Paints & Coatings Resource Center

Ask the Expert Question-and-Answer Archive

by Ron Joseph

August, 2002

Yellowing of Indoor Paing on Wooden Cabinets

Q. We had a new house built 3 years ago. The cupboard doors and also all interior doors were coated in a white finish. I think the interior doors were sprayed with a melamine paint. All of the cupboard doors and the interior doors have yellowed although the baseboards and all other trim did not yellow. Why would this happen and what can we do to turn them white again?

A. The following answer was provided by Tom Burke, Coating Consultant:

"Lets assume that there are two different coating systems involved. The coating on the cupboards and interior doors is different from the coating on the trim and millwork. If the cupboards were manufactured and painted by a professional cabinet company, rather than a house painter or refinisher, go back to the company and complain about the discoloration. It appears there might be a legitimate problem. Likewise, if the cupboards and interior doors were painted by a house painter go back to him with your complaint.

The so called melamine paint is unlikely to cause the discoloration unless it was mixed with some other materials that tend to yellow. Usually, a white cabinet coating system is composed of a white under coat or surfacer followed by a water white clear topcoat. If the quality of the water white top coat is compromised, it will discolor to an amber appearance in a short time. This is different from the trim and millwork, that may have a factory-applied coating.

One option as I see it, is to refinish the cupboards with a more stable water white topcoat."

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