Painting old cabinets

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Forum topic by mcoyfrog posted 04-22-2014 06:45 PM 1701 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4145 posts in 3622 days

04-22-2014 06:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I have this kitchen I need to give a quote on and they want me to make some new doors, fix some old doors and paint it all. I don’t have any kind of setup for spraying paint but they want a nice flat finish.

My question is Can you paint in place cabinet boxes with brush, roller, rag etc. and get a really nice smooth glass finish?? maybe with sanding in between then finish off with some sort of clear wipe on protector or something.

I’m just looking to see if I can do this or if I should just have him hire someone else to do the painting part.

Any tips, tricks, paint brands, etc. will be much appreciated.

Thanks for the help

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

14 replies so far

View NIS240SHU's profile


8 posts in 1549 days

#1 posted 04-22-2014 07:12 PM

Since this seems to be your first time doing this, I have a suggestion.

Take a couple of scrap pieces of wood and finish them the way you think your customer wants. Then take it to them and get their approval before moving forward. This will save you from doing a lot of work and still not having the customer happy. Set the expectations now while it’s still easy.

This will also allow you to more easily price the job since you can figure more easily how much work the desired finish will take.

Also, you may be able to buy some spray equipment if you get the job.

Good luck!


View doitforfun's profile


199 posts in 1635 days

#2 posted 04-22-2014 07:23 PM

I did exactly that recently. And the cabinets were filthy with grease. Benjamin Moore sells a paint for these jobs.

As always, better prep gets better results. We cleaned the kitchen grease with mineral spirits and primed with bin, which sands nicely. Everything was rolled on in place and brushed in corners the roller couldn’t reach. Only the doors were removed. It came out nice. It’s not going to look like lacquer but it does work better than I expected. It was for a rental property.

-- Brian in Wantagh, NY

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

5000 posts in 2521 days

#3 posted 04-22-2014 07:42 PM

Excellent advice above, all of it. But after you get their go ahead, the prep of a thorough cleaning can’t be overstated. Using the BIN (the shellac based kind) will help ensure that any contamination problems will be minimized. Old cabinets will have all sorts of it that’s just waiting to ruin your finish. I suggest you skip the clear coat you’re planning, a good quality paint like that above will be plenty. Are you doing the interior of the cabinets?

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3613 days

#4 posted 04-22-2014 07:44 PM

I have found painting used furniture often produces poor results. It is really down to preperation and the paint or undercoat and paint involved.I really like enamel paint and usually do my older machinery with this mixed to the colour I like to use.I have however never personally used it on furniture, though but have been assured it does work well.The stuff for furniture seen here and shown by Brian , looks to be good imho Have fun Alistair ps take your time.

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2239 days

#5 posted 04-22-2014 08:04 PM

On that can of paint I think I can make out ….hane, as in Urethane. Am I correct?

I would recommend sticking with an high quality oil base paint, as it levels smoother than latex and will prove much more durable for the long term. Also, the skinny foam rollers leave a really smooth finish. For faster work, use the brush and roller together. On each cabinet, roll the insides, then touch up with a brush what the roller couldn’t reach, then roll the brush marks smooth.

Keep in mind that you’re going to have to prop up the doors somewhere while they dry. You’d be surprised how much space you’ll need for this. I try to set up a space in the basement or other low traffic area specifically for painting the doors and letting them dry.

Also consider HOW you’re going to prop the doors for drying, since all the edges are going to have wet paint on them. I have taken long 1×2 strips and drove finish nails through them, laid them horizontal with the nails pointing up so the edge of the door can rest on the point of the nail. I have also predrilled and tapped the nail directly into the edge of the door, two in the top edge and two in the bottom edge. that way the nails also serve as handling points to move the doors around while painting them.

Can you tell I’ve done this a few times? :D

Do not use a clear coat finish… the paint is the finish.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View guitchess's profile


85 posts in 3736 days

#6 posted 04-22-2014 08:05 PM

My $.02 are as follows:

In addition to the excellent advice about prep already given, I recommend Sherwin Williams Super Paint. It has one of the highest solids count in the industry. I covers very well, and it flows out better than any other latex paint I’ve ever used(I’ve used a lot, fyi). I would almost compare its flow out to an oil based.

