The best sheen for kitchen cabinets

By Mego Kimani •  Updated: 05/28/23 •  4 min read

When it comes to kitchen cabinets, selecting the right sheen is not just a matter of aesthetics or personal preference. In fact, it can have a significant impact on the functionality and durability of the cabinets, especially in high-traffic areas. Homeowners and woodworkers alike are now realizing the importance of choosing the right sheen for their kitchen cabinetry.

In this article, we will delve deeper into the world of sheen and explore the best options for kitchen cabinets. Whether you’re renovating your kitchen or just looking to add a top coat to painted cabinets, this guide will help you make an informed decision on the best sheen for your needs.

The science behind the sheens

The science behind the sheens

To create a less shiny finish, flatting agents are added to glossy finishes. These agents are made of fine silica particles, which settle at the bottom of the can. To ensure they remain suspended throughout the finish, the can must be stirred before use. When the finish is applied, the silica particles rise to the surface and create a micro-roughness that reduces the shine. This effect is often described as “shrink-wrapping” over the particles as the finish dries and shrinks.

Gloss Durability over other sheens

Gloss is widely regarded as the most durable sheen due to its lack of flatting agents such as silica. Additionally, gloss finishes are easy to clean, which is important as tough cleaning can damage the surface. Kitchen cabinets, in particular, are prone to fingerprints and other types of dirt commonly found in the kitchen.

gloss finish lights up a kitchen

While a gloss finish may not completely obscure these marks, it provides a smooth surface that can be easily wiped over and over without breaking and damaging the underlying wood. For frequently used kitchen cabinets, gloss is by far the best option.

Why glossy finishes aren’t as popular today

A century ago, before electric bulbs were widely available, people preferred gloss finishes for their durability and ability to reflect light, making rooms appear brighter. However, with advancements in the lighting industry, people no longer rely solely on glossy finishes for light reflection. As a result, the popularity of gloss sheen has declined, with many individuals now preferring more natural-looking finishes that highlight the beauty of the wood.

Furthermore, the glossy sheen has also become associated with a plastic or artificial look, which is not appealing to lovers of the natural wood aesthetic. Today, there are a variety of finishes available that provide a subtle sheen without the glossy, plastic appearance.

Gloss+ Satin: a new trend

Gloss+ Satin: a new trend for cabinets

If you admire the durability of a gloss finish but prefer a subtler sheen, a popular new trend is to layer two coats of gloss and finish with a satin coat. This method provides the durability of gloss while automatically reducing its sheen, without the need for traditional flattening techniques such as sanding. The process involves applying two coats of high-quality gloss finish and allowing them to dry completely before applying the satin coat.

Keep in mind that while the satin layer may be slightly more challenging to clean than gloss, this method is an excellent option for achieving the perfect look in a low-traffic kitchen, providing the best of both worlds.

Things to remember: Picking the best sheen for kitchen cabinets

Mego Kimani

Hi there, my name is Mego Kimani, and I am the owner of Woodmeter, a website dedicated to wood finishing. At Woodmeter, we offer a comprehensive resource for woodworkers and DIY enthusiasts, providing information on everything from achieving the perfect finish to product recommendations and technique guides. Our goal is to empower our community with the knowledge they need to create beautiful, long-lasting finishes on their projects, no matter their skill level or experience.