I just got new kitchen cabinets, and the paint on the doors (which are hard wood) is ultra-ultra thin. It seems like it will scratch very easily. Is there a way to protect?

They are being installed now. Is it reasonable for me to ask for something with a thicker stain/paint/better level of protection (as opposed to this thin paint)? Or can I add a polyurethane to protect them? I think they look kind of cheap due to the ultra thin paint

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Related question - the cabinets are plywood and also have this very thin protective coating (if you notice the edge between the front and the top, you will see just how thin the stain/paint is... I would like to beef them up somehow..

3 Answers 3


The plywood today & especially the stuff used in mass production cabinetry is a super thin finished surface skin that's part of the plywood. I would call the manufacturer & see if they have any information on what "finish" is comprised of & what they may recommend as an additional Clear Coat. The manufacturer will likely not say anything, since you'd be screwing with their product, but it's worth a shot to at least find out what's on there.

By all rights it should be a normal wood stain covered by a coat or 2 of polyurethane clear coat. This should be sufficient for the next few years or normal use. I'd refrain from doing anything else as you're likely to ruin the spray-on factory look, especially if you would plan on brushing on another coat or 3 of clear coat or haven't done it before.

  • Thanks to the reply. I will contact the manufacturer and find out what I can. And don't get me wrong, they look great all told, just not what I envisioned in my minds eye...
    – Dan B
    Mar 4, 2016 at 17:10
  • Yeah, I got new cabinets from China, because they were the only ones doing plywood boxes last year. And wow, my fingernail's thicker than that "wear" layer. A few bumps & grinds getting mine in & scuffs just wiped right off, so the polyurethane at least did it's job.
    – Iggy
    Mar 4, 2016 at 17:16

That's probably not paint/stain, it's veneer.

They build the cabinets out of medium-density fiberboard (MDF), then cover the exterior with veneer to make it look nicer.

If the doors truly are hardwood, then they should hold up well against scratches. If they show wear over time, they can always be refinished.

  • I agree Veneer is very thin. A coat of poly would help prevent scratches/ stains and make spill cleanup easier.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 4, 2016 at 15:59
  • The fronts are definitely hardwood and the cabinets are plywood, and they have no scratches yet... I just want to keep it that way. I made sure the cabinets were not made of MDF, but were infact plywood. I would just like them to have a richer finish... looks dull to me. I was hoping for more of a stained appearance. And the paint is definitely paint or stain.. it's too thin to be a veneer...
    – Dan B
    Mar 4, 2016 at 16:17

If your doors aren't solid hardwood and I am guessing since you are asking this question then the only thing you can do to protect them is to put layers of poly or clear coat on them.

You have a very thin layer then plywood. These are terrible cabinets for kitchens. When I am doing a house and we find these we either scratch sand and paint or order replacement doors that are hardwood.

I would also test before using poly or clear coating (can do spray paint). I am going to venture out and say poly won't look good because there are no wood grains and this is how you hide lines and streaks with poly. Probably better off with spray paint. If done in ultra light coats this can do the job. Practice on a non-visible side and try to give them at least a few hours between coats.

  • They are definitely hardwood, I guess I was hoping for more of a stained look (richer, deeper tones). And they have no scratches yet... I just want to keep it that way. I think as Iggy said, the best thing is to do nothing as I cannot likely duplicate the factory spray-on look... they're nice enough, just not exactly what I had in my minds eye... Thanks.
    – Dan B
    Mar 4, 2016 at 16:21
  • 1
    Plywood is not hardwood
    – DMoore
    Mar 4, 2016 at 16:25
  • The fronts of the cabinets are hardwood... the cabinets are plywood.
    – Dan B
    Mar 4, 2016 at 16:43
  • OK - If the doors are hardwood then there is no "thin layer" of anything. They would not spend money putting fancy veneer on hardwood doors. So if they are hardwood your answer changes to "Buy some matching stain to fix scratches". But to me they don't have the thickness of hardwood doors but who knows. You have accepted an answer that is probably not the way to go for people in your situation.
    – DMoore
    Mar 4, 2016 at 18:09

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