Part 2: Prep
Today is all about the supplies and prep work to get your cabinets ready for the new finish.
This is one of the MOST IMPORTANT parts of the entire project so don’t skimp on it!
Trust me, nobody likes scrubbing and sanding but there is a reason that the professionals do this every. single. time. If you hire someone to come to your kitchen this part takes up a large chunk of the budget!
If you hire someone to come to your kitchen this part takes up a large chunk of the budget!
Most of these are found at your local paint store or online.
Using a sander for this project cuts the required work down by at least half and your arms will thank you later. Without an orbital sander, you have to manually sand between each step, I wouldn’t think of doing this type of project without one!
A basic model costs less than $60. This is the one I was using at the time and it worked great!
If you already own a sheet sander it will work great for the basic steps with hand sand completed before applying the last coat. A random orbital sander moves in circles while also vibrating which creates a consistent and small scratch pattern making it easy to paint over and disguise.
Frogtape is my personal favorite for cabinet painting. They make a delicate surface tape that works wells for this but the multi-surface worked great for me.
3M with edge lock is another favorite by many but frog tape seems to work better for cabinets in my experience. Pulling the tape off while the paint is still wet is important for any project but the cabinets make it hard to do this when taping off around base cabinets, and drawer fronts.
Degreasing the cabinets is one of the most important steps to take before painting. TSP will remove any and all oils and residue, even off the oldest cabinets!
Skipping this can cause peeling, chipping, and adhesion issues anyplace that oils remain (which is pretty much everywhere with how often we touch our cabinets).
Our oak cabinets are 1970s solid wood and were GROSS. The TSP cleaned it all off with minimal effort! You’ll find this in the painting aisle at the box store, not the cleaning aisle (odd, I know).
Simple green is another popular cleaner choice but I don’t have any experience with it.
- Painters tape (recommended FrogTape)
- Plastic Bags
- Sharpie or Marker
- Degreaser (TSP)
- Wood Filler (recommended ZAR)
- Cleaning Gloves, Nitrile Gloves, Safety Glasses, Etc
- Sponge/Rags & paper towels
- Sand Paper (Grits 220, 150, and 100)
- Drop clothes, tarp, and/or construction paper
- Screwdriver to remove hardware
- Paper Towels or Rags
1.Protect: Lay down your tarp & tape off any appliances to prevent degreaser from ruining the finish and if you have a removable microwave sitting inside a cabinet hole (like we do) go ahead and take it out since you’ll want to paint inside so it matches the rest of the cabinet fronts and bases.
2. If keeping the existing hardware: Start by removing all the hardware & placing it (screws and all) inside a plastic bag. Tape this bag inside the cabinet on whichever side the door was removed it from.
Example: If you have a double door cabinet, tape the bag from the Right-hand door onto the Right side wall of the cabinet. This step saves you A LOT of headaches when you go to re-install the cabinet doors and drawers. Missing hardware and screws can completely ruin your project.
3. Mix up the degreaser based on the manufacturer instructions. Start scrubbing down the doors, cabinet base fronts, and drawers. Be sure to get into all the crevices and scrub around the area the hardware was installed or places people grab the doors to open them. It’s amazing what builds up over time and how gross the water becomes as your scrubbing-ew. **Be sure to wear cleaning gloves, long sleeves, and protective eyewear for this part. TSP can irritate skin and you don’t want to get it in your eyes!
4. Rinse as you go. The TSP can dry out if you just keep moving & cause issues with chipping once the cabinets are painted–you don’t want this to happen after all the hard work you’re about to put in! Just keep a bucket of fresh rinse water or a spray bottle nearby while cleaning and use paper towels to wipe it off. Don’t worry if you see a white haze or it looks like a film, the TSP can cut into old topcoat and make it look hazy.
5. Once all the cabinets are clean and dry it’s time to remove the doors!
6. Use your painters tape to mark the doors place. Figure out a way that is easy for you to remember. In an older kitchen most of the cabinets have different size doors and may not fitproperly if they are reinstalled on a different cabinet. Marking the doors helps make sure they get returned to their proper cabinet and hinge set.
QUICK TIP: Check and see if your cabinets have adjustable hinges (newer kitchens), this means that you can fix any tilting or sagging but adjusting the hinge!
7. Sanding: If the cabinets have flat faces your one of the lucky few and should do a happy dance now! If, like most people, they have recessed door fronts or heavy edge detailing it’s going to take a bit more work. Take the doors and drawers outside to a work area (this is going to help reduce the sawdust buildup inside).
Start with 100 grit sandpaper working up to 220 (100,150, and then 200). You don’t need to go higher than 200 grit when painting, it just needs to be smooth to the touch. When it comes to details and recessed corners hand sanding is best to prevent damaging the delicate edges.
IMPORTANT: Any defects such as; sharp areas, rough patches, or raised knots will show in the paint finish so it’s VERY IMPORTANT to remove any imperfections, splinters, and smooth raised wood knots before priming.
8. Repair: If your cabinets are anything like mine the tops of the drawers and some of the cabinet door knots needed filling. Apply the wood filler with a rubber scraper or fingers, allowing it to dry before coating again (it often shrinks when drying).
After its dried sand it flush with the wood surface for priming. You’re almost there!
If you’ll be installing new hardware and need to fill holes: Start by measuring the distance for the new screws before filling. Sometimes the new hardware will fit your existing holes & you can skip this process! If not, go ahead and fill the holes and sand smooth after it’s dried.
Ok, we have made it through all the boring steps…now let’s get to the fun stuff