Painting Kitchen Cabinets
When it comes to revitalizing your kitchen, painting is extremely cost effective. If you’re not ready to take on a full kitchen remodel, painting your cabinets, walls, trim, or any combination of the three can give your kitchen an updated look at minimal cost. This can also be a good time to change out existing cabinet doors for new ones in a different style; add cabinet inserts and organizers; and/or buy new handles and knobs.
Unless you’re a skilled do-it-yourselfer, it’s usually best to hire a qualified professional. Home improvement work is often harder than it looks, and even painting will look much better if a professional does the work. Years of use and multiple coats of paint can leave cabinets looking well worn, and getting them back into shape requires stripping the paint to the bare wood and repairing all the chips and dings. A qualified professional will have the skills and equipment to properly strip, prep and paint your kitchen cabinets so that the finish is smooth and without brush marks and the paint adheres properly. Bottom line: a pro will save you a lot of time and effort, and you’ll be much happier with the result.
What Can I Paint?
While wood cabinets are the easiest to paint, it can be difficult to strip off all the old layers. If the cabinet frames are in good shape, consider having new cabinet doors and drawer fronts custom made by a cabinet door company. Don’t try to paint metal or laminate kitchen cabinets; it’s difficult if not impossible, and the results are often disappointing. In this case, it’s probably best to buy new cabinets.
Good preparation is the first rule of painting. It’s imperative to properly clean, sand, and prime the surfaces before painting. If this is a do-it-yourself project, be sure to ask your paint retailer how to prepare your cabinets or walls. It’s more work, but the result will look better and last longer. As a precaution, if the house was built before 1978, consult with a professional before attempting to remove any paint as it may contain lead.
Oil Paint vs. Latex Paint
Oil paint is still the most common type of paint used on kitchen cabinets. When it dries, it creates a hard, durable surface that’s easy to clean, and it stands up well to kitchen wear and tear. For environmental reasons, some municipalities have regulations against using oil paint. Check with your paint retailer for details.
In recent years, manufacturers have developed better quality latex paints to avoid the environmental hazards of oil-based paint. Latex paints are not as strong and durable as oil, but they perform better when it comes to fading resistance. Lighter oil paints tend to yellow slowly over the years from heat and sunlight exposure, and deep, saturated colors will fade with time. Latex is also much easier clean up. Soap and water is all you need to clean your brushes and spills, whereas with oil you need turpentine.
The term “sheen” refers to how shiny the paint will be after it dries. The highest level is “high-gloss” and the lowest sheen is "flat." High-gloss and semi-gloss are the most common sheen levels for kitchen cabinets and walls as these smooth, durable surfaces make for easier clean up. “Eggshell” and “flat” finishes are fine for ceilings or walls that won’t be splattered by grease and food, but use high or semi-gloss for cabinets and trim, and around sinks and stoves.
Textured paints should be avoided altogether. The uneven surfaces can make cleaning next to impossible. Textured surfaces act as sponges for dirt and bacteria as well as cooking oils.
When buying paint for your kitchen cabinets, don’t skimp on quality. You might save a few dollars on paint, but you could easily lose the savings to additional labor. Moreover, cheap paint tends to provide poorer coverage and require extra coats, and it often doesn’t wear as well, requiring more frequent repainting. Save in the long run by using good-quality paint.