How to paint kitchen cabinets | Pro Construction Guide
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How to paint kitchen cabinets

How to paint kitchen cabinets

After removing all doors and hardware, lightly sand all surfaces to be painted for better primer adhesion. You may want to mask off any surfaces where you don’t want paint, then apply a smooth coat of primer.

The foundation for a perfect, glossy finish is proper prep work before you paint kitchen cabinets. Before a brush even touches the cabinets, you have to clean, sand and prime every surface. Then the final coat or two of paint will look like the cabinet manufacturer applied it.

Preparing to paint kitchen cabinets

Once you’ve determined all of the kitchen cabinet frames and doors are structurally sound, remove all cabinet doors from the frames and remove all hinges, pulls and other hardware. Remove all the shelves from the cabinets if they are removable. If shelves are attached to the cabinet frames, leave them in place and mask them where necessary.

For raised-panel doors, begin painting the corners and profiles first.

For raised-panel doors, begin painting the corners and profiles first. Note: While this photo shows the door still attached during this step, it is best to remove the doors from the cabinet frame and then prime and paint them.

Find a place where you can lay all the cabinet doors flat for easy cleaning. You may want to assemble some sort of drying rack to allow for easier cleaning and drying.

Clean all surfaces thoroughly with a TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) substitute or a degreaser. You’ll have to completely remove years of greasy buildup or your primer and paint will not adhere properly. Don’t forget to clean the cabinet boxes as well as the doors.

Repair, sand and prime

When everything is completely dry, fill any damaged areas or hardware holes with wood putty. Allow those patched areas to dry and then sand everything with medium-grit sandpaper, typically 100- or 150-grit.

Sand all repairs very smooth, but you only need to lightly “rough up” the rest of the surface to help the primer coat to adhere properly. This is especially important with cabinets that were finished with a stain and varnish or lacquer.

Priming is next. Primer not only prevents knots and wood putty repairs from showing through the paint, it also creates a better bond with the old surface than paint alone. If you are applying primer with a brush on rail-and-stile doors, paint the center panel first, then the rails and stiles. Use an oil-based primer if you will be using an oil-based paint and a lacquer-based primer if you will be using latex paint for the finish coat.

Apply primer and paint with a smooth-nap roller

For larger areas of the cabinets, such as the sides of the carcass, you can apply primer and paint with a smooth-nap roller.

Paint kitchen cabinets

At this point, the cabinets will look awful. The primer coat will appear uneven and blotchy, but as long as it’s smooth, you have an excellent base for the topcoat.

Paint sprayers are the easiest way to achieve a smooth, glossy finish when you paint kitchen cabinets, but a steady hand and a 2½-inch high-quality brush can yield excellent results too.

The key to a professional finish when you paint kitchen cabinet doors and boxes is multiple thin coats. Lightly apply the first coat and let it dry thoroughly. If necessary, lightly sand the new paint with 400-grit sandpaper to provide the smoothest possible surface for the next coat. Use a tack cloth or compressed air to completely clean and remove any sanding dust or debris before adding the next coat of paint.

Make old cabinets bright and new again.

With a few simple steps and a steady hand, old and dull cabinets can become bright and new again.

Another method for painting kitchen cabinet doors: Insert cup hooks into a hardware hole or into an inconspicuous edge of the cabinet, such as the top edge of an upper cabinet door or the bottom edge of a bottom cabinet door. Hang the door from the hook, spray the entire door at once and leave it hanging to dry.

Although, there are times when three coats will provide better results, such as woods that have heavier grains like oak, in most cases, two coats of paint will do the job nicely. Once the last coat is dry, attach hinge and pull hardware. Use new hardware to provide that “all-new” look. Replace all shelves and hang the doors.

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