It is not a secret that painting your cabinets, at least in Denver, has become a very hot commodity. If you have not done it already, my guess is that you have some questions. I get questions about painting cabinets from all over the country; from designers, homeowners, and even from other painting contractors. So, let’s talk about some of the most common questions, when it comes to painting cabinets.
- Is painting cabinets just a fad? Will I want my stained wood cabinets back in a few years?
I get this question a lot, especially when we paint cabinets white. My answer is that white cabinets are just like a little black dress. They are classic. Yes, they may be what’s hot right now, but since I have been an adult, white kitchen cabinets have been hot at least three times. Also, if you decide you want to change the color in a few years, once you’ve had your cabinets painted the first, it is much less expensive to change the color…about half the cost. A white kitchen is classic though, and will be in style for quite a while. Besides, a majority of the cabinets we paint are oak…I can almost guarantee you that oak cabinets, unpainted, will never come back as a HOT style trend (and I’m not sure they were ever on trend to begin with).
- Will painting my cabinets last? Will they chip and peel?
This is a very valid question, and one that should make you do your research before you jump in. A painted cabinet can last a long time, if it is done correctly. The problem is a lot of painters and homeowners do not know the right way to paint cabinets. How do I know this? I’m in painter chat rooms, I see lots of cabinets that have been painted and fail almost immediately, and I’ve walked through houses that have just been placed on the market with half-assed painted cabinet jobs. Yes, it is EASY to paint them the wrong way, but takes much more time and energy to do the research and paint them the proper way. We give our customers a LIFETIME warranty on all of our painted cabinets…and we do free touch-ups for as long as our customers live in their home. So the answer is, yes, they can chip and you can have failure. BUT, the good news is, if you do the proper steps (and I will get into that in a bit), they will stand up quite well to everyday life.
- Do I need to clear coat over the paint to protect them?
Please do not do this! If you select the right finish paint, you will have a hard surface that will not easily yellow. I was called out to see a set of cabinets last year that had yellowed almost immediately after another company painted them. The homeowner showed me the color she had selected (a very clean and bright white), but her cabinets we a dingy off-white yellow. She was so disgusted. I told her we could repaint them, but it was going to be more than she paid previously for the other job that didn’t work out. So do it right the first time.
- How long does it take to paint our cabinets?
That depends on the process. The typical painting contractor will do one of two things. They will either take over your garage to paint in, or they will take your doors and drawers to their shop. In either case, you can expect the average kitchen to take about two weeks. At Walls by Design, our average kitchen takes about a week. The reason is because we bring a mobile spray booth (a 20-foot trailer) to your house and spray all the doors and drawer inside it. This system has enabled us to be super-efficient and provide a superior end product.
- Can I keep using my kitchen during the process?
Again, that depends. If the company you hire is spraying your boxes they will have to tent off the area; they will cover everything in your kitchen completely with plastic. Often times, you will not be able to use it for 3 to 4 days. If they are spraying a lacquer, you will want to leave your home for 3 to 4 days. With the process we use at Walls by Design, you can continue to use your kitchen throughout the process, minus the time we are actually in it prepping and painting…you just won’t have your doors and drawers for 4-5 days.
- Can you paint the end panels that have laminate on them?
It’s not real wood but yes. We have painted hundreds of kitchens now, and have not had one failure to report. If your painting contractor uses the wrong type of primer though, you will have more problems other than just the end caps.
- How do you prep the cabinets so they last?
Surface preparation is the most important aspect of any cabinet painting project. It is the foundation. If the foundation is not solid, nothing on top will last. This is the biggest area of failure we see with other painting contractors. They try to skip steps, or simply do not know what the correct steps need to be. When we started getting a lot of requests for painting cabinets, we did our homework to figure out what was the best way to prep cabinets. This is our process:
- Dismantle everything. We mark and take everything apart. I saw a kitchen once that was getting sprayed. They opened all the doors, taped off the hinges, and let the paint fly. As you can imagine, it was not a pretty site.
