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How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets

How To Paint Kitchen Cabinets - House & Home

Tips from Benjamin Moore's Sharon Grech for a professional-quality finish.

A kitchen renovation can be pricey, but repainting your kitchen cabinets offers a quick, budget-friendly update. "A simple colour change will create a huge impact," says Sharon Grech, Benjamin Moore Paint rep and CityLine regular, who offers these tips.

Cabinet Candidates

Most cabinets are made of wood, engineered wood, or laminate but other materials (other than plastic) are fine to repaint. "It's important to look at the surface: if it's in bad shape with large gouges, it may be best to replace the doors," notes Sharon. "A wood cabinet is ideal; it's porous even if stained or previously painted." The type of paint you select will really depend on the surface. Wood, MDF, or thermofoil (a vinyl covering applied to MDF or engineered wood) can be painted easily with any type of paint. Laminate requires a specialty product made for that type of surface. Benjamin Moore's Advance line was designed to cover various surfaces, including laminates, and comes in three finishes: pearl, semi-gloss, and high-gloss. The best finish for easy maintenance is the semi-gloss finish, since fingerprints are easier to spot when using a high-gloss paint. If you want a more modern contemporary look, go with the high gloss, whereas the pearl finish will give you a matte look. "Don't hesitate to get a sample can; it may be the best $10 you'll spend. And don't use anything abrasive for cleaning, water and a bit of dish soap on a sponge is best."

Spray Paint

Some companies will spray kitchen cabinet doors for clients but this is a more expensive option so it depends on what your budget is. Paint It Like New is one company Sharon's used for CityLine and they use the Benjamin Moore Advance line. If you have a relatively dust free space and can lay doors flat; you can attempt to do this yourself. Practice on old furniture or doors if you've never used a spray gun and compressor before. If you are a confident painter, this will save lots of time and get the most professional and smoothest result. Make sure to wear a mask and safety glasses, even if you use a water-based paint.

Tools Required

You need a room with a good amount of space to lay doors flat; such as a basement or somewhere you can spread the doors out for a few days. Unless you have completely raw wood, the first step is sanding with sandpaper of at least 220 grit. Afterwards, clean the surface using a cloth and an everyday dish soap to remove grease. Use painters' tape around any area that touches the wall. "You don't want a stray hair appearing, so get the best quality brushes and rollers. If you are using a water-based paint, polyester brushes are best while natural-hair bristle brushes work best on alkyd finishes." Although foam brushes are great for crafts, Sharon doesn't recommend them for this type of job as they don't allow for the precision required.

The Prep Steps

It always takes longer to prep than you think it will. At least half the day will be devoted to prep, but it depends on the size of your kitchen explains Sharon. A smaller kitchen will likely take about 6 hours.

  1. Take off the hardware: This is your chance to change it if you want to. You can fill in holes with wood putty prior to starting the rest of the prep. 
  2. Sanding: You need to dull down the surface with 220-grit sandpaper. 
  3. Clean and make sure it's dry before continuing; let wood dry for at least 12 hours. Prep the surface as best as you can, filling nicks and holes.
  4. Think about the primer: Benjamin Moore has the Advance line Alkawater paint. It's durable but paint brushes can be cleaned with water afterwards (it also has a lower VOC). For non-wood surfaces, select a specialty primer like Benjamin Moore's Fresh Start which is a bit stickier than other primers.
  5. Prime everything.
  6. Sand again: To get the smoothest finish, repeat the sanding process after the primer is dry. Use a damp rag or tack cloth to remove any residue. 
  7. Paint: If your surface is completely flat you can use a roller but if there are any details, use a good quality brush instead. Sharon always recommends two coats but wait at least 12 hours between the first and second. Lay doors flat so gravity will be working with you: no drips!
  8. Keep in mind that paint takes a long time to cure. Even though it only takes 12 hours to dry and cabinet doors can be reattached the next day, a freshly painted surface will be somewhat soft for the first several weeks. Take care when putting hardware back on, and use the hardware to open and close doors rather than touching them.

Inside Story

If you are painting your cabinetry bright but have a dark wood on the inside, that contrast might bother you every time you open your cabinets warns Sharon. If you do paint inside, you'll want to wait longer before re-attaching the doors. The prep is the same process as the exterior, but it's a bit harder to sand. Make sure non-wood surfaces are dulled down before painting, it will help the paint adhere. "Use a light or neutral paint shade inside so it will work with another colour," Sharon notes. "If you decide to repaint in a few years you won't have to go through the lengthy process of painting the inside again."

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