How To Paint Cabinet Doors
The secret to painting Paint-Grade Cabinet Doors:
Primer and preparation are the secret formula that will allow you to achieve the painted look a painting professional will admire.
I recommend using Latex primer and paint on cabinet doors and any painted wood products that will be kept indoors. The cleanup is easier, it doesn't smell as bad, and it's not harmful to people, pets, or the environment.
It's human nature to anxiously rush toward the final paint coat, but this is one of those tasks where rushing will produce disappointing results. Just take the time to follow this process and you will get a result that will please you, and your friends.
Now, lets get started by working through the process step-by-step.
Lay the door on a flat surface and lightly sand the door with a flexible-foam sanding sponge (I like the 3M sanding block sponges best) or 220-grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand "with the wood grain" on the front, back, and sides.
Remove any residual grit with a clean cloth (tack cloth is best) or a vacuum.
Next comes what is probably the most important step in the entire process. Sealing and priming the wood.
The priming coat, is also called a sealing coat, or a Sealing indicating coat. These are essentially the same thing. It's purpose is to seal the wood so that the final paint will adhere evenly and also make it easy to spot uneven areas in the wood while it's still easy to correct the blemish. Primer can be applied by brush or roller. I like to use a roller for the bigger areas followed by a good quality brush for smoothing and painting the finer details on the cabinet doors. You won't need the $25 brush but don't but the $1 brush either. Expect to pay $6-$10 for a good, fine-bristle brush. Try not to get paint all over the brush, dipping only about 1/2" to 1" into the paint is best. Also, between coats you can place the brush in a plastic bag to keep it from drying out, and avoid cleaning it until the end of each day.
Any hardware or paint store will have a wide selection of sealer/primer and paint for your replacement cabinet doors. Be sure and match the primer with the paint you plan to use. If you are going to use latex (water based) paint, use a latex primer. If using an oil based paint, use an oil based primer. Also try to use a primer with a drying time of 30 minutes or less. White primer works best because it will show the uneven areas of the door better. This allows you to spot (and correct) the areas that need filling before painting.
Once the first coat of primer is dry you will be able to see some small, uneven areas, scratches, or dents in the wood. Now it's time for the filler.
This is the most important step in obtaining that perfect painted finish.
All hardwoods have voids, which cannot be seen until it is primed. I use a filler to fill all of these spots. The two types of filler I've used with success are Bondo 907 Glazing and Spot Putty and Elmer's Wood Filler Max White. The Bondo putty works best, mainly because it is an orange color than makes it easier to see where you have filled. The Elmer's is white. Fillers must be sanded smooth after drying and then sealed with primer before painting to prevent the color from bleeding through.
After filling, sand the filled areas (use the 3M sponge to keep your fingers from sanding dips in the filled areas), wipe the dust off, and apply one last primer coat.
When the primer has dried, give the doors a light sanding and wipe them clean of any dust. If the final inspection doesn't show any unfilled scratches or small voids, you are ready to paint.
Painting is actually the easiest phase of the project. But without going through the priming-sanding-filling-priming process, there would be little chance of obtaining truly great painted kitchen cabinet doors.
Using the same roller (for the large areas) and paint brush (to smooth and paint the smaller and detailed areas) technique used in the primer step, apply your paint to the doors.
There is no need to sand between paint coats but it is a good idea to clean the brush between coats to prevent any dried paint from working its way into your finish.
Although the finish may look good after one coat of paint, two coats are normally applied to assure durability of the finish. Just follow the directions on your paint (and primer) and follow the drying time recommendations.
Here is a link to additional Paint-Grade finishing information.
and some thoughts on staining cabinet doors…
Good luck with your kitchen project and if you run into any questions please visit CabinetDoors.Com, or call and we'll be happy to help.
Here is a video with tips on Measuring cabinet openings, Finishing and Hanging your doors, and using hinge adjustment for final alignment of the doors. Cabinet Doors 101: How to measure openings, install hinges, hang and align doors.
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