Painting kitchen cabinets is a cheap way to update your kitchen and give it a refresh. Essentially, you have three ‘new kitchen’ options. Firstly, you can have a completely new design and kitchen installation. An alternative is to simply reface the cabinets you have currently with replacement kitchen doors. Last but not least, is the option of painting kitchen cabinets. Each option has its own pros and cons. There  will always be some situations where only a full kitchen refit will do. However, if you are happy enough with the layout of your kitchen as it is – and the units are in good condition – replacement doors provide a cost-effective way of giving your kitchen a real freshen up. It actually creates the feel of a completely new kitchen, even if only the doors are actually new. Painting kitchen cabinets provides an even more affordable option. This can be a great choice and it is certainly the cheapest way to redo the kitchen. On the other hand, it’s not as easy as it looks. You need to be patient and have a real attention to detail.

What’s more, there are a number of common mistakes that many homeowners often fall foul to when painting kitchen cabinets. Depending on the severity of the mistake, it might slow down the painting process – or turn the whole thing into an absolute nightmare. These are the mistakes to avoid when painting kitchen cabinets.

Painting kitchen cabinets – The doors and drawers

Two major problems that emerge when painting kitchen cabinets are to do with the doors and drawers. The first issue is not removing the doors and drawers. Many people make the mistake of thinking that it will be easier to paint doors without removing the doors from the frames. In fact, it is actually far more time consuming and difficult this way. It’s hard to cut in around the hinges. If you decide to use a sprayer, you need to carefully cover all the hinges with tape.

It’s much easier when painting kitchen cabinets to remove the hinge of the cabinet doors with a drill. Pull drawers out on their slider tracks too. Next, you need to set up a separate space where you can spray or use rollers on the doors on a flat surface.

Painting kitchen cabinets – Number and organise

You should also make sure that you keep all the screws you take off safe. Store them in small plastic bags. There is nothing more annoying than losing a couple of screws! Similarly, it is a very good idea to number and label the doors on removal. Without this, you can waste a lot of time trying to figure out where each door goes. Work out a numbering system that is easy to remember and that works for you. You could write the number inside of the hinge hole for each door and then tape over it. Overlook these simple steps and painting kitchen cabinets can become very, very frustrating!

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The importance of cleaning and sanding doors and frames

Another common mistake when painting kitchen cabinets is to not bother to clean the doors and frames before priming and painting. Even if your doors are fairly new, in good condition and look clean to the naked eye – they probably aren’t that clean at all in reality. People forget that kitchen cabinets take a real battering day-to-day from the extremes of heat and food spillages. Over time, cabinet doors get oily and greasy from all the cooking and boiling that goes on around them. Tiny particles from the coffee machine and food particles from pans as you cook can gather on doors. All these things will cause adhesion issues with primer and paint. Trying to paint over grease – even if the grease was barely visible – will never end well.

On a similar note, many people make the mistake of not sanding the doors before priming and painting. Some brands of primer market themselves as ‘no sanding necessary’ products. Regardless of what it might say on the tin – ignore it. You should always sand. This is important as sanding is required to remove the lacquer finish on the cabinets. It dulls them so makes it easier for the primer to grip the surface better.

You should also be careful with the dust that is created when you sand your cabinets. Doors could and should be sanded outside. However, the frames will need to be sanded inside. Use dust barrier poles and plastic sheeting.

Even with protection, it’s possible that some dust could still get through. If this occurs, you need to make sure you remove it. Dust will contaminate and ruin a paint finish. It gets stuck in the paint and will be very noticeable and visible when the cabinets are under lights in the kitchen.

Don’t paint cabinets without primer

If you have spent hours or even days meticulously cleaning and sanding your cabinets, you might make the mistake of thinking you are ready to paint. And it would be a big mistake to paint over the wood without priming the surface first.

Most interior paint on the market will not stick to the wood well without a prime coat underneath. The prime coat seals the surface and as acts as a bond coat. It provides the adhesion necessary to enable a decent coat of paint. If you don’t prime first, the paint will rub off. There is also the danger of wood tannins yellowing the colour too.

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Not prepping the kitchen for painting

First, another warning – if you are planning to replace your countertops or remodel the design of your kitchen, make sure you do this before painting, not after. Removing counters and installing new ones can be a tricky business. It’s all too easy to nick the paint as this work is done. Similarly, any changes to the tiling, flooring or the appliances should really be done before you paint.

What’s more, painting kitchen cabinets can be quite messy work. You can ruin the look of your kitchen quite easily if you don’t take the time to protect and cover units and appliances.  You need to be especially careful if you are going to spray paint your cabinets. Plastic sheeting and heavy-duty floor paper is really a must. It is much better to be safe than sorry.

On the question of spray painting, this is something you should definitely do. You can do a good job with a brush and roller but spraying wins hands down as it delivers a far better quality finish overall – plus it’s also a lot quicker than using a brush and a roller.

More potential painting mistakes

Bubbles are the major enemy here. If the coat of paint you apply is too heavy, it can lead to bubbles forming. Not only does this extend the drying time, the bubbles often pop as the paint dries. This leaves unsightly craters in their place. Unfortunately, the only way to fix the problem is to wet sand everything down and repaint.

You also need to be patient and not rush the second coat when painting kitchen cabinets. If you start the next coat before the first coat has properly dried, you could end up ruining the finish. Every primer coat and paint coat needs to fully dry before you attempt to re-coat. The re-coat time of a product will be specified on the tin, but it’s also a good idea to leave it a bit longer than it says on the tin anyway. Typically, most products have a re-coat time of about four hours. Applying a coat too heavily isn’t the only reason why bubbles can form. They can also appear if you start to apply another coat when the previous coat hasn’t dried yet.

Other pitfalls to avoid

Other pitfalls to avoid when painting kitchen cabinets include not using a drying rack. The way that most people approach painting cabinetry is to paint one side of each door and leave them to dry for the rest of the day. The next day, you come back to paint the other side of each door. This is fine – but it is very time-consuming. Repeating the process for several doors and multiple coast can begin to feel like it is going on forever.

Spraying and drying racks are available that make it possible to paint both sides of a door without having to wait for one side to dry. This can literally shave days off the length of a project.

After spending all that time and effort painting your kitchen cabinets, you are going to want to make sure that you protect the paint in any way you can. Most cabinet doors feature door bumpers, but these often fall off during the cleaning and sanding process. Make you instal new replacement bumpers. Without the protection that the bumpers provide, the paint will chip. This is because of all the repetitive contact between door and frame.

Conclusion: To paint or not to paint?

Painting kitchen cabinets is certainly an option. If you are fairly confident with DIY and you are patient, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take on such a project. However, if you fancy buying replacement kitchen doors already painted in a range of stunning colours, you could save yourself a lot of work in the process, get in touch with the Kitchen Warehouse team to discuss your options.