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.

38 comments:

  1. Wow thank you for the information ~ I have been dreading doing my kitchen cabinets but need to really soon ~
    What did you end up putting as the final top coat ?

    xoxo
    Lori

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  2. Wow that does look like a ton of work. But totally worth it. I am so glad our kitchen was redone by the previous owners and we love it!

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  3. They make it even easier now. They sell all that stuff in a kit and you just have to have them tint the paint for you. That's what i did and my cabinets are holding up great!

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  4. Kayla - We saw the kit but they made it kind of pricey and they were using the deglosser, which I really didn't like in the end. I'm really glad the kit worked well for you though.

    Cheri

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  5. How FUN! I'm painting my cabinets too! I'm using Annie Sloan's Chalk paint....no sanding or priming! WOOT

    Just working on a section at a time might take me a few weeks:-)

    Gotta reread this post again..Thanks:-)

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  6. I've used poly acrylic which is the water based version of urethane. It doesn't yellow and comes in a satin or gloss finish. I haven't used it on cabinets but painted furniture for my kids. You should try it.

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  7. I've used poly acrylic which is the water based version of urethane. It doesn't yellow and comes in a satin or gloss finish. I haven't used it on cabinets but painted furniture for my kids. You should try it.

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  8. Thanks so much for this post--I have already painted my bathroom cabinets, and had a heck of a time sorting through all the DIY info out there! They turned out ok, but I have been thinking about doing the kitchen, and I want to do it right, so this post was perfect--thanks again :)

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  9. This post really is hugely informative! THANK YOU for sharing all of your efforts and experience! I appreciate the picture in the end of the cabinets without any beveling- more like what I have and it's nice to see them painted too! Hope you have a great rest of the week and thanks again!

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  10. I have painted the cabinets in 3 houses. I'll tell you how we had the best results. Step #1 - Sand, you don't have to do super heavy sanding but definitely buff it up really good #2 - wipe with TSP, this had really good results. We used it at double the strength it said to in the directions. #3 - prime, we used an oil based primer. LET IT DRY overnight. #4 - Paint, we let it dry for about a week before refilling the cabinets and using the kitchen as normal. We also used a brush and a foam roller. The paint really did dry pretty smooth on it's own, just don't over brush. Better to do 2 or 3 light coats rather then 1 heavy coat. We got the best results with Bher latex paint. We bought fancy expensive paint from Benjamin Morris for one kitchen and it chipped worse then the bher. This last kitchen has been looking great for 3 years with minimal chipping :-) I will be painting cabinets once again this fall. Can't wait!

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  11. We are in the middle of repainting our kitchen cabinets. (literally---there are doors and drawers all around my family room waiting to get painted, glossed, and hung.) We bought the kitchen cabinet kit by rustoleum at lowes and for the most part, we really like it. The deglosser isn't as great as I thought it would be, but it works. I have found that we need two layers of top coat, however, just to make sure that everything is protected. The kit we bought was $150 and, when you think about how much you can spend in a kitchen, $150 is nothing.

    Our cabinets were crappy...sorry, but they were. They looked fine, but when you got up close you could see that they were fake wood :( They are some type of laminate. To make things worse, they were fake oak. I HATE oak! Now they are transforming into a beautiful warm almond color that looks more cherry in the daytime and more almond-y in the evening. Absolutely lovely.

    Let me know if you want before and after photos to further your research for the best method of re-doing cabbies :) I'm sure I can find some.

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  12. I've found some of the really high quality Polys (such as General Finishes) don't yellow. GF is a bit persnickety about what goes on underneath, but its worth all of the trouble of finding out what works with it because the results are beautiful and it will last FOREVER. You really must have a top coat of some type if you want the cabs to hold up to any sort of use.

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  13. When my parents wanted to do their kitchen cabinets, they had a lot of work ahead of them because the fronts were covered with a very THICK grease buildup.

    After using TSP first (to remove most of the buildup), they used a sander on the larger areas and hand sanding the grooves. They then put a few coats of primer/paint on, and that was it (well, they put on new hardware too of course). Years later the cabinets are fine even though there was no topcoat applied.

    The before and after of their kitchen was incredible! It went from a very dark floor, dark cabinets, dark light fixture, etc, to a medium-colored floor, light cabinets... :)

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  14. I'm planning on doing mine in a month. I'm so thankful for your advice! I'm planning on following the tutorial on younghouselove.com. They say to let them cure for 5 days on each side! (That's a long time to go without cabinet doors with a 2-year-old.)

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  15. google "rustoleum cabinet transformations"
    the kit is $80 at home depot and comes with everything you need. there is no sanding and it is very self explanitory. We have painted the cabinets in 3 houses and with the last house we used this kit. It was well worth it!
    rustoleum's website has an instructional video and lots of pictures!

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  16. Great post. I actually just found your blog and I am already loving it! You are so talented and have such a variety of things. I have a question about the bleach pen. I did your quicksilver COOP shirt and it didn't goo exactly white. There is still a lot of red in the bleached area. Did I do something wrong? Did I not wait long enough or did I wait too long? I know this doesn't have anything to do with your post so if you would rather send me an e-mail that would be fine. (If you have time, I know you are probably crazy busy)
    Thanks
    Kricket
    barnumgk at gmail dot com

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  17. These are AWESOME tips and the finished kitchen looked simply amazing!!! Good job and thank you!

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  18. Thanks so much for this post. I am ready to start this project and really appreciate your tips!

