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Painting your kitchen DIY

Painting your cabinets is absolutely possible on your own but there are steps involved that are very important. Read the steps below before starting. There is a process and it requires knowing what you are doing to have long lasting success. Don't think that you can just go run down and buy latex paint and start painting. :) Cleaning, scuff sanding, priming are all very important steps.

1. Remove hardware

2. Cleaning

4. Any repairs or filling in holes to do?

3. Scuff sanding

4. Priming

5. Painting

6. Sealing

There are so many options for what kind of paint to use. Personally, my favorite is chalk paint. I find the chalk paint gives me the least amount of issues and I love how versatile it is. It dries fast too which is a bonus. The Benjamin Moore Advance or the Sherwin Williams Pro Classic is great if you want that contemporary look. Clean and sleek. It is not very hard to use and levels out nicely. You have hundreds of colors to choose from. You don't have to worry about dealing with a sealant as those water borne alkyd paints requires none. Which is a HUGE bonus! The problem with those paints is they require more drying time, especially the BM one. Don't even bother using this in the summer in the South because the humidity will cause great drying issues. If you do another kind of paint like Behr paint, we recommend General Finishes High Performance sealers or Artisan Enhancements sealers or Modern Masters sealers. Remember though if you are putting wall paint on your cabinets then you are taking a risk with chipping. Those latex paints were made for dry wall, not for cabinets. So if you are putting wall paint on your cabinets the prep is even more important. General Finishes has a few sheen options and Artisan Enhancement has 2 sealer options. You will need to apply 4-5 coats because these are water based so they are not as tough as wax. I'm not a fan of the Polyacrylic from Minwax, but many people use it and like it. Do a test door to make sure the sealant is not going to cause yellowing. Just make sure you are working in the house in cool temperatures. The humidity is going to impact the sealant. Do all the messy work outside, like the cleaning and the sanding, but all the application of products should be inside. The AS wax won't really be affected from the humidity, but don't work in the hot sun. The wax will melt. Wax is very durable, very strong, but the drawback is that it is a lot of work! Also, I don't recommend spraying cleaners on the cabinets when they have wax. You want to wipe your cabinets with warm water if they are waxed.

BEFORE you start anything, make sure you are making the right decision about the color and the right kind of paint you are choosing. Painting your kitchen is a LOT of work so you want to make sure you take the time to decide on your color and style. Get some sample cabinet doors from the Habitat Restore and put some colors on there that you are thinking of using. Then put those doors in your kitchen and live with them for several days or better yet a couple weeks while you decide. Don't rush this decision.

Also, the cabinet doors are a good thing to practice on. Go through the whole routine of cleaning, scuff sanding, priming, etc. then painting so you can see the results. As far as style, what style do you want? If you want modern, sleek, crisp, then I would choose the BM Advance paint or the SW paints. If you like distressed/farmhouse/cottage style then you could go with the chalk paint or milk paint or any other furniture type of paint.

First, you want to remove all your doors and hinges. Label the doors as you take them down - for example, upper #1 left of stove, etc. Label this on a piece of tape and put on doors. (Where you set up your doors to do all the painting, that is where you will put the tape when you need to paint the doors). Leave the hinges and screws where you took them off, in ziploc bags. That way you won't lose them and they will fit to the doors they belong to when you put the doors back on.

Second, you want to make sure you prep your cupboards very well. This is very important! We can't stress that enough! Use a good grease cutting cleaner like Krud Kutter (click for my affiliate link) or you can use TSP. Something that has good cleaning abilities. If you have quite a bit of build up of grease then scrub those areas with baking soda. Rinse the baking soda off when done. After that then clean with a denatured alcohol/water mix. Once you have finished with the degreasing and scrubbing, wipe it all down with warm water to get rid of that residue. Also if you are using different methods like I do, rinse in between all the methods. Make sure all the doors are totally dry before the next step. Don't just clean quickly, you want to make sure you are scrubbing off all the grease and build up. A good rinse is needed to make sure you are not leaving any cleaning residue before painting.

Any repairs to do or filling in of holes? Do that now.

Third is sanding (unless you are working on raw wood-then no scuff sanding needed as there is no lacquer to remove). Yes, in order to have the paint adhere well and last years, you have to sand. You want to get rid of that sheen that is on your cupboards. It just takes a light sanding. You are just doing a quick scuff sand so the paint will grab on to the surface. You are not sanding all the way down to the raw wood. I use 220 grit paper for the sanding. Just hold your sandpaper and quickly sand the doors. Obviously you need to work in a well ventilated area, outside or in the garage with your doors open. When you are sanding the kitchen bases try and have a window open. I recommend wearing a mask when sanding and eye protection. Sanding is very important as that opens up the wood/removed previous lacquer so the new products have something to grip too.

Fourth, vacuum up all the sanding with your shop vac or use an old paint brush to brush off the dust. I have a couple old, really large paint brushes I use just for all the dusting on the doors that I am working on outside. They work great to get off all the dust. For the inside bases, I use a shop vac. After you get rid of all the dust wipe everything down with a damp cloth. Then take a tack cloth to everything. The tack cloth will pick up what is left of any dust. You can buy the tack cloths at the large stores. They come in a small plastic wrapper and there are 3 in a bag. Now you are ready to paint.

