cabinet painting woes

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Forum topic by rut posted 04-17-2013 12:25 AM 2444 views 1 time favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 2349 days

04-17-2013 12:25 AM

This project has lasted a year. I built kitchen cabinets out of maple and painted them (I know, don’t get me started). I’ve had nothing but trouble trying to get the primer/paint to stick.

My prep is to sand with 220 and finish with 320 grit. I blow the dust off, wipe it down with a clean rag and use a graco truecoat airless sprayer to spray oil based primer. After two days I lightly sanded the primer smooth (it never seems to give a smooth finish) and then spray the latex paint (Pittsburgh Paints brand). It goes on smooth and dries nicely. Then you will see a spot not quite stuck down. It easily peels off, along with the rest of the paint in long sheets. The primer comes off also, nothing but bare wood (See pics).

I’m open to any suggestions as to why/how to get primer to stick to this wood. I’ve almost finished the whole project (3 doors remaining) but I’m not feeling great about the finished ones. They aren’t peeling but I’m wondering if it is just a matter of time.

22 replies so far

View seriousturtle's profile


101 posts in 3298 days

#1 posted 04-17-2013 12:42 AM

I’ve seen this happen when the wood has too much moisture in it. Then someone applies a finish, and soon after the moisture tries to leave the wood and bubbles off the finish. Did you check the wood with a moisture meter before finishing?

-- ~the turtle

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 3732 days

#2 posted 04-17-2013 12:48 AM

I feel for you. Has to be a real pain . . . . Not sure I can help any, but try to not sand to the 320 or even 220. If you have a good surface, the paint will stay. If its fine, the paint has nothing to stick to.

View kdc68's profile


2649 posts in 2244 days

#3 posted 04-17-2013 12:55 AM

+1 juniorjock’s advice…the primer needs a “tooth” ......sanding up to 120 (no higher than that) as a prep for primer should be fine….you can achieve the desired smoothness by sanding with fine sandpaper between subsequent coats of primer…that’s my $.02

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View OliverArts's profile


21 posts in 1833 days

#4 posted 04-17-2013 12:56 AM

My brother-in-law is a painting contractor and one thing I learn from him was to use oil base on kitchen cabinets. I just did a set of cabinets that were oak that were 20+ years old. Here’s what I did. Chemical strip and sand down to 320. Spray oil based kilz and finish was oil based gloss.

I did have some doors a few years ago where this happened to me (the primer lifting off). It was moisture (I was spraying outside during fairly humid weather…I bought them into my shop for a few days brushed them and had no problems.

Moisture can cause this.

-- Travis Oliver - Luthier and Furniture builder...Thanks dad and grandpa for teaching me how to build it and fix it

View OliverArts's profile


21 posts in 1833 days

#5 posted 04-17-2013 01:01 AM

Junior jock has a good point as well…too fine a surface can take the “tooth” out of maple

-- Travis Oliver - Luthier and Furniture builder...Thanks dad and grandpa for teaching me how to build it and fix it

View jumbojack's profile


1674 posts in 2591 days

#6 posted 04-17-2013 01:09 AM

Sand no higher than 150. Lay down a coat of primer, let it dry. Lay down another, sand l i g h t l y with 220. Spray a coat of your (wifes) favorite color. Hit em again. Let cure a minimum of four days. Fresh paint on fresh paint ie cab doors on the frames can be a sticky situation.

-- Made in America, with American made tools....Shopsmith

View rut's profile


62 posts in 2349 days

#7 posted 04-17-2013 01:52 AM

Thanks. I had thought the wood was too smooth (if that is possible). I was afraid if it wasn’t then the finish wouldn’t be smooth. I’ll go back to 150 and proceed as you recommend.

View kdc68's profile


2649 posts in 2244 days

#8 posted 04-17-2013 01:58 AM

rut...sanding between primer coats will achieve the desired smoothness…minimim two coats should do it.. then your ready for your latex

-- Measure "at least" twice and cut once

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 2328 days

#9 posted 04-17-2013 02:03 AM

The primer is unnecessary. The latex will prime and stick just fine by itself regardless of the smoothness or moisture level of the wood.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View OggieOglethorpe's profile


1276 posts in 2077 days

#10 posted 04-17-2013 02:08 AM

Since you have spray gear…

I’m a big fan of tinting water based “lacquers” with paint. Much tougher than paint, it dries in 20 minutes, and no sticking or “blocking” later.

Spray it just as you would the clear finish.

View NiteWalker's profile


2736 posts in 2544 days

#11 posted 04-17-2013 02:27 AM

What Barry said.
Crystalac, general finishes and target coatings all make white waterborne finishes.
I’ve used the crystalac whites in gloss and satin. Best results are after sealing the wood with zinsser sealcoat, otherwise it takes an extra couple of coats for complete coverage.

-- He who dies with the most tools... dies with the emptiest wallet.

View guitchess's profile


85 posts in 3676 days

#12 posted 04-17-2013 02:36 AM

Another vote for too fine of finish grit, especially since you used oil based primer. If you are going back to bare wood, I would agree with the 150 finest grit, but I would also recommend moving to water based primer. My favorite is Zinsser, This step would eliminate the possibility of it being a moisture issue. I used to be a pro oil based guy, but it is not as good as it once was. They’ve had to change too many things to be EPA compliant.

My oldest set of painted cabinets are only about 8 years old. The only issue they have is hand prints around knobs/pulls and greasy residue above the stove.

View pmayer's profile


1026 posts in 3032 days

#13 posted 04-17-2013 03:04 AM

While it is probably a good idea to refrain from finer grits, I can’t believe that this is the root cause of your problem in the severe situation that you are dealing with. I could see where a piece might be slightly more prone to chipping when the raw wood was sanded to a finer grit, but I don’t believe it would cause it to release in large sheets as is happening here. I am more suspicious of a moisture problem (whether from uncured primer or high moisture content in the wood itself) which would be expected to cause a problem like this.

-- PaulMayer,

View ,'s profile


2387 posts in 3514 days

#14 posted 04-17-2013 03:27 AM

I don’t think latex is a good choice for cabinetry. We paint a lot of cabinets for customers. We use lacquer based paints by ML Campbell. We spray it just as we would when using clear lacquer finish. The finish dries very hard, like automotive paint almost.

-- .

View rut's profile


62 posts in 2349 days

#15 posted 04-17-2013 12:24 PM

Wow! A lot of great suggestions here. I don’t think humidty was the problem as they were painted in dry sunny conditions (unless the wood itself has too much moisture. I don’t own a moisture meter so I don’t know).

Switch to tinted lacquer probably isn’t an option now that I’ve already done a lot of them (and so far it is holding up)

I have wondered if shellac based primer would adhere any better than the oil based. I have read that it is harder to sand (but not sure if that is true).

Regardless, I will try moving back to a lesser grit.

Thanks for all your replies.

showing 1 through 15 of 22 replies

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