Paint Kitchen Cabinets

Paint kitchen cabin cabinets - Ikea Tidaholm dark oak cabinets painted white.
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Paint Kitchen Cabinets Yourself

When planning our kitchen remodel of the cabin, we wanted to continue the our cozy, cottage theme and planned for light or white colored cabinets.  We also planned to save a few bucks and purchase them from Ikea. Unfortunately, we didn’t like any of Ikea’s stock white cabinet doors — all were gloss finished synthetic or fiberboard. We were hoping for something rustic and something wood.

Eventually, we decided to purchase the Ikea Tidaholm oak cabinet doors in the only color in stock at the time, dark brown, and paint them white.

Ikea Tidaholm oak doors after painting showing soft matte finish with retained oak grain pattern.

Finished cabinets after painting. Notice soft, luster finish with retained grain pattern from original Ikea Tidaholm oak doors.

The method we used to paint the cabinets was simple — spray can primer and brush applied oil finish.  You can certainly have them professionally sprayed, but by taking your time, using high quality paint and a few tricks, you can do it yourself and obtain a very high quality, professional finish for your cabinet doors.  Read on for a step by step how to paint kitchen cabinets yourself.

This how-to walks you through the steps to paint your kitchen cabinets or cabinet doors.  In this instructional, we just painted the doors, but you can apply the same steps to painting the cabinet boxes as well.  If you are planning on painting your entire cabinet, remove the doors and paint them as below, and paint the cabinet enclosures in place using the same techniques.

 

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets – Overview

Preparation and Materials

Project Overview

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Time: Days – Weeks
  • Cost: $100 – $200

Project Big Picture

  1. Prep kitchen.
  2. Remove doors and hardware.
  3. Create painting area.
  4. Painting prep.
  5. Prime.
  6. Finish.
Materials – Paint and supplies
Item What I used Cost
Finish Paint Satin Impervo Alkyd Low Lustre Paint $75 / gal
Brush Primer Zinsser B-I-N 1-qt. White Shellac Interior and Spot Exterior Primer and Sealer (6-Pack) 00904 $15 / qt
Spray Primer Zinsser B-I-N 13 oz. White Primer/Sealer (6-Pack) 01008 $12 / can
Paint Additive Flood Penetrol $15-$20 / ea
Denatured Alcohol Klean-Strip SLX denatured alcohol (primer solvent / cleaner) $8 / qt
China Bristle Brush Corona China Bristle and Ox-Ear Hair Blend 2″ Sash $8 / qt
4″ mini roller frame Wooster 4 in. Mini-Koter Frame 00R0120040 $4 / ea
4″ foam mini roller pads Wooster 4 in. Mini-Koter Pro Foam Rollers (2 Pack) 00R2280040 $7 / 2
Sanding Sponges 3M Pro Grade Fine Sanding Sponges (6-Pack) 24101F $3.5 / ea
Microfiber Cloths Bona Microfiber Cloths $15 / 3pc
Tack Cloth 3M Tack Cloth $3.5 / ea
Polishing Compound Cyclo Industries Polishing Compound $20 / can
Tools / Supplies
Item What I used Cost
Work Table    
Drop Cloth Cardboard and newspaper  
Vacuum ProTeam HEPA Backpack Vacuum $200 – $500

How to Paint Kitchen Cabinets - Step by Step

  1. Pick a quiet, clean spot to work.  The location should have a table or similar to allow you to spread out the cabinet doors and should be relatively free of dust and debris that could compromise the finish of the paint.
    Prep table for painting kitchen cabinet doors.

    A work table set up in the garage for the project.

  2. Thoroughly clean the work space.  Create a dust-free environment by cleaning and vacuuming the floor, walls,  table and surrounding areas.  Cover the table surface with newspaper, drop cloth, cardboard or other covering to prevent damage from paint over spray and drips.
  3. Assemble required supplies, tools and paint.  You will need prep materials including a sanding block, rags, tack cloth, a primer paint and a finish coat paint. I used an alcohol (shellac) based primer — Zinsser® B-I-N — for its fast drying, high coverage qualities. The alcohol base also provides excellent “bite” and adhesion. For the finish, I used Benjamin Moore’s® Satin Impervo® oil (alkyd) paint.  I cannot stress enough the importance of using high quality paint if you want high quality results.  To the Impervo, I added Penetrol® paint additive by Flood to improve paint flow and finish leveling.
    Shellac based primer Zinsser's B-I-N used to prime kitchen cabinet doors.

