Apr 27, 2012
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Painting Kitchen Cabinets

By: Scott Gibson (Page 1 of 7)

after photo of kitchen cabinetsPhoto: Geoffrey GrossColors for cabinets and walls that complement each other are more pleasing to the eye than dramatic color differences.

cabinets; before & afterPhoto: Geoffrey GrossThese site-built cabinets from the 1960s still had years of service ahead of them, but their look was outdated.

painted cabinetsTransformed by paint and new hardware, the cabinets now the focal point of a brighter, more welcoming kitchen.

Cleaning cabinets; surface prep before paintingTo paint the cabinets, painter Vytas Misenis, of Woodbury, Connecticut, starts with a wash to remove dirt and grease and ensure a good bond between the old surface and new paint.

sanding; surface prep for paintingSanding prepares the surface for a primer coat by removing any remaining surface grime and giving the old wood “tooth.”

removing doors before paintingMisenis will move these doors to the garage for prepping and painting, minimizing mess inside the house.

fill the holesFill nail holes and other defects, and then sand them smooth. You might need to put on a second application of filler after the primer has dried.

Cleaning the cabinetsAn orbital sander makes more dust but speeds up the job, and in the garage the extra mess doesn’t matter.

apply the primerPhoto: Geoffrey GrossAfter you have removed the sanding dust, apply the primer.

smooth topcoatA smooth topcoat is the reward for careful prep work. Misenis uses a high-quality natural-bristle brush and finishes with long strokes for a finished surface that doesn’t show brush marks.

Assaulted by everything from grimy hands to cooking grease, kitchen cabinets take a beating. And although cabinet replacement might be inevitable, you can buy some time by painting your cabinets.

Painting cabinets, especially if you do the job yourself, costs far less than outright replacement. Bargain-basement cabinets for a 10×12-ft. kitchen can easily top $5,000, not including the cost of installation or new counters, and your new cabinets may be of lower quality than the ones you’re getting rid of. Refacing cabinets, a process of veneering existing cabinet boxes and replacing doors and drawer fronts, is another option, but a top-notch refacing job starts at $3,500. The materials for painting (brushes, primer, paint) will cost about $200. Having a pro do the work will run at least $1,000, more if the painter insists on stripping all cabinets.

Be aware that even the highest-quality paint job can’t cure the evils of poor kitchen design or hide fundamental structural flaws in cabinets. Cheap cabinets grow especially frail with old age. Thin sides and backs, which are often veneered with vinyl paper, can peel or delaminate. Undersize particleboard cabinet bottoms or shelves sag or even break. Hanging rails, particularly on upper cabinets, might begin to pull loose.

Although you can replace doors and drawers, widespread structural problems such as these would render cabinets a bad bet for refinishing, or much of anything else. You would be better off replacing them. But if damage seems limited to worn surfaces, nicks and dings, paint can work miracles, especially when coupled with new cabinet hardware.

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