Most kitchenCRATE projects involve turning those dated 1970’s or 1980’s cabinets into pristine, like-new personifications of painting prowess.

At times, when we talk with costumers about painting cabinets, we get s slight crinkle of the nose.

Why?

Because when many people think of painted cabinets, they think of bad paint jobs.  Sure enough, painting cabinets well is’nt easy.  Your uncle or brother-in-law who’s a “really good painter” can do more harm than good.  Here’s the bottom line: if a paint brush gets anywhere near the finish coat of paint, you’re in for dreadful finish.

Or if you think the Wagner Power Painter Plus will give you a professional finish, please reconsider.  Painting cabinets is nothing like painting walls or ceilings or even the outside of your house.

So, how does kitchenBOX pull off the flawless painted finish?  Here is the secret sauce:

Step 1: Remove everything

For some this would be common sense, but I ask, how many times have you seen cabinet door hinges painted right over. Cracking, rusting, squeaking and bringing a tear to the eye of anyone who cares about quality.

So, step one is removing everything. Hinges, pulls, magnetic strikes, felt or rubber bumper pads, etc.  If it’s attached to the door, drawer, cabinet box (the actual cabinet itself) or anything else you will be painting, we remove it and set it aside.  One exception: we often keep the drawer glides on the drawer and protect them before painting.  It’s easier.

Step 2: Take Drawers and Drawers Off-site to a Paint Booth

A professional paint booth is a special room, usually the size of a large garage, with amenities allowing for a near-perfect paint finish.  For example, a professional paint booth can be sealed to outside elements, preventing dirt and debris from entering.  It typically has ventilation out the top, extracting paint fumes from the room and enabling the painter to operate in a more comfortable, healthy environment.  Lastly, most professional paint booths are equipped with hanging racks and professional sprayers to make painting dozens of doors and drawers go quickly.

KitchenBOX makes sure doors and drawers are painted in a professional spray booth.  The product simply turns out much better.  A painter can attempt to replicate this set-up in a garage, but that in itself leads to hours of plastic install, taping and cleaning.

Step 3: Preparation is Critical

“Prepping” cabinets simply means getting them ready to paint.  Prepping includes caulking, setting protruding or flush nails, filling nail holes, sanding wood surfaces, cleaning thoroughly to remove dust or oils, and protecting non-painted surfaces with tape and paper.

Prepping is one facet of cabinet painting that is often overlooked.  That’s a shame, for it’s the difference between a professional finish and amateur finish.

A few notes regarding preparation:

  • We caulk even the most minor gap or crack, as it will show through even more once painting is completed.
  • We sometimes caulk after priming.  Sometimes waiting until after priming makes seeing gaps and cracks a bit easier.
  • We only use quality caulk and nail fillers compatible with oil-based primer and a latex paint.  We find that the store-brand caulking from the major paint suppliers like Kelley-Moore is much better than the more expensive, big-brand caulking.

Her’s an example of properly prepared cabinets. Caulked, sanded all surfaces protected from over-spray.

Step 4  – Priming

Priming is the process of applying a base-coat of material to the cabinets to make it ready for the final coats of paint.  Primer and paint are not the same thing by any means.  Primer is stronger, typically white (it can be tinted by your paint store if you are applying a dark final paint) and should be oil-based for cabinets.

Primer, like paint, should be applied using an airless sprayer.  Such a sprayer can be purchased for about $300 for an amateur-grade set or about $1,000-$1,500 for a professional rig.  Cabinets with a heavy grain, like oak, may require two coats of primer, or “back-rolling” the primer after application.  “Back-rolling”  is using a roller to fill in the deep grain immediately after spraying.  You can also “back-brush” to accomplish a similar result.

After priming, we let the cabinets dry. Next, using a light-grit sand paper (200 or so) we lightly sand the primed surfaces until they are smooth.  We certainly don’t sand hard enough to remove primer back to bare wood.  That defeats the purpose!  Lastly, we use a damp cotton cloth to clean all dust from the surfaces.

Priming in process. Oil-based primers produce fairly strong fumes, so be sure to use proper respiration equipment.

On a separate project, you can see the freshly primed cabinets. Note the dark tinting on this primer; these cabinets ended up a dark brown, called Oxford Brown.

Step 5 – Painting

Wow, that’s a lot of work to get to the step that makes all the difference, you say!

Well, yes it is.

But without properly approaching the first 4 steps, the 5th step looks terrible.

Now that we have clean, sanded, beautifully-primed cabinets, doors and drawers, it’s time to lay on two coats of paint.  We use Kelly-Moore Dura-poxy paint for cabinets.  It dries harder than standard latex paint, is water-based to reduce fumes, and comes in any Kelly-Moore color.  It costs a bit more than standard latex paint, and a lot more than the lesser brands of paint, but we find it to be well-worth the price.

Once again, we apply paint using an airless spray rig.  This time, no back-rolling or back-brushing is needed.  We apply two good costs, making sure to keep the spray gun moving quickly to avoid drips and runs.

These cabinets have just been painted Antique White.

Step 6 – Transporting the Doors and Drawers

Assuming the drawers and drawers were taken to a paint booth for spraying, we very carefully move the freshly-painted door and drawers.  It can take 7-14 days for the Durapoxy to reach full strength, and dings or scratches at this point are very challenging to fix.

We transport all doors and drawers laying flat in a covered trailer with blankets separating each door and drawer.  And we only move them after they’ve had 3-5 days of dry time.

Step 7 – Reinstalling

It goes without saying, but great care is taken when re-installing doors, drawers and hardware.  A little dust or dirt don’t hurt; the new paint wipes clean with just water and a clean cotton rag.  We start the re-install at the top cabinets and work our way down.  This reduces the chance of scratching or dinging a painted surface below.

So there you go.  These are the seven steps kitchenCRATE uses in turning those dingy 1980’s cabinets into modern marvels.

Are you next?

Perhaps you’re wondering if kitchenCRATE is right for you.  Perhaps you like the layout of your kitchen and the cabinets are in good condition, but you are ready for a completely new look and feel.  KitchenCRATE can make this happen in just a few days and for an amazingly-low price.

Just click here to schedule your phone consultation using our on-line scheduling system.  Or feel free to call us direct during business hours at 888-995-7996!

Scott Monday is co-founder and CEO of kitchenCRATE and bathCRATE. Follow him on Facebook or Linked-In.