If you’re a normal DIY homeowner painting kitchen cabinets in a house you’re already living in, we recommend using a waterborne alkyd paint. These paints create a glass-like finish that barely shows brush or roller marks and will hold up to your day-to-day wear and look like new cabinets.
Like any good painting projects, this one will require proper prep work, including cleaning, degreasing, filling in big dents or gouges with wood filler and finally sanding. When you decide to paint kitchen cabinets it’s even more important because of the abuse they will need to put up with.
You don’t have to go overboard with the sanding. You need to get the cabinet doors “roughed up” enough so the new paint will adhere properly. That doesn’t mean you have to get your wood cabinets looking like they just came out of a woodshop. The sandpaper you use should be a fine grit (150-180 grit sandpaper) or even a superfine (220-240 grit sandpaper).
We loved the Benjamin Moore Advance Waterborne Alkyd Paint for cabinet doors, cabinet drawers and the cabinet face frames. Benjamin Moore recommends this paint formula for giving cabinets a furniture-like finish. There are also very similar products from Sherwin Williams, Valspar and Home Depot’s Behr. Since we first wrote this post in 2016 we’ve found an even better paint for painting your cabinets!
Alkyd paints feel like an oil-based paint when you’re using them, with a nice smooth flow and self-leveling. They also have the benefit of low VOCs like latex paints and clean-up with soap and water. The dry time is about an hour for these which allow you to continue moving at a good pace.
I’ll be fine if I never have to use paint thinner or mineral spirits again to clean up oil paint. Dripping on your countertops or backsplash with a water-based paint can be cleaned up with a damp paper towel.
Best Paint Choices for Painting Cabinets
|Benjamin Moore||Sherwin Williams||Behr|
|ADVANCE® Waterborne Interior Alkyd Paint||ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd||Alkyd Semi-Gloss Enamel|
Part of your choice will also be what type of sheen you want. A cabinet paint in a matte finish will be the easiest for you to get a smooth finish, minimal brush marks and the easiest to touch up later if you have a scuff or other type of accident. As you move up the glossy finish spectrum – eggshell, satin finish, semi-gloss, gloss, and high gloss finish – imperfections become easier to spot and harder to touch-up without noticing.
You may also be wondering about a top coat to protect your paint job. That will depend on the type of paint that you decided to use. The best paints for cabinets are made specifically to cure hard and durable. Other paints, like enamel paints and acrylic paints, also cure to a very durable finish and don’t normally need a top coat. In the end, it will depend on how much additional effort you want to put in. It’s all about using the right paint for the right job.
Kitchen Cabinets that are not wood
We receive questions every week from people with laminate doors or thermofoil cabinets (which is cabinetry that is made out of MDF wrapped in a plastic skin). Both of these can be painted as long as the structure of the cabinet doors is stable. The prepping will remain the same, and the painting techniques are also the same. The paintbrush that works best on these types of cabinets should be as soft and allow the paint to flow easily. If you decide to use a foam roller be aware that it’s much more difficult to get a glassy finish because of the way it works.
The makeover effect of painting any cabinets is always amazing, but the “builder grade”, white, thermofoil kitchen cabinets becoming customized is almost breathtaking.
No Brush Strokes
If you want to paint your cabinets, you can also try a hybrid approach. If you take the initiative to remove the doors and drawer fronts you can bring them to a professional sprayer so they will have a true factory finish and then you’ll only have to brush the face frames by hand. This solution is usually a great middle-ground when the homeowner is handy but wants a better final look. This is something we do at 2 Cabinet Girls fairly regularly for customers.
If you have any specific questions or out of the ordinary applications, leave a comment below or contact us and we’ll try to help you make the right choice.