You don’t need to have a kitchen as outdated as the Brady Bunch to want to update the cabinets to something more stylish. Painting your old kitchen cabinets might be the perfect solution.
Can you paint existing kitchen cabinets?
If your kitchen cabinets are structurally sound and you like the shape and style, you can probably paint them. There are very few exceptions where painting your cabinets isn’t possible.
Many of our customers have traditional wooden cabinets that are stained. Although oak cabinetry offers some additional challenges, this style is usually the most straight forward to paint.
Because the cabinets are already in good shape, the preparation of them includes degreasing (yes, even very clean people have grease that gets attracted to their cabinets), deglossing and finally a light sanding to scuff up the finish. Then priming and painting the cabinets.
What is the best paint to use on kitchen cabinets?
Painting cabinets is closer to painting furniture than anything else. Do not grab an old can of paint you used on the walls for cabinet painting.
You can use either an oil-based cabinet paint or a water-based cabinet paint. Sometimes people will tell me that they’ve heard oil-based paints are “better” or that it will last longer. Perhaps that was the case 50 years ago, but paint technology is so good now that if you want to avoid the additional smell, clean-up, and disposal of an oil-based paint you can feel confident choosing a water-based solution.
When you’re preparing to choose the best paint you’ll use to paint your cabinets, you will probably come down to a few common choices.
We prefer a waterborne alkyd paint. This paint creates a glass-like finish that doesn’t show brush or roller marks and will hold up to your day-to-day wear.
We also recommend going with a less glossy finish. If you choose high gloss, you will see any imperfections in your cabinets or your paint job. This also comes into play if you ding a cabinet and want to touch up a small spot, the high-gloss finish is almost impossible to touch-up without it becoming noticeable.
Benjamin Moore offers their ADVANCE® Waterborne Interior Alkyd Paint, which we’ve used in the past and really liked, but it’s a little bit pricey, running about $55/gallon.
Sherwin Williams’ ProClassic Interior Waterbased Acrylic-Alkyd is also a great choice, yet even more expensive at $87/gallon.
We also found a very nice paint from a smaller company you may not be familiar with.
If you are lucky enough to have a McCormick Paint store near you, their Interlock paint was both very high quality and a good deal.
Can you paint over veneer kitchen cabinets?
At least once a week we hear from a homeowner who has thermofoil cabinets. You may not be familiar with the term “thermofoil” but you’ve probably seen them.
Thermofoil cabinets are usually cabinet doors and drawer fronts that are made out of medium density fiberboard then wrapped with a thin plastic coating which is “thermoformed” onto the MDF. That thermoformed coating is susceptible to both heat and moisture and can become bubbled or chipped over time.
Thermofoil cabinets can be painted, but it’s best to remove the coating first and then apply a high quality primer and paint to make sure the MDF is properly covered.
Cabinet doors with a veneer are slightly different. A true veneer is just a thin layer over a (usually) cheaper wood. The very thin layer can be wood or something else. Many older cabinets had a laminate veneer to match a laminate counter top.
Believe it or not, the process for painting laminated cabinets is the same as anything else – clean, prime, paint.
Can I paint my kitchen cabinets without sanding?
The short answer is yes, but let me explain why you should spend a minute or two running a sanding block over your doors before painting them.
Every painter will tell you that the better the prep, the better a job will turn out. You can read posts all over that will tell you that you don’t need to sand your cabinet doors, but the sanding isn’t what you think.
You don’t ever need to sand your cabinet doors or drawer fronts down to the bare wood. All you need to do is smooth out any bumps and make sure the finish is a bit roughed up so the primer or paint will adhere better.
When we sand simple doors, we spend between 1 and 2 minutes on each door with an electric sander with a medium-fine grit.
You should also plan on using a fine to very-fine grit between paint coats.
The Brady Bunch House
In case you didn’t know, the Brady Bunch house was recently sold to HGTV who renovated it. Even if you don’t remember the iconic sitcom from its original run from 1969 to 1974, it has been in syndication ever since.
Even though the Brady’s had the grooviest kitchen in Southern California in 1969, times change and tastes change. You don’t have to be stuck with a kitchen or kitchen cabinets you don’t love.