    Shellac based primer Zinsser® B-I-N.

  4. Remove cabinet doors and assemble in work space. If painting existing, in place cabinets and doors, remove and paint the doors first.  Prior to removing doors, mark the doors in a hidden area (back) and make a diagram of there location before removal.  Save hardware in zip lock bags or similar for reassembly.  Move doors to work area.
  5. Lightly sand the cabinet doors.  Using a medium to fine sanding sponge or similar (I used a 3M fine grit sanding sponge), working in the direction of the wood grain sand the surfaces of the cabinets.  Use care not to round off edges when sanding. If the cabinet doors you are painting are not new, be sure to thoroughly clean the surface of the doors prior to sanding.  Use a solvent based de-greaser if the cabinet doors have been in service for some time, as kitchen cabinet doors tend to accumulate oily deposits.
    Cabinet door after initial sanding.

    Clean, sand, and prep surface of cabinet doors prior to applying primer coat of paint.

  6. Remove dust and sanding residue. Use an alcohol dampened microfiber cloth to wipe away residue sanding dust.  Finish the cleaning process with a clean tack cloth.
  7. Re-Clean work space and apply first coat of primer. Prior to painting, it is a good idea to vacuum the work space and work surface to remove residual dust from the sanding process.  Once the work area is clean, arrange the clean, sanded cabinet doors for application of the first primer coat of paint. For primer application I found using spray can formulation of the Zinsser BIN primer to provided easier application and better results compared to brush application.  As always, with spray applications of paint, it is preferable to apply several lighter coats of paint rather than one heavy coat. I sprayed one side at a time, allowed to dry for one hour, then sprayed the opposite side. Once both sides were covered, I allowed the doors to dry overnight before applying a second coat.
  8. Apply second primer coat. After drying overnight, each door was very lightly sanded to remove any high primer spots. After sanding, I again used an alcohol dampened microfiber cloth to remove sanding dust and finished the clean up with a tack cloth.  I then applied a second coat of primer to each side, allowing each side to dry for an hour before painting the next. Once both sides were covered with the second coat, I allowed the doors to again to dry overnight before starting the finish coat application.
    Sanding second coat of primer with 3M fine sanding sponge.

    Lightly sanding after second coat of primer.

    After the second coat of primer, I again lightly sanded the primer and cleaned with a microfiber cloth, followed by a clean tack cloth.

    Removing sanding dust from primed kitchen cabinet door with tack cloth.

    Take time to thoroughly remove sanding dust using tack cloth.

  9. Prep work area for finish coat. To obtain a smooth, dust free finish, it is important to work in a dust free environment.  Spend some time again cleaning the work area prior to applying your finish coat of paint.  Once everything was clean, use a tack cloth to ensure the surface of the work table and cabinet doors are free of dust.
  10. Apply finish coat of paint. For the finish, I used Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo Alkyd low-luster paint.  This paint is expensive ($75 + / gallon), but it is an exceptional paint that has excellent leveling qualities.  Beware that this is an oil based product and lighter colors may yellow with time.
    Finish paint for the cabinets - Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo.

    Finish paint for the cabinets – Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo.

    Prior to applying the finish coat, I added the paint additive Penetrol to help provide a smooth finish without brush marks. Penetrol is a petroleum based solvent that when added to oil based paints lengthens drying time and helps level the finish.

    To keep the finish paint “stock”, I only added Penetrol to individual small batches mixed for each painting session.  Mix these batches in disposable plastic one pint containers, using a new container for each painting session to avoid dust and debris contamination.

    If you return any paint to the original can, pour it through a fine paint filter to remove any dust accumulated during use.

    Cabinet painting supplies for finish coat - 3 inch foam roller, high quality china bristle / ox hair brush and Benjamin Moore's Satin Impervo Alkyd paint in white chocolate.

