Thinking about painting your kitchen cabinets? It can feel very overwhelming. While I was thinking about it, I talked myself in and out of actually doing it no less than 20 times. If this sounds familiar, do not fear. That feeling won’t go away. At all. Until you are finally finished painting your cabinets. ha.
I recently finished painting my cabinets. yeah! While I am super happy with the finished project, it was by no means a perfectly-executed project. I learned a lot during the process. So I thought it might be helpful to anyone else that is considering this undertaking to put together a small list of tips and dos or don’ts. Mostly dont’s.
If you’re looking for a detailed tutorial, this is probably not it. There are some great tutorials out there. Unfortunately, I didn’t read any of them before I painted. Go figure. At the very least, I hope this tip list prevents you from repeating my mistakes. Now that you’ve read the disclaimer, here you go…
Select your color:
I showed you this pic in my cabinet reveal post.
Seriously – sample quarts are a must. You HAVE to see the actual paint, not just a swatch on paper, in your kitchen to really know if you’ll like it or not. The sample quarts are reasonably priced, and I bought most of mine during sales or with coupons so it was even more affordable. So much more affordable than ultimately being unhappy with your choice.
I started out painting the sample colors on scrap pieces of wood. Sometimes I knew right away that a color wasn’t the right one. Funny how those swatches can be so misleading! I was able to narrow down quite a few of my choices this way.
I finally decided to use one of my actual cabinet doors as a test cabinet. I didn’t take the door off of the cabinet, and I didn’t even prime it first. I used four of my top choices and painted a quarter of the door. I kept painting the door over and over until I found my color.
Once I made my decision, I painted the entire door with the color. Then I lived with it for a few days. I stared at it morning, noon, and night to make sure that I liked it no matter what light was hitting it. I even stared at it from outside of the house to make sure that I liked the look of it from there!
I strongly encourage you to use a very visible cabinet for this – one that you can easily see from other rooms in the house. I chose a cabinet that can be seen as soon as I walk into my house. I can also see it from the living room and dining room. When I said I stared at it morning, noon, and night I was not exaggerating!
Prepare the Cabinets:
Remove the doors from the cabinet and remove all hardware. Don’t be tempted to try to paint around the hinges. Just take ‘em off. It’s not that bad! I know some people that have only painted the fronts of their cabinets. Also tempting, but I would be so bummed every time I opened a cabinet door if I had chosen that route!
I chose to work in sections. I removed only four doors at a time – as many that would fit on my work table. It was easier for me to live with small sections being gone at a time. I thrive on tidy. I think it’s a small-house thing.
Wash everything you plan to paint. I admit that many times when I paint, I skip this step. Not this time. Too much grease and other dirt accumulates on kitchen surfaces. I used a de-greasing product from Dollar General – it wasn’t a name brand. I have read that general household cleaners work just as well. Even dish soap. I believe this to be true. You’ll know if they are clean when you’re done. If you feel a greasy residue, try again.
Oh – and while you’re at it, go ahead and clean the inside of those cabinets! You will be so glad that you did. I even put some pretty Contact paper under the sink and in some of the drawers. I love it.
I don’t have a paint sprayer. I don’t really want a paint sprayer. (I say that only because I don’t want to buy one. I would gladly accept one as a gift. But not for my birthday, anniversary or Christmas. Kevin.) I realize that it gives you a smooth, professional finish. If that is what you require, then by all means buy, rent, or borrow a paint sprayer. I can’t give any guidance here because I have no knowledge of them whatsoever.
But here is one thing I learned – and it’s a big one. A big DON’T. DON’T use just any foam roller! I have always heard that using a foam roller on wood surfaces will give you a smooth finish with no brush lines. I don’t know why I was worried about brush lines – I honestly don’t mind them. I think it’s because my style is a bit vintage and weathered, and I think brush lines kind of add to that vibe. That’s just me. (I will get to the foam roller results in a bit.) If you are like me and don’t mind the brush lines, I recommend buying a good quality brush like Purdy and going to town with it!
For everyone else in the world – I ran across this (of course after my cabinets were painted) on Keeping it Cozy. Here is what I found when I Googled it…
What??!!!! It’s a foam roller!! OK, so I apparently used the wrong type of foam roller. You should try this one. Please let me know how it works!
