How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets – Or Any Other Cabinets.

We are frequently retained to update cabinetry. To keep up with current styles, this usually means a change in color. If the cabinets are still solid, (the majority of the time we are working with custom-made, wood cabinetry) there’s no reason why we can’t freshen them up with paint. However, refinishing cabinets can be a tricky and time consuming process. Even when applying a finish to brand new cabinets, there are detailed steps that are followed. While similar to any other painting, there are some added steps and important choices. We carefully review the details, materials and goals for each project independently, determine the most effective approach and then meticulously follow the steps necessary for obtaining the desired result. Although each project is different, the process usually looks something like this:

The first thing to do is to make sure the surface is clean.

We remove any greasy residue that may be present by wiping down all surfaces with a cleaner, like denatured alcohol or other gentle solvent. The next step is sanding, usually not a lot of sanding, just enough to roughen the surface and give the paint something to which it can adhere. With new cabinets we might start with the sanding, since there should be no grease built up. Then we continue by vacuuming all the dust and wiping with a soft cloth to ensure the best starting surface.cabinet3

At this point we can begin to apply color. We start with a primer. With the new, custom cabinets in the project displayed in these pictures we had the primer tinted in the color of the finish product, which was a great way to start.  Sometimes we’ll see great results from a water-based product, but other times we’ll prefer to use one that is oil-based. As products evolve we are finding some water-based paint that provides the oil-like finish we like, combining some of the best features of both water and oil products. A professional painter understands that the flow and spreadable nature of the paint is critical to achieving the desired results. Drying time plays into this calculation as well. If paint dries too quickly, it may be difficult to create the smooth finish we like. Sometimes an extending solution may need to be added to give us more time to work with the paint. For these new cabinets, we were able to obtain a beautiful, satin finish with a product from Benjamin Moore.


On another recent project, refinishing existing cabinets, we chose an oil-based paint that we use frequently for cabinets and trim.


We usually choose to apply the paint using a high-quality, fine-bristle brush. Some areas may require the use of a low pressure spray system. Each project will require at least two coats of paint. Between coats we carefully hand sand with a fine grit sandpaper, vacuum and wipe the surface clean to ensure there are no imperfections before applying the next coat.  In addition to pleasing, stylish aesthetics, one of the most important characteristics of the finished coat is that it is durable, and can withstand repeated wiping and cleaning.