Painting Kitchen Cupboards - Top Tips & Mistakes to Avoid!

November 26, 2020

Painting kitchen cupboards that have become old or faded can really improve the overall look of your kitchen. It's amazing how much a fresh coat of paint can transform your room. However, sometimes people fall into the track of thinking that painting kitchen cupboards will be a very quick and simple D.I.Y. task. Like any painting and decorating job, you need to give yourself enough time to thoroughly prepare and complete the project.

Thankfully, there are several tips and tricks that can help you to create beautifully restored kitchen cabinets. So, read on to discover the quickest and easiest methods for painting kitchen cupboards. As well as explaining what you should do, we'll also explain what the most common painting mistakes are, and how you can avoid them.

6 Top Tips for Painting Kitchen Cupboards

Remove all handles from kitchen cupboards

1. Remove All Handles and Tape Around the Kitchen Cupboards

First of all, make sure that you remove any handles and knobs from the cupboard door. This will make it far easier for you to paint the whole surface without having to paint around obstacles.

Why make life harder for yourself than it has to be? Removing the handles from your kitchen cupboards before you begin will speed up the painting process. It will also ensure that you have a smooth, even finish.

Some people choose to remove the cupboard doors before they begin painting. However, usually, you don’t need to do this before you start painting. In fact, often it’s better to paint doors when they are still attached to the rest of the cupboard.  This is because you can paint both sides of the door without waiting for one side to dry. It also means that you won’t have to struggle with reattaching the doors once you have finished painting.

For this project, painter’s tape is vital. Use the painter’s tape to create a border around the edges of your cupboards. This barrier will help you to protect your walls. TSP, primer and oil based paint can be a nightmare to remove if you accidentally get them on your walls. So, be on the safe side, tape around your cabinets and cupboards before you paint.

Sand down your cupboards

2. Sand Down Your Cupboards

Usually, if you kitchen cupboards have been painted before, you will need to sand them down before you repaint them. Make sure that you choose the right sandpaper. You don't want to damage the cupboard. So, a 120 to 220 grit sandpaper, which is fairly fine, will work well. Using a fine sandpaper will smooth any imperfections and buffer the surface. Your paint will go on much more smoothly once your cupboards have been sanded.

Often, kitchen cabinets and cupboards will have grooves and ridges that are tricky to sand. Luckily, there's a cheap and easy solution to this problem. Take a dry sponge and wrap sandpaper around it. This sponge will allow you to get into tight corners and ridges easily. For the best results, work slowly and don't sand the surface too vigorously.

Unsurprisingly, sanding creates a lot of dust. Always wear a face mask while you are sanding wood. You will also need to wipe away any dust and loose particles with a damp cloth once you are finished.

Use TSP to Remove Grease

3. Use TSP to Remove Grease

Over time, your kitchen cupboards and cabinets are likely to attract a layer of grease. If you don’t degrease your cupboards before you start painting, your paint will struggle to stick to the surface. Luckily, it’s relatively simple to solve this problem. All you need to do is apply a degreasing solution to the surface. White spirit works well, as does sugar soap.

Professional painters love using TSP to prep a surface for painting. TSP, or trisodium phosphate, is a very strong solution. It is perfect for degreasing surfaces and removing shine quickly. Using TSP will prepare your surface really well, and it will help the paint to key into your cupboard.

To prepare the solution, use 1/4 a cup of TSP to every gallon of water.  Use a sponge to apply it to the surface in long strokes from the bottom to the top. The sponge should be damp, not soaking wet. Don’t scrub the surface too vigorously. Allow the TSP to soak into the surface for at least two minutes. Afterwards, you will need to wipe the surface again with clean water.

If you do use TSP, you need to be very careful. Ideally, you should wear gloves, goggles, and a face mask when you handle TSP.

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Apply a Wood Primer

4. Apply a Wood Primer

Before you can begin to start painting, you will need to add an appropriate primer to your surface. Primer is important for a variety of reasons. It maintains the integrity of your paint and it will stop the wood grain from showing through. However, buying primer can be confusing. There are so many options on the market that all do different jobs.

So, what type of primer works best on kitchen cupboards? Shellac based primers are often recommended for this type of job. This is because shellac primers are the quickest to dry. The first coat under normal conditions should take just 45 minutes to dry. Shellac based primers are also great at covering up the grain and knots in the wood.

You can use a paint roller or a paint brush to apply the primer. To be on the safe side, you should use two coats of primer before you apply your top coat. It’s a good idea to lightly sand the cupboard in between each coat of primer and paint. This will leave you with a professional finish. Always make sure that you allow your primer to totally dry before you move onto your top coat.

