Top 6 Tips When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

by Krista Howard July 17, 2017 5 min read

Top 6 Tips When Painting Kitchen Cabinets

 Kitchen cabinets…one of my all-time favorite topics!  What I absolutely love about Furniture Paint is that it can be used to transform your kitchen cabinets.  With no sanding, no priming and no stripping required, what better way to get an updated look.  And not to mention, the average dollar amount spent on Furniture Paint and Protective Finish to refinish a kitchen from our clients is a mere $350!

Yes, there may be a few other costs involved such as getting a drop cloth, sanding blocks (if you want a distressed finish), a good cleaning agent (more on this below) and other miscellaneous project items, but it is not uncommon for our customers to spend less than $500 total to redo their entire kitchen! Considering the average kitchen remodel is about $25,000 and to hire someone to paint your cabinets typically STARTS at $3,000; doing it yourself seems like a great, cost -effective option.

Before you go diving into a large project like a kitchen, if you are new to Furniture Paint, first start by reading our Furniture Painting Step by Step tutorial.  This will give you a solid baseline knowledge that will be helpful for your kitchen project.

Once you’ve done that, read on for helpful kitchen cabinet painting tips…

Tip #1: Test on a Practice Cabinet

Purchase a practice cabinet from your local second-hand supply store. It’s an inexpensive way to try it out before you dive into your own kitchen.  A small cabinet door shouldn’t run your more than $5 or $10.  Try to get the exact cabinet door as you have in your kitchen (ie: same kind of finish, same kind of wood). Simply bring in one of your cabinet doors to the store and match it up…when in doubt, ask a sales associate!
Use this practice piece for the rest of the steps...

Tip #2: Thoroughly Clean the Surface

You always want to make sure the surface is completely clean and free of any dirt or debris before you start painting. Use either TSP (trisodium phosphate) or Mineral Spirits to get rid of any buildup.  Both can usually be found at your local hardware store. Simply follow the instructions on the can and voila! Your surface is clean.

Tip #3: Use a Synthetic Paint Brush 

Using a paint brush with synthetic bristles will ensure a smooth (ie: minimal brush strokes) finish...which is a must-have for a project as important as your kitchen cabinets!  Chalk Supply's Krex bristle brush is the best fit for the task.

Tip #4: Practice the Furniture Paint Application

The first coat is key. You want to paint a thin coat and let it fully dry before you start a second coat.  You should work fairly fast as the paint dries quickly (an average of 20 minutes for the first coat).  Avoid “over correcting” your first coat. You want to get the paint spread all over the surface and you will know it's thin enough if you still see the original color/stain through the paint. 
The second coat is more about coverage. Apply a thicker coat, making sure there are no drips or paint pooling.
Two coats usually does the trick, especially if you are going to sand your cabinets for a distressed look. If you are going for a more modern look with no distressing, or you see some areas that need extra attention, only paint the areas that need it. Don’t do a full 3rd coat or you will just be wasting paint where it is not needed.
NOTE: While the paint is still wet, the brush strokes lines may be more noticeable than when the paint is dry.  

      Tip #5: Watch for Bleed-through

      While uncommon, bleed through can happen with certain types of wood or when nicotine residue is present. Bleed through can happen in a couple of forms – you may see little brownish dots coming through the paint and/or you may experience a pinkish hue (usually only on lighter paint colors, like white) after the Protective Finish is applied and it is dry. 
      If you run into this, good news is there is a fix! Stop what you are doing, don’t paint anymore cabinets, and get a stain blocker, such as Shellac.  Apply the Shellac right on top of the surface and reapply the furniture paint and Protective Finish just as you did before. While yes, this creates another step and take more time, you will be very happy that you took the time to correct this rare, but sometimes irritating, wood issue.
      The tricky thing about bleed-through is you won’t really know if it’s going to happen until you start painting. That’s why we recommend you use a practice piece (or practice spot) first, and thoroughly clean your cabinets before you start painting.

      Tip #6: Protect Your Work

      Always protect your work. Our Protective Finish is perfect for the ultimate protective coating. Skip the furniture finishing wax and only apply Protective Finish, as it will harden to a scratch resistant surface.   Protective Finish is so durable, it can even be used on floors!
      When applying Protective Finish on a flat surface (like kitchen cabinets), some prefer to use the same brush as the paint and some prefer to use a foam roller.  If you find that the paint brush is leaving too many 'overlapping lines,' lighten up on your pressure when applying the finish or switch over to a foam roller. 


      Follow these 6 tips before diving into your kitchen project and you are sure to love the result!  And always remember the order of furniture and cabinet painting:  Prep, Paint, Distress (optional ;o)), Protect. 

      How Much Paint Will I Need? 


      Before I leave, the most common question we hear is "How much paint will I need to paint all my cabinets?" I'll do my best to keep it this example, ONE cabinet is an average size door and drawer (see pic below) will need anywhere from 2.5oz-4oz of Furniture Paint per ONE cabinet.  


      If you have, let's say, 25 cabinets then you will need anywhere from 62.5 - 100oz of Furniture Paint. Quart cans have 32oz of paint, so in this scenario, I'd be looking at 2-3 (ish) quarts of paint.


      Keep in mind, this manual calculation does not include the inside of the cabinet doors...if you would like to paint the inside of each door, add another 1 - 1.5 oz to each cabinet.  Also, if you have cabinet side walls, you will want to reserve anywhere from 4oz-8oz of each wall. 

      NEW! Kitchen Paint Calculator


      Our kitchen cabinet paint calculator is here! No more manual math - woohoo! Simply fill out the information below to determine how many quarts are recommended for your kitchen.


      Ready to get started?

      Grab one of our kitchen kits now! Choose from our top kitchen Furniture Paint colors and save when you buy in bulk. Simply choose how many quarts you will need and click 'Add to Cart.' For however many quarts of Furniture Paint you choose, you will receive the same amount of Protective Finish and one Chalk Supply Synthetic Bristle Brush to complete your project!  


      Until next time, friends!




      Have a question about your kitchen project?  Want to add another tip?  Leave it in the comments below! We look forward to hearing from you.
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      Top 6 Tips When Painting Kitchen Cabinets
      Krista Howard
      Krista Howard

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