- Buff sand all surfaces. Not a heavy sand, just a light scuff to break down the finish a little.
- Wipe down all surfaces with a de-glosser. This is simply a very strong cleaning agent, and does two things for us: Gets rid of all the dust we created with sanding, and further etches into the finish. Paint does not like shiny surfaces. If it doesn’t have anything to hold onto, it will release. Most painters only like to wipe down with the de-glosser, and not sand, but we feel these are two very important steps done together that cannot be missed.
- Prime with a bonding primer. This is one of the biggest area of failure by most painting contractors. They simply do not understand what a bonding primer is compared to any other primer. We see Kilz used a lot, but typically not the Kilz bonding primer. We like a product called Stix. It is made by Benjamin Moore, and will literally stick to glass.
- Then, if we have an oak cabinet or a dark stained cabinet we use another primer called Fresh Start, also by Benjamin Moore. This helps seal the grain of the oak and/or block any stains. We apply a heave rolled coat onto the oak cabinets, then spray two more coats to get the best coverage.
- Can you get rid of the grain I see on my oak cabinets?
Yes and no. Yes, it is possible. They make some putties and fillers that will do the job, but it is very costly. We find that most people want to paint their cabinets because it cost WAY less than replacing them. If you try to fill the grain and make them smooth, it will cost you as much as if you replaced the doors. Almost anything is possible, but some things are just not practical.
These are some of the most common questions we get about painting cabinets in Denver. If you have additional questions, we would love to answer them. Contact us via our website, call in, or message us on our Facebook page. Some of our customers want to see finished cabinets prior, and we gladly invite you to come visit us at our office where we have actual cabinets we have painted. Unfortunately, we cannot bring you into other clients’ homes to see their cabinets…that would be weird. We have both smooth doors, as well as oak doors that we have painted using the same process we would use in your home If you would like to see additional pictures please check out our Facebook page, as most of our projects get uploaded there.
Best Paint Contractors in Denver
I recently found my company, Walls by Design, on a list of the Best Paint Contractors in Denver for 2016 by the good folks at Expertise.com. My first thought was…Sweet! But then, I decided to do some competitive analysis on who made the list. This is my competition right? I should know about them. The first thing I thought when looking over the list was: why are these people on this list? Because I have never heard of many of them. Here is the list, and I’ll include a link to their website, oh, and it’s in alphabetical order, so no favoritism here:
Old Western Paint Company – this isn’t even a painting contractor!!
Additional Paint Contractors
So that is the list. I went through about 95% of the list, looking at their websites and their Facebook pages, and I have to say, overall I was not impressed. I was by a few of them, but some didn’t even have a website. It did help me understand that there is a lot of stuff on the web that is not the “best”, as this post would propose. Why are these the “best”? I know lots of Denver painting contractors, and several of them are not on the list. Companies like:
These are few of the companies that I consider my competition. I think you will see a wide variety of contractors now. There are small (two to three man shops) all the way up to the largest national painting franchise. You can also do your own internet search for “paint contractor Denver” to create your own list. So, I am not sure the posting from Expertise.com really has the ability and authority to identify the best painters in Denver, even if we are on the list. While I would argue that we are at the top of this list, you have to know where the information is coming from.
So, what makes a Denver painting company the best?
My guess is that this blogger simply did some research and aggregated a list. They clearly didn’t put much thought into it, even though their own article claims their criteria is: Reputation, Credibility, Experience, Availability, Professionalism, and Engagement. I am not sure this is possible with a simple Google search. I know I was never contacted for the article to find out my availability or to check my experience.
With this information, you must be thinking to yourself two things: first, how does one determine who is the best and second, why the hell are you doing a blog post on your competition? Ah ha! Let’s tackle the first one.
