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Things to Consider Before Painting Your Cabinets
Sunday, July 24, 2016

Design shows make everything look so easy. The reality, however, is that “quick” remodels and kitchen improvements aren’t typically as easy as they look. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve been called to come in and take over after a well-meaning DIYer threw in the towel because their “simple” project turned out to be way more than they bargained for.

Painting kitchen cabinets can be one of these projects. Homeowners often think painting the cabinets will be a straightforward, weekend chore. Not-so. If you haven’t considered all of the angles, you’ll wind up with a shoddy paint job that has to be completely re-done by professionals.

7 Things to Consider Before Repainting Cabinets

Here are 7 things to consider and problem-solve before taking on the task of repainting kitchen or bathroom cabinets. If you’re patient enough to prepare properly, the finished project will be as rewarding as you hoped it would be.

  1. Do you have the time? Most people imagine taking a weekend, maybe two, to complete the cabinet repainting project. What they don’t realize is that it typically takes about four to seven days – from start to finish – to do the job properly. During this time, all cabinet contents need to be removed and the adjacent surfaces need to be cleared and/or tightly covered with plastic sheeting and tape to protect them from sanding remnants, old finish/paint powder and the new paint. You’ll want to set up a “faux-kitchen” for the week.
  2. Do you have an open floor plan? If so, you will need to take the adjacent space into consideration. The cabinets will be visible from that space, and vice versa, so find a color that complements the existing color scheme or that will work to form a smooth transition between the two spaces.
  3. Choose the right color. Duh, right? Actually, not so “duh.” It can be pretty easy to give the go ahead on a decent paint sample, only to find it’s “not quite right” when you’ve made it a good way through the painting process. Paint large samples, like poster board size samples, and live with them for a while. Move them around from this side of the kitchen to that, rest them next to the backsplash and various appliances, so you can see how evolving light and shadow throughout the day alters how the colors look. Once you’ve decided, splurge on high-quality paint for a smoother, richer finish. Cover paintbrush marks with a once-over from a sponge roller.
  4. Are you planning to remove the doors, drawers and hardware? If you want the cabinets to have a professional finish, you must remove the doors, drawers, hinges, drawer pulls and/or knobs. No amount of taping or ‘very careful’ painting techniques will cut it. Even the hinges need to be removed. Of course, everything that needs to be removed, has to be reassembled and installed once you’re finished and the paint is completely dry. This typically requires an entire day of labor – especially when you combine it with the removal of the cabinets’ contents.
  5. Label everything. In the beginning, you think you’ll remember where everything goes. In the end, you won’t remember and it will make for a time-consuming and frustrating re-installation process. Use masking tape and a marker to label the doors and drawers and organize them in groups – along with labeled baggies for the hardware – so you know exactly what goes where.
  6. Do your cabinets have dramatic wood grain patterns? In addition to adding a bit of color variation and pattern, those wood grains also have different dimensions that look minimal in their natural state but will be glaringly obvious once you start to paint over them. Without proper preparation, the wood grains will keep popping through. Maple is one of the best woods to paint because pores are tight and grain patterns are minimal. Oak is one of the toughest to paint. In order to beat the grains, you must participate in a time-consuming and tedious process of sanding the surface of doors, cabinet boxes and face frames and applying a high-quality wood filler over the surface. The filler needs to dry overnight, and then the surfaces need to be re-sanded before you use a primer.
  7. Dust removal is critical. You cannot apply paint on a dusty surface. You’ll end up with a grainy finish that will drive you nuts. Once you’ve finished sanding and priming, give the kitchen a good once over with a vacuum cleaner and a damp rag/mop to eliminate surface dust. Avoid using your HVAC system or fans so airborne particles are kept out of the mix.

Knowing what a DIY cabinet painting project truly entails means the difference between a professional-quality job, or one that requires the professionals to step in and get it done right.



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