These days, a kitchen is just as important for cooking and entertaining as it is for the overall value of a home and there are several factors to consider when planning to build or renovate your kitchen. Here we discuss three popular kitchen finish options – polyurethane kitchen finish, melamine finish and laminate, and how to choose the one most suitable for your kitchen project.

In many homes, kitchens have morphed from cooking quarters alone into entertainment meccas that project life into the rest of the home. At Harrington Kitchens, we have seen and designed kitchens of all shapes and sizes – some that have included impressive audio visual; polyurethane kitchen pantries large enough to house a herd of cattle; professional café nooks and cocktail corners; live ‘green walls’ that stretch from floor to ceiling with plants and herbs; and the list goes on. But regardless of the size, shape or colour of these kitchens, the one thing that can ruin any perfect arrangement is an unsuitable finish.

What exactly is a kitchen finish?

Kitchen finishes are the coating used on items such as cabinetry and benchtops. They range from natural materials like stone and timber to other manmade products like polyurethane kitchens, laminate and melamine. And with a huge range of choices available, it is quite easy to get swept away in the sea of options, neglecting the big picture. When choosing a finish for your kitchen cabinetry, there are a few fundamentals that should always be considered first. These options include:

• Intended use – the main uses of your kitchen (cooking, entertaining, storage, etc)
• Household demographic – who lives here/is going to live here (family with children, older couple, university students, etc)
• Interior design – what finish will work best with interior aesthetics
• Budget – what you have to spend

How to choose the right kitchen finish

With the above in consideration, our helpful team at Harrington Kitchens have put together a quick guide on the pros and cons of three of the most popular finishes that we work with; polyurethane kitchens, laminate and melamine. Use this guide to help work out the most suitable finish for your kitchen.

#1 Polyurethane kitchens

A polyurethane kitchen finish is the result of many hours of preparation, specifically using a painted coating. Polyurethane kitchen cabinets are coated with a finish which consists of paint and hardener that provides a protective coating very similar to the paint you see on motor vehicles.

Polyurethane kitchen range

Polyurethane kitchens are typically available in four different finishes; matt, satin, semi-gloss (which can also be referred to as ‘sheen’), and high gloss. These finishes each provide their own aesthetics suited to different kitchen styles, generally from contemporary to classic and high gloss for the ultra-modern.

There are also endless opportunities available when it comes to door profiling of a polyurethane kitchen. The coating is seamlessly applied to any shape or size as it just wraps around the top and the bottom. Shaker-style, farmhouse chic, or a slick ultra-gloss look are no problem at all. There are no join lines in the painted finish.

The colour range of polyurethane kitchens is endless. As it is a painted coating, you can match a polyurethane kitchen finish with an existing colour or mix and create a brand-new colour of your own.

Polyurethane kitchen durability

The durability of a polyurethane kitchen is also very good. Polyurethane kitchens have a great resistance against chips and scratches. If you are unfortunate enough to get any bumps and bruises to the coating, the area can simply be re-sprayed at minimal cost, rather than having to replace an entire cabinet or door. The polyurethane kitchen coating is also almost entirely UV-resistant, which means that there is a low chance of the polyurethane coating fading or changing colour in the years to come.

Polyurethane kitchen maintenance

These kitchens are a dream to clean and maintain. Polyurethane kitchens are impenetrable by most substances and are easily wiped over with a damp, clean cloth to remove finger prints, smudges and marks.

Polyurethane kitchen cost

A polyurethane kitchen is a slightly more expensive option in terms of upfront costs when compared to other kitchen finishes such as laminate or melamine. But, having said that, the cost you outlay at the start can very well save you dollars down the track as the durability and longevity of a polyurethane kitchen is generally very good.

Polyurethane kitchens wrap up

• Polyurethane kitchen range is excellent. Available in various finishes and the colour is easy to match and only limited to available paint colours (which can also be mixed to create your own)
• Durability is great and cabinetry is easy to repair, making polyurethane kitchens a good choice for families and kitchens that get a lot of traffic
• Maintenance is easy as the cabinets can simply be wiped over with a damp cloth to clean
• For resale purposes, polyurethane kitchens are typically considered prestigious when they are well-maintained
• Polyurethane kitchen outlay at the start will generally be a little more than other kitchen finishes. So ensure you arrange a reputable kitchen installer, like Harrington Kitchens, to do the job professionally, ensuring you get true, long-lasting value for your investment

#2 Laminate kitchens

Laminate is a material that is used to cover a substrate such as MDF, plywood or particleboard, that are typically used for constructing kitchen cabinetry. Plastic laminate (often referred to as High Density Plastic Laminate or HDPL) is a resin coated paper which is backed with a phenolic resin layer and glued to the base using adhesive.

#3 Melamine kitchens

Melamine is created very similar to laminate kitchens, however it is done so on a lower pressure and therefore often referred to as MDL (Medium Density Laminate). It is made by bonding layers of paper under the lower pressure and resin fuses the material onto the substrate, without using any glue adhesive.

Laminate and melamine kitchen range

Laminate and melamine are available in an array of prints, colours and finishes including high gloss and low gloss. Generally, laminate has more colours and patterns available than melamine.

As the edges are not seamlessly wrapped like polyurethane kitchens, you can get more creative with colours on the strip edges if you would like to mix it up a bit.

Laminate and melamine kitchen durability

The compound used to create laminate and melamine is quite durable. However, as these finishes are applied by being wrapped around the base (not painted to the board like polyurethane kitchens) they have edges which can become exposed and peel, leaving the base wood exposed.

Over time, exposure to water can cause swelling in the internal structure too, so they need to be carefully maintained in order to avoid this. Heat can also cause problems to the laminate coating from items such as toasters and kettles, especially on the edge strip. These finishes are also less chip-resistant to that of a polyurethane kitchen.

You should be cautious with cleaning laminate and melamine finishes as abrasive liquids and tough cleaning tools can potentially scratch the surface.

If you do need to replace a laminate or melamine finish, this can be tougher than a polyurethane kitchen as the suppliers of laminate and melamine change their colours and finishes over time. However, with good maintenance and caution with usage, you can have these cabinets in great condition for years to come.

Laminate and melamine kitchen cost

Simply said, melamine is less expensive than laminate, which, in turn, is less than a polyurethane kitchen finish. But there is good reason why these items continue to endure and be a popular choice with new kitchen owners.

As we’ve mentioned, there are various uses, benefits and challenges to be considered for each kitchen finish type and so it is always best to consider and select the product that best suits intended use and household demographic.

Polyurethane kitchens are a premium product that offer a seamless result when it comes to both aesthetic and durability. But if you are looking for a budget-friendly option or a particular visual texture or detail, then laminate and melamine could very well be your saviour.

The Harrington Kitchens design team have many years of knowledge and experience in designing custom-made kitchens to suit a variety of lifestyles, design preferences and budgets. Our designers work closely with you to understand your lifestyle and aspirations for your new kitchen and then combine those with our expertise to create the perfect space that is functional and looks amazing too. Among many things, our guidance includes suggestions on the best finishes for your cabinetry as well as layout and other design choices.

Contact our team on 1300 662 112, submit an online enquiry or visit us at our Narellan or Bowral showrooms to discuss your new kitchen project.