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D'franco Painting & Wallpaper – Elgin, Geneva, St. Charles, Chicagoland

“I have painted cabinets and we are having some issues with them, can you help?” A call we receive weekly. Below are the top 3 problems concerning painted cabinets.

grey grazed painted cabinets - cabinet refinishing genevaFor the past 10 years, one of the services we have been able to give our customers here in the Fox Valley and Greater Chicagoland area is painting and refinishing kitchen cabinets. We have had the pleasure of working with some great builders in Chicago and its Suburbs (HighGate Builders and DJK Custom Homes have been some of the most fun projects, as well as cabinet manufacturer Cabaret Cabinets) *UPDATE: Cabaret Cabinets sadly closes after 34 years in business following the economic effects from the pandemic. From my humble abode to some truly amazing homes there are a few problems when it comes to painted cabinets that we all have in common. Here are our top 3 problems concerning painted cabinets and what you can do to overcome issues to prolong the life of your cabinets.

1. Number 1 enemy- Water is not a friend

This is the number one problem with painted cabinets in your home. It doesn’t matter if we are repainting or touching up, water damage is always an issue. The cabinets by your sink get the most abuse. Water from washing your hands, from doing dishes, cooking, and cleaning usually take their toll in this area of your kitchen cabinetry. Next to the kitchen sink cabinet issues are the cabinets or cabinet panels next to your dishwasher. The ventilation from dishwashers was not given much thought as to where the steam goes. They have traditionally either gone out the top damaging countertops or out the sides damaging the cabinet right next to your dishwasher. So what can you do about it?

  • Wipe up excess water immediately.
  • Do not let water stand on your cabinets.
  • Do not use harsh chemicals to clean cabinets  -white vinegar and water are all you need. Chemical cleaners will cause the finishes of your cabinets to break down faster and then allow water into the wood
  • Fix any problem as soon as it is seen, don’t wait for it to get worse!

2“There are cracks in the doors of my cabinets!”

If you have painted cabinets keep in mind that these doors are just like your hardwood floors-they will shift and move depending on the season. Jerry from Cabaret Cabinets is a big fan of clients knowing the humidity levels in their home. Too much or too little humidity will cause doors to shrink expand respectively or worse cause your doors to warp. If you are moving into a new home in the upper Midwest like Northern Illinois, we try to tell clients it can take up to 4 full seasons for the woodwork in your home (floors, doors, trim, and cabinets) to settle into their new environment and stop shifting in changing moisture levels. Small cracks can be a problem with a door. Why? Well, Just like your wood floors there are pores in the wood, grain patterns that can open up, shift and sometimes cause cracking. If your doors have trim pieces you can expect movement and these edges to crack open. Can you stop these cracks from showing up?

  • Yes, the biggest come back to moisture. Not sure about humidity in your home? Contact your HVAC contractor, they can help. If like me you are using radiant heat, I have not found a good solution. (if you have one let me know!)
  • Be patient! It may not be what you want to hear but the wood has moisture in it when harvested. Wood dries out before being used, then has moisture added to it again when glued together then painted. It dries again. Then they are packaged in a truck that has no climate control, again introducing moisture to the wood. The cabinets are delivered to your home, which may or may not has working heat and air, then they must adjust once more to your home’s environment (inside and out). Be patient, acclimatization to the 4 seasons is important. Afterwards, any cracks or paint issues are able to be fixed.

3. “The doors and drawers have dents in them?”

I don’t mean to offend anyone but wood is a soft material. It will scratch, scuff, ding, and nick. The type of wood you choose for your cabinets will affect the performance of your cabinets. Pine is I think the worst choice, as it is so soft if you breathe the wrong way it dents. Maple is great! hard, smooth, not too much grain, but it is expensive. Poplar is a wood used in painting outside of MDF panels. MDF is hard, paints well, and does not shrink (as much) or expand as other woods do, BUT puffs up and swells like a sponge when wet. Harder to repair. So what do you do about these dents?

  • First is be careful. These are wood products with paint on them. It is not a door panel of your car.
  • If you are building them, know what products you are using. If you have cabinets already and getting them finished, make a high-end cabinet grade cabinet material such as ML Campbell.


After all is done, keep in mind it is paint. Paint is not indestructible. It is basically just like the walls of your home.So they need care, not abuse. If you have other questions regarding painted cabinets, have other issues we may be able to help with, feel free to call or text us!

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