How To – Preparing your Cabinets for Paint

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    Painting your kitchen cabinets can give your kitchen a brand new look. Painting your old cabinets can lower the cost of a kitchen remodel or cover the repairs of damaged cabinets.

    You have a few options before you begin your work.

    Will you keep all of your old hardware (cabinet pulls and hinges) or will you replace them?

    Will you keep your cabinet door fronts or will you upgrade them for a new style?

    If you are keeping everything you have then you should make sure that everything functions correctly and will last at least another 5 years. If you have damaged parts then this is the time to consider replacement.

    This preparation guide is for wood cabinets not laminate covered doors and face frames. Laminate surfaces can be painted but they will require additional work and preparation. They will also require different paint and primers.

    Laminate countertops should not be painted however you may be able to lay tile over a laminate surface that you prepare correctly.

    Things you will need to Prepare your Cabinets for Paint

    You will need to clean your cabinets of all grease so you will need:

    • A Large Bucket
    • Sponges and Paper Towels
    • A Grease cutting cleaner like TSP or an Ammonia Based Cleaner
    • Rubber Gloves

    Begin by disassembling your cabinets by removing all drawers, cabinet doors and hardware.

    You want to clean all surfaces of your cabinets inside and out now while you have them apart so don’t skimp on the work and only clean the surfaces that you will be painting.

    Mix your cleaner as recommended by the manufacturer and wash all grease and dirt from the surfaces. Once they are clean you will want to allow time before you begin sanding.

    Sanding your Cabinets for Paint

    Before you move on to sanding you want to remove any old caulk around your cabinets and protect the surrounding surfaces with painters tape on the edges where you may hit the wall or tile and a drop cloth over larger areas.

    The process of sanding will require two different types of sandpaper. You want to remove the finish from the wood with a medium grade or 200 grit sand paper that is rated for low buildup or finish removal.
    Once you have sanded the surface finish from the wood surfaces you should make any repairs such as filling holes, gluing cracks or repairing dents.

    You can use a wood filler that is premixed in a can but while working remember to keep the top on the filler can or it will dry out in just a short time.

    Once the filler has dried you can sand the surface around the filler flat with a medium grade sand paper.

    Removing Dust is important before you Paint

    Remove the dust from your cabinets inside and out by using a vacuum cleaner then washing with a damp sponge.

    After the surface has dried you can apply a primer that is rated for wood.

    If the cabinets are pine then you may want to use an Alcohol based primer that will cover the knots of the wood and prevent them from seeping through your top coat. Alcohol based spot primers should be applied before the overall primer finish.

    Apply the primer as recommended by the manufacturer. Normally only one coat of primer is necessary but since you will be sanding the primer before you paint your top coat make sure that you don’t make it so thin that you will sand through it.

    Final Sanding

    Before you paint your top coat you want to apply a primer but primers will often cause a textured finish that you want to sand before your top coat is applied.

    You also want to sand to remove any dirt that is in the primer.

    Use a 400 grit sand paper for your final sanding if you will be painting your cabinets with a brush.

    If you are painting with a spray can such as a black lacquer finish then you want to sand the surface with a 400 grit then follow up with a 600 to 800 grit sand paper based on your paint manufacturer’s recommendations.

    The smoother the surface the better the finish however surfaces painted with a brush will leave natural brush marks so you do not need to go over 400 grit before you topcoat.

    Painting the Cabinets

    You are now ready to move on to painting your cabinets.

    Before you paint make sure that all surfaces are free of dust by using a painters cheese cloth.

    It is best that you do not wipe down the cabinets with water prior to painting if there is a chance moisture could remain in cracks between joints.

    Your prep time should take about 4 times as long as painting your final top coat so it is important to put in the time and get things right.

    If you have a chunk of dirt or a spot you missed it will require more work later then doing it right and taking your time.

    Expect to take at least 5 hours on your prep and primer work for a medium sized kitchen but it may take you a few days if you are doing it alone or need to do additional repairs.

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