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People think of enamel as a type of paint – which it may once have been – but recently it is more of a descriptive term used in a general manner by many manufacturers to describe a paint that dries hard with a higher degree of gloss. This is the type of paint generally used in cabinet painting, and for the purposes of this post I will use the term is it is commonly understood – paying less attention to tradition and technical properties.

Enamel paint is installed on cabinets, doors, windows, trims, and cases. Enameling is ideal for high use areas like kitchen cabinets. One of the most important reasons why enamel is popular is because of its durability. Enamel has a smooth surface that does not collect dirt as easily so it is easy to clean, and also resists marring and scratching, and looks beautiful. If you use good quality enamel instead of wall paint on your kitchen cabinets, it will provide you with a durable and long lasting finish.

You can buy enamel of any color and any sheen. When you are thinking to apply enamel on your cabinets, you have a few choices, there are trade-offs with each option, there is no perfect enamel, you have to select from what is available based on what is important to you.


Latex and acrylic enamels are water based products and are popular due to their low VOC content (VOC: Volatile Organic Compounds). However, they are difficult to apply smooth, and have the lowest durability and finish quality. Water based enamel are generally when the homeowner wants to keep the project green- and is less concerned with finish or durability.


Oil based enamels have higher VOC content than the water based enamels. However, this type of enamel is more durable and offers a better finished appearance. When applied on your cabinet surface, oil typically takes 12-24 hours to dry. Also you need to have a dust free environment when you are working with oil based enamel. Oil based enamel is idea in the situation when the homeowner may not be occupying the home. Oil based enamel also offer a durable and good looking finish that can be cleaned easily. Another consideration on the drawback side; oil products “yellow” with the passage of time.


Lacquer based enamel is seldom used by homeowners because they are typically not sold in home improvement stores, are very smelly, thin and difficult to control, and have the highest VOC level of the 3. However, lacquer based enamel dries very quickly, allowing multiple coats to be applied in a relatively short period – an advantage over both water and oil based products. There are several types of cabinet lacquer, check with your professional paint store for availability.

These products are volatile, extreme caution must be used – I do not recommend this material for DIY projects. This is the same material used by cabinet shops so it is the best choice of finish beauty and durability. However, lacquer based enamels must be sprayed and should not be applied by hand. If you want the very best finish, contact a professional with experience using these products.

If you need professional support to finish your cabinets, you can contact the professional contractors offering affordable cabinet enameling in Congress Park.

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