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Should I paint my cabinets with high gloss paint?

Written by David | October 30, 2020

That is a loaded question- kind of like do I look fat in these pants!

Ok, so you want to paint your cabinets.  You want something with a “pop” – shiny.  So you may be asking yourself “should I paint my cabinets with high gloss paint?” The better question(s) is/are:

  • Can you paint with high sheen paint?
  • Will the items you are painting look good in a high sheen paint?
  • What will happen if the high sheen paint is scratched or damaged?

Let’s take a look at these questions as part of the overall question of should I…

What does high sheen paint look like?

high gloss paint

high gloss red paint

This furniture piece is painted with a very high gloss (almost 90 degree sheen). This particular paint is from Fine Paints of Europe.  The level of difficulty in application is very high- we have only done it twice!

There are several reasons for the level of difficulty with this material:

  • Cost- it is 2-3 times more expensive than other high gloss paints
  • It is the highest level sheen home type paint you can buy
  • The dry time is from 6 hours to 12 hours depending on which type you get
  • It will attract dust while drying
  • You need to have a negative atmosphere to pull away all dust-overspray etc.
  • It should be polished after it dries (24 plus hours)
  • The surface it is being applied to must be perfectly smooth like a car
  • This product requires a special primer prior to being painted- again expensive!

Now that you are armed with that information, do you want to go to the effort and expense? As this product dries and is complete- keep in mind there is no getting a brush and touching up a nick, scratch, ding etc. You are repainting entire sections.

Armed with this knowledge, do you want a high sheen paint on your cabinets?

Other options to high sheen paints for cabinets

Keep in mind that every paint store sells a gloss paint. Each paint manufacturer has different degrees of sheen level unique to their products.  Different paint manufacturers also have their own twist on gloss paints such as:

  • Latex
  • Acrylic
  • Lacquer
  • Oil
  • Alkyd
  • Waterborne
  • Hybrids

Each of these paints has their own level of gloss from 20, 30, 35, 40, 60, 80 degree- that is how the sheen level is measured.  80 would be gloss, 60 would be semi-gloss.

black high gloss paint - repainting cabinets

Benjamin Moore high gloss black butler pantry

In each of these paint makers and sheens presents a more affordable option to get a higher sheen paint for your cabinets.  Companies like Benjamin Moore, Ilva, ML Campbell, and Envirolak all sell paints made for cabinets with higher sheen levels that can be applied by most cabinet refinishers.  These paints do require someone with experience and the right tools to prepare and apply these paints to provide a solid finish.

medium gloss paint

Ilva medium gloss(60) sheen entertainment unit

medium gloss sheen - dfranco painting

Ilva medium gloss (60) sheen mantle

Will you like high sheen paint in your home?

Think of this, would you want furniture in your home to be shiny like your car? Aside from the difficulty in repairs when they are damaged, they do offer some other advantages:

  • Wow factor – everyone will say wow
  • Light reflection – looks pretty cool
  • Washability – much higher than low sheens
  • Feel/touch – there is a huge difference in how these higher sheen paints feel when you touch them

Cost to paint high gloss paint on your cabinets

I can only go into the cost that it takes for us to produce a high gloss great looking finish. There are multiple steps compared to traditional cabinet prep.

These steps differ depending on what we paint but it gives you an idea of the extra time and materials needed:

  • Surface must be cleaned and solid
  • Soft surfaces (drywall and pine) will need a primer that dries hard and flat
  • All imperfections must be removed- this requires a level 5 finish on everything- ultra perfect smooth
  • With each repair that is made, the repair must be sanded and sealed then sanded again
  • The surfaces must be cleaned of dust at all times
  • Air scrubbers or movers will need to be used to keep dust and over spray away from the painted surfaces
  • The surfaces must be sanded with degrees of sandpaper from 200, 320, 400, 600 an 800 or higher to remove any scratches or marks in the surface being painted.
  • Any dirt on the floors around the surfaces being painted must be removed from the area to prevent dirt/dust blowing into paint
  • Primers used must fully cure-8-24 hours
  • Paints used can take from 6-24 hours to cure
  • Paint must be allowed to dry 2-3 days then buffed like a car to get the ultra high sheen

Looking at all of the above items – the time it takes is usually 4-5 times longer than traditional cabinet painting.  We typically charge $105 per door, but  you can expect 4-500 per door depending on the degree of prep you need to take, in order to get a finish like the red image above.

What do you want your cabinets to look like?  Should I paint my cabinets with high gloss paint? Maybe. But we can help you figure it out! Give us a call, text or email and let us know how we can help you love the space you’re in.

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