Kitchen cabinet painting has become a very popular service request for our residential painting company.  Most people are unsure of the cost or what the process entails.  Some prefer to save on the cost to hire out a cabinet painter and instead want to tackle the project themselves.  This article is meant to outline the process we go through with hopes to educate DIY’ers and those considering hiring a professional cabinet painter.  

The video below shows an example of a project we completed for a customer recently.  Please watch the video and let us know if you have any questions about the process or if you need help along the way if you choose to paint your cabinets.


Kitchen Cabinet Painting in Apple Valley

The above video is going to show you the step by step process we went through to prepare and spray paint these cabinets.  The homeowner wanted to change from a stained factory finish to a white enamel.  This is the final product after everything was completed. 

So to get started it’s important to completely mask the kitchen.  When masking the floor it’s a good idea to double up on paper 2 ft away from the cabinets.  We first use a hand masker to run our border and then cover the entire floor with thicker construction paper and lay canvas drop clothes over that. 

When masking the walls you’ll notice we tape a 16 inch paper edge next to the cabinets.  It’s important to use paper next to the cabinets because it absorbs the over spray.  If you use plastic the dried over spray will release from the plastic and flake off into the finish.  

The customers fridge was wedged into the cabinet and not movable but in most cases you want to move the fridge out of the kitchen.  We use an appliance air lift but you could also use multiple square sheets of plywood and roll the fridge out of the kitchen. 

Next you’ll want to remove all the doors, label each doors and drawer location and either label the hinges or place them back inside the same cabinet box they came from.  To label you simply take a Sharpe and write a number in the recessed hole or under the spot where the hinge will eventually cover. 

After the doors have been removed you will want to clean everything thoroughly with a deglosser/degreaser.  We use M-1 from Sherwin Williams. 

Now you’ll want to scuff sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper.  You don’t have to spend a lot of time on the scuff sand, you’re just trying to create a dull, dry surface before primer is applied. 

After each coat we sand, vacuum dust and tack cloth to remove contaminants.  Its very important you control dust during the application process so it doesn’t end up in the final coat. 

Next you’ll want to apply your first coat of primer.  We like to use Shellac because it seals oils, grips onto pretty much anything and its compatible with most top coats.   

In terms of spraying, you have a few options to choose from.  One of the easiest systems is an airless sprayer but we like using a Turbine HVLP sprayer equipped with a 3M PPS system.  The benefit to this system is it allows us to easily change between different material types without damaging the equipment.  It also allows us to have extra control over the spray and provide an extra fine finish.   

For the 2nd coat we apply a primer called Kem Aqua Surfacer from Sherwin Williams.  This primer is really nice because it dries in about 30 minutes and is fairly easy to sand.  The kem aqua surfacer is a water based lacquer and has to be applied with a sprayer.  If you wanted to apply the paint with brush and roller you could skip a lot of the masking and instead use an oil based primer and top coat.  If I went that route I would likely use Sherwin Williams Easy Sand Oil  Primer and Sherwin Williams Pro Classic Oil enamel.  You wont get quite the look of a sprayed on finish but since its an oil its slower dry time will level out making brush and roller marks less noticeable.   

For each subsequent coat we step up the sandpaper grit.  Since we are sanding the surfacer we are using 320 grit.  Before the final coat we will sand with 400 grit. 

Before spraying the top coat we make a few adjustments to the material.  We like to heat the lacquer up to 100 degrees using a hot plate to reduce the viscosity and also thin the lacquer 2% with purified water.  This allows us to spray the finish with optimal atomization while hitting the suggested mil thickness so the coating is durable and smooth. 

We take the doors offsite for spraying but you could do it in a separate room of your house.  To speed up the process we put a couple hangers on the blind side of the cabinets so we can spray both sides at once and hang them for drying.  After completion we fill the holes and touch them up.  Kem Aqua can be tricky to dry vertically so if you find yourself with sags or incorrect mill thickness you may want to consider a horizontal drying rack. 

So after about a week and re-installation of the doors this was the final product.  The customer was really happy with the overall finish quality and durability.