How does a homeowner determine who is the best painter? I think you have to first determine what you value first. Is it price? Time? Reputation? Availability? Personality? I don’t think any painter or paint company will fit all those criteria. As you know, price is a big factor for most people. If I gave you a bid to paint your 3000 square foot house for $1000, you might be a bit wary. Too cheap right? Even if I was on time, gave a good presentation, and had a good reference or two. But if I came in at $10,000 you might be mad after the same presentation. There is a balance right? Here is what I would do if I was looking to get a bid for my home (and I didn’t already own a Denver painting company):
- Ask anyone I knew that just got their home painted. Not just for the name, but what did they learn along the way. What went right and what went wrong? How did they handle any problems? This can teach you a lot.
- Search online. This would start with a generic search for painting contractors, but it would also include a search for any specific companies that people recommended to me, or that I have heard about. What comes up about the company? You will find review, articles, and other things. Then do a search on the company owner. Is there anything good or bad that comes up?
- Call the top three companies to set up appointments. If I have a bad experience during this phase, I would take them off the list, and add a new one. Think of this stage as the dating period. If you have a bad experience during this stage, you can only imagine what will happen later if you contract with them.
- Meet and greet. At the estimate appointment, you need to get to know them. Ask them questions. How do they answer? Are they knowledgeable? Do they give you good ideas? Or do they only do what you ask? This is added value in my opinion.
- Do they do what they say? I get frustrated when someone tells me they will get the bid back to me in a day or two, and it comes back in a week, or worse, I have to call to ask for it. This tells you about how organized they are…and again, how it will be like to work with them.
- Make a decision based on my budget, and what was presented, how it was presented, and how they made me feel. You have to make me feel confident that you are “the guy.”
It’s like interviewing a new hire. If you do this at work, then you know how to do it for hiring a painting contractor. Far too often I hear people tell me they wish they would have listened to their inner voice, but went with someone because of a lower price. I’ll be honest, we will never be the lowest price. But we will answer our phone, come when you ask us, do what we say, and stand behind our work for the long haul. OK, off my soap box.
Okay, why am I writing about my competitors?
First, many of them don’t compete with us directly as they focus on commercial painting, exterior painting, or are in an area we don’t focus on. And, to be honest, I don’t find many of the businesses on this list to be good competitors, and the ones that I do consider competition, I’m still not afraid of. There are some good painters out there, and a few of them, we might refer you to for different reasons…we don’t do all types of painting. I believe however, we are truly the best residential interior painting company in Denver. Sorry if that sounds a bit egotistical, but if I don’t say it, who would…right? I honestly believe if you do the 6 things above, called all the companies I have listed above, you would land on Walls by Design to paint anything in your home. The only way we might not win on is availability. While we have nine teams (and growing), we cannot always get to projects on a timeline that is requested. If you call me to paint your 3000 square foot house next week, the chances are pretty slim. Now, we do have holes in our schedule that pop up occasionally, but I can’t always promise. In my next post, I am going to talk about referral services like Angie’s List, Tom Martino, and others, and why you can’t always believe them either.
Painting Shiplap Siding
If you know anything about me, you know I’m from the Midwest, well, Chicagoland to be more precise. And if you know anything about the people from Chicagoland, you know that about 90% of people from that area either have a cabin in Wisconsin, or know someone that does. Well, I grew up spending every summer with my grandparents at their cabin on a lake in Lakewood, WI. So, I have been going there since before I was born (literally). This last year, one of my dearest friends from high school, who also grew up going to the same lake (that’s a funny story all in itself), built a gorgeous new home on the lake. And one of the most striking features about the home is the use of shiplap siding (some may call it clap board siding) throughout the home. The home is best described as a cape cod with big windows (and great views of the lake I might add), crown molding, white cabinetry, and shiplap walls…all painted white on white. Just beautiful.
The funny thing was, however, after visiting my friend’s home over Memorial Day, I startedseeing shiplap siding in lots of places. Kind of like when you decide to purchase a new car, let’s say a Toyota 4Runner, and all of a sudden you start seeing them EVERYWHERE! I was at High Point Market, and it was in showrooms. I was on Instagram…and there it would be. As a person involved in interiors, I guess I just don’t pay as much attention as I thought. I’ll blame it on living in Denver I guess. We don’t get trends here quite as fast. Anyway, it’s a thing.
