...and get professional results
When we set out on our house hunting excursion last year, I really wanted one thing: a horrifying kitchen that I could tear apart and redo. The kitchen we ended up with wasn't horrifying, but definitely reGlitz worthy!
I like a hands on approach, so I bought myself several old cabinets from Habitat Restore, varying primers and paints and got to work, testing out all of the different techniques I had researched.
So that I don't bore you with the excruciating details of the month I spent testing techniques and products, I'm going to just tell you how to paint your cabinets like a normal person and get professional results!
Here are the main supplies you'll need for this technique (use Sherwin Williams 30% off coupons for the primer and paint!):
1. TSP all purpose heavy duty cleaner
2. XIM primer in 400 white(this will kill your brain cells, but it covers grain like nothing else)
3. Floetrol paint conditioner
4. Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd paint in Alabaster (it's a mouthful, but it is hands down THE BEST cabinet paint I tested)
5. Paint brushes, tiny rollers, tape, gloves and a mixing container
6. Sand paper (80, 150 and 220 grit)
7. Time. Time and patience. <--good luck
I have to tell you, the hardest part of this project for me was the logistics of it all. There simply wasn't enough space to have all of the cabinets spread out into one place. I had to coordinate shifts on my several saw horses and tables, and it wasn't easy in the moment. I recommend planning this out ahead of time based on the number of cabinets you have.
First, you'll need to number all of your cabinets and bases. This is a crucial step so that you remember where to put everything in the end. I placed the number on the inside of the base and on the cabinet hardware (where I wouldn't be painting). On the drawers, I just drew it on the back since you wouldn't be able to see it later on.
Also, wear a mask!
You're going to be doing a lot of sanding in this project. It helps to have an open space that can be cleaned easily. I used my garage and got this step done before all of my boxes were moved in.
For the first sand, you want to get all of the varnish off so that your cabinets feel like smooth, bare wood for the most part. I used 80 grit sandpaper and an electric sander. Because my cabinets have some detail, I also had to hand sand some parts. Also, wear a mask! We invested into these heavy duty masks and they were a life saver.
After sanding, vacuum up all of the excess dust. Wipe each cabinet clean and vacuum again. I can't stress the importance of this 'cleaning' step enough! It is such a pain but if you leave too much dust lying around, if will find its way into your paint finish, and you will want to punch someone in the throat.
I take this step so seriously that after we sanded and cleaned, my mom mopped every inch of the garage and then we covered the entire thing in plastic. It served two purposes: making sure dust wasn't present and making sure paint didn't drip all over the place. Perhaps I should have named this post "how to paint cabinets like a slightly OCD person."
I did a ridiculous amount of research on primers, because the primer determines how smooth your cabinets will turn out. I needed one that wouldn't yellow, one that was extremely durable, and hid the oak grain as much as possible. Most people can probably get away with Kilz primer and call it a day, but I wanted the most professional, glass like texture I could produce.
After talking with 2 professional painters, I landed on XIM primer. A 3rd painter looked at me like I was a crazed lunatic when I told him I was using XIM, but he agreed it would be the best. Apparently it is pretty hard core. Who knew?
I began on the backs of the cabinets. I used a paint brush to prime the edges and the detail, then did the rest with a tiny foam roller to make sure I didn't have any streaks or bumps. I painted in 3 thin coats, letting it dry about 30 minutes between coats. On some cabinets the oak grain was deeper, so I went in with a few more coats. I let it dry over night before sanding.
For this step, I sanded with 150 grit sand paper. Because I had my painting room all set up and dust free in the garage, I sanded on my back porch. This primer was perfect for hiding my heavy oak grain. When you sand it, it becomes a perfect, thin, glass like texture. It seems counter intuitive to put on a lot of coats just to sand it down, but I was pretty amazed. Even though it is difficult to work with, it is the best in terms of texture and durability.
You'll want to pay special attention to this sanding step. It is the sanding step that will determine what texture your cabinets turn out to be. If there are bumps in your primer, there will be bumps on your cabinets. Take extra care here to achieve that glass like finish. It will take you forever. <--sorry.
After sanding, flip the cabinets and repeat on the front sides. When done, the cabinets should look pretty well covered in white.
When both sides are primed and sanded, vacuum the cabinets and wipe them off so they can return to your dust free zone.
Paint/sand/clean/paint/sand/clean/paint/cure/flip/repeat <--ha, for reals
As noted above, I used Sherwin Williams ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd paint in Alabaster. I tested several paints. The overwhelming professional opinion is that I should use either Sherwin Williams ProClassic or Benjamin Moore Aura paint. You don't want to skimp on paint quality when it comes to high traffic areas.
It dries beautifully. After curing, I can beat the heck out of it without it scratching. It levels nicely and doesn't require a top coat. It stuck to the laminate pieces of my cabinetry. It is WONDER PAINT!
It is a little hard to find, and the sales reps will try to sell you either ProClassic Alkyd or ProClassic Acrylic. Don't be fooled, you very specifically need ProClassic Waterbased Acrylic Alkyd! I chose the color 'Alabaster' as it seemed to be a popular Houzz choice.
To paint, I used a brush for the details/edges and then a small roller for everything else. The roller had fibers even on the end, which helped a lot. I used a paper plate to hold my paint because I'm super fancy.
After curing, flip them over and paint the fronts just like the backs. After you are done with that, let the cabinets cure for 10 days before hanging.
Complete cabinet bases
We added crown moulding to our bases, so we cut that, nailed it up and caulked it before painting the bases.
Remove the tape you used to keep the hardware clean. Locate the number on the cabinet and the coordinating number on the base to be sure you are hanging in the right place. I was so excited to finally hang the cabinets!
I did not use a top coat because of the high quality paint. However, I did place felt pads on all 4 corners of the cabinets and drawers to protect them from slamming.
We lived without cabinet hardware for a bit. There are so many options and I became pickier than expected. Once you decide on something, it really finishes the look. You can easily add hardware with a plastic hanging template from a building supply store. We landed on Martha Stewart 3 inch finials in polished nickel.
This process isn't an easy weekend project. But you'll save a ton of money if you throw in a little elbow grease, and that's pretty cool.
I learned that no one will see that tiny little brush mark that was left on the top right of one of the cabinets. Striving for perfection can drive you crazy.
If you turn your head just right and the lighting is just right, you can still see some oak grain, and I am okay with that now.
Once you hang the cabinets, you might notice a few spots that need touch up and that's okay too. I particularly hate it when I see cabinets that have 'crack droplets' (sorry...I'm not sure what else to call them). It's a tell tale sign of DIY cabinetry, so I worked really hard to cover them up when I primed and painted. Basically, if the crack is small enough, you can just fill it in with paint. I had to do that after we hung up a few.
I had a lot of help from my Parents, Craig and others (thank you).