August 30, 2011

How to Paint Your Cabinets

After I posted my sister's kitchen makeover there were a ton of comments asking about how to paint kitchen cabinets.  We are not experts, but we have tried different things and in the meanwhile I've tried to do a TON of research since then.  While this post may not be a fascinating read, I'm hoping it will be super-duper informative for any of you thinking about painting cabinets.

I'm going to tell you what we did to her cabinets (good and bad) and then I'll share some info I've learned by researching.  Hopefully in the end I will have done all your homework for you.

Here's Cassie's kitchen again.  She asked around a lot in the home improvement stores how to paint her cabinets.  The "experienced worker" said she should use a deglosser, then primer, then paint, then poly.  So, that's what we did.

In hindsight, I think we would do things a bit differently.  Here's why.  Let's break it down.

This is deglosser.  Sometimes it's called liquid sandpaper.  It used to be stinky stuff, but now it's a bit improved.  It is supposed to prepare areas with high gloss enamel and varnish on woodwork for paint.  Basically, it's supposed to be a substitute for sanding.  Here's the cold hard truth.  I don't think there's any real substitute for sanding.  This product was a real let down for us.

After reading up in some paint forums, I've heard that the following works well instead.  You wipe them down with TSP (Trisodium Phophate).  It removes grease well and it comes in a liquid and powder form.  The liquid form seems easiest to use. 

Next is primer.  I read great stuff about Sherwin Williams PrepRite ProBlock Interior/Exterior Seals and Bonds Laytex Primer.  Apparently the key is that is really BONDS.  (Make sure it says so on the label.)  The other really important key is something that's hard.  PATIENCE.  With all painting and priming it is really essential to let the primer and paint "cure."  After reading all about it I've come to the conclusion that this step is way more important than most people realize.  Even once paint or primer is dry to the touch you can still scrape it off quite easily.  It has to truly cure.  The bummer is that this makes the project a long, long one, but if you want it done well and you want it to last then you have to remember that good things come to those who wait :)

Next come the paint.  Semi-gloss or gloss is usually recommended in a high-use area because you can wipe it down easily.  Some people skip a top coat because of that.  I think I'd stick with semi-gloss rather then gloss because I don't like really like the glossy look for cabinets.  Others say oil-based paint and primer is the best for high traffic areas.  If you go the oil-based route you need to make sure your primer and paint are both oil-based.

As I mentioned, the guy told us to use poly urethane to seal them, but I am going to disagree on that one.  If you're painting your cabinets white, it yellows them a bit.  I know they say it's non-yellowing but you can still see a difference.  We stopped after a couple of drawers.  If we were painting them a darker color, I would recommend it.  It definitely makes the final finish stronger.

Jen from Tatertots and Jello just finished her kitchen makeover (which she hasn't fully posted yet, but will be worth the wait.  Stay tuned.)  She had her cabinets professionally painted and was kind enough to give me the details.  The painter used several coats of primer and paint, spraying thin coats of each.  Then he dyed poly urethane for the final finish so it ended up being like enamel.  I myself keep going back and forth on doing it myself versus hiring someone, since I want it done perfectly.  This is the home we plan on living in forever, so it might be worth the investment.

Okay, now on to the brushes/rollers.  If your cabinets have a beveled area like Cassie's, you'll need a brush for the cut away areas. 

A NICE brush is totally worth the money.  I was floored by how much better the finish was and how the brush stroke lines were minimal with a nice brush.  I liked the Purdy angled brush.  On another note, you can try a little sanding between layers to minimize brush strokes.

We tried the high density foam rollers, but in the end I liked using the brush better.  Since then I read a great tip on the foam rollers that makes me want to try it again.  They work a lot better and leave a smoother finish when you don't go over the area repeatedly.  Get the paint on with as few rolls as possible.  (If you really don't want any lines ot texture you could rented a sprayer, but then the whole project starts to get pretty pricey.)
Once you're all done it's the waiting game again.  If you can wait a week to put the doors back on then do it.  The longer the better because the paint will really cure.

So, in the end Cassie's have chipped a tiny bit in places.  I think we should have sanded and waited a lot longer for them to cure.  I'll keep you posted on what I eventually decide to do with mine.  If you read this post and think.....Yikes, that's a lot of work.  Maybe I'll hire it done, you should still do a lot of research.  My sister hired someone to spray her interior doors.  He charged a lot more than the estimate and it's peeling off in giant chunks.  It's infuriating.

In our last house we only sanded and painted and they held up well, but the brush strokes were definitely there.  We didn't fuss over the project that much because we figured we'd either move or re-do the kitchen at some point.

I hope this all answered some of your questions.  I'm still learning about the whole process myself and trying to figure out the best way to do it.  A lot of the choices are depend on how much time and money you want to spend or how well you want it to be done.

Whew!  You made it through that giant post!  Thanks for sticking with me.  Have a great day.


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