One day, my friend messaged me and asked me about how to fix a problem they were having with their shiplap. She told me that they had decided to go with pine (as it was much cheaper material than poplar), and everywhere there was a knot in the wood, they had a discoloration. Most of the home is painted in white, but they have a few areas where they have painted with some light greys, and the grey areas were actually showing the problem (called blead through) more than the white areas. I explained to her that to solve the problem, she needed to use a stain blocking primer on all the spots, and I recommended a shellac based primer called Zinzer 123 (over Kilz), but then she would need to repaint the wall. And not just the small area or the board, but the whole wall. If she only painted the spot, she would get what’s called flashing where the touch-up area would be shinier that the rest of the board and she would see each spot. If she repainted only the effected boards, those individual boards would flash causing the same problem, so the only solution would be to repaint the effected wall. I knew that would not go over well, as she had this problem throughout the entire house: walls, ceilings, and on some of the other trim as well.
Why is this happening? Well, the product they decided to go with, due to cost (and there is usually a cost with a less expensive product). If you are familiar with pine, you know that it has knots in it; whether you are looking at pine tongue and grove, pine 2x4s, or any other product made out of pine. It is just one characteristic of the wood. And these areas are what have more of the sap from the tree. It takes a very long time, if ever, for all of it to pull out of the wood. In order to stop it, you need to use a stain blocking primer, and I have found the shellac based primer to work the best. As the sap comes out of the knot, it yellows the paint, leaving a mark that looks like a water stain.
What would have been the correct thing to do from the beginning of the project?
In order for this to not happen (did you see what I did there?), the builder should have specified to the painting contractor to prime all the shiplap boards with a stain blocking primer, and for insurance, I would have recommended that they prime all the knots with an additional spot coat. So all the knots would receive two coats, then they could paint the boards with whatever top-coat they wanted.
My friend is trying to work through this with her builder, and who am I to say, but in my opinion, the builder needs to own the problem, as I am sure he did not specify a stain blocking primer. Some builders will claim that the painting contractor should have known to use a stain blocking primer, but the reality is, he or she probably was not privy to what kind of wood was installed, and who knows, some people want this kind of rustic look in their homes. So in my opinion, the problem and the cost is what the builder needs to solve.
One more note, I also explained to my friend that before painting the whole entire house again, that she should do a test area in one room. Because I am sure the contractor does not want to paint TWO coats of primer and two coats of finish, she should have them do ONE room, and test. Spot priming the knots, and applying two coats of paint, and then letting the area sit for at least 3 months to make sure the problem does not come back. If the proper materials are used, it should work; but it will also ensure that the spot priming does not cause flashing as well. If it does not flash (look shiny at the areas where the knots are painted), then move on to paint the rest of the home. This is a tricky and costly problem. Can you imagine if they painted the whole house again, just to have the knots come back again in three months? Yikes!
So, the lesson in this one is; if you are going to install shiplap siding, you need to either choose the right material (and I would spend the additional cost and get the poplar, especially for a small project), or you need to prime the wood with a good quality stain blocking primer. If you are interested on a blog I found on installing shiplap, check this one out that I found at Merrypad.com. Another solution would be to stain the boards, but that is another topic for another day.
Painting Kitchen Cabinets White, why so popular?
So you are thinking about painting kitchen cabinets white? There are a lot of Denver paint contractors to call, but few know how to properly paint white kitchen cabinets. Whenever I go to see a customer and ask them what it is that they don’t like about their cabinets, they always tell me, “The color! I can’t stand how they have turned orange!!” It feels like almost every kitchen in Denver has an orange, or yellow/orange kitchen…so if you are shaking your head right now, you are not alone.
I get asked by new transplants to Denver, why are all the kitchens like this here? And the truth is, cost. You can put it back on the builder, but the choice to put these cabinets in, always lies with the original home purchaser. Not too many homes were built as specs in my opinion. If they were, most of the time, those are the ones that have the higher level finishes in them. So, just like my wife and I were on a budget when we built our first home (I can even remember being okay with the popcorn ceilings. YUCK!), people are always trying to get the most house for their money. They cut corners on finish details thinking they can always upgrade later. Hardly anyone does.