How to Choose the Right Paint

5. How to Choose the Right Type of Paint

Finally, your kitchen cupboards are sanded, cleaned, and primed. You are now ready to start painting. When you are painting kitchen cabinets, it’s vital that you think about the finish of the paint. Otherwise, you may well find yourself repainting the cabinets again very soon.

Matte and eggshell paint won’t work well on kitchen cabinets. In a kitchen setting, you want something that you can easily wipe and clean. You are much better off exploring gloss and satin options. These paints will last longer and look better than matte paints. They are hard wearing paints, which is important for a kitchen.

Think very carefully about the colour of the paint that you choose when you are painting kitchen cupboards. Cabinets and cupboards tend to be a very prominent part of any kitchen. So, a bright colour will really stand out. Make sure that you are confident with your colour choice before you start to paint the whole cupboard. You can do this by painting a small patch of the cupboard and leaving it for a week or so. This will allow you to live with the colour and decide whether you want to commit to it.

Perfect your painting technique with the right paint brush

6. Perfect Your Painting Technique

Painting isn’t too tricky, but perfecting your technique requires practice. The key thing to remember is that you need to go slowly. Rushing will only create messy, imperfect results. Drips and splashes are also much more likely if you try to go too quickly.

First of all, you need to use the right paint brush. An angular sash brush is perfect if you are working on a cupboard or a cabinet with grooves. It allows you to get right into the edges and paint in a straight line. Be careful not to overload your brush when you put it into the paint. If you have too much paint on your brush at one time, you will leave behind drips.

Hold your brush firmly and apply the paint in long, even strokes, from top to bottom. Typically, for jobs such as this one, you will need to apply two coats. Wait for the coat underneath to dry before you attempt to add any more paint. If necessary, you can sand in between coats. However, you may not need to. You are now ready to remove the tape surrounding your cabinets.

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4 Top Mistakes to Avoid

1. Not Leaving Enough Time to Complete the Job

When you are painting kitchen cupboards, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that it will be a very short task. After all, kitchen cupboards tend to be quite small. Surely it won’t take as long as painting a wall, right? Well, it’s important to remember that your kitchen cabinets are not a smooth surface. So, different sections are likely to dry at different rates.

There are several important steps to successfully painting kitchen cupboards, including sanding, priming, painting and drying. Each step is vital if you want to create beautifully restored kitchen cabinets. This is not a D.I.Y. job that should be relegated to a single afternoon. You should really set aside three or four days to completely restore your kitchen cupboards. This will ensure that you have ample time between each stage for the cupboards to dry and set before moving onto the next stage.

Not sure you'll have time to paint your kitchen cupboards? Submit a free request and get bids from top local painters.

2. Using the Wrong Primer

As you’ve probably realised by now, applying primer before you begin to paint is vital. However, using the wrong primer can be just as bad as using no primer at all.

Oil based primers penetrate the wood really well, which means they are hardwearing. However, they also stay very rigid. Over time this can mean the primer weakens the bond between the topcoat and the surface. So, choosing a more flexible primer will stop you from running into issues later on.

Most D.I.Y. jobs need to be completed as quickly as possible in order to minimise the disruption to your home. This is why you opting for a shellac based primer is a good idea. It dries very quickly, so you can carry on with your painting project with ease.

3. Choosing the Wrong Paint

Choosing the wrong paint can make or break any D.I.Y. job. However, if you are new to painting, it can be really confusing. So, what exactly is the right paint for painting kitchen cupboards? Oil based paint will give you a smooth, even finish. However, it does take longer to dry than water-based paint. So, make sure that you factor this in when you are planning how long the project will take.

When you use oil based paint, make sure that the kitchen is well ventilated. Oil based paint can produce a strong odour. Keep all doors and windows open for as long as you can while it dries. Alternatively, you can use water-based paint, which smells less intense. However, you will need to make sure that you have totally degreased and primed the door, otherwise, the water-based paint won’t stick.

4. Working with Uneven Surfaces

Working on a smooth surface is the easiest way to get the best results. This is where the importance of proper sanding comes in. Yes, it might be tedious, however, sanding is vital. You might think that you can just sand your kitchen cupboard at the beginning.

The best practice is to sand in between every coat, no matter what. Even if you think the surface looks smooth, adding paint to it may reveal bumps and grains that you weren’t expecting. Sanding in between coats of primer and paint allows the next coat to properly bond to the surface.

Sanding isn’t very fun or exciting, but it will stop your paint from peeling over time. You can save yourself a lot of time in the future by doing the hard work now as you go along.

Are you considering additional kitchen upgrades to painting your kitchen cupboards? Find out more information about how much a new kitchen costs here and get set for a fabulous new kitchen!

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