Having said that, if these cabinets see very much use, I would try to move away from paint. It is not durable enough for a heavy use cabinet. Of course, stepping away from paint pretty much mandates that you spray, so that may not be an option. To add durability, you could clear coat over the paint with a water based poly. This method also gives the finish more depth and a more professional look.

And finally, no brushed/rolled finish will ever be as smooth as a properly sprayed one. Furthermore, once you learn tricks to masking, spraying is much faster. For latex, I recommend checking out the airless paint sprayer from Harbor Freight. With a coupon, it could get you spraying for less than $200. They also have a pressure pot which is almost as good(must have a compressor), that would get you spraying air assisted for around $80. They have a quart size pressure pot also, but I have not tried it. It would be very easy to save $80 in labor compared to rolling and brushing.

View guitchess's profile


85 posts in 3736 days

#7 posted 04-22-2014 08:17 PM

“Do not use a clear coat finish… the paint is the finish.”

I hate to be one of “those guys,” but I’m going to have to start an argument over this one.

There is no consumer paint on the market that can handle anything over “light use” on cabinets. The average kitchen simply takes way to much abuse for paint alone to stand the test of time. If you’re ok with seeing wear marks in front of the sink and on the top edge of drawers, then go for it. However, a clear coat is an efficient means to add a significant life expectancy to your paint job.

While I’m at it, I might as well say this too. I do not recommend oil based paint in this instance because since this is not new wood, you will have a very good chance of adhesion problems. There is some chance that you won’t, but I wouldn’t bet my reputation on it. I do agree that oil based is the way to go on new wood.

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3164 days

#8 posted 04-22-2014 08:59 PM

I suggest you consider this stuff for cleaning the cabinets. I would also recommend letting this stuff dry and then wiping down the surfaces with a damp rag rinsed frequently in a bucket of clear water. With a bit of rubbing this stuff seemed to take off everything down to the paint.

But if you then have chips in the existing finish, those are probably going to show through unless you fill them with something. I have no advice for how to do that easily.

The Bin shellac primer seems to be recommended for previously-finished wood (Charles Neil’s new book, for example), so I’m using that to prime my interior doors.

If I were using a brush I would probably try Sherwin Williams ProClassic oil based. I have used their ProMar 200 oil based with good results on trim and cabinets, but I think the ProClassic is more highly regarded. If you have good brush technique either of these might work. Using an additive might also help.

In my current project I’m spraying bathroom cabinets on-site, and spraying oil-based finishes seems like a bad idea, so I’m going with water-borne finishes. Also, I’m going for bright white, and I’ve been told the water-borne finishes will yellow more slowly than the oil-based finishes. The recommendations I have gotten for a top coat are General Finishes Enduro White Pigmented Poly and Sherwin Williams ProClassic. The ProClassic is thick like a typical interior latex paint and was not so pleasant to spray. Actually, Sherwin-Williams has a pigmented water-borne finish rated for kitchen cabinets, but they said the only product available was a 5 gallon bucket in New Orleans (I’m in Houston). The Enduro poly was very easy to spray. Apparently it is common to use Enduro clear poly (1 or 2 coats) over the pigmented poly, but when I tried this the result was no longer bright white.

-- Greg D.

View guitchess's profile


85 posts in 3736 days

#9 posted 04-22-2014 09:10 PM

“But if you then have chips in the existing finish, those are probably going to show through unless you fill them with something. I have no advice for how to do that easily.”

Any chips will show through, so the best way is to sand them down to bare wood, feathering it back to unchipped finish. Then spot prime, sand, and then spot prime again. Basically, the same process they use in auto body. Hopefully, you don’t have a bunch of this to do.

View fredito's profile


27 posts in 3717 days

#10 posted 04-22-2014 09:18 PM

Have painted lots of cabinets for various remodels and such. I usually pull doors, put number behind hinge while they soak to clean if I’m reusing them. Degrease cabinets/ doors, Sand with 220, liquid sandpaper in hard to reach areas. I then use a foam hotdog roller with latex kilz. This usually takes 2-3 coats depending. If I have a grease spot showing through I spray it with oil based in a can (I know, big no no with oil over latex). Then I roll the bases and uppers put the doors and drawers lined up on 2×4s on saw horses and finish the backs then the fronts. I make sure I finish in the same direction with my foam roller so the sheen is consistent. Haven’t had any problems doing it this way. I have seen profession painters use oil based primers with latex finish. For me it’s easer and faster to roll then spray and deal with that clean up. Hope this helps

View papajon's profile


54 posts in 1839 days

#11 posted 04-23-2014 03:04 AM

A very timely thread as I am currently in the process of remodeling our kitchen and contemplating restaining or painting.

