Painting Kitchen Cabinets
Why is painting Kitchen Cabinets so popular?
About two years ago I had a revelation. I thought, “Holy cow! I think a lot of people might want to start painting kitchen cabinets.” Why did I think this? Because everything I saw on Houzz.com, Pinterest, and on reality TV showcased white kitchens. I also knew how expensive it is to replace as well as re-face kitchen cabinets. BUT, I knew that if we painted for people, the kitchen would have an updated look for a fraction of the cost of the other options. The problem I had at the time was that I hated painting kitchen cabinets. The process was hard, tedious, and impossible to get a good end result. There had to be a better way!
About that time, I was helping a friend move. As we finished our last load from the moving truck, I looked around and thought: THIS would be perfect for painting kitchen cabinets! The box truck could be outfitted with a wall, and some closet rods.
After a little research, I decided the truck idea was not the best idea, BUT buying a 20 foot trailer would be perfect! So in November of 2014, I bought my first trailer, and built our first mobile spray booth. Fast forward to today, we have five of them. Customers love our trailers because we do not need to take the doors and drawers off-site, and we do not need to take over their garage, as we had previously done. Over the last two years, we have learned and perfected our process.
It’s all in the Prep
Painting kitchen cabinets is highly technical; there is a right way and a wrong way to paint cabinets. Unfortunately, the majority of cabinets I see painted are not done the right way. Kitchen cabinets are one of those things in your house that you use a lot, and the more they are touched, opened, and interacted with, the more opportunity for failure. Personally, I see it as if there is something in your home that you use a lot, it makes sense to buy the best or get the best. That is why when we are painting kitchen cabinets, we do it right.
When you are painting kitchen cabinets, the foundation is very important. Here are the preparation steps we follow when painting kitchen cabinets:
- Cover and protect all surfaces
- Remove all hardware
- Label all doors and drawers
- Remove all doors and drawers
- Buff sand all surfaces with sandpaper
- Wipe all surfaces with a de-glossing agent
- Apply one coat of boding primer
- Apply one coat of Fresh Start multi-purpose primer (needed only if wood is an open grain like oak or cabinets have a dark stain)
- Buff sand in-between coats.
We always buff sand and de-gloss our cabinets with a very strong cleaner. This breaks down the hard finish that is currently protecting the cabinets, and allows our primer coat to bite into the wood a little. Using a bonding primer will help this as well. We like to use Stix by Benjamin Moore. It is not okay to just use any old primer. Primers all have a specific purpose, and you need to use the right one. Don’t even get me started on the primer and paint in one products. TWO coats of primer are best. If the cabinets are dark, than the second (and possibly the third) coat needs to be a stain blocking primer. We like Fresh Start by Benjamin Moore.
Time to Paint the Cabinets
The next step is to paint kitchen cabinets with a good interior trim Product. We like to use Advance by Benjamin Moore. Advance is an oil modified acrylic paint that dries fast, lays down for a smooth finish, and cures out very hard and durable. Spraying all the doors and drawer fronts allows us to get as close to a factory finish on the surfaces that are seen the most. On all the boxes, we will hand brush or roll. It is also good to know that two to three light coats bring the best results. The heavier it is applied, the messier it will look. Most people think it is bad to thin paint, but it is recommended by the manufacturers to thin up to 5 or 10%. It provides less coverage, that is why a third coat is sometimes needed.
Once the preparation is done, you can move on to painting the doors and drawers. When we are paining kitchen cabinets, we use an HVLP sprayer that is specifically designed for trim and finer finishes. It is the perfect tool for painting kitchen cabinets. This tool is not for beginners, but once you know what you are doing, it produces fantastic results. While painting the doors and drawers in our mobile trailer works well, painting the remaining boxes still need to be painted. Walls by Design has a commitment to not spraying in homes where people live, so we brush and roll the remaining boxes. The finish comes out a bit different, but hardly noticeable.
- The good news is that painted white cabinets are very popular right now. If you don’t believe me, go buy a home decorating magazine or go visit Houzz.com and see what the majority of the cabinets are that are showcased. White is the new black.
But the question remains, should YOU paint kitchen cabinets in your home? For the answer to that question, you need to ask yourself two questions:
1. Do you like the cabinet door detail; and
2. Do you like the layout of the cabinets?
If the answer is NO for either of those questions, you should not paint. You should either replace or reface them. Another issue you need to consider is whether you have granite counters that you like. If the answer is yes, then you should either paint or reface them. The cost of replacing counter tops will add at least $2000 to the project. This is a deal breaker for most people.
Problems that can Occur
We have actually been called out to fix lots of kitchens since we started focusing on painting kitchen cabinets. We have seen mis-matched color, pealing paint, super thin paint, over-sprayed hardware and walls, and just overall poor paint jobs. The reasons these things happen is that cabinet painting it is a bit more technical than average painting. Lots of painting can be viewed as basic, but painting cabinets is about as technical as it comes (as I have described above). Homeowners and contractors alike underestimate the importance of the proper prep, as well as how hard it can be to spray the doors properly. I visited one kitchen (that I had previously estimated) and the contractor simply taped off the hardware (and not well I might add), and sprayed all the doors, drawers and boxes all at once. When I asked how long it had taken the contractor, the homeowner said about a day. They had bid the project about half of what we would have charged, but it would have taken us three days instead of one. I think she was pretty sick about the situation she had gotten herself into.
On another project, the contractor brushed all the surfaces, leaving brush marks everywhere, and we could still see the color of the original cabinets through the paint. The painter had started with a chalk paint, and later switched over to Advance. The only way to fix that project is to sand down all the paint, and start over with the right primer. That homeower had actually paid more than what we had quoted for the results she had.
If you are considering painting kitchen cabinets, please contact us at 303-346-1694 or on our website here to set up a no obligation estimate. Please check out our painted kitchen cabinets portfolio, but know that the most up-to-date pictures are usually on our Facebook page.