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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets: Step by Step

The most important thing about painting cabinets is to take your time and go through every step. You will not get a good result by hurrying. Here's how you do it, step by step.

Step 1: Assumble your materials.

  • Primer - such as Zinzer Bin
  • Paint - I use high gloss and had Home Depot custom blend a color to match Kraftmaid "Canvas" color
  • Purdy 2" brush
  • Painter's tape
  • Drill with screw driver head (to remove hardware and take down doors)
  • Red solo cup - to hold paint
  • TSP or other degreasing agent 
  • Towels
  • Sander - I use a "Mouse" by Black and Decker
  • Fine grit sand paper
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Tack Cloth
  • Ziplock bags - for storing brushes overnight. (See: Paint Tip.)

Step 2. Remove the cabinet doors. If you try to paint them still hung, the paint will drip and look terrible. Trust me. You need to paint them flat to get a nice glossy finish.

Step 3. On the back of each door, make a note of the position it was hanging in (example: sink upper right or UR). You will thank yourself for this later when you are re-hanging them. You may think right now that it is going to be apparent which door goes with which cabinet. But when the doors are off, it can get confusing.

Step 4: Remove all the hardware from the doors. Do not try to paint around hinges and hardware. Even professional painters with years of experience can't paint around hinges. It doesn't work and will catch paint and cause messy drips.

Step 5. Prep the surface of the boxes and doors. Start by thoroughly cleaning the cabinetry.  If your cabinetry has been used you will want to use TSP or another degreaser. Ours are new. As I said, there's still sawdust in the corners. Still, there's been a lot of sanding going on in the kitchen as I prepared the walls for paint, so I gave them a good wipe down.

Step 6.  "Scuff" the finish with your sander. If you don't rough up the finish, the new paint will not adhere and days or weeks later it will start to peel. I use my sanding "Mouse" by Black and Decker, but plain old sheets of 100-grit sandpaper will work just fine. You don't have to thoroughly sand, just rough up the surface.

If your cabinets are new like ours are, you could probably get by with just using a deglosser. In retrospect, it would have saved me time. But I didn't have it on hand.

Step 7: Vacuum off the dust. I like to say painting is 99.9% vacuuming - dust is the enemy to a smooth finish.

Step 8: Now wipe them down using tack cloth to get even the minutest dust particles.

When you are finished, store your tack cloth in a ziplock bag. You will need it again between coats.

Step 9: Primer the cabinet frames and the cabinet doors with a quality primer. (I used Zinser Bin.) And leave them to dry in a dust-free room with windows closed. You don't want dust particles settling in your primer and ruining your paint job.

Step 10: Don't forget to primer your cabinet facing too. Note: I chose not to paint the insides of the boxes and the shelves.  I don't like the tacky feeling you can get on the insides of cabinets when you paint them. The two tones do not bother me. Even custom cabinets often have a neutral wood color on the insides. Some people might use painter's tape to keep the edges even. I've been painting for years now, and I can do it without the tape.

Step 11: After the primer has dried the specified time - read your label - it's time to paint. I am using a color that will match some new cabinets that I will install above the existing cabinets. See: Painting Cabinets to Match Kraftmaid Canvas Color.

Step 12: Throw away your roller.

Just joking... sort of. When painting wood surfaces you want to use a brush, a high quality brush. I like a 2" Purdy. Don't skimp on the brush. You will regret it. Cheap brushes lose hairs and you will constantly be picking them out of your finish.

Rollers are inappropriate for painting wood surfaces. They were intended for sheet rock. When sheet rock replaced plaster in the home building industry, rollers were used to give some "stipple" or surface texture to flat looking sheet rock. You don't want stipple in your paint surface when painting wood. You want nice even brush strokes that give a high gloss shine.

You can cheat a tiny bit on the flat surfaces of the doors by rolling on paint in small areas as long as you follow up immediately with a brush. It does make things go faster when you've got a lot of doors to get through. But when I do this, I use one of those small "decorator" rollers.

Step 13. Allow your paint to dry the time that's specified on your paint can for in between coats.

Step 14. Once your cabinets are dry, get that sander out again. You need to scuff up your paint between coats. Scuff means a light sand.

Step 15. Grab that ziplock bag with your tack cloth in it - and wipe the saw dust off every single door until there is no dust.

Step 16. Apply your second coat (I do only two when I've started with a primer). If this is your final coat let it dry the specified time on your paint can to let it cure. It's not enough to let your final coat dry. You want to let it cure. So that when you restore the hardware and hang the doors, they do not stick shut.

I left mine a whole work week, from Sunday to Friday before hanging them.

Even with the backsplash not in yet, the cabinets already look 100% better. And I am starting to not hate that granite so much.

Update 4/14: Here's the kitchen today, after completing the subway tile backsplash:

For more photos of the finished kitchen, see White Kitchen Makeover for Under $3,000.

Paint Tips: 

1. Freeze your brushes in between coats.

I really hate cleaning brushes. And I really don't like waiting for them to dry before I can get to work. So I wrap mine in plastic wrap and put them in the freezer. I've heard the fridge works as well if you are only storing them overnight. And some painters use tin foil. When I'm leaving them a whole weekend or longer, I store them in the freezer. Then about an hour before I'm ready to use them again, I take them out and let them thaw right in the plastic.

It's amazing. You just pick them up and start painting again as though you never stopped.

Tip 2: I did not use it on our project, but there is a product called Floetrol - an additive you can mix into your paint before starting. It thins out your paint and makes it dry more slowly. I heard that you can get a really flawless finish using this. But it does increase dry time in between coats, so that's a consideration.

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