Painting Cabinets: What You Need To Know

March 15, 2023

Do you want to update your kitchen or bathroom, but do not have the money or energy to rip out your old cabinets and replace them with new ones?

You should try painting them!

Painting cabinets can give your kitchen or bathroom a brand new look without breaking the bank. In reality, cabinets rarely need to be replaced.

However, there are several nuances involved with painting cabinets, and the project can get messy if you do not know the trade secrets.

In this article, we have compiled a list of answers to people’s most common questions and the best advice available for someone looking to paint their cabinets. If you have been thinking about tackling this project, our advice here will give you the confidence you need to get started and give your kitchen or bathroom the modern look you have always wanted!

Are My Cabinets Paintable?

You are likely wondering if you can actually paint your cabinets. The good news is that most cabinets are paintable, especially if you use a good primer (more on that later). 

Unless your cabinets are extremely beaten up or outdated, you should have no problem painting them. If they have some damage, you will have to decide whether it is worth repairing them or if you should buy new ones. If you choose to paint your current cabinets, any damage should be fixed beforehand.

If your cabinets are severely outdated, an easy way to spruce them up is to buy new doors and drawer fronts. Installing these and then painting everything can make your kitchen look brand new.

If your cabinets have a wood-grain texture, you might wonder if you should still paint them. Unless you take extreme measures to smooth out the surface, you will see the lines after painting. However, homeowners do this all the time, and the results still look great. It is better to paint them with the texture than put in the effort to fill in the wood grain and smooth them out.

How To Prepare Cabinets For Paint

This is a step that many amateurs take lightly, but it is one of the most critical factors in achieving a professional finish. If you pick the wrong color, you can always repaint over it. But if you fail to prepare the surface to ensure a strong bond, you will always be fighting peeling paint with no way to fix it.

The first step is to thoroughly clean your cabinets. Kitchens and bathrooms are the areas that typically see the most abuse in a home, and the cabinets often have a layer of grease or grime on them. For lightly dirty cabinets, scrubbing them with a trisodium phosphate (TSP) mixture should do the job. For dirtier cabinets, you will likely need to use a more powerful degreaser and follow that up with TSP.

Once your cabinets are clean, you will need to lightly sand them. There is no need to break out the power sander here, but slightly scuffing up the surface will give the primer something to grab onto. In most cases, sanding the surfaces with fine-grit sandpaper is adequate to prepare them for painting. After sanding, wipe the cabinets down with a lightly damp cloth to remove the sanding dust.

Should I Remove The Doors?

Another question people have when painting cabinets is if they should remove the doors. If you want the best finish possible, you should remove them and paint them separately. Otherwise, you will likely get paint on the hinges, and paint will accumulate in crevices and then run down the vertical surfaces giving a poor finish. By taking the doors off, you can avoid both of these issues by removing the hardware and painting them horizontally.

Should I Spray Or Roll My Cabinets?

In a perfect world, you would spray your cabinets. Spraying gives the best finish by far. Do it right, and your cabinets will be buttery smooth. 

However, spraying might not be feasible for you. First, you might not have access to a paint sprayer. It is not recommended to buy one for a single project. However, if you plan to paint more in the future, investing in one might be a good idea. Another option would be to rent a sprayer from your local hardware store.

Spraying cabinets is tremendously faster than rolling them. However, the time you save while painting will be lost during the masking phase. If you choose to spray your cabinets, you will need to mask off everything in the surrounding area. Otherwise, you will get overspray on all of your belongings. If the area you are painting is even reasonably crowded, it might be a significant chore to ensure everything is covered.

One compromise to achieve a great finish while avoiding the burden of masking is to spray the doors and drawers and roll the cabinet frames. That way, you can spray the doors in another location where overspray does not matter and use minimal masking inside.

Use A Good Primer To Achieve A Strong Bond

The last thing you want is to go through all the work of painting your cabinets only to have them peel every time they get nicked. And it will happen since the areas around cabinets typically see the most traffic. 

After thoroughly cleaning your cabinets, it is essential to use a high-quality primer to ensure a good bond. One of the best options is Zinnser’s BIN primer. It is shellac-based and forms a strong bond with almost anything.

What Paint Should I Use?

Since you have already put in the effort to lay a solid foundation by thoroughly cleaning your cabinets and using a primer with strong adhesion, it is best to use high-quality paint to finish off the job. A higher-quality paint will give you a more elegant and durable finish. Whether you are using Benjamin Moore, Valspar, or Sherwin-Williams paint, the representative at the store will likely be able to steer you in the right direction if you let them know you are painting cabinets.

Aside from the type of paint you will use, you must also decide on which paint sheen you want. You will likely be making the decision of satin vs semi-gloss. Semi-gloss paint will give a slightly shinier appearance, while satin will be a little more matte. However, you really cannot go wrong with either of these options. It just comes down to personal preference.

What Color Should I Paint My Cabinets?

This is probably the first question you asked when you began thinking about painting your cabinets. There are so many colors available that this is a difficult question to answer. However, we can give a few recommendations.

First, you must consider the other finishes in your home that you are not changing, because you should select a color that fits in with them. For example, if the colors in your home are mostly warmer tones, painting your cabinets white might not be the best option. You do not want to have to change your bathroom floors just because you did not think about the ripple effect of painting your cabinets a new color. However, if your home already has neutral colors or you plan to make them that way soon, white cabinets should be a great choice.

Two common colors for cabinets right now are white and espresso. White cabinets work great with a neutral color scheme, while espresso pairs well with beiges and other warmer colors. You might not realize it until you walk into the paint store, but there are countless shades of white. Some popular choices are Sherwin-Williams Alabaster and Benjamin Moore Simply White. An excellent espresso color is Benjamin Moore Espresso Bean. When painting your cabinets espresso, it is better to err on the darker side because unless you go very dark, they can end up looking much browner than you were hoping for.

Paint Your Cabinets To Transform Your Kitchen And Bathrooms

Painting cabinets is not the easiest project in the world, but it is definitely doable for most homeowners. And not many projects can transform your home quite like this one.

We hope our advice has given you the knowledge and confidence to transform your kitchen or bathroom into what you have been dreaming of. If you apply these principles, you are bound to end up with a result you will love!

Author Bio: Jordan Fulmer is the owner of Momentum Property Solutions, a house buying company in Huntsville, AL. They specialize in buying houses in tough situations and renovating them to either sell or rent. Jordan also runs the SEO side of their business and regularly writes content about real estate investing, home improvement, SEO, and general real estate topics.

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Andi Perullo de Ledesma

I am Andi Perullo de Ledesma, a Chinese Medicine Doctor and Travel Photojournalist in Charlotte, NC. I am also wife to Lucas and mother to Joaquín. Follow us as we explore life and the world one beautiful adventure at a time.

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