3 P's - A Tutorial On Painting Cabinets

Prepping, Priming, and Painting...the three important things you need remember and to stick to when revamping cabinets.  This past week I spent about two hours a day working through each of these P's to get the sleek lookin' master bathroom cabies we've got right now.  In this post, I'll go through the hows, whats, whys, and even wheres in case anyone else feels the motivation to take on some cabinets.  :)


 Process Numero Uno:  Prepping
Step 1:  Remove all doors and drawers, hinges and hardware.
Step 2:  Sand.
Our cabinets had a dull-with-time polyurethane coat on them that had to be removed before any priming and painting was to begin to ensure the best adhesion.  To remove said coat, I sanded down each drawer and door until the sheen was gone.  I took it outside so that I didn't have to worry about sawdust making it's home in our casa.  I must also mention how blessed we are to have friends who let us borrow this beauty of an electric palm sander, saving my hands and arms from back and forth sanding doom.  
Using medium grit sandpaper, I quickly went over each piece, making sure I sanded just enough to take off the dull sheen of poly.  I also made sure to sand both the fronts and backs.  I thought I'd have to do another once-over with a light grit sandpaper, but found that after the medium grit, the cabinets were as smooth as babies cheeks, so I skipped that step.  To sand inside the routed square, my fingers and some sand paper were the best option since the electric sander wouldn't quite fit. 

Step 3:  Clean.
After the entire piece I was working on was smooth and poly-free, I simply brushed off the sawdust and wiped it down with a damp cloth, then moved on to the next piece.

Doors and drawers down, frame to go.

Step 4:  Sand the cabinet frame.
The process of removing the poly from the frame was very similar, however, there was no way of doing it outside.  For this step, I simply attached the sawdust canister to the palm sander and went to town.  (Side note:  If you're using a plain sheet of sandpaper without holes like I did, you need to make sure you punch holes into the sandpaper once it's attached equivalent to where the holes on your palm sander are to make sure that the sawdust is sucked up and into the canister.  I simply attached the sandpaper and poked the end  of a scissors through the paper into the holes.)  After a quick sanding and wipe-down, the frame was ready to go:

Step 4:  Tape.
After laying out each door and drawer in our living room (a.k.a. workshop) atop a bed of old sheets to protect the floors from dripping, I completed the last step in the prepping process - taping.  I wanted clean lines around the backs of each drawer so I just stuck a layer of masking tape around the edges like so:



Process Numero Dos:  Priming

Step 1:  Oil-based primer.
To make sure no stains would seep through the finished paint, I first applied a thin layer of oil-based primer (Kilz), which is awesome at preventing stains.  Because I'm lazy mineral spirits (what you have to use to clean up oil-based anything) intimidate me, not to mention that we just don't have any, I used a sponge brush to apply this layer and then threw it away when I was finished.  :)
Here's what the frame looked like after this step:

Step 2:  Water-based primer.
This step really is optional, but I've found that applying two coats of primer means that you usually only need to apply one coat of paint instead of two or more, especially when you're dealing with going from dark to light (in this case, wood to white paint).  I already had the stain-blocking layer of oil-based so for my second coat, I opted for Bulls Eye water-based primer from Lowe's.  I used a paint brush (2 inch) to get into hard-to-reach-with-a-roller areas like the backs of the drawers:

and crevices and corners of the frame:

Then, to prime the flat surfaces I used a small foam roller in order to get the smoothest application.

(Important side note:  You can paint water-based over oil-based but you CANNOT/SHOULD NOT/BETTER NOT paint oil-based over water-based!)


Process Numero Tres:  Painting

This step flows exactly like the priming step - brush for corners and crevices, foam roller for flat surfaces.  For both instances, this was the timeline I worked along:
1.  Paint backs of drawers with brush.
2.  Paint corners and crevices of frame with brush.
3.  Wash brush.
4.  Paint backs of doors with foam roller.
5.  Paint drawer fronts with foam roller.
6.  Paint frame's flat surfaces with foam roller.
7.  Making sure door backs are dry, flip doors over and paint fronts with foam roller.
8.  Wash foam roller and done!
Why such a strict process?  I value my brushes and hate when paint dries on them so I painted all areas requiring a brush first.  Also, when rolling, I painted the door backs first,  painted everything else, then painted the door fronts.  This gave the backs time to dry (around 45 minutes) before I had to flip them over and paint the fronts.  The color I used is called "Promenade" by Valspar.  It's an almost pure white but without the glare white can sometimes give off.

While I was waiting for the paint to dry, I also took a little bit of time to spray paint the door hinges, which were brass, with Krylon's oil-rubbed bronze.  I painted the door handles a few months ago but hadn't yet gotten to the hinges.  (I might also mention that if it was up to me, I'd have bought new ones but Anthony really likes the current ones and didn't want to dish out dough for new ones (even though I ensured him I could find some on clearance) and I really love him so...)  If you're interested in doing this, know that it doesn't affect the workings of the hinges one bit and they look like they were bought that way.  A couple of light coats should do the trick and don't forget the paint the screw tops to match!  :) 

Step 5:  Clean and Organize (my last but completely optional ,unless you're semi-OCD like me, step).
I can't put dirty things (not that anything in our bathroom was really "dirty") into shiny new things.  In other words, I couldn't put plastic baskets, toiletries, and other bathroom stuff into newly painted and clean cabinets.  So, I organized every space and cleaned every bottle and basket.  Just for kicks, here's some before and after of just underneath the sinks to illustrate my need to have order.

Under my sink before:
Yeah, a mess and a lot of it.  But before you go reporting me to "Hoarders" let me tell ya, I haven't had to buy lotion, body wash, or perfume since high school.

After:
More organized after I found some stacking baskets at JoAnn's for 70% off and vowed to start using body spray and lotion more often.

Under Anthony's sink:
 Clearly not as bad as my side - men require less maintenance, right - but still unkempt.

After:
After adding a helper shelf and creating neat little rows of bottles.

Now that I've gone maybe a little over the top in revealing our personal lives via pictures of what's inside our cabinets, I'll coyly get on with it and show you what you're really interested in - the finished cabinet product.

In the past month we've gone from this...

to this...

...and the best part is that we're just half-way done.  (To read about the tile we installed, click here.)  Up and coming we've got possible countertop ideas floating around, paint to slap onto the walls, and some decorating that will bring our bathroom into 2011.  Anywho, that's another day, another few posts.  Off we go to work on something else on this beautiful Saturday.  Have a great weekend! 

1 comment

  1. Wow! Seriously awesome! To think you spend all that time just with the work and have any energy left over to take pictures and write about it! You guys are the coolest. I also noticed some familiar items under your sink ;)

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