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Painting Kitchen Cabinets

You want BEAUTIFUL kitchen cabinets, right? The answer to that is obvious, of course you do.

Painted oak kitchen cabinets

Today's paint are advancing at an unprecedented speed. The science behind it is getting very complex, but its a good thing you don't need to completely understand it. Just know that the technology for combining oil-based, waterbased, and even Urethane is here and can be mixed into one can with excellent results.

The latest trend of painting your stained kitchen cabinets is exploding, and white is the color that seems to be dominating! Luckily, there are tons of different whites out there to choose from (If you want to consider choosing from that many colors lucky 😉).

I'm going to give you a brief rundown of how to paint kitchen cabinets.


We've heard this many times before, and that's because it true......"Preparation is the most important part of any job."

CLEAN: Start by cleaning the surface free of foreign materials. TSP or an ammoniated solution are 2 good options, but make sure you read the surface prep instructions for your selected primer because some will say not to use TSP.

DRY: If you have any unsealed surfaces, allow all the moisture to escape so you do not trap it inside the wood. Moisture is an escape artist and it's magic wand pokes through the paint film that is trying to keep it inside.

Dull: Once the surface is completely dry, dull the surface with 220 grit sandpaper to promote adhesion for the primer. Wipe the surface clean.


When painting over lacquered or polyurethaned finishes you want to use a primer that contains a good bonding agent and will trap in any bleed through occurring from the natural wood.

I would recommend either using BIN Pigmented Shellac or Zinsser Oil CoverStain.......BUT, Maryland just became a strict VOC (volatile organic compound) compliant state just like California so the practice of finding and using the best waterbased primers must begin. BIN Advanced is one that I will be testing soon.


Inspect the surfaces for imperfections and fill, caulk, sand....whatever needs to be done to achieve the finish you desire, this is where it happens.


Any repairs that have a porous surface need to be primed again to achieve a uniform base coat before applying the finish. Repairs left unprimed may absorb the finish paint differently and leave a "shiner" or a "flash", this also may not have as good of a bond as it would have to the primer to which it is designed to go over.


Like I mentioned earlier, today's paints are evolving to meet environmental regulations but still keep the qualities that we know and love in VOC rich paints.

Sprayed oak cabinet door with Waterbased Alkyd Urethane

One product that I have recently used and think is exceptional is a product from Sherwin Williams called Waterbased Alkyd Urethane. It's main key characteristics are:

1. Waterbased - Fast Drying (but not too fast), non-yellowing and water cleanup

2. Alkyd - Levels for minimal brush marks (none if your good)

3. Urethane - Dries to a 5H Hardness on the Pencil Hardness Scale

Here is a typical hardness scale. H = Hardness, B = Blackness:

Pencil Hardness Scale

The following quote was taken from the website and authored by Paul Gavin, Jr.:

"Hardness, as we understand it here, is the capacity of a given surface to resist scratching, marring or gouging. When expressing the measurement of pencil hardness, we do so with values that range from 6B (softest) to 9H (hardest). Test Method D 3363 goes to 6H. This property is verifiable and can be an indication of results from objects being placed on various painted surfaces that can mar the coating. ASTM D 3363, Test Method for Film Hardness by Pencil Test, is now the appropriate test method for this property."

The chart shows different types of coatings and their hardness. Different manufactures will have different results since they all do not have the same formulas and properties.

Sorry for getting a little technical, but I thought it was important to understand the different levels of hardness in coatings. It is important to have a good hardness level for your kitchen cabinets because it is subject to forks, knives, animal nails, wedding rings.....and on and on.

And if you need a free estimate for your kitchen cabinet project please book your estimate online here.

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