What's the best finish for kitchen cabinets?

Q:

Please recommend a finish to use on maple kitchen cabinet doors. I don’t know the existing finish, but it didn’t hold up to being splashed with water from the sink.
—Dave Menci, Collegeville, Pa.

A:

Few finishes survive frequent contact with water, Dave. And kitchen cabinets also must survive grease and moisture in the air, frequent skin contact around the knobs and pulls, and occasional heat. If you have spray equipment, use a two-part polyurethane, a pre-catalyzed lacquer, or post-catalyzed lacquer. Otherwise, brush on an oil-based polyurethane thinned about 10 percent with mineral spirits. Apply at least three coats. If you’re covering an existing finish, thoroughly clean and scuff it first for a good bond.

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