There’s nothing wrong with painting your kitchen cabinets. Homeowners have used this for freshening up kitchens for over a century.
Whether it’s a good idea or not depends on three things:
- What kind of cabinets you want to paint.
- What kind of paint you use.
- You realize proper paint prep is not optional.
Can you paint all types of kitchen cabinets?
No. Unfortunately, low-end cabinets with a slick laminate-like finish will result in huge disappointment. Paint rolls right off. Like sunburned skin. How do you identify this? It’s the finish used on all budget-friendly vanities and cabinets at big box stores.
Wood kitchen cabinets are very paintable. So are the vintage metal cabinets that were popular in the 1920s-60s. Be aware that paint will chip and wear off over time. You’ll also have some discoloring from food and grease splatters, just like you see on antique and vintage painted furniture. Paint is long-lasting. But it is not permanent. Plan on repainting them in 8-10 years.
What kind of paint is best for kitchen cabinets?
Don’t use cheap paint!
You might have a limited budget, but paint quality is critical. This is especially true with the new low-VOC latex paints. The less you pay, the less performance you should expect. While you’re painting and for years to come. Cabinets get a lot of wear and tear. They also need to hold up to strong cleaners and a lot of scrubbing.
Chalk paint is wonderful, but…
It’s not advisable for kitchen cabinets. Splatters and fingerprints from things that stain clothes almost guarantee permanent discoloring. Forever stains include mustard, tomatoes, beets, berries, chlorophyll, and oils. Stick to furniture with chalk paint. And in the kitchen, it’s best to seal it rather than do a wax finish.
Use a paint formulated for wood.
Why? Wood shrinks and expands from relative humidity and moisture. Additionally, kitchens are notorious for steam.
Paints for wood or trim hold up far better than those formulated for walls. Use semi-gloss for its stain resistance and scrubbability. The gloss might look great if you’re painting vintage steel cabinets. The original factory paint rivaled appliances for shine.
Also known as oil-based paint, Alkyd paint is better than latex paint on kitchen cabinets. It stays well on surfaces that get a lot of wear and tear. Furthermore, it’s a harder finish. Latex painted surfaces, on the other hand, stick to each other. This is especially a concern with cabinets that you seldom open.
Vintage cabinetry style drawers with wood runners can stick too. The less you pay for latex paint, the more of this sticky issue you’ll have.
Not only does an alkyd paint have a stronger finish, but it’s also much easier to paint over in the future. You can’t sand latex paint very well. This is particularly something to note if you’re planning to distress the edges for instant vintage. You won’t have this problem with alkyd paint. Unless, of course, you did a poor job sanding the patch smooth and level.
Worried about fumes and environmental-friendliness? Check out the new water-based alkyd paints.
How do you prep kitchen cabinets for painting?
The first thing you need to do is wash and rinse all surfaces that you’re going to paint. No dried-on food, dirt, oils, or grease can remain as paints do not adhere well to oil residue. Cutting corners when painting cabinets could lead to disaster. Only a squeaky clean surface allows the paint to adhere well.
Now you can fill any holes from nails, hooks, and old handles. Remove any adhesive from old tape or stickers. Let the spackle patched holes and gouges thoroughly dry before sanding it smooth.
Wood cabinets have a protective sealer or varnish. It’s a good idea to lightly sand everywhere you’re going to paint. This creates some tooth for good paint bonding.
Of course, you have to clean again. Sanding dust is no friend to paint either. But vacuuming makes it easy. Use the crevice tool along all cracks, joints, and corners. Follow up by wiping all surfaces with a tack cloth to remove any fine dust that remains. And it’s time for primer.
Do you have to prime before painting kitchen cabinets?
It’s not necessary, but you’ll be glad you did. Primer works just like foundation makeup. It creates a uniform colored undercoat and seals porous spackle. A coat of stain-kill sealer over the primer stops knots from bleeding through your paint.
Dreaming of that lovely distressed vintage patina? Tinting the primer is smart if you’re painting the cabinets a color beyond whites. That way as ageing happens, it isn’t marred with bright white around the edges.
Another reason alkyd paint is a better choice — adding patina right away. Sanding rubbery vinyl never works well and latex is a form of vinyl.
Benefits of painting kitchen cabinets
It’s the age-old way of brightening up the room you spend so much time in. A fresh coat of paint can completely change kitchen decor without a huge investment.
If you get tired of the color you picked, it’s not that difficult to redecorate in a few years. Yes, there’s a good deal of work that goes into doing it right. Still, compared to buying new cabinets, it’s the least expensive way to update your kitchen.
White kitchen cabinets never go out of style. They are timeless classics. If you have an outdated door style or want something different, you can replace them. Once painted, the old and new parts all look the same.
Painting kitchen cabinets can also make getting trendy more affordable. Currently, multiple-colored cabinets are hot.
- Choose a different color for top and bottom cabinets.
- Paint all cabinets the same color and use an accent color on the island base.
- Add a third color to make a pantry or china cabinet a focal point.
You could take the fast and easy route and hire a painting company to do the work. But if you’re trying to do a kitchen makeover on a small budget, DIY means you could stretch your money further. DIY allows you to save the labor cost and material markup for better uses. No doubt new countertops and tile are high on that kitchen wish list too.