Best Professional Kitchen Cabinet Paint for a Respray with Colour Change | Ultrimax Coatings | UK


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Which is the Best Professional Kitchen Cabinet Paint for a Respray with Colour Change?

Pre-cats, acid-cats, polyurethanes and water-based wood coatings are all options when it comes to a professional kitchen cabinetry respray with a colour change. This article looks at the pros and cons of each in terms of the finish suitability, spray equipment needed and the impact on sprayer health.

Pre-catalysed lacquers

Pre-catalysed lacquers are one-component lacquer systems that contain a hardening agent.


Pre-cats are easy to use, fast drying and have high opacity. They are durable enough for a short-term, low-budget refurbishment. For example, if a client wants to revamp existing kitchen units with a view to replacing them in the near future.


There are certainly more robust paints on the market than pre-cats. They are not tough enough to withstand the day-to-day wear and tear that kitchen units face, and they are not resistant to chemicals and heat. Pre-cats will also yellow over time, although some manufacturers have managed to slow this process with UV additives.

Application method

Pre-cats should be sprayed using high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) spray equipment.

Impact on sprayer health

Pre-catalysed coatings are solvent-based, which means they emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Exposure to VOCs can cause both short-term and long-term health issues. Sprayers should, therefore, wear a suitable full-face respirator and mask when working with pre-cats.


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More info- Colormax PC


Acid-catalysed (AC) lacquers

AC coatings are two-component lacquer systems that use an acid catalyst hardener to bond and strengthen the resin molecules.


Of all the kitchen cabinet coatings, ACs are the most durable. They provide superb resistance to wet and dry heat, abrasion and many chemicals, making them a popular choice. Like pre-cats, ACs are also quick drying and have high opacity.


Despite their unrivalled level of durability, acid cat lacquers are the most problematic to use for several reasons:

  • The finish has to cure — full hardness takes 21-28 days to achieve
  • Most AC coatings have a short pot life of 8-12 hours
  • Sensitive to overbuild
  • Low movement tolerance — cracks and chips easily
  • Will yellow (some non-yellowing formulas are available)
  • Typically the most expensive coating option

Application method

As with pre-cats, AC lacquest should be sprayed using high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) spray equipment.

Impact on sprayer health

ACs contain formaldehyde, which comes with some serious respiratory health risks. Spray technicians should always wear an air-fed mask to protect themselves from harmful exposure.


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View - Colormax AC

Polyurethane (PU) topcoat

Polyurethane topcoats are essentially liquid plastics when wet. They dry to a hardwearing showroom finish and are available in water-based or oil-based formulas.


Boasting a wide range of benefits, polyurethanes are ideally suited to kitchen environments:

  • Exceptional durability, with resistance to heat, chemicals and water
  • Fast-drying
  • High-build and high-opacity
  • Less prone to discolouration from UV light than traditional coatings
  • Can have excellent hiding properties when used with a suitable high-build primer
  • High-end showroom finish
  • Unlimited shelf-life when correctly stored
  • Formaldehyde-free

Application method

Polyurethane topcoats can be applied using conventional spray, airless or air-assisted spray guns; curtain coating or roller.

Impact on sprayer health

Polyurethanes contain isocyanates which can cause respiratory issues with exposure during the spraying and curing process. Spray technicians should, therefore, always wear an air-fed mask to protect themselves from harmful exposure.


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Water-based topcoats

Water-based products use water as the pigment carrier instead of solvent. As such, they can be thinned and cleaned up with tap water in most cases. Like solvent-based wood finishes, water-based coatings can include polyurethane, epoxies and acrylics.


Once the poor relation to solvent-based coatings, water-based products now offer several benefits, including:

  • Excellent hardness and good chemical resistance properties
  • Safer to use and low odour compared to solvent-based products
  • Non-hazardous waste — disposal is easier and economical
  • Exceptional adhesion and vertical hold — no sagging; super smooth finish
  • Excellent colour retention and non-yellowing
  • Cost-effective — no need for additives, hardeners or thinners
  • Clean-up is quick (with just tap water)
  • The best option for HSE compliance and minimising VOC consumption


Many of the problems associated with water-based wood coatings have been eradicated or significantly improved. Some of the common issues that remain include:

  • Less tolerant of adverse weather conditions during the curing process
  • Still not yet as quick-drying as traditional coatings
  • Lower sheen level than solvent-based coatings (but retains its sheen better)
  • Finish can become brittle with age

Application method

Water-based wood coatings produce the best results when sprayed with a conventional, air-assisted, airless or electrostatic spray gun.

Impact on sprayer health

Water-based coatings are the least harmful of all wood coatings due to their low VOC levels. Spray technicians should wear a suitable half-mask respirator to protect them from the harmful effects of inhaling fine paint particles. Reduced isocyanate exposure compared to solvents


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Each of the four types of wood coating covered in this article have their place in the kitchen resprayer’s arsenal.


Pre-cats are best reserved for temporary or short-term. They have the high opacity needed for a colour change and are budget-friendly, but lack the durability needed for longevity in a kitchen environment.


Acid-cats are a favourite with resprayers who want the most durable finish possible. Of all the coatings these are the hardest to work with, so they are best suited to technicians who are comfortable spraying this type of material.


Polyurethanes are the Rolls Royce choice. They offer excellent opacity, durability and resistance, provide a showroom finish and have superb hiding powers when used with a suitable high-build primer.


Water-based wood coatings are the ideal choice for environmentally-conscious resprayers and larger respray firms that need to keep their VOC consumption below the 5-tonne permit level or comply with a permit.

A note on colour availability and sheen options

All of the wood coatings described above can be mixed to any colour and are available in a wide range of sheen levels from dead matt to wet-look gloss.

Need more support?

Contact the Ultrimax Total Paint Shop Support Team for advice and information on all things coatings related.


Call: +44(0)1302 856666

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Need More Help With Wood Paint Selection?

Why not get some help from our business specialists at Ultrimax who can advise on wood paint options for your business.

If you can’t find a fix for the issue you’re experiencing or you need more advice, drop us a line and we’ll get your paint shop on track.

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