Cabinet Refresh! Painting Tips for Lasting Beauty

Dated: 03/01/2018

Views: 842" alt="Kitchen with White Painted Cabinets" width="500" height="333" />Painting your kitchen cabinets, either for resale or as an update, can be a fantastic way to breathe new life into it. Painting can be tricky because it has a propensity to chip and peel over time if it’s not done right. Taking the time to do it properly may be a bit more work, but the performance is absolutely worth it. Expect to invest about $500 in to it, but that’s a far cry from the $6,000 a professional painter would charge. Please note, that melamine, a thermoset plastic laminate coating, cannot be refinished.

There are a few chemicals involved and a whole lot of mess, so you will definitely want to turn your garage into your temporary studio. Before you start though, keep an eye on the weather, because humid conditions may impact the paint’s ability to cure, and throughout the process the doors will acclimate to the ambient humidity levels and expand, revealing unpainted areas once they’re back in climate controlled conditions. Set up a few horses with 2 x 4s running across them as your working area, and pop some drop cloths underneath. Before taking your doors and drawer fronts off the cabinets, take a few pictures and create a system to note which door/drawer front goes where. Same thing with the hinges, because painting with them still attached will create its own set of challenges.

The first thing you’ll want to do is grab some rubber gloves and hit all pieces with a degreaser, like Krud Kutter’s Prepaint Cleaner. Once it dries, wipe them down with Jasco’s Sander Deglosser and let it dry. This takes the place of hand sanding every  little nook and cranny to break the factory finish seal. If you’re replacing the hardware, fill the pull holes with wood putty and sand them flush when dry.

Next, apply a good primer, like Benjamin Moore’s Advance Primer. Once that’s dry you are free to paint (finally). Benjamin Moore’s Advance line is self-leveling, so pairing a self-leveling primer with a self-leveling paint will give you really smooth results. I always recommend a satin, because the sheen is quite lovely, it’s easier to clean than flatter finishes, and it won’t show scratches like glossier sheens. The other benefits of the Advance line are that they’re water soluble, the whites won’t yellow over time, and it’s one of the most durable non-factory finishes.

Use a Sprayer to apply the primer and paint, because it will give you a perfectly smooth finish and make painting a quick and easy task.  You can pick up a decent sprayer for about $50 at your local hardware store.  Resist the urge to spray on thick coats, though, because dripping can be a problem, and never apply another coat before the previous one has properly dried.  Advance has a reputation for lengthy drying times, but the finish makes it worth it.

Unless you have slab fronts, your doors and drawers are made out of five pieces- two stiles, two rails, and a floating panel that expands and contracts with the ambient humidity.  While the paint is still wet, carefully run a blade between the floating panel and the frame to clean out excess paint and break the seal. If there is paint built-up in the joint, it can tear, wrinkle, and crack when the center panel moves.

Between coats, hit the cabinets. Definitely talk to the folks at the paint store for brush/roller recommendations. You’ll want something that won’t leave marks (it’s easier for paint to self-level on a horizontal surface than a vertical one), or absorb too much paint. Skip the urge to paint the inside of the boxes. It isn’t necessary, won’t wear well, and creates more work later if you (or the next owner) wish to change the color. The only exception is if you have glass doors. Keep a small dowel on hand to clean out the screw holes, and if you are painting the inside of cabinets with glass doors, you’ll want to clean out the shelf pin holes.

For extra durability, you can apply 2-3 top coats of a water-based polyurethane after the doors have dried, lightly sanding with a four ought (0000) grit paper between coats.

There’s a big difference between drying time and curing time. You can handle the doors and drawer fronts when they’ve dried, but the finish won’t be hard until it properly cures. If you paint a shelf and put something on it before it cures, it will stick. Likewise, closing doors and drawers before they’ve cured can result in them sticking shut. I’d give them a few extra days to cure after drying before rehanging, because after all the hard work you’ve put into them, it would be a shot to the heart to mess them up now.  Handle them very gently and resist cleaning them for a few weeks until they’ve fully cured. After hanging them, apply tiny clear stick-on plastic bumpers to the top and bottom corners of the inside of the cabinet doors and on the back of the drawers. This will prevent the doors and drawers from slamming against each other and damaging the finish.  Once they are up, you are free to add your pulls.

Proper prep work is always the key to professional quality work and lasting results, and now for the really difficult part—selecting a color!

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Nicole Baxter

As a practicing Interior Designer with 25 years of residential design and construction experience, a licensed REALTOR, and certified Myers Briggs administrator, Nicole is a professional house whispere....

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