Prepping to Paint Your Cabinets

  • new kitchen cabinets
  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Brian in Massachusetts, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BRIAN: Hi, I have some honey-oak kitchen cabinets that I’m interested in painting white. And I was wondering if there’s any certain sort of preparation that I need to do. And is there some sort of primer coat that will kind of fill in the grain? Because the oak tends to be a little grainy.

    LESLIE: Now, I have oak cabinets and I was looking into having them painted and you definitely do want to fill that grain, because it will stick out through the paint. And as far as what’s going to go on there that’s going to stick and stay and give you a smooth surface and not be affected by moisture, humidity, all the things that go on in the kitchen, that’s a tricky situation.

    But first, let’s talk about what’s currently on your cabinets. Now, they’re stained?

    BRIAN: Nope. It’s just urethane.

    LESLIE: Just urethane. And it feels like it’s pretty solid of the coating on there?

    BRIAN: Yep.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You’re going to want to strip that off. Click here to learn whether to refinish, replace, or resurface your cabinets. Otherwise, anything that you put on there isn’t going to adhere. So what I would start with is either using a chemical stripper. Or depending on the quantity of the urethane, you can try to sand it a little bit. But I would try to get as much of it off as I can with a stripping agent. Strip everything down.

    Then once you’ve gotten there, you can go ahead and sand it just to keep everything looking nice and smooth. Use a tack cloth to wipe away any of that sort of residue that’s still on there. Make sure you’ve got a nice, clean surface. And then I think Tom can better speak to what you could put on top that would fill in that grain and stick.

    TOM: Once you have it sanded down, I would recommend that you prime it. I would use an oil-based primer for a couple of reasons. It tends to flow nicely.

    BRIAN: Yep.

    TOM: And that’s going to fill in some of those – some of the grain that you don’t want to see.

    BRIAN: Right.

    TOM: And it’s also really durable and it’s really sticky, so it’s going to really adhere to an old cabinet and give you the perfect surface for the topcoat of paint. So I would definitely put oil-based primer on it or solvent-based primer. And then you’re going to need a couple of coats of finish paint over that.

    And again, I tend to stick with the solvents for cabinets because I think they have more abrasion resistance with those doors slamming, you know. And you’re going to get a lot of rubbing of the doors against the stiles. And I’m afraid that if you don’t use something that’s tough, it’s going to chip off.

    BRIAN: So you recommend oil-based primer and oil …

    TOM: Yep. I would. For something like that I would, definitely.

    BRIAN: OK. And it’s not any particular product or oil-based primer that would have – like I know – I do some work on cars and they have a spray primer that actually will fill small imperfections. Is there anything like that that might be available for …

    TOM: Not specifically for cabinetry but I just think if you use a good-quality primer, you’re going to come as close to it as you possibly can. Remember, you can take those doors off, take the drawers out, try to make this as easy on yourself as possible. And you mentioned spraying. If you have access to that kind of equipment, you could spray the doors and the drawers and it’ll look even nicer.

    BRIAN: Oh, I was talking about a spray can for the smaller parts.

    TOM: Oh, no. That would be a lot of spray cans.

    BRIAN: Yes, it would. Well, thank you so much for your help. I appreciate your input. And keep up the good work.

    TOM: Alright. Well, thank you. Good luck with that project and let us know how it comes out.

    Another option for cabinets is to refinish them. Click here to learn how!

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