8 Tips for Painting Cabinets

I'm sorry I've been so absent this week. I'm in a mad rush to finish painting our tiny house motor home bedroom before Christmas! I should be able to post some before and after pictures soon, but in the meantime, I thought I'd pass on a few tips for painting cabinets - something the tiny house is packed with and the main reason it's taken me a while to finish the bedroom.

1. Start by taking off the doors. This is really the only way to do a decent job. Be sure to use painter's tape and a Sharpie to number the doors; put one label on the back of the door and one on the back of the cabinet. Not all doors have the exact same holes for hardware, so this is a step you don't want to skip! Speaking of hardware, you must remove that, too. Keep the hardware for each door in it's own bag, marked with a corresponding number.

2. Now get the cabinets good and clean. More than walls, cabinets tend to be greasy (from cooking or from human hands) and dirty. It's essential to remove all that gunk before you paint - or the paint will just slide off. Look for a TSP substitute cleaner. This shouldn't smell and really gets the grease off. It can cause contact dermatitis in some people, so be sure to wear gloves as you work. (Some brands claim you don't need to rinse off the cleaner, but I recommend giving the cleaned cabinets a good wipe down with a damp, clean sponge, anyway.)

3. When the cabinets are dry again, lightly sand with about 150 -180 grit sandpaper. This shouldn't take long; you just want to take any shine off the cabinets. Again, this is about making the cabinets less slick so paint sticks well. (Be sure to wipe off sanded cabinets with a tack cloth, too!)

4. Prime. Don't skip this step, even if your paint promises it has primer in it. As a very experienced painter I know says, "If the paint says it has primer in it, it's a lie. It's just a trick to make you use more paint - because without primer, you're going to need considerably more paint." Use a good primer; I use Gripper.

5. Buy paint made just for cabinets. I used Insl-x Cabinet Coat, even though it was a bit more expensive than other options, and I LOVE it! It doesn't show brush strokes and has a beautiful finish.

6. Use a decent brush. It doesn't have to be super-pricey, but it should hold up to multiple coats without loosing its bristles. A two-inch angled brush works best. (I used a Proform brush.) Some people like foam rollers for painting cabinets, but I found this caused too much splatter.

7. Consider skipping painter's tape. I used tape, but regretted it because it was very difficult to remove and took some of the paint with it. This may be in part because it stayed in one place for many days, because I was sick and short on time for painting. When I painted the walls surrounding the cabinets, I used a paint guide, which blocks the paint from trim and other surfaces you don't want to paint. It was so much quicker, and quite effective! Just keep a cloth handy so you can wipe the edge of the paint guide frequently. It's also handy to have a small artist's brush on hand for tight spaces (more of an issue in a motor home than a house, to be sure!).

8. When painting doors, put them on a flat surface (like a piece of plywood atop two sawhorses), and lift them off the painting surface somehow. I used three cans of store bought food beneath each door, and this worked great! When it was time to paint the opposite side of the door, I put a piece of wax paper between the door and the canned goods, for extra protection of the freshly painted surface. (Also, when it came time to paint the side of the door that had the painter's tape numbered label on it, I removed the label and put it on one of the canned goods beneath the door.)

1 comment

  1. Love this article! Our house has GREAT and very big cabinets, but they need an updated look so bad! I have never done anything like this. Everyone says it's "fairly" simple, but I need step-by-step instructions before I'll try something. Thanks! :)