Best Paint for Cabinets and Doors

What you need to know about urethane paint

urethane paint | best paint for cabinets, trim and doors

Hot on the paint scene is a high-performing, super durable product for all your high-touch surfaces. This paint is faaaar superior to its oil-based competitors and is our new standard for doors, cabinetry, trim, and beyond. We present to you: Urethane paints.

An alternative to traditional waterborne enamels and even older oil-based enamels, urethane paints achieve amazing and reliable results for cabinetry, trim, and doors. They’re basically an acrylic, water-based hybrid with urethane added in, almost like a polyurethane enamel. They married the two in order to create an absolutely phenomenal partnership of acrylic urethane products that blow the competition out of the water.

Urethane paint quick facts

Both Sherwin Williams Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel and Kelly Moore’s Durapoxy HP Acrylic Urethane have very similar features that we absolutely love, so we’ve compiled an overview that shows why urethane performs better than oil for interior and exterior windows, doors, trim, and more.

  • Interior/Exterior for water-and-weatherproofing
  • Resists yellowing better than oil paints
  • A smooth hard finish that increases durability
  • Withstands frequent cleanings
  • Incredible adhesion
  • An outstanding choice for kitchen cabinets, railing, doors and trim, DTM applications, and more
  • Low VOC’s and drastically less odor than oil paint

What urethane paints are great for

urethane paint | best paint for cabinets, trim and doors

Urethane paints are some of the most scuff-resistant, cleanable products on the market. Because of that, kitchen cabinets are a great place to use urethane as the kitchen tends to be one of those rooms that take on the most wear and tear of daily living. If you spend a lot of time cooking, or you have pets or kids, we just know those cabinets are getting accidentally smacked by a wild pot or pan, hacked at by children’s toys, scratched up, spilled on, and are constantly being opened and closed. That’s why you want something super durable, hard to scuff, and easy to clean; that’s what makes this product your best bet for long-lasting freshness.


Urethane vs. oil

Some of our clients get nervous about having to repaint cabinets and the like because the previous time they did, they used oil paints and it was a horrible experience! Because the home can fill up with the pungent smell of oils for 3-5 days, oftentimes clients have to find sleeping arrangements elsewhere until the odor clears out. This is yet another reason we recommend transitioning away from oil-based paints and on to urethane where there are far fewer VOCs and way less odor – one that won’t make you vacate your property.


Why CEO and founder Steven Montgomery loves urethane paint

urethane paint | best paint for cabinets, trim and doors

Because this is a water-urethane hybrid and not oil, that means the smell is not nearly as bad as oil-based. There is only a slight odor, but unlike a vapor that can contribute to headaches at the end of the day, it isn’t unbearably strong. We also love the fact that urethane paints are low VOC, which is a huge factor in choosing paint products for the modern homeowner.


Why our GM Allan Alarcon loves urethane paint

In addition to being extremely durable, urethane paints spray out really nicely, level themselves, and come out really smooth, which makes them ideal for cabinets, trim, doors, and things like board and batten that you want to look high end. Urethane has the kind of amazing adhesion that you always want but can’t always get with other products, so you get a real sense of comfortability knowing that once this paint goes on, it’s stayin’ on! Very reliable and consistent.

The only thing is, you have to prep properly and this is non-negotiable.

How to properly prep to use urethane paint over oil-based

urethane paint | best paint for cabinets, trim and doors

It is with caution that we say: you can technically put these over oil-based paints, but you have to meticulously sand the entire surface with about 180 grit sandpaper. Urethane doesn’t stick well to a smooth oil base, so you want to scuff it up first, all across the board (literally). By sanding the gloss and making the surface abrasive, we aren’t removing the oil paint, but dulling down its shine. After thoroughly sanding, without missing any spots, you’ll see how beautifully the urethane paint sprays on.

How to properly apply urethane paint with a sprayer

urethane paint | best paint for cabinets, trim and doors

When spraying urethane paints, be mindful of the tip you choose. We recommend a fine finish tip or a 3/11 – something that’s not going to lay on a heavy coat. This paint is designed for two coats anyway, so you’ll want to build with light layers. A thick coat will just lead to a gummy, globby finish.


Sprayer vs. brush and roller

Using a sprayer has fewer risks than if you use a brush or roller. Unless you’re an experienced painter who can brush or roll out quicker than urethane paint dries (which is very fast), when you try to touch up spotty areas, you’ll end up with flashing because the paint has semi-dried, but not enough to paint over. This could also lead to an uneven sheen on your finished product. A really fast painter could definitely forego a sprayer for a roller or brush, but amateurs should go with a sprayer. If decide to brush it anyway, brush it fast.

Why we don’t like oil-alkyd hybrids

urethane paint | best paint for cabinets, trim and doors

Oil-alkyd hybrids are a pretty popular choice for cabinets, trim and doors, and have been around for a while, but we at That 1 Painter do not prefer them. We find that they don’t have “good hang”, which means when you spray them on, they don’t set well and will drip, sag and run.

The sheens on these older hybrids tend to run dull, as well. A semi-gloss will look like satin, gloss like semi-gloss, and so on and so forth. They tend to be chalky-looking and when you think of cabinets, trim, and doors, you really don’t want a chalky feel. What you’re going after is a smooth, almost glass-like feel. Oil is good at achieving that look but comes with a lot of other problems. So your best bet is to use urethane and you’ll get a feeling as close to the sheen of oil-based paint, without actually using oil-based paint. Same durability, without all the cons of using oil.

Watch here for Steven and Allan’s Paint Talk on Urethane Paints (they have jokes)

Ready to change your cabinets, trim and doors?


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