Katie Holdefehr for Real Simple on common mistakes made when painting cabinets. Let the professionals at SRB Signature Kitchen & Bath help you with your kitchen and bath renovations.
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Paint pros reveal what not to do when repainting kitchen cabinets.
Painting your kitchen cabinets is one of the easiest ways to give your kitchen a brand-new look, without embarking on a complete remodel. From crisp all-white cabinets, to a trendy sage green hue with brass hardware, to an eye-catching blue, freshly painted cabinets will transform the entire room. When you tackle this project yourself, it can be a surprisingly affordable (yet time-consuming) DIY. You’ll also want to sidestep some common cabinet painting mistakes in order to avoid chipped paint and perpetually dirty-looking cabinets down the line. To learn the most important cabinet-painting mistakes to avoid, we asked a pro and shared lessons from first-hand experience. Here’s what not to do the next time you paint your kitchen cabinets.
Not Removing the Doors
It may be tempting to brush on a new coat of paint without removing the cabinet doors first, but taking off the doors is an essential step for the best results. This will prevent drips while allowing you to paint every surface of the cabinet, inside and out. Plus, if you keep the cabinet doors out of the way, such as in a garage or separate workspace, you’ll be less likely to bump into them as the paint is drying.
Skipping the Proper Prep Work
“The biggest mistake is not taking the time to properly understand what is needed to prep the cabinets for painting,” says David Steckel, Thumbtack home expert. “Repainting kitchen cabinets may seem like a fit-for-DIY job, but it’s a tricky, time-consuming project, and if not done right, could look worse in just a few months.”
Before you start painting, most cabinets will require sanding the surface, filling in any cracks or uneven areas with wood filler, and allowing it to dry. Once sanded, use a damp cloth or a lint-free tack cloth to remove all of the dust and debris. Any small particles that aren’t cleaned up can waft into the paint and ruin the pristine surface of the cabinet.
If you have patience and some DIY skills, this is a project you may be able to tackle yourself; however, depending upon the intricacy of the cabinet design and your expectations for the final product, it may be worth it to hire a pro. “The average cost in the U.S. to paint your kitchen cabinets is between $1,000 to 1,700 or between $45 to $60 per hour,” says Steckel.
Failing to Label the Hardware and Doors
Even if you don’t have a ton of cabinets, once all of the doors and hardware are removed, it can be difficult to remember what goes back where. To make reattaching the doors much easier later on, number each cabinet door as you remove it. Place the hardware for each door in a small bag and label each one with the coordinating cabinet number.
Applying Thick Layers of Paint
When painting kitchen cabinets, the goal is to create a durable surface that can survive daily use. The best way to build up the surface is with multiple layers of thin paint rather than one thick layer that can more easily chip off. Patience and waiting the recommended drying time between coats will pay off with a sturdy finish.
Not Using Primer
Whether you’re starting with wood cabinets or dark paint, primer will create a barrier so your chosen paint color can shine. If the surface you’re starting with is smooth and shiny, primer can also generate some traction so the paint will stick. Just be sure to use the right primer for the cabinets you’re painting.
“Older cabinets are typically painted with oil paint. However, the most common paint today is latex paint. If you apply latex paint on top of oil-based paint, the paint will slowly peel off and require you to re-paint quicker than you anticipated,” says Steckel. “Instead, use an oil-based primer and then apply the latex paint on your cabinets,” he advises.
Using the Wrong Paint Finish
To make cabinets easier to wipe clean, a slightly shinier paint finish is ideal. Skip the matte paint in favor of semi-gloss or satin.
Not Letting the Cabinets Dry for Long Enough
Painted cabinets may be dry to the touch within a few hours, but the curing process can take several days. Until the cabinets are fully cured to a hard, durable surface, they’ll be more susceptible to chips and marks. It’s best to wait at least 48 hours before reattaching the cabinet doors and hardware, then be careful not to slam or scrape the doors for the first week.
Tips for Hiring a Pro
If you decide to hire an expert rather than DIY the project, Steckel has some recommendations for finding the best painter for the job:
- Check the painter’s experience: Painting cabinets requires keen attention to detail and experience removing cabinet doors or drawers without damaging the cabinet itself.
- Ask about time: Request an estimate for how long the project will take so you have a good idea of what you’re up for before you dive into it. You may have to relocate furniture and other items ahead of time.
- Ask about equipment: Find out if the pro is comfortable purchasing paint and other materials on their own, or if you’re required to pick up some of those tasks.
Check the painter’s experience: Painting cabinets requires keen attention to detail and experience removing cabinet doors or drawers without damaging the cabinet itself.
Ask about equipment: Find out if the pro is comfortable purchasing paint and other materials on their own, or if you’re required to pick up some of those tasks.