    Ready to Finish: a Corona China bristle / ox hair brush, a high-quality foam roller, and Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo Alkyd in white chocolate with Penetrol added.

    To apply the finish coat of paint, first roll the paint on the door to obtain a uniform layer, then use a brush to level the finish.  When using the brush, I found that using a very low brush angle helped avoid brush marks in the finish.

    Finish coating the cabinet drawers by first rolling on a uniform coat of paint using the 3 inch roller.

    Applying an even coat of finish to the cabinet drawers using a small roller.

    Cabinet drawer finish coat back brushing.

    Finish coat application to the cabinet doors using Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo by first rolling then brushing the finish.

    After one side was finished, I lifted the door and carefully painted the edges.  Each coat of the Penetrol spiked Impervo needed at least 48 hours to dry, so I painted only one side at a time.I allowed the doors to dry resting flat to help prevent paint runs.  Once one side was dry, the doors were flipped and the opposite sides painted. The doors were then allowed to dry for several weeks.

  11. Lightly sand the first finish coat and apply a second coat (optional). Using very fine emery cloth or sanding block, very lightly sand the dry first finish coat to remove any dust contamination or surface irregularities.  Wipe clean with microfiber cloth and finish with tack cloth.  You can wipe the surface one more time with a clean microfiber cloth dampened with mineral spirits. Then, using the same techniques as the first finish coat, apply a second finish coat and allow to dry.
  12. Polish the finish (optional). I wanted a rather soft, matte finish, so after letting the final finish coat cure for several weeks, I very lightly polished the painted surface with polishing compound (Cyclo Industries No.7 white) and a soft cloth. I buffed the surface just to soften the finish and level the paint.  After polishing, I washed the doors thoroughly with soapy warm water. (Beware that this and many polishing compounds have a mild solvent odor that may take a few weeks to fade from the polished surfaces.)
    How to paint kitchen cabinets - finished cabinet doors, close up view.

    Mate finish of Benjamin Moore’satin impervo oil finish on kitchen cabinets.

     

 

If you are painting the doors and the cabinet bodies, follow the above sequence to paint the cabinet boxes in place.  Tape off and cover walls, counters, appliances and anything else at risk of getting splattered with paint.  Consider rolling or brushing on the primer instead of spraying if painting the cabinet bodies in place.  You may want to alternate door painting with cabinet body painting during drying periods.  Protect each area (door painting area and kitchen cabinet painting area) from sanding dust contamination from the other during prep periods.

 

Paint Kitchen Cabinets Image Gallery

Paint Kitchen Cabinets

6 comments

  • Ryan Hart May 28, 2013   Reply

    Thanks for sharing your step-by-step instructions. I think it’s interesting that you purchased new cabinets and then decided to paint them. It’s not the most common approach but the cabinets turned out great!

  • Cabin DIY May 29, 2013   Reply

    Hi Ryan,

    Thanks for the comments.

    We would have preferred to purchase cabinets finished in our desired color, but the stock offerings at Ikea in white were laminated particle board or some type of plastic resin — we wanted a rustic wood door.

    The Ikea oak Tidaholm doors seemed perfect, but were only offered in the dark brown-black that you see above.

    So, we painted them. This also allowed us to get the exact color to match the rest of the interior.

  • Shirley June 24, 2013   Reply

    Hi there, they look great! Thanks so much for the step-by-step instructions. We are about to paint our Tidaholm cabinets as well (like you, we bought them a few years ago intending to paint over them). How have the cabinets held up since you painted them? Any chips or peeling?

    • Cabin DIY June 24, 2013   Reply

      Hi Shirley,

      Thanks for the comments. The cabinets have been in service for around two years and have held up very well. No chips, peeling or other issues with the paint. I would highly recommend the products we used and for sure would use them again.

      • Shirley August 17, 2013   Reply

        I just saw your reply… Thanks so much – very reassuring! We will probably end up posting our painted cabinets on our occasional blog after we’re done (hopefully sometime in the next month or two, but I’ve also got to get my husband on board the time frame…), and when we do I will be sure to link to you. Thanks again!

        • Cabin DIY August 18, 2013  

          Great, I would love to see your photos of the completed project.

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