Teak Finish on Kitchen Cabinets

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Teak may be naturally water resistant, but in a kitchen environment, even this tough lumber needs some help. February 26, 2005

I have a kitchen cabinet job where teak will be used. Should I stain the cabinets at all or tell the customer that in time they will darken nicely? What type of stain and color would you recommend? Should I worry about doing anything with the oily surface before staining or finishing? Will precat bond well?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor D:
I am working on a teak job too, but not in the kitchen. I am using a teak oil finish with no stain. If you are spraying precat, the oils in the wood could give you a fun time. The surface will need to be washed down with lacquer thinner right before shooting for sure. I am not sure that will be good enough for a good bond.

Have you gotten a good source for the teak and teak plywood?

From the original questioner:
I am just finishing the cabinets. My concern is the bonding issue. The cabinetmaker showed the customer a sample with Watco followed by NC. I don't want to wait the 72 hours that Watco recommends before finishing. Also, I want a spray-on stain rather than wipe-on. Any suggestions?

From contributor B:
Precat will peel within a year on teak. Is this an open fill or full fill finish? If it's open, then you can use oil and wax. If it's full fill, than use polyurethane/polyester/polyurethane finish. The following is a standard operating procedure that I've used for about 17 years. Sna wood with 220, 400, 800. Apply a coat of Watco oil and let sit for 15 minutes before wiping. Let sit for 3 hours to dry and apply a second coat the same as the first. Let dry overnight and apply a nice coat of Minwax paste. Wipe wax off clean and use a clean rag to polish. Success with this process will lean on your ability to sand. Don't skip steps in the sanding process or it will lead to blotchiness in your finished process.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the input. Will this oil/wax finish hold up well in a kitchen and how often do you need to rewax, especially by sink areas? Is there any advantage to using Watco teak oil or is regular Watco oil sufficient? Why wouldn't the full fill finish peel like the precat? Could you send me info on the full fill finish? I'd like to review it so that I can inform my clients of the pros and cons of both. I would also like to see what is involved labor and material wise. I know it wouldn't be a full fill finish, but would a polyurethane alone work - without the polyester? If so, what type of poly?

From contributor B:
I don't think that the oil and wax finish will hold up to heavy use. The reason polyester holds up so well on teak is the catalyzed tie coat. This catalyzed polyurethane has the ability to sink itself through the oil and make it stable. I use Chemcraft products and they have never let me down in 17 years of use. The reason the polyester is used over the polyurethane tie coat is to fill the grain. If you're looking for an open finish, you could use the isolante tie coat with a good scuff and finish it with Lucido topcoat. I use this on open mahogany bar tops with great results. I've never used this system on teak without polyester and I don't know if the oil in the wood will create a problem with seeping due to the mil thickness of the coating. To add a wiping stain or a dye stain to the wood surface may create a problem. I suggest adding the color into the tie coat via the solvent. I've had problems blending colors into the resin of the tie coat on occasion. I discovered that if you mix your color into the solvent and then add the solvent into the resin/catalyst, it will work very well.

From the original questioner:
That sounds like a premium finish. I don't think I mentioned that I will be finishing these cabinets onsite. Are there any extra concerns with regard to respirators or cartridges? Do you need to wipe down with thinner before applying the tie coat?

Would using a coat of dewaxed shellac, like Zinnser Sealcoat, work similarly? Then, in theory, I could apply a toner and follow that with any topcoat?

I've never had to finish teak in a kitchen before. Most of the reading I've done only recommends a solvent wipe down just before applying a finish. I'd like to weigh all my options.

Everyone's input is greatly appreciated. This forum has proved to be a great source of education on many different topics.

From contributor R:
Years ago I refinished a conference table that was purchased at an outfit called Copenhagen. It's sort of a high-end furniture store that has nothing but teak furniture and fixtures manufactured in Denmark. Anyway, I called their factory and was told that after wiping the wood down with lacquer thinner, a regular nitro lacquer was used. The key, they said, was to build up the coating in multiple passes. Is their a Scandinavian Designs or a Copenhagen store in your area? If so, you may wish to call them and find out if they still apply a regular nitro finish. Since this is a kitchen, I might consider a vinyl sealer to be incorporated into your schedule.

From contributor B:
This type of finishing on site will be a problem. This finish can only be applied by air. I tried to use a foam brush with the Isolante tie coat and it ate the brush. Perhaps you could use a Minwax polyurethane with a brush on the case work and finish the doors/drawers in a booth.

I ran into this exact situation two weeks ago and I foam brushed the case work with polyurethane and finished the doors/drawers off site with CV. Be sure to check sheen comparison and amber comparison in the polyurethane.

Most of what you see when looking at the cabinets is the fronts and not the case work. The people were very pleased with the job and asked me to refinish two vanities in the bathrooms.

From the original questioner:
Even though I'm finishing onsite, I will be spraying the finish. I remove doors and drawers, mask and finish everything onsite. If I understand you correctly, you're saying 1K or 2K polyurethane is the way to go?