How to paint kitchen cabinets successfully depends 90% on your prep. Cleaning and de-greasing them and using an oil-based primer will give you the best shot at getting long-lasting results. Whether you spray them or brush and roll your cabinets, the key is prep!
How Hard Is It To Paint Kitchen Cabinets?
It’s not very difficult to paint kitchen cabinets if you have a few handy skills.
It just needs the right prep work.
If you hire a professional I would suggest trying to do as much as you can yourself such as taking off the doors, and hardware and maybe sanding them lightly with a 220 grit sanding block.
Doing that will save you some money because it is less time the painters will have to charge you for.
Just a light scuff will do ( imagine you are cleaning a window ).
Also, you can offer your painting contractor to install everything once your cabinets are painted.
But if you decide to do it on your own here are some tips on how to paint kitchen cabinets and get amazing and long-lasting results.
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Where to Start When Painting Cabinets?
After you remove your doors or just mask your hinges (depending on how you decide to do it), clean your surfaces really well by using a type of degreaser such as Windex or Zep Citrus Degreaser.
If you plan on removing your hinges we suggest that you label your panels.
Write a number in each panel right where the hinge would go with a sharpie.
Additionally, write the same number on the hinges so that you can keep track of which hinge goes to what door.
Put a piece of tape in the cabinet and write the number on there also.
Now you will know what door with what set of hinges goes where.
Something To Look Out For When Cleaning Cabinets
Pay special attention to all of your pieces that are closer to/or right above your cooking area.
Grease and grime will be more likely to build up in these areas.
You can also use dish liquid such as Dawn for example.
The dish soap will remove the grease easily by scrubbing the surface with a sponge or scrubby pad.
If you think that dish liquid will not be enough because there is a high build-up of grease then you should use a dedicated grease remover like TSP.
You can find TSP in any Hardware store and dedicated paint store.
Follow the directions on the label and make sure you wear proper protection.
Do I have To Sand Kitchen Cabinets Before Painting Them?
Next, you have several options.
You can use 220 grit sandpaper and lightly scuff your surfaces.
Scuffing the surface will give your primer something to grab on to.
The sandpaper will cut into the finish causing it to create tiny little craters.
These little scuffs on the surface will enable the primer to stick to the surface that was glossy and slick before.
There is also a way to paint your kitchen cabinets without having to sand them. You can do this with a product called Krud Kutter-Gloss Off.
We like to pour about 16 ounces or more into a bucket and use a fine brillo pad to clean the surfaces.
The Krud Kutter Gloss Off will degloss your surface using a chemical reaction.
It is suggested you wear proper personal protection for your safety.
Read the label so that you are aware of what you will need. Your surfaces will be deglossed without having to sand them.
Wipe off the surfaces immediately with a damp rag.
You can start priming once everything dries and you have a work window of 14 days after you apply your Krud Kutter Gloss Off.
The first time we tried the product we had our concerns but it definitely works and you can paint your kitchen cabinets without sanding them.
What’s The Best Primer For Kitchen Cabinets?
Your next step is to prime the surfaces with the right primer.
Depending on the type of cabinets you paint you have several options when it comes to priming the kitchen cabinets.
If you are painting Oak kitchen cabinets I suggest you use an oil-based primer. Zinsser Coverstain is our go-to in that case.
It is a fast-drying and stain-blocking primer that will fill in the grain of the oak.
I suggest you do 2 coats and sand in between with a 220 grit or a fine sanding sponge.
If you are painting Hickory kitchen cabinets I would suggest using a shellac primer such as Zinsser B-I-N
It dries within 30 minutes and bonds extremely well. It has a strong odor and is similar to work with as an oil-based product.
In addition, if you have laminate cabinets to paint I suggest you use a primer coat of “INSL-X Stix” which is a urethane acrylic You can find it online or at your local Benjamin Moore Supplier. Check your local Hardware store.
Why Is This Primer So Good?
This primer will stick to tiles and even glass. It only needs a light coat but has to dry for at least 16-24 hours before you can apply your topcoat.
With any of these primers, I would always test a small area first and let it dry overnight. Then do a fingernail scratch test. If the primer doesn’t chip or scratch off then you are good to proceed.
There are a few good options when it comes to picking the right primer for painting your kitchen cabinets. A lot of painters will traditionally use an oil-based primer.
Oil-based primers are self-leveling, sand-able, and have great adhesion on difficult surfaces.
They are also great stain blockers, but unfortunately, they have a very strong odor and it is necessary that you wear the proper respirator that is specifically made for blocking out fumes.
These masks are typically higher priced than your regular dust mask.
You can check out our head-to-head test of the 3 best primers for painting kitchen cabinets in this article. How to prime kitchen cabinets the right way
What Are Other Primer Options?
Also, another option is synthetic shellac-based primers. Just like oil-based and regular shellac primers they are sand-able, stain blocking, and provide great adhesion.
In addition, they stop tannin bleeding better than any other primer.
Plus it dries within 30 minutes and is ready for your first topcoat.
The downside is that it has a very strong odor and it is very thin inconsistency.
Almost like water. That can make it a bit messy when applying.
Our personal favorite primer for painting kitchen cabinets is Seal Lock® Plus by Insl-X. A
It is an alcohol-based interior primer/sealer.
It not only stops bleeding on plaster, wood, metal, and masonry but also blocks odors and stains.
Therefore, it is a great substitute for shellac-based primers.
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Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets
Using a good quality primer and a good quality paint will help
you get the best finish possible. Personally, I will not spray a solvent-based paint that is specified to be applied in a shop setting. Therefore, we use hybrid products or water-based as much as we can!
If a quick turnaround is not needed I would suggest using Benjamin Moore Advance Alkyd.
Note: BM Advance tends to level out better when drying horizontally
Another durable option is PPG Breakthrough 250 VOC
Whether you use an HVLP sprayer or you brush and roll, both of these products level really nicely without having to thin them.
Brushing And Rolling Kitchen Cabinets
Using a 2-inch Nylon paintbrush start cutting in around the hardware (if you did not remove the doors). I would always suggest removing them. Cut in any places your Whizz™ roller will not reach.
In addition, use your Whizz™ roller to apply your ALKYD enamel.
Try to paint in the same direction as your grain (if your cabinet has a fake wood pattern).
Let it dry overnight and repeat.
You can hang your doors now but keep in mind that even though the enamel will dry overnight, it still takes 30 days to fully cure so be careful and try to avoid scrubbing them before those 30 days.
At 518 Painters we like to use these plastic hinge plugs to cover the holes before painting.
In that way, the hinges will fit again perfectly.