View Ted's profile


2873 posts in 2239 days

#12 posted 04-23-2014 04:36 AM

Guitchess, you won’t get any argument from me. I learn a lot from some of “those guys”. :)

I have had good success without using a top coat, but on the other hand I have not been back to see how the finish stood up a few years later. If top coat makes that much difference and gives a better look, I see no reason not to use it. Well, except maybe if the customer doesn’t want to pay the extra cost, of course.

I will argue the point about not using oil based paint on wood that’s not new. BIN primer will bond very well if the surfaces are properly prepared, and oil based paint will bond very well to BIN primer. And as you said, a good quality oil based paint is more durable than it’s latex equivalent.

Greg, good point about using liquid sander. I used it once to avoid sanding some rather complex trim and it worked very well—took the shine right out of it and made for a good bond for the new paint. However, the smell gave me a killer headache. For that reason, I have avoided using it and stuck with sanding sponges from then on. But it did work very well.

I fill chips with good ol’ Bondo. To my experience, sanding the chips smooth leaves a slight dip, which shows up especially when light is reflected off the surface. Some have trouble working with Bondo, but that usually because they mix too much at one time, and end up trying to use the last bit before it gets too thick. I don’t even open the can until all the chips are cleaned and ready to fill. Then I mix only what I can use in a few minutes. And don’t over-fill. Better to do 2 or 3 applications than having to sand down too much. Just a few swipes with a fresh sheet of #120 or #150 sandpaper should make it smooth enough to make it perfectly flush.

-- You can collect dust or you can make dust. I choose to make it.

View guitchess's profile


85 posts in 3736 days

#13 posted 04-23-2014 12:49 PM

Ted, I’m glad you didn’t take my argumentativeness as a personal attack. That is most definitely not how it was intended.

I have seen the wear results of a clear coat, and that is why I support their use. I will agree to the added material/labor costs, however, some of that cost can be offset by the topcoat offsetting the need for the highest quality paint under it.

When it comes to the look of the finish, I actually prefer a plain paint. The topcoat usually means that it has more gloss than I like.

I’m sure that the BIN primer would almost negate adhesion issues, but talk about added cost. That stuff is almost $50/gallon around here, not to mention the added cost of the oil based itself. Then add the cost of mineral spirits for clean up. By my local costs, this would add up to be way over what a top coat would be. I’ve never done any kind of durability comparison between oil based paint and water based poly, though.

One added thought. Since the OP seems like he/she may be a painting rookie, I tend to think he should stay away from the oil based, at least on a clients project. Oil based is, at least for a noob, harder to work with.

Plus, we may be over complicating this whole process.

I’ve never tried Bondo on a project. I’ve wanted to, but I was always nervous about adhesion and expansion/contraction issues. I take it you’re saying you’ve had none of these?

Sanding chips can leave depressions, but I was mainly referring to finish chips, not wood chips. Even if the cabs have 12 coats of finish on them, proper feathering with make them invisible. Wood chips are better served with filler, whether Bondo or something else.

View mcoyfrog's profile


4145 posts in 3622 days

#14 posted 04-24-2014 06:23 PM

WOW thats a lot of info, Thank you all so much for the response

I was going to talk with a few more paint pros locally then go to the client and let them know my findings with the thought that if I did the painting I would definitely do some sample pieces first, I even have some old painted chunks of baseboard from my own house I could do the entire process with.

Truthfully I don’t really like painted cabinets, (being a wood guy I can’t stand covering up the beauty of grain) but thats what they want to do and they believe that will be cheaper up front then new cabinets, depending on if I do the painting or have someone come in and spray it might not be the case LOL.

Again thank you all for the comments I will use it all while talking with the client about the choices they need to make.

-- Wood and Glass they kick (well you know) Have a great day - Dug

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