Ultimate Cabinet Painting Guide: Part 1
Disclaimer: I am a professional painter who uses equipment & products not found on this guide. These are my recommendations for those who wish to achieve the highest possible quality without production spray capabilities. Professional cabinet painting is done MUCH quicker, cleaner, and often uses higher quality products so if budget allows its worth considering.
Searching for the the best way to paint cabinets can be overwhelming. It brings up information & opinions from professional painters, homeowners, DIYers, and renters with different skills/experience levels & opinions. This guide was created to help the average homeowner looking to paint their cabinets and achieve the most professional finish possible.
- Knowledge of Steps & Products
- Commit to completing EACH step to the best of your ability (aka a lot of patience).
SKILLS:If you’ve used a brush & roller in the past and been happy with the outcome you most likely have the skills needed for this!
Brushes are a painters most prized possessions! We baby them, defend their honor, and swear that our favorite model/brand is the BEST there is…even though we usually have completely different preferences. Find a brush that sits in your hand well, cuts a straight line, and washes well and you’ll be a step ahead!
TIME:This project will take over your home! Don’t be fooled by the “paint your kitchen in a weekend” or “no-prep cabinet painting”.
Medium Kitchen (8-10 feet cabinets per run) + few hours per day: Plan minimum of 7 days
Large Kitchen (13+ feet of cabinets per run) OR weekend/weeknight only work: Add 4-5 days minimum.
This will make more sense as we go through the prep steps in Part 3.
I cannot overstate the importance of prep & how vital it is to your final result. If you rush through any of the steps required in Part 3 the best case is that your finish won’t be as perfect as it could have been, worst case is that it will fail in the near future and you’ll have to either live with the reminder or refinish (which is 10x more difficult).
There’s a saying in the paint industry: The quality of a job is 80% prep- 20% paint. If you want a long lasting beautiful finish the prep steps are the MOST important part of the whole project.
Painting Shortcuts:I’m just going to say this now & be done with it…There is NO magical short cut to a fine cabinet finish!
If speed is more important than durability this guide isn’t for you. There are plenty of tutorials online about how to paint cabinets much quicker and less painfully- just know they will mostly likely suffer some type of finish failure.I don’t know about you but in our house the cabinets get a lot of abuse!
If you want to take on a project of this scale and not be forced to use kid gloves then its important to fully commit to doing each step properly. Go through the effort and make sure the finish will last as long as possible without causing headaches.
FAQ & COMMON ISSUES
Can I use a water based paint over an oil based primer?
You can use a water based paint over an oil based primer BUT NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Its important to ensure the oil based primer is fully dry so there’s no peeling or paint cure issues, but otherwise you’ll be fine!
Its been two days since I applied the paint but its still sticky/wet – what’s going on?Its likely that the primer wasn’t fully dry prior to painting so neither layer is able to cure. Depending on how bad the situation you may be able to solve it by increasing the heat / decreasing the humidity. Turn the heat up slightly and allow a fan on low speed to blow over the surface. You can also set the cabinet fronts outside in the sun during the day and just give it time.If the finish still hasn’t hardened after a week then it needs to be sanded down and re-primed and painted.
Its been weeks since I finished but the cabinet fronts are sticking. Are they still not dry?This can be caused by a lot of things such as high humidity, incompatible paint/primer, improper preparation. Most often this is caused by not allowing the primer to fully dry or applying the paint too thickly. However, it’s important to note that paint takes a long time to FULLY cure so even though it may feel dry to the touch the paint finish is still bonding and releasing water molecules. When applied it starts to release solvents into the air leaving behind the binder and solids. Those solvents can take 3-6 months (or more in humid environments) to fully evaporate.