Fifth, prime. Kilz or Zinsser BIN are good primers. (Here is my affiliate link for the one I use the most). If you are planning on distressing your cabinets then use the clear shellac. Two coats is usually enough. Any of the oil based or shellac based primers are good. You can also tint them sometimes. If you want it tinted then buy the can that says tintable. If you are using BM Advance then use their primer for that paint. You can tint the primer to match the cabinets. If you are using Chalk paint on NEW cabinets then you should not need to prime. Only if the cabinets are new do you not have to prime. Priming helps your paint to adhere and last a long time. Priming also is a stain blocker/odor blocker/bleed through blocker. If you are using a wall paint on your cabinets then you most definitely should prime with something like BIN. Otherwise the paint will end up chipping. It is one more step that will help paint to adhere properly and to last years and years. Once your priming is done and dry you can start your painting. **Read below for bleed through issues**

PAINTING - In most cases you need 2 coats of paint. Sometimes 3, sometimes 4 (white). And how you paint depends on what kind of paint you use. And depending on the paint you use, you might have to sand in between your coats also.

Chalk Paint- here is the thing with Chalk Paint though - practice first. Please read my blog on painting a kitchen with chalk paint. I go in to detail there. If you have never painted with chalk paint you need to practice on a door first (and read this blog on chalk paint). Get some old wood or better yet go to Habitat and buy a cupboard door there. Chalk paint dries very fast. As you are laying it down, it is drying. So you cannot go over and over your strokes like you can when you are using wall paint. It will be a mess. Also, you tend to see brush strokes with chalk paint. You can use small rollers with chalk paint and good ones to use are velour/mohair or the sponge ones. With chalk paint we sand in between the coats to smooth out all the brush marks and roller marks. Do this all outside with your doors as it will make a huge mess of paint dust (wear a mask). It is a lot of work but the sanding is important if you want a smoother look. Also one way to help eliminate brush marks is water. Read the above blogs posts on painting with chalk paint where I explain. Adding water helps smooth everything out.

**Once you finish your first coat of paint, this is when the bleed through will show if you have any bleed through. You need to apply 2 coats of shellac to that area before continuing on. Or the BIN shellac primer**

BM Advance Paint - it needs much more drying time in between coats. Let the first coat sit for at least 24 hrs before putting on the 2nd coat. If you are painting where it is really humid, that makes the drying time longer. I DO NOT recommend painting your kitchen with BM Advance in the summer with high humidity. The humidity will cause problems. It is best to paint in a controlled area if you can. Around 70 degrees works well. Just remember all the factors like rain, heat, humidity does play a part in how the paint lays down and the drying time. Benjamin Moore Advance paint kind of acts like an oil based paint. You just need to give it way more drying time. Lay your paint down with a low nap roller, (here are the good rollers I like from my affiliate) or a sponge roller, lightly on the first coat, and also brush. You want to make sure you have very good brushes. Invest in them. Roll on the door then feather brush in one direction, over the rolling, to smooth it all out. Do this technique with all coats. Or just use a large brush for large areas. Once you have painted one side and it is nice and dry, flip the door (always do the back side of a door first) and now do the front. Once you are done the front and it is all totally dry, hang the door back up. If you leave it sitting too long it will get marked up from what it is drying on. I set the doors on those little yellow pyramids. But they will leave marks if you leave them sitting on them too long. BM Advance paint needs at least 2 coats. The lighter colors sometimes need 3 coats. This paint is very finicky because of the drying issues. This paint is known to take a long time to fully cure, sometimes a couple months. That doesn't mean you can't use your kitchen, it just means you need to be careful for a couple months handling them.

Once you are done with the painting, you will need to seal everything. If you are using the Benjamin Moore Advance paint or the SW Pro Classic, you don't need to seal. They have a built in sealer. That's why people like that paint! If you are using chalk paint or any other furniture paint, you can seal with wax or use the General Finishes High Performance topcoat or Artisan Enhancement topcoat or Modern Masters sealers. If you are using GF sealant I use 4 coats at least. If you wax use 2-3 coats of wax. Let your first coat of wax sit for 24 hrs before putting on your second coat. Remember kitchens are high traffic areas with lots of food and water splatter and grease so you want to make sure all your hard work in prepping and painting is going to last! Any of those sealants can also be used on top of Behr paint (except wax).

WHITE PAINTING - White is the hardest color to work with. The only sealer I totally trust to not yellow pure white is Annie Sloan clear wax. Many people don't want to use wax though in the kitchen. So then I recommend a paint that does not need a sealer. Use the BM Advance paint or Sherwin Williams enamel paints for cabinets. Sealers are the issue when using white so just eliminate that problem and use one of the waterborne alkyd paints that don't require you to seal.


Read here about painting your cabinets with chalk paint.

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