What Sheen Of Paint Should You Paint A Bathroom Cabinet? - Home Decorating & Painting Advice

What Sheen Of Paint Should You Paint A Bathroom Cabinet?

Customer Ryan writes into our panel of DIY experts:

We have a full bath in our basement, and I'm looking to repaint everything. The vanity will be going from natural wood to black, but I'm not sure what finish to choose. The countertop is a white solid surface with a bit of shine to it, so should I do a matte, eggshell, semi-gloss? Any advice you could give would be greatly appreciated!

DIY Blogger Diane Henkler of InMyOwnStyle.com answers:

Hi Ryan,

This is a great question and one that many people have when faced with so many choices of paint finishes.  Overall, the best finish for painting cabinets is semi-gloss.  It ensures maximum durability and is ideal for high moisture areas like bathrooms and basements. I have painted all the natural oak cabinets in my home in a variety of colors using semi-gloss. With that said, I have also found that darker colors reflect the light more in the hills and valleys of the piece. This can be desirable in some instances, not so much in others, depending on the decorating style of the room. If it is a more casual or rustic mood you are trying to create - less shine will look better.   If there are any imperfections in the wood, you are more likely to see them when you use a semi-gloss. 

Since you said the top is semi-shiny, it might be nice to have the black contrast it and use a satin finish.  It is still scrubbable when it gets dirty, but will not be as reflective.  I have noticed when painting dark colors using a satin finish makes the piece look more like a factory finished piece – not a painted piece.  Satin/Eggshell has a smooth overall subtle sheen to it that will look the same when the light hits it from any angle.  With semi-gloss black, you will see highlights on any beveled edges or raised panels on the doors or drawers, so ask yourself if that is what you want to see?

You mentioned the original cabinet is natural wood. Is the cabinet bare wood or does it have a polyurethane finish on it?  This will change the way you will need to prep it before painting. If it is bare wood, you will want to prepare the cabinet first with a primer. You could get the primer in white or grey – grey if going with the black finish. If the cabinet has a poly finish on it, you should rough the finish up a bit before painting with a medium grit sandpaper. Clean it off with a tack cloth and then use the primer. This will ensure the paint has something to grab onto. Use 2 light coats – letting the first coat dry before applying the second. I would use a high quality angled brush on any angled or raised panel trim and a foam roller for the flat sections.  This will lessen the look of brush marks. I always remove the doors and drawers. It makes rolling on the paint much easier and in the end more professional looking. I also mark where all the hinges and screws belong, so it is easy to put everything back together again.

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