Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Update:  This was one of my first posts and is not extremely detailed.  I recently helped paint a friends cabinets, please read that post for a more detailed tutorial.  

I love painting kitchen cabinets. This was my fourth set. I think I started three days after we moved in, and with my newest method they were hanging back up one day later. White cabinets (Ben Moore Satin Aura in White Dove is what I used here) are classic, they brighten up the kitchen making it feel bigger, bright, and cheerful.

The first time I painted cabinets was in the weeks following our first home purchase.  I used the This Old House method.  I’m not sure that it was really This Old House’s method, but everything you see on their show is the most tedious, time-consuming, labor intensive way to do anything.  Those guys use no short-cuts or new technology, it’s excruciating.  So, for my first set of cabinets I used a mouse sander, deglosser, painted two coats of primer, letting each coat fully dry, sanding between, and recoating, and then three coats of paint, also letting each coat fully dry before sanding between every one and recoating.  It took me eight hours a day for two straight weeks.

After that I used a cabinet painting kit I bought at Home Depot, and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.  The paint has a weird texture to it-in a word, it’s crap.  They use poly-urethane when they should use poly-acrylic, so if you paint your cabinets white they have a yellow tinge after it dries.  It says “no sanding required”-which means they recommend scouring the cabinets in deglosser for hours on end. Sanding is one hundred times easier.  I didn’t put the name of the cabinet kit, but it’s the only one any hardware store sells, so you can probably guess.    (this photo is courtesy of Jason)

This time around, after reading through several blogs and forums, I ended up using the Benjamin Moore Aura on my cabinets, (in my Painting Molding post, I got into excessive detail about why this is my go to paint for projects like these, it’s pretty nerdy-prepare yourself).  For those of you who haven’t read that post, this paint hardens to an enamel-like hardness, meaning it’s very washable and doesn’t chip once it fully cures.  With any other paint you would have to use a semi-gloss or high gloss paint to get that level of performance on cabinets, both of which show dirt and imperfections more easily.  However, with the Aura, you can use a satin finish, so if your paint strokes aren’t perfect it won’t be visible.

Materials:
1. Drop Cloths
2. Shur-Line Paintbrush
3. Dish soap
4. Scrubbing Brush
5. Baby wipes
6. Benjamin Moore Satin Aura in White Dove
7. Sanding block-200 grit

First, I remove all the hardware from my cabinets and take the cabinets off the frame.  I lay my cabinets out on tarps, so that there is at least 2″ of space between them.

Then I clean both the cabinet frames and the doors with dish soap and water to get any grease off.  Dish soap cuts grease, so it’s a wonderful cleaner to remove oils from hands and grease that has built up from cooking.

My next step is sanding.  A mouse sander will make the work easier if your cabinets are very greasy, but it can be overkill, so if your cabinets are less than 10 years old or you clean them occasionally, I prefer a sanding block. Just sand until the glossy finish is no longer there.

The best thing about Benjamin Moore Aura is that it dries in an hour-be careful about drips because fast dry time means it’s harder to fix imperfections, but you can recoat in 60 minutes.  It took me about 4 hours a day for two days, and the cabinets were done.  Once you paint something, don’t go back over it with the brush if it has been more than 5 minutes, this paint dries so quickly that if you brush over something that’s already in the process of drying before the 1 hour dry time is finished, it starts to peel.

I like to paint with a Shur-line brush, professionals spray paint cabinets, but I don’t notice or mind the brush strokes.  This is a great brush for trim and I like it for cabinets too.  As I’ve said before, I never use blue tape.  I always paint with a good, fresh brush, meant for edging, and use a baby wipe to immediately clean any drips.
After:

This picture was taken after the countertops were done and we finished the backsplash.  Painting cabinets doesn’t make quite this dramatic of a transformation, but it brightens things up quite a bit!
A word to the wise-paint can take up to 30 days to fully cure-not that you can’t use your cabinets in that time, but just be gentler than you normally would.  If you don’t bump things into the cabinets or get them wet in the first month after painting, it will really help keep your paint from chipping.
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