What You Should Know Before Painting Your Cabinets

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Painting your cabinets can make a huge difference in the look and feel of just about any kitchen or bathroom. We recently did our entire kitchen top to bottom and I could not be more happy with the results. However, taking on such a task is not for the faint of heart. There is a lot to consider before just jumping in with a bucket of paint and a brush. So I thought I would create a list of all the things you should know or questions you should ask before you paint your cabinets.

What is the current condition of your cabinets?

First you need to determine the condition of your cabinets in their current state. If your cabinets have any major flaws or are in any sort of disrepair, you may want to consider whether or not they are even worth painting. If you are going to go through the trouble to paint them, you might as well make sure they hold up, otherwise you are just wasting your time.

Is painting cabinets easy?

Everyone has a different definition of easy, so this is a bit of a loaded question. The best way to answer this is that painting cabinets takes time. There are many steps involved, and if you want to do it right, it is going to take you time. At the bare minimum it should take you at least an entire weekend, but if you plan to do it right and take you time it will more than likely take you between 4-7 days.

What does it cost to paint my cabinets?

The answer to this question very much depends on how elaborate you want to make the whole experience. If you choose to stay as simple as possible meaning that you mostly stick to buying paint, a brush, a roller, and maybe some sand paper, than you should be able to finish the job for less than $200.00. However, if you choose to get a bit more fancy by doing things like buying a sprayer, some new hardware, and covering your kitchen in thick plastic, that is when things start to get a bit more expensive.

How much money can you save by painting your cabinets?

While we are on the subject of money, lets talk about how much potential money you can save. Lets start with the most expensive way to remodel your kitchen which is obviously hiring a contractor and buying everything new. The sky is the limit with this option as it is likely to cost you many thousands of dollars depending on your size and budget.

The next option would be to choose a professional painter to come in and do it for you. This is also a very appealing option for many, especially if you want more of a professional look and/or lack any DIY skills or time to do it yourself. This option also varies greatly depending on where you live and what painters in your area charge. After a bit of research, prices seem to vary anywhere between $2,000 – $8,000

Last but not least you have the option of painting them yourself. As we discussed above, this can range anywhere from $200 – $800 depending on your choices, however if you compare that to the prices above it is easy to see that you stand to save a TON of money if you are up to the challenge of doing yourself.

What color should I paint them?

Another commonly asked question is what color should you I paint my cabinets? The common consensus on this seems to be a mix between white and off-white. One of the main reasons for this is because most people want to kitchen that feels open, bright, and clean, and white is a sure fire way to achieve that look. With that said, you still have a ton of options if that is not necessarily the look you are going for, check out this great article detailing the 10 Best Kitchen Cabinet Colors From The Experts.

What brand of paint should you use?

This is a bit of a loaded question also, mostly because there are so many options to choose from! I myself did a bit of research on this topic before making a choice. In the end what we decided to go with was Benjamin Moores Advanced Paint. You can find it at many different hardware stores and all over online. Benjamin Moore  has a great finished look, flow, adhesion, durability and cleans up with water instead of solvent, has low odor and VOC, and even dries quickly. These are just some of the many reasons we decided to use this paint for our cabinets.

If you are interested, here is a great Youtube video explaining in great detail the all the pros and cons of using this brand of paint.

If you are not convinced that Benjamin Moore will work for you, here is a great article that details the many other options that are available.

Should you use chalk paint to paint your cabinets?

Chalk paint is an amazing substance if you use it correctly and follow directions carefully. Here are just some of the many great qualities of chalk paint. First and foremost you do not have to use any primer with chalk paint. Chalk paint can also hide heavily grained wood like oak, and if painted over sealed wood, tannins of the wood will not seep into the paint causing brownish stains. Chalk paint also dries quickly, does not need primer, and requires less coats for coverage than normal paint.

Many people have used chalk paint to paint their kitchen cabinets, many with great success. I myself have used chalk paint for a few different projects in our house, you can read all about those projects HERE.

With that said, I would probably choose not to use chalk paint on my kitchen cabinets, mostly because of the wear and tear that kitchen cabinets tend to receive. Using a paint with a hard acrylic finish, that can be easily wiped down and cleaned would be best in my humble opinion.

Should you paint cabinets with a brush or roller?

When I painted my cabinets I ended up using both and brush and a roller. Rollers cover more ground than brushes so you can get the job done quicker, but more importantly, they spread paint more evenly, so you get a smoother finish. The best type of roller for painting cabinets is a 4-inch roller with a foam cover.  A 4-inch roller is best because it allows you to control paint application in tight spaces and navigate around the trim, curves, and grooves inherent in cabinet designs.

However, here is where the brush part comes in, because like I said,  foam rollers are great at giving a pretty smooth surface, but in my experience they tend to leave a bit of a speckled surface. The color is uniform, but the texture is similar to the surface of a football with tiny raised bubbles from the roller. I am a bit of a perfectionist and that is not the look I was going for, so what I did to correct this was to use a high quality brush on the last coat. Using a brush I applied my final coat of paint making sure to not only go with the grain of the wood, but also evenly coating any corners or cracks the roller may have missed. This allowed for a very nice, even, professional looking paint job.

Should you sand down your cabinets before painting them?

Yes! I would highly recommend you sand down your cabinets before painting them. If you choose not to chances are your cabinets will not hold up very well. Sanding them down gives something for your paint to grip onto. This does not mean that you need to sand down to bare wood. For most jobs just a light scoffing up of the wood will do. The goal is just to remove any glossy finish, while still giving the paint something to hold onto. A 320 grit piece of sand paper should work perfectly for this job.

Should you use polyurethane over the paint when finished?

The general pro recommendation for cabinet painting is to use high quality stain blocking primer and 2-3 thin and even coats of super high quality paint with ample drying time between coats (Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint (which is what I personally used on my own cabinets)  is meant for cabinets without any top coat, since sealers can drip, yellow, and even cause things to stick/crack since they thicken the application).

I personally did not use any polyurethane on my cabinets and so far we are over 1 year in and I have not had any problems! If for some reason you are still set on using some poly, I would highly recommend you choose something that is water based. I have heard many horror stories of people using oil based poly and months later there newly white cabinets start to turn yellow. Yikes!

Should you paint your cabinets before or after installing new countertops?

According to experts this does not really matter, however, if you want to be extra cautious or are worried about the tile or counter installers damaging your cabinets, you are probablly best to wait and paint them afterward.

Should you paint faux wood or MDF cabinets?

Faux Wood or MDF is usually not the first choice of most people when choosing a painting project. However, it can be done! One thing you should note though before you begin is to make sure you only use an oil based paint. MDF and faux wood are both highly susceptible to water damage and so using a water based paint will not work out in your favor. A positive about painting MDF if that because it is made in a factory it is free of many natural impurities such as knots and uneven surfaces, this makes it pretty easy to paint just the way you like.

Well that about sums it up friends! If you would like to see some before and after shots of our painted cabinet project you can check those out HERE

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