How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

How to paint kitchen cabinets like a pro, transform your tired, dated kitchen with my step by step guide on hand painting kitchen cabinets the right way. A Professional, brushless finish, requires, patience, good paint and the right tools. The following method applies to (laminate, veneer, wood & mdf) kitchen cabinets.

Can You Paint Cabinets Without Removing Doors?

Step 1: You may be tempted to leave the kitchen cabinets and door faces in place while painting. Don’t, you must remove them, it’s a simple step that only takes a few minutes. Most cabinet doors are hung using Concealed Hinges, rather than removing the hinge, instead, detach the door by removing the screws fixed to the door.

Always remember to label the door after removing. I label each door at the hinge recess, (1, 2, 3, 4, etc,) using a marker. Place the corresponding number on the inside of the cupboard using a strip of masking tape, next to the hinge. This will ensure all doors are re-fitted in the same position as before.

Hand Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Keep all screws that you remove safe, a simple sealable freezer bag is a great place to store any fittings.

Related: Painting a Door Without Brush Marks

What Is The Best Way To Clean Grease Off Kitchen Cabinets?

Step 2: Kitchens are havens for grease build up, greasy, oily surfaces are impossible to paint! Failing to remove any grease or oil from surfaces will result in the paint failing to adhere to the surface.

I cannot stress enough the importance of thoroughly cleaning all surfaces that you wish to paint. So how do I remove stubborn grease from kitchen cabinets?

Zinsser Professional Degreaser Stain Remover, a simple but effective spray. Disperse the product over the surface, leave to soak for a couple of minutes and wipe clean, No scrubbing required.

Repeat the process until clean, a good indicator is to use a clean paper towel. Once the towel is clean after wiping down the cabinet or drawer, the surface is free from grease.

Prepare The Area For Painting

Step 3: Before you commence any painting, it is a good idea to prepare an area that you can use for drying. Even a small kitchen can have as many as  4 – 6 cabinets and 3 – 6 drawer fronts. Once painted, they will need to be a placed in dust free area to fully dry.

In the past I have either opted for painting all cabinets and drawer fronts using a customers spare room. Alternatively if space is limited, I would remove the cabinets and drawers and paint them at my workshop.

You maybe already be wondering when painted, where do you rest the doors and drawers. Most people don’t own a professional drying rack, so a great tip is to use, paint tins or blocks of wood. These will act as mini platforms keeping the cabinets and drawers off the floor while they dry.

Sanding Kitchen Cabinets For Painting

Step 4: Now that the cabinets are clean and free from oil, grease and dirt. The next step in the process is to abrade (score) the surface using sandpaper. Sanding causes small micro abrasions helping the paint stick to the surface.

Through experience I have found rather than using traditional sandpaper in sheet or role format. Instead I use Foam Sanding Blocks, why, they mold to the contours of the cabinet doors and drawers. Available in various grades, (100, 120, 150, 180 etc), the smaller the number, the coarser the granularity, the higher the number the finer sanding effect.

Start by using 100 Grade Foam Sanding Block, sand each surface thoroughly ensuring not to miss any sections. Then using a clean damp cloth remove any dust and leave to dry.

Filling Gaps In Kitchen Cabinets

Step 5: The last stage of preparation before painting is to fill any noticeable gouges, holes or gaps. Maybe you have decided to change the style of hardware on the cabinet doors, these will require new holes drilled, leaving the old holes to be filled.

Slight gaps in cabinet molding can become very noticeable once painted, so must also be filled. I use a combination of Toupret Wood Filler and Painters Caulk to fill any unsightly holes or gaps.

Related: How to fills gaps with caulk

Once any holes are filled, leave to dry, rub down with your 100 grade foam sanding block and wipe away any dust with a damp cloth.

Priming Kitchen Cabinets

Step 6: Now that have we cleaned, filled and sanded all cabinet and drawer faces, it’s time to apply paint. Your first coat of paint is a primer coat, skip this step and your heading for disaster. A good primer will ensure that your top coats of paint adhere to the surface ensuring a long lasting finish.

My go to primer to ensure maximum adhesion is Zinsser BIN Shellac Primer Sealer. Shellac based primers are the most durable and provide the best adhesion, ideal for painting kitchen cabinets or furniture.

Another great benefit of shellac primers is there ability to cover stubborn stains, (water, smoke, tar, felt tip, crayon).

Related: How to paint over water stains

You can apply the primer using a brush or roller, I use both, a Two Inch Angular Brush for molding and corners, then a 4 Inch Microfibre Roller Sleeve for the faces and edges.

Zinsser BIN (primer) is an unusual type of paint to apply, milky in color and a little watery. You will notice when you apply the paint using a brush, per dip, coverage is poor. This is due to the natural grip the paint has to the surface, it doesn’t travel far.

WARNING: Place dust sheets down before painting, zinsser primer is difficult to remove and requires a strong thinner to remove any spilt paint. I recommend Zinsser Brush Cleaner and Restorer, or alternatively alcohol will also work.

Hand Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Don’t be concerned about an even uniformed coverage, especially when using a brush. The object is simply to cover any bare wood with the primer. I would recommend using a brush and roller combined, for ease of use.

Once you have one side painted wait until touch dry, then flip and repeat on the other side.

Related: Top 16 Essential Painting Tools

How Many Coats Of Primer On Cabinets

Ideally for a professional finish, I am going to recommend two coats of primer before applying your top coats of paint. Zinsser BIN is touch dry in 15 mins and recoatable in 45 mins under normal drying conditions.

Once fully dry, rub down all kitchen cabinets and drawer fronts using 120 Grade Foam Sanding Block. You should notice a significant difference after sanding. Remember to remove all traces of dust using a Painters Dusting Brush and damp cloth.

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Step 7: The last step to hand painting kitchen cabinets, the final coats of paint. Below I have recommended the best paint for kitchen cabinets. I have personally used both paint brands for painting kitchens and furniture.

Both paint brands give a beautiful, hardwearing, semi matt finish (eggshell). Below I have included paint tips to achieving a professional brushless finish on kitchen cabinets.

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Painted using Tikkurila Empire Furniture Paint (eggshell)

Tips For Painting Kitchen Cabinets

1) Hand painting kitchen cabinets is intricate work, I would recommend that your mini roller sleeve is new, especially for the final coats of paint. Your brush should be clean and of good quality, an inferior brush will only leave prominent brush marks through the paint.

2) Pour the paint into a Mini Paint Scuttle, which can be used with both brush and mini roller.

3) Try to set up a workstation for placing the cabinet & drawer fronts onto while painting with 360 degree access. Professional kitchen painters use a turntable, also referred to as a Lazy Susan. This allows the painter to maintain the same position while rotating the item to be painted.

4) There is a sequence to painting a kitchen or drawer face. Start by painting the edge using your 4 Inch Microfiber Roller. Then use your Angular Brush to paint any molding, paying particular attention to the corners. Finish the remaining panels using the microfibre smooth roller.

When laying off paint, the amount of pressure applied through the brush plays an important role. The less pressure, the less of an impression the bristles will make in the paint.

Follow the steps above and you can transform your old kitchen cabinets (laminate, veneer, wood, mdf) with paint. The same steps should be followed when painting, trim, kickboards, cooker hoods, architrave in your kitchen.

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