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  19. Someone sprayed our interior doors too, and it all peeled off too. And we were infuriated too. Latex over oil. You'd think professional painters would test if they didn't know.

    We don't paint, so we had our kitchen cabinets painted by someone else (someone awesome, actually). Oil, tons of coats, sprayed, and they still chipped. Pretty bad. Some of the chips might be unavoidable. :( Or, at least, that's what I'm choosing to believe.

    At any rate, the kitchen looks amazing, as does the rest of the makeover. I wish I had you girls in Tennessee.

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  20. Yeah I bet the kit is more expensive, I had no clue what i was doing so i was happy for the one stop. I wonder if the difference in the deglosser was the brand or the finish on the cabinets? I'm going to try the kit on my railing that has a much more glossy finish and see if it works as well... I'll let you know how that goes! ;)

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  21. Kayla - I would LOVE to hear how it works on the railing. Maybe it is a brand issue. I'm not sure but everyone in the paint forums was anti-deglosser too. Thanks for sharing your info and experiences with us. I really appreciate it!

    Cheri

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  22. Thanks for all your thoughts, what a service to all cabinet re-doers.

    I redid our cabinets inside and out, doors and all and can definitely recommend one product in particular - the Kilz low VOC / Low odor (I think they were both low and not "no", definitely an improvement over regular primer). Primer is SMELLY and the Kilz stuff worked great under the semi-gloss latex paint I used. I didn't degloss either, I didn't know about the product but our doors were flat so I just used the hand sander to rough each one up. It has been a year since I did the work and they still look great.

    http://www.buildsewreap.com/2011/02/new-kitchen-part-7-wrap-up_08.html

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  23. Just pinned this post just in case someday. Thanks for the tips!

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  24. It was really nice of you to do all that research and post it for everyone! it for everyone!

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  25. Wow, what a great post! I am going to be re-doing my cabinets soon, and this was very informative. Thanks for sharing!

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  26. We painted and we have brush strokes and it feels like it took forever (see a pic, actually in my latest post) but I still love them. I need to someday go back and touch them up, then do a few coats of poly since right now it's just primer and paint and it scratches pretty easily. I sanded like a crazy person, though, so it's more durable than I thought it would be.

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  27. wow! Talk about diligence! Great job!!!

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  28. Hi. My husband Ted is the professional that did Jen's (from tater tots and jello)kitchen. He loves give advice if you have questions about the process you can contact him through this link: www.advancedwoodrefinishing.com

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  29. I would love a white kitchen...but totally scared of the process.
    Thank you for breaking it down for us, so it seems a bit more achievable!

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  30. Beautiful kitchen re-do. We just finished doing my daughter's kitchen, cupboards and all. I agree it is worth the work to sand. And definately use TSP. We used Martha Stewart paint and it is great. Also we used something different than Urathane. We used the water base and it is great. No yellowing. Her cupboards are holding up very well. Karie

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  31. Thanks for the info, this is a project I intended to do before the year is out and I have to say I totally agree with everything you said. The liquid sandpaper is a joke and I painted a floor once and really liked the TSP and primer always makes things better! That's what it was invented for!!! But I have to say I really admired your kitchen the other day and thought good for you, you have beautiful cabinets! I am only painting mine because they are ugly! Are you sure you want to paint over your pretty wood, or maybe leave the bottoms and paint the top ones?

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  32. Thanks for this post. I've been trying to talk my husband into doing ours. He isn't want to do anything on the house which is odd because he is the one who has been bugging me about it for a couple years. I think now that i want to, he doesn't want to do the work! This seems like A LOT of work. I'm thinking maybe I'll give up on it for now since I don't plan on living in this house the rest of my life. (I think I would pull all of my hair out and cry if I was living here forever. not that it's a bad house, it's just small and not very functional!) So anyway...maybe you should have stopped reading at the "Thanks for this post..." part since I'm sure I have given you way more info that you wanted!

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  33. Love the post, thanks for sharing. I am currently getting ready to do this to the cabinets in my bathroom. They are really old and gross. We just bought this house and can't afford to redo the bathroom right now so I think I'll just do the sanding, TSP, and semi-gloss paint for now and spend the bucks to redo the whole thing in a couple of years. Didn't even know where to start though, this post is a huge help!! Thanks!

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  34. Thank you so much for sharing all of this info. Awesome post!

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  35. thanks for the info. I've toyed with the idea of painting my cabinets black. The wall color you have is the same as my kitchen so i now know how it will look! Where is my paint brush....

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  36. Wow your cabinets look awesome! We recently refinished our kitchen cabinets using Rustoleum's new system of cabinet transformation. The whole kit is only $149 at Lowe's and it includes the deglosser, paint, finish, and top coat.

    It was a lot of work but worked really well. I would highly recommend!

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  37. Citrus Strip works wonders and it smells good! I haven't used it on paint, but it took a thick coat of polyurethane off like it was nothing!

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  38. We're painting our now "white ugly cabinets" RED! They are all torn apart. Boxes are sanded, and the doors we started to sand, and it all just got to be too much when we read about the Prep Rite Problock primer, and that if we used TSP, and that primer we wouldn't have to sand into the tiny groves of the doors fronts. At the rate we were headed the kitchen would have been done sometime next year. We plan on doing at least 2 coats of the paint, and doing a Poly Acrylic. We have Behr Semi Gloss. Hoping for as shiney as possible. If I could have afforded all new cabinets, or fronts I would have gotten the red glass ones, but this will be fine. I'll just be glad when I get to the painting part. Priming starts tomorrow! I just ordered back splash as well.

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