There is an endless debate going on among cabinet refinishers about the best cabinet coating products. The chemistry keeps changing, and it takes a couple of years to identify compatibility issues. After all, even low-quality paint looks great immediately after it is sprayed onto a set of cabinets. It is not until years (or sometimes months) roll by that we see what works for a lasting finish. Most professional refinishers, including Tanya, learned the hard way about what to avoid and what works. And it doesn’t take many failed projects to realize the devastating consequences, both financial and otherwise, of wrong choices. After all, nearly 100% of our local paint stores (Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Home Depot) have products sold as cabinet paints that do not actually meet KCMA requirements for cabinet refinishing. It’s no wonder we need to dig a little deeper to find out what products get the job done RIGHT.

For Tanya, a failed job combined with chemical sensitivity to urethane helped get her on track to cabinet refinishing success. PPG sold her a product she was told is made for cabinets that ended up not protecting against grease. And then a skin rash caused by urethane (through her long sleeves!) prompted an emergency call to a competitor/friend that happened to be involved with product testing on a national level. Tanya was shocked by what she learned, and feels like she dodged a bullet with urethane coatings. “My sensitivity to the Sherwin Williams product ended up being a massive blessing. It was another product being sold as a cabinet paint that did not meet KCMA-testing standards. I did not even know that there was a national standard or criteria for cabinet products. There was so much to learn.”

Pursuit of Greatness, Finding the Right Product

Painted Kitchen Cabinets, Refinished Kitchen Cabinets
Cabinets refinished by Painting by Tanya, highly rated woman-owned painting company in York, PA

Fortunately, Tanya’s relentless pursuit of “getting it right” helped her navigate the waters of cabinet coatings quickly. She knew she wanted a product that looked and felt great and has superior durability. And she also didn’t want to expose herself, workers, customers, or their pets to volatile chemicals. (Yes the rumors are true, Tanya is an avid animal lover and has a whopping 6 dogs and 6 cats at home, most of which are rescues.). These characteristics eliminated solvent-based products immediately. And she quickly realized she would need to step out of her comfort zone and try something new. Her above mentioned friend explained that some of the newest water-based technology was quickly becoming the industry standard. Tanya met this news with open arms, and zeroed in on Envirolak as her product of choice.

Envirolak Primers Check All The Boxes

Envirolak is a forward thinking Canadian company that specializes in manufacturing industrial products with the environment in mind. While these cabinet refinishing products have a learning curve, they are more forgiving than other water-based coatings. They produce true low-VOC products, an also the only products in the green category she found that WORK. Tanya was skeptical about the results at first, but A/B tested Envirolak with local alternatives and was blown away. “It was like night and day. Right out of the gate there was a noticeable difference in odor, or better said lack thereof. Especially with the primers, there just isn’t anything out there that blocks tannins that doesn’t make me want to gag. You are basically limited to oil or shellac-based primers, and both of these are loaded with VOCs and a smell that lingers for days. Envirolak has a new technology that locks tannins into the prime coat and keeps them there. I had never seen (or smelled) anything like it.”

Tanya uses 2 different types of primers from Envirolak depending on her needs. She prefers the Envirolak T9000 with smooth, closed-pore wood species such as Cherry and Walnut. The T9000 lays down beautifully and has incredible adhesion and stain-blocking technology. When spraying open wood cabinets such as Oak, Tanya uses a thicker-bodied primer called TB170. This primer has the same properties as the T9000, but it has a much higher level of solids in the primer. She say the thickness of the product makes sealing the oak possible without having to do a full grain-fill. “We used to fill grain quite a bit in the old days. TB170 has helped us eliminate that from our list of services. Which is fine by me because I would rather paint!”

Envirolak 200 Series Topcoat For The Win!

Painting By Tanya, Female owned business
Envirolak KCMA-Rated Industrial Cabinet Coatings for a permanent cabinet refinish.

Once properly sealed with 2-3 coats of primer, an Envirolak top coat is the last and most critical step of the process. Of course you need a good foundation, but the topcoat is what will get the wear and tear. The topcoat needs to look good and feel smooth, and it also needs to be able to stand the test of time. Envirolak’s Envirothane 200 Series is the answer Tanya was looking for. “Envirolak 200 is KCMA-rated, so it is durable, heat resistant, moisture resistant, stain resistant, and holds up great to a thorough cleaning. It dries hard as a rock and does not chip easily. In fact I have dropped a drawer (shhhhh!) and the coating held despite a massive dent in the wood. You can’t match that durability with anything from a local manufacturer, it simply does not exist.”

Also of note, this Evirolak product can be tinted to most colors, and there is a modified version for darker colors. Sheens are available ranging from matte to high gloss, and their color matching system is incredible. “I have had Envirolak match colors from Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, and Behr, and they have all been perfect. Their matching system is much better than what Lowe’s or Home Depot have, which can be a nightmare to deal with. Customers don’t realize how quickly things can go sideways with a bad color match that is not the painter’s fault. But it happens all the time, especially with cabinet refinishing.”

Customer Service and Support

Perhaps the BEST quality of this company, for the refinisher, is the customer service they provide. While cabinet painting clients do not see this side of the job, it is critical to problem solving. Even the best cabinet refinishers have issues that come up from time to time. This company has a high amount of experts available in users groups at all times. But beyond that, the distributors are always highly educated and able to walk you through most any problem that will come up. One time they even rushed a tinted gallon of paint to Tanya overnight from several states away. “Good luck getting this kind of customer service from a local company. I honestly don’t think the local Benjamin Moore store would have delivered paint any faster, and they are a few miles down the road. We aren’t used to that kind of customer service in York”.

Let’s Talk About Your Cabinet Refinishing Project…

This is just a quick overview of Painting By Tanya from York, PA’s foray into cabinet refinishing. Products can make or break results, and it is important to understand where your refinisher is coming from. If you would like to schedule a FREE estimate or see some samples, please get in touch using the contact form,

Painting By Tanya

Painting By Tanya, Women in Painting
Tanya and Walt from Painting By Tanya, Residential House Painters In York, PA

Painting By Tanya is the York, PA based wife and husband company of Tanya and Walt Leftwich (with a little help from their friends). Tanya and Walt have been working together for almost 2 decades, and somehow still get along REALLY well. “Painting is our happy place, and work brings us together by giving us a task to focus on and take us out of our daily routine. We love what we do, and will quit the day we stop loving it.” But please don’t take our word for the quality of Paint By Tanya’s work, check out the portfolio and plethora of 5-STAR Google, Facebook, and Angieslist reviews.