High-gloss finishes are a trend nowadays: a kitchen or a wardrobe done in a high-gloss material gives a vibrant look and lifts the energy quotient of the space. While a high-gloss finish can be obtained through different materials and paints, acrylic finish has somehow become the generic term that customers and vendors have started using to describe a high-gloss finish.
A high-gloss finish can be delivered via using acrylic, laminate, duco paint, UV coating, PU paint, etc. And mind you, none of the above techniques is superior or inferior to the other. The usage of one over the other really depends on the application area (kitchen, wardrobe, cot or somewhere else), the design (whether the surface is plane or curved), the level of maintenance that the user can manage, and finally the choice of colour, and whether the specific colour that the customer desires is available in the chosen finish. With that preamble, let us now look at the characteristics and suitability of each high-gloss finish.
This is sold either as 1 mm sheet that can be stuck on top of medium density fibreboard (MDF) or plyboard or as a readymade 18 mm board, pre-laminated with the 1 mm acrylic sheet. Modular vendors cut these boards to the required size, apply the edge bands in matching colour, and deliver the finished shutter to end customers. The thing to note here is that both the acrylic sheets and pre-laminated acrylic boards available in Bengaluru are direct imports, usually from China, and none of the regular brands in India (Greenply, Century, Euro) produces these. Hence, the sourcing and sale of acrylic-based products are largely unorganised with really no standard pricing. Thus, you will find the prices of the finished shutters ranging from Rs 600 per sq ft all the way to Rs 1,400 per sq ft with little or no marked difference in the product.
That said, acrylic gives a great high-gloss finish, especially when the shutters are factory made from pre-laminated boards. Pasting of acrylic sheets on board and on site is not recommended, as this leads to waviness due to non-uniformity of the surface of the board or of the layer of adhesive.
Application & use: In terms of its application, acrylic can be used only for plane/straight-line applications such as the kitchen and wardrobe shutters. It cannot be used for applications that have non-plane surfaces such as profile shutters, textured panels, cots, etc. From a maintenance perspective, like any other glossy surface, acrylic tends to catch finger marks as well as scratches. Its scratch resistance is, however, higher than that of the regular high-gloss laminate.
Colour shade availability: Acrylic is available in limited colours and the shade book of each vendor varies — hence, it is quite an effort if you are particular about the colour you want.
These are similar to regular laminates but with a high-gloss finish. They are available with all the standard laminate manufacturers in India. Some of them offer two varieties — the standard range and the high-scratch resistant range. In addition, the colour option availability is fairly exhaustive. Here again, it is best to go for factory-made shutters as waviness is a standard issue in all high-gloss surfaces. At the same time, on-site pasting is possible with high-gloss laminates, as carpenters are conversant in its use. Care needs to be taken to apply a 4 mm MDF sheet on top of the ply to minimise the waviness. Also, in case of shutters made on site, the shutter size should be limited to four feet, as longer shutters may bend due to the difference in expansion coefficients of ply, MDF, and the laminate sandwiched together.
Application & use: Due to the relative ease of use, cost and availability, high-gloss laminates can be used in a variety of applications from kitchen shutters, wardrobe shutters to wall panelling. When using for making shutters, take care to find the matching edge bands so that the edges can be seamless. Matching edge bands are not available for the entire range, and personally, that has been one of my biggest complaints with the laminate manufacturers. Also, as with acrylic, the use of high-gloss laminates is limited to plane/straight-line applications. High-gloss laminates do catch finger marks as well as scratches like other high-gloss surfaces. The high-scratch resistance variety is preferable but it is available in limited colour shades.
Duco is the most versatile method of achieving a high-gloss finish. It is the same paint that is used for painting cars and hence works great on angular, non-straight line and curved surfaces. While duco can be sprayed on well-prepared and smoothened plywood, it is easier if it’s done on plane MDF. Hence, applicators insist on pasting a thin MDF sheet on the ply to get a smooth finish without having to do as much preparation. On the other hand, the ‘glossiness’ of duco is lower than that of acrylic or high-gloss laminate. Duco also tends to crack up along the joints. So, it is best to minimise the number of joints in the furniture, or hide them under the MDF packing or via a bit of smart design.
Application & use: Due to its versatility, duco can be used for most applications including cots, bookshelves, partitions, shutters and wall panels. However, duco is not recommended in furniture and spaces that see high traffic such as kitchen and wardrobes. This is because even with a small hit or scratch, the paint peels off. And over time, this results in an unkempt look.
Colour shade availability: Since duco is a type of paint, it is available in almost infinite colours. You can even get metallic shades that can be quite unique but need a fair amount of judgement — more around where not to use than where to.
So, the next time you are in the market shopping for furniture in high-gloss materials, be sure to check on what material has been used to get that rich look as that will ultimately decide whether it is right for your needs and use.
(The author is interior designer, founder, The Studio)