Best Tips for Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Your kitchen cabinets are under constant assault from grimy hands, grease from cooking and spills and stains. Although at some point you may have no choice but to replace your kitchen cabinets, you might be able to buy some time by painting or staining. If you do the job yourself, painting your kitchen cabinets can save you thousands of dollars, and it's very possible to end up with a beautiful finished product. Of course even the highest quality paint job will not be able to hide structural flaws in your kitchen cabinets, and cheaper lines of cabinets can really weaken through the years. If the cabinets are veneered with vinyl, they may be peeling, and particleboard cabinet bottoms can sag and break. If your kitchen cabinets are just full of structural problems, then you may have no choice but to look at our replacement options, but if the damage lies in surfaces which are worn, small nicks or stains, then paint can be a true miracle worker, and the addition of new cabinet hardware can almost convince you that you do indeed have new kitchen cabinets.

Stripping, Sanding and Cleaning

As with pretty much all types of painting or staining, the success of your final project is highly dependent upon the amount of work and time you spend in prepping your kitchen cabinets. If your existing finish is a clear coat, you will need to purchase a wood stripper in order to get back to the bare wood. If you skip this step, there's a good chance that even your primer will not properly adhere to the kitchen cabinets, making all your hard work useless. Manufactured wood cabinets often come with a lacquer varnish, which turns very hard when it dries, so choose a good paint stripper, and use it according to instructions, making sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection.

Fill All Cracks and Nicks

Use a good non-shrinking putty, removing any excess as you go along-it's much easier to remove when wet than when it dries. Once you have used the stripper as instructed and finished all the crack and crevice- filling necessary, you're ready to lightly sand the cabinets with a medium-grit sandpaper, then remove any sanding dust with a cloth dampened with lacquer thinner or paint thinner. Once you have stripped, sanded and cleaned with thinner, it's time to wash your cabinets with clean water, and allow them to dry thoroughly. Don't use an ammonia-based cleaner as it could cause your paint to prematurely yellow. The overall goal of prep work is to end up with a clean, dull and completely dry surface.

Choosing Paint

If your old cabinets have been heavily stained, make sure you use a stain-blocking primer such as Kilz, which seals knots in the wood as well as other defects, blocking them from possible bleed through. If your cabinets are not heavily stained, you can simply use a good latex primer (look for one that says "acrylic" on the label), and there are some really good ones which miraculously fill in imperfections leaving you with a perfectly smooth surface on which to apply your paint. Once your primer is totally dry, do a good visual inspection to see if there are any small imperfections which need to be lightly sanded before your topcoat is applied. In most cases, one coat of primer is all you will require, but for older or more damaged cabinets, two coats are better.

Most homeowners are perplexed as to whether they should use oil or latex paint on their kitchen cabinet project. Latex dries quickly and is easy to clean up with water, while oil takes longer to dry, and cleanup can be much more labor-intensive. Many professionals believe that oil-based paint simply gives a much harder, thus more durable finish, and dries smoother than latex paint. Of course a sprayed-on finish would give you the very smoothest finish, but this requires a much higher level of masking and prepping to ensure there is no overspray. If you opt for a paint brush, make sure to choose a high quality one, or you will end up with the paint brush fibers littering your newly painted surface, and will have more brush marks to show for your trouble. Glossy paints will give you better overall protection and will allow much more scrubbing than a semi-gloss or eggshell, but it really depends on your individual preferences. Generally speaking, one primer coat and two finish coats should be enough, but for older cabinets, a third finish coat can make a real difference. Finally, to give your newly-painted cabinets a fresh new appearance, trade in your old hardware for a new, updated look. Painting your kitchen cabinets can literally transform the appearance of your kitchen.