Old kitchen and bathroom cabinets are like fashion — what looked good in 1977 doesn’t necessarily look so hot now. Fortunately, painting cabinet doors, drawer faces and face frames is a simple and economical way to transform your kitchen or bathroom.
1. Select paint. Real, solid wood and painted composite wood, such as medium density fibreboard (MDF), can both be painted with high-end latex primer followed by 100 per cent acrylic latex paint. For melamine-coated composite wood materials, you’ll need high-bond spray paint such as Krylon or brush-on paint and primer made specifically for melamine.
For a durable cabinet paint job, buy the most expensive primer by the manufacturer that makes your paint. A duller paint sheen is better than glossy because it doesn’t show surface defects as much. Look for 100 per cent acrylic formulations, which are tough and scrubbable.
2. Prepare to paint. Remove all doors and drawers. Then remove door knobs and drawer pulls. If you can, take the drawer faces off the drawer boxes (if you see screw heads inside the front end of drawers, the faces should come off by unscrewing them).
If there is detectable grease buildup, remove it with a dish sponge and mildly soapy water. Apply water sparingly, then let doors and drawers dry for a day before sanding. Never use steel wool — the slightest residue will blossom into an ugly rust stain after the latex paint goes on.
For solid wood cabinets with a stained or sealed finish, lightly sand the surface using 150- or 180-grit sandpaper. You don’t need to sand back to bare wood. The same sanding process applies to factory-painted cabinets, except that the underlying MDF is softer than wood and demands gentler handling. Prepping melamine surfaces for painting varies depending on the specialty paint you’re using. Sanding may be part of the process, but proprietary cleaners and prep liquids may also be required.
3. Apply paint. When it’s time to brush on some paint, be sure to use the right brush. Latex paint requires synthetic bristles such as nylon or polyester. Melamine paint usually isn’t water-based, so natural bristles work best. Apply thin coats horizontally. Place doors and drawer faces flat on a bench to prevent runs and drips. Paint the upper face first, let it dry to the touch, then flip over and paint the back. Use two coats of paint after the primer.
Let paint cure. Many paints feel dry to the touch but are still susceptible to damage. It can take a couple of weeks or even a month for paint to reach its full strength.