order will be pulled. The doors are then packaged and shipped to the retail store placing the order. This process usually takes 15-to-20 working days.
The modular doors will typically be thinner, use lower quality materials, and come in standard widths with 3-inch increments. These are the doors available through the hardware store chains and most internet websites.
Custom doors, on the other hand, can be ordered direct from the manufacturer in any width and height and in sizing increments of 1/16-inch. They can also be ordered in hundreds of door styles while the modular doors typically come in two or three styles.
The reason for the 3-inch increments and reduced style selection offered by the hardware chains relates to inventory investment. It’s much less costly to stock a few dozen door sizes than to stock the thousands of door sizes that would be required when offering true custom sizing.
Custom cabinet doors, on the other hand, are made by the door manufacturer and shipped directly to the consumer. There is no inventory to keep, all orders are made to order. There is no stocking warehouse to add cost and no retail store time delay or profit margin. The manufacturer will typically offer dozens (or even hundreds) of door styles and each of these styles is available in any wood type, where the hardware chain can offer only a few wood types.
The real benefit to the consumer is the quality of the doors. Because the Custom door manufacturer routinely processes hundreds of custom sized orders each day for cabinet shops all over the country, any web orders are easily added into the days production run. This web order is treated no differently than any other order from cabinet makers, remodelers, or kitchen designers everywhere. The quality supplied to these cabinet professionals is the same quality the web purchaser receives.
Other benefits to the consumer are the cost and the delivery time. The only added expense to the manufacturer is the cost of operating the website, which is considerably less that the hardware chain’s cost of operating a stocking warehouse and the retail chain’s required profit margin. So the cost difference is significant; Custom doors from the manufacturer’s website will be available in any custom size, cost about 30% less than hardware chain’s modular doors, be delivered in about half the time, and be of the quality a professional cabinet maker would expect.
When buying from the manufacturer’s website your order will be produced and delivered to your home in 8-15 working days (depending upon shipping distance from the factory).
These are the differences between what you will receive from the chain retailers and what is supplied direct from the manufacturer’s website.
It’s easy to see the value offered to the consumer as more actual manufacturers start to offer their products to the savvy web consumer.
If you would like to see the products offered by the oldest and largest manufacturer of custom replacement kitchen cabinet doors on the web please follow this link to CabinetDoors.Com.

 

How to finish Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors…Like an expert:

Paint Grade Kitchen Cabinet DoorSo you just received your new Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors and are ready to start painting.
Here are a few tips to get an attractive and durable finish on those new doors.

Don’t stress-out about the painting process, even if you are an inexperienced painter.
Painted doors are not like stained doors where a disappointing stained finish can ruin your day. If you don’t like your painted finish just scuff the doors a little by re-sanding and paint them again.

First, unpack the new doors and inspect them front and back for any scratches caused by shifting during shipping. Smooth these scratches with 180-grit sandpaper and brush off the dust with a fine brush. Sand in the direction of the wood grain to avoid making cross-grain scratches on your doors.
The better the prep-sanding the better the painted finish will be so take some time making sure the sanding is as good as you can make it.

Next, lay the cabinet doors flat and either wipe them with a clean cloth or blow them with compressed air to remove the last traces of dust. Laying the doors flat makes paint runs less likely and makes it easier to see your progress from the same angle.

Now the painting process starts.
Raw wood needs a primer coat before painting and there are a few primer tips that will be helpful: Always match the primer to the type of paint you plan to use.
If you intend to use water-base (or Latex paint) then use a water base primer and if you are using an oil based paint then use an oil based primer.
In my experience Latex paints have advanced over the past decade to the point where they produce both appearance and dependability equal to their oil based counterparts, especially for indoor applications.
These advancements coupled with the water clean-up and environment-friendly disposal are worth considering when choosing your finishing materials.
While buying your primer and paint, also get a brush or two. You don’t need to buy the $20 super brush, but don’t get the $1 special either. A 2-3″ fine brush should be about $5.
You may also want to buy a small 3-4″ fine roller.

Now for the priming:
Lay the doors out flat on some kind of dropcloth. Newspaper works fine for this. It will reduce your anxiety to start with the doors face down. That way you will be finishing the backs first so as you get better at painting your best work will be on the fronts, and your learning experience won’t show.
Use the roller to apply a lite coat of primer to the panel and the inside detail of the stiles and rails. Now use the brush in those deep recesses to get the primer to cover all the machined surfaces. Use the roller again to coat the flat surfaces followed by the brush to give a smooth, even coating. After the primer is dried (follow the drying time instructions on the primer can) sand by hand gently with 220-grit paper, just enough to remove any fibers the primer raised, and to restore the smooth finish. Now turn the door over and repeat on the front.
After the primer is dry and lightly finish sanded, repeat the process with a second coat or primer.

Once the primer is dry you are ready for the paint.
The paint basically follows the same steps as the primer operation. Follow the instructions on your paint can to determine if you should sand between coats or not.
After the paint is dry you are ready to install the hinges.
If you are using hidden hinges, like our Blum Clip-tops, try not to get paint into the 30mm hinge cups. The hinges will be a snug fit into the cups and if you get paint into the holes you may need to sand it out to get the hinges into the cups.

Once you get started you’ll see that the process is really not difficult at all, and you will be able to obtain results that will impress your family and friends.

So, get started and if you haven’t ordered you new Paint Grade cabinet doors yet, now may be the time. Cabinetdoors.com has been manufacturing custom cabinet doors for 34 years and we’ve been offering doors on the internet longer than anyone else in the country. We have shipped hundreds of thousands of doors to every region and our customer reviews are a consistent 4+stars.

If you have any questions just visit our website at www.cabinetdoors.com, our Blog at www.cabinetdoors.com/blog, or call us. We will be happy to answer any questions you may have. We also have extensive posts, advice, and how-to’s on our Facebook page and our Google+ page.