Priming: Nope – I didn’t sand my cabinents. But priming is A MUST (I have more to say about that later.) Kevin was heading to Home Depot so I asked him to pick up Kilz primer for me. He came back with this Glidden primer.
The Home Depot guy told him it sticks to everything and works well. I was skeptical, but was anxious to get started, so I used it. At first I wasn’t sure that I agreed with Mr. HD. I always use the nail test – I try to scrape it with my fingernail to see if it has adhered well or not. It was not passing the nail test. I know that paint takes time to cure, so I assured myself it just needed to cure.
I let each coat dry for at least an hour. I used at least 2 coats of primer. Doors and drawer fronts that get the most wear and tear got 3 coats of primer. I did sand a bit between coats. Sometimes there were raised areas or drips and I tried my best to get rid of them. (At this point I started to notice a bumpiness in the finish that was caused by the roller that I used. Now that I’ve researched a little, I think it was due to too much paint. I didn’t change tools yet because the paint that I bought is supposed to be a self-leveling paint, and I thought it would go on much smoother, and level out the bumpiness.)
I didn’t paint the insides of the cabinets. I painted the outer-rim of the inside of the cabinet.
I didn’t paint the sides of the drawers. But I did paint the back of the drawer-front. That makes no sense. Here’s a picture.
I used Sherwin Williams ProClassic paint, specifically made for trim and doors, in a satin finish. The color is called Rain.
I used 2 coats of paint on each cabinet door and drawer. Remember the nail test I told you about earlier? I continued to test the paint/primer adherence, and I continued to be disappointed. Patience has never been my strong suit. Curing paint takes time. Please remember this!
So here is where I convince you that priming is a NECESSITY…
I noticed that the cabinet door that I used for my color selection process (see Color Selection, above :)) easily passed the nail test. I never primed this door. I just painted the sample paint right on the door (I didn’t even clean it first, and the paint was not scraping off!) I had myself convinced that the primer (since it wasn’t the brand I had asked for) was the reason that I was able to scrape the surface of everything I had painted so far. I didn’t use primer on the color-selection cabinet, and that paint was sticking. I used primer everywhere else, and that paint was scraping off. What was I supposed to think?? (Again – curing paint takes time. Let that be your mantra for cabinet painting.)
So I thought I would be tricky and not prime the last couple of cabinet doors. Big mistake. Especially since the last doors happened to be the under-the-sink doors that get lots of abuse. I realized soon after painting and putting them back on the cabinets that I would have to re-do the doors. Not only did it fail the nail test (my oh-so-scientific nail test), it failed the bump into it with a stuffed bunny test. OK. Maybe I exaggerate. But it was not good. I removed the doors and their hinges again, scraped and sanded them, and then primed and painted them.
Now – about that bumpiness from the foam roller that I used. I was wrong in thinking that the self-leveling paint would smooth out the surface. It kind of just made it worse. Here is a close-up of a bumpy cabinet…
I eventually got smart (wow – am I a slow learner or what?), and used my trusty old brush. Here is a close up of the brush lines!
Are you thinking right now that this chick has absolutely no clue what she’s doing? Me too. But here’s the thing. While I’m not happy with the bumpiness of some of the cabinets, I am in L.O.V.E. with the overall look of my kitchen. Seriously. And the bumpiness in only noticeable when you look closely in bright light. ha
And… remember how ‘curing paint takes time’? It’s been almost a month since I finished painting. Every single cabinet and drawer now passes the nail test. Patience, grasshopper. Also – I noticed a lot of small chips happened before I put the hardware back on the doors and drawers. Once I put the hardware on, I noticed very few new chips in the paint. The hardware helps to protect the cabinets from dings. So don’t take too much time to return your hardware! (Mine was off for a while, because I spray painted all of the pulls and handles 5 different times. Honestly.)
I would definitely recommend the Glidden primer and the SW paint. I am still not sure about that self-leveling thing, but the paint is nice and thick and has hardened to a really durable finish.
I hope that my list of tips was a least a little helpful. I would love to hear your stories, and please feel free to add any tips or suggestions in a Comment.