Painting Stained-Wood Bathroom Cabinets
LESLIE: Carol in Texas is working on a painting project. How can we lend a hand?
CAROL: We are painting our bathroom cabinets. They are – they were put in the bathroom in 1980-something. I’m not sure about the date. We bought this house – the people lived in it 28 years and we’ve been here almost 9 years. And they’re kind of a maple color and they’re not very attractive. I’ve used that Orange Glo on them trying to make them look better. I don’t know what they used on them. Probably Liquid Gold or something trying to bring out the sheen.
But it’s just almost beyond the point. And I’d like to have new cabinets but when we do, we’re probably going to have to redo the whole bathroom, so we decided we would paint them kind of an off-white color.
What we want to know is: what’s the approach to making that paint stay on?
LESLIE: Now, you said that the cabinets are maple color. Are they actually wood and they’re stained?
CAROL: Yeah, that’s the stain on them. They’re stained.
LESLIE: So they’re stained wood. It’s not like a thermofoil that looks like wood or a laminate? It’s wood.
CAROL: No, it’s real wood. They’re real wood cabinets.
LESLIE: Now, if they’ve been stained and restained over the course of a couple of years and you’ve got a lot of coatings of a cleaner on there, your best bet would be – and this is how I would kind of tackle it. I would remove the doors and the drawer fronts, being very careful about labeling which goes where, you know? A little piece of painters tape on the back side and a little piece on the hinge saying, “A-A or 1-1,” just so you know exactly where things go back.
And I would leave the hinges either on the door or on the box. It’s kind of easier to leave them on the box, just for painting issues. And this way, you know exactly where everything goes back; that just kind of keeps things tidy.
And then, you really need to get some of that sheen off. So you could do it a couple of different ways. You could use something that’s like a liquid sandpaper that you wipe on that gets rid of some of that sheen. But if it’s a super-high gloss and they’ve been oiled or polished over the years and they’re very sort of gunked up, almost, with a lot of finish on them, you may want to sand them down a little bit. Because you need to get down to something that’s a little bit not so glossy and so built up from years of cleaning and just the yuck that happens in the bathroom, just so that you’ve got a surface that the paint’s going to stick to.
And once you’ve done that to the doors or drawer fronts and the boxes themselves in the bathroom, you need to prime it very well with a high-quality primer. I would use KILZ or Zinsser – one of those that’ll stick very, very well – let that dry very thoroughly and then go ahead with your top-coat paint. And because it’s in a bathroom and because it’s a high-moisture area and it’s something that you’re going to want to be cleaning a lot, I would go with a glossy finish and an oil base if I can get my hands on one. If not, a glossy latex will do the trick but more durable, of course, would be the oil base.
CAROL: Thank you and I appreciate your help.
TOM: Carol, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.