If there’s one area of the kitchen that drove me nuts, it was the cabinets. Don’t get me wrong, the structure of the cabinets is great. I knew I didn’t have to spend the money replacing them, thank goodness – talk about an expense! But, I also didn’t love the way the cabinets looked. They were just dreary and needed a pick-me-up. That’s when I decided to figure out how to paint them.
This was no easy task, despite painting being my day job. My company mostly does commercial work and walls, so cabinets was pretty new to me. Luckily, I have a buddy who is a local cabinet painter and does cabinets all the time, so I leaned on him a lot. Even though I was figuring all this out for the first time, I was probably at a fair advantage given that I already am an expert at the principles of painting. I love how they turned out, but it’s not a project for the faint of heart. If you don’t have a lot of patience and general painting know how (the right way to clean, strip, dry etc.), you might want to leave this to a professional.
I’ll share some of the tips I used below.
Choose the Right Paint
Don’t make the mistake I almost made. Don’t use interior latex paint. Sure, it will work, but it will streak and peel – probably not two words you want to hear after all of your hard work. Look for a hearty paint made just for cabinet painting. You want alkyd paint. It’s durable enough to withstand a lot of touching and wear and tear without looking worn down.
You Need to Remove Everything
Yes, this is the biggest pain, but it’s necessary. You will completely take the cabinets apart. Remove any shiny hardware. There shouldn’t be anything but wood left when you paint it. Yes, this means you have to put them all back together. I didn’t promise it would be easy or fun. But I do promise that you’ll love your end result.
You Need to Sand
Again, not the most pleasant task, but you’ll want to sand every cabinet down. If you don’t, the primer or paint may not adhere as you hoped. Trust me, it’s worth the time and effort it takes to sand the cabinets down. I did my in sections so that I didn’t have cabinet doors lying all over my house. It’s a big job, but one that’s well worth it.
Use Tinted Primer
If you do prime your cabinets, which I suggest you do, use a tinted primer. This is especially important if you are painting your cabinets a dark color. Unless you want to spend days painting multiple coats, use the tinted primer. You’ll thank me later.
Paint the Cabinets Before the Doors
Even though having cabinet doors lying all over your house is annoying, they need to sit there while you paint the cabinets themselves. Painting the cabinets is important because they need time to dry before you attach the doors again. Once you attach the doors, the cabinet itself undergoes a lot of wear and tear. Giving it plenty of time to dry and the paint to cure will ensure that your efforts result in long-lasting painted cabinets.
Cabinet Paint Dries Quickly
I recommend that you work slowly and in thin coats. Unlike walls, when you drip on cabinets, the drip remains visible. That’s probably not what you want out of your cabinets. Work with extra thin coats and work slowly. Remember, you’ll enjoy the fruits of your labor for many years. Take your time getting it all done. If you do drip, you’ll have to start over from scratch, literally. You’ll need to sand the area down and prime and paint it again.
Paint a Top Coat
Unlike walls, cabinets need a topcoat. It helps seal the paint in and protects it. Think about the amount of wear and tear your cabinets take. If your kids are anything like mine were and still are when they come home, they bang those cabinets so hard you can hear them through the house. The top coat will make sure the paint job you just did remains intact.
Don’t Skip the Inside of the Cabinets
The inside of the cabinets needs love too! Paint the insides when you paint the base so that there’s plenty of drying time. You’ll want to wait a few days before you put things back in the cabinet. Again, let everything dry and cure so that you get the most life out of your cabinets.
Painting your cabinets is well worth the effort. I speak from experience – it’s hard work, but it will pay off in the end. Choose a paint color that blends well with your walls and appliances and that you won’t tire of in a year or two. Hopefully this is a one and done type project unless you love changing things up, but it’s a big job!