The next thing that has contributed to the rise in painting kitchen cabinets white is the fact that so many people wanted solid surface counter tops and were tired of the laminate counter tops that use to proliferate the home landscape. So, in order to sell a house in the last 10 years, you had to be able to advertise “granite counter tops.” Well, once you have granite on the counters, very few people want to trash the tops in order to replace the cabinets. This brings the cost of redoing a kitchen from $20k to over $30k usually. So painting kitchen cabinets white to match the trend is a great option.
Why not re-face the cabinets?
Great question, and I’m glad you asked. The reality is, it is almost as expensive to re-face cabinets (meaning you replace all the doors and drawer fronts and put a skin, or veneer, over the boxes to completely change the look of the cabinets) as it is to buy new cabinets.
Can you change the stain color? No, not really. You can try to do one of two things. First you could try to strip the cabinets and then stain. It is very labor intensive to strip the cabinets, and it might be MORE costly to do this than to replace. I’ve investigated dipping the cabinet doors, but even the guys that do this process (and you could not pay me enough to work with those chemicals), can’t guarantee that all the finish will come off. If all the finish does not come off the surface, you cannot re-stain them and get an even color. Stain needs to penetrate inside the wood, unlike paint.
Some people try to do a gel or over stain on the existing
finish, but those products do not hold up over time. The will wear unevenly and look worse than what you had to begin with. It’s like painting with stain, but it doesn’t have the binders like a paint does (think prime coats, bonding primers, etc), to hold up over time. This might be an option if you are selling your house, and don’t care about what happen 3 months down the road, but I do not believe it is a great solution.
Last thing that has contributed to the popularity of painting kitchen cabinets white is the trend of light and bright. The last decade, all we used was earth tones that were progressively getting darker. We hit a turning point about 5 years ago into the light neutrals and grays, and we are not turning any time soon. Have you gone to Houzz.com or Instagram, or Pinterest lately? Just do one search for kitchen cabinets, and about 90% of what you will find will be white painted cabinets.
With the trends and the reality of granite counters, and people not wanting their yellowed-out cabinets (oak or maple), painting the kitchen cabinets white is a really great option. It is a third the cost of re-facing and can be as much as a fifth (or more) the cost of replacing. Not to mention, you can keep your counter tops.
Are you only painting kitchen cabinets white? No, we are doing some grays, blacks, and the occasional blue, but about 80% is some form of white for the cabinets. If you need help picking the right color, we have you covered. We have color designers that will come out and help you find just the right shade.
Will they hold up? They sure will, but they do scratch. Customers always want to know if they can scratch, and I always remind them that their car, which has the most durable finish I can think of, will scratch or chip if you impact it. The good news at Walls by Design is that we offer a free touch-up program for all our painting projects, including painting cabinets. We will come out each Jan/Feb to do up to one hour of free touch-ups.
How long will it take? Most kitchens can be painted white or any other color in about four days.
How much does it cost? Every kitchen is different. It depends on the type of wood, the number of doors and drawers, and the configuration, but our average painting of kitchen cabinets white is about $3,200. Since we started out new process for painting cabinets white, the cost has increased as we have learned what can happen if certain things happen. One of the things we have learned is to do more prime coat when we are painting oak cabinets, so as to reduce the grain appearance. This cannot be eliminated from a cost perspective, but we can minimize it.
Painting cabinets white is one of the most technical painting procedures, and I highly recommend that you work with a paint contractor that has painted a lot of kitchen cabinets. Whoever you talk to, should be able to walk you through their process, and should do a good job of educating you on the process. Know that the preparation, number of coats, application process, and the paint that is used are HUGE factors in making sure you get a good end result.
So, if you are considering to paint your kitchen cabinets white or any of your cabinets, please contact us. We are one of the biggest, and I might ad best paint contractors in Denver. We would love to give you a free estimate.