Archive for Sunday, November 11, 2001

Cabinet paint offers quick kitchen change

November 11, 2001


Shari and I are often asked whether cabinets can be painted and as fast as we can say it together, we say yes. It's easier than you may think, and if you have dark-stained cabinets here is the quickest way to brighten them up.


Sandpaper, 150-grit and 220-grit


Interior latex semigloss paint


Paint roller, 1/4-inch nap

Paint tray

Step 1: Are you sure?

Kitchen cabinets are usually the main focus in any kitchen. When contemplating a cabinet makeover or a remodeling job, you need to decide whether to replace, reface or paint. If you are on a budget, painting can be a very good option. Most cabinets can be painted if you follow a few simple preparation steps.

Step 2: Let's start the prep

The preparation of the cabinet is the most important step, so spend the necessary time and do a good job. If the cabinets have a natural or stained finish, they likely are sealed with a sealant or a varnish. For the paint to adhere you need to break through that finish and add a primer coat. This doesn't mean the sealer has to be removed completely, just roughed up. So you will need to do some sanding. But first, wash the cabinets with a mild soap and warm water solution (household dish soap will work great. Just make sure you rinse well).

After you wash the cabinets, remove all the doors and hardware. The doors can be painted in a separate area; it will be much easier to paint them once they are separated from the cabinet. Sand all surfaces with 150-grit sandpaper. The purpose here is to etch the surface, not to sand down to bare wood. A block sander will make the job easier. Once sanded, wipe the cabinets and doors down with a tack cloth or a damp rag to remove the dust.

Step 3: Your prime opportunity

After the dust has been removed, prime the doors and cabinets with an oil-base primer/sealer. Primers give the final base coat a sealed surface that will assure proper adhesion. Primers can also be tinted fairly close to the color of the final basecoat, which is a big step saver, especially if painting with darker colors.

Sand the primed surfaces lightly with a 220-grit sandpaper. The primer will raise the grain of the wood, creating a fuzzy feeling, and the light sanding will remove the raised grain and give you a velvet-smooth surface.

Step 4: Go for the finish

Once all the preparation has been completed it's time to apply the topcoat of paint. You can choose between a latex enamel or an oil-base paint.

Latex can be cleaned up with soap and water and is a little easier to work with, plus it usually has less odor. Oil-base paint requires paint thinner for cleaning, may be a little trickier to work with and tends to have an odor. Whatever you choose, be sure to purchase quality paint.

Start with the inside of the cabinets followed by the sides and then the front facings. The doors can be done at any time just make sure they are thoroughly dried before reattaching to the cabinet.

To paint, cut in the edges using a 2 1/2-inch tapered paintbrush. Then, use a roller to apply the paint on the larger surfaces (cabinet fronts, doors). Be sure to use a 1/4-inch roller cover as the shorter nap will apply just the right amount of paint.

Once the paint is rolled on, lay off the surface with the paintbrush. (Note: "Laying off" is a term that means to pull the brush through the paint in long even pulls, and it's best to lay off in the direction of the grain of the wood. The inside walls of the cabinet are a great place to practice rolling and laying off.)

After the paint has been applied, let the cabinets dry for at least 24 hours before putting items back on the shelves.

Matt Fox writes this column with Shari Hiller. They also co-host the Home and Garden Television show "Room by Room." For more information, visit

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