Kitchen Cabinets: Painting

After we had completed the prepping and priming stages of our cabinet refinishing project, we were so excited to paint! We used an oil-based primer, and we had originally planned on using the alkyd Advance paint by Benjamin Moore. Secretly, though, we were still wanting to use a latex paint, and we were relieved to hear from my mom’s professional painter friend that we could still get a nice, durable finish with a latex paint. He recommended yet another Sherwin Williams product called Solo.

It’s a 100% acrylic latex paint. 100% acrylic latex paints are more durable than your ordinary latex paints, which contain a mixture of acrylic, vinyl, and/or polyvinyl ingredients. It does cost a little more, but it has better adhesion, stain resistance/washability, and stain blocking, which is definitely worth it for this type of a project. We found that Solo had a really good open time (stayed wet long enough to work it like we wanted) and good self-leveling properties. It went on very smoothly and dried even better.

We chose two different colors, a light grey for the upper cabinets and a dark grey for the lower cabinets. For the light grey color, my mom chose the Sherwin Williams color On The Rocks.

For the dark grey color she went with Gray Shingle.

They both have slightly bluish tints, which appeals to my mom since one of her biggest concerns is that they’ll look too yellow. They still coordinate very nicely with her dark brown wood floors, too.

We did two coats of paint on everything, leaving at least 24 hours of dry time between coats. We had originally planned to use my paint sprayer to do all the painting, but thought painting with brushes and rollers might help to fill more of the grain. Her cabinets are a fairly open grain oak, meaning that the pores of the wood are larger and the wood appears slightly coarse.

We used a brush first to try to push a lot of paint into the grain, and then rolled over it with a 4 inch high-density foam roller to create a smoother, more consistent finish. On the front of the doors we brushed all the grooves using a high quality 2 inch angle brush. Then we rolled the outer piece of trim and the inset panel in the middle. (Couldn’t get her to hold the roller still for a picture! We were so eager to get done!)

The key on the front of the cabinets was to work quickly so that the paint was still wet when we were done and it had a chance to level out a little before drying. If you work too slowly, you’ll create drags if you try to roll the piece at the end or need to fix any drips or other mistakes. It could also cause some discoloration if you keep going over areas that have already begun to dry. On the base cabinets we used the same 2 inch angle brush (with a short handle so you’re not having to watch out for the handle or brush at inconvenient angles) and then used a 2 inch foam roller for the small beams and a 6 inch foam roller for the larger end pieces.

You can still see some of the pattern of the grain (none of the color, of course) from the right angle, but we all agreed we don’t dislike that look. It makes it obvious that the cabinets are made of solid wood and provides some added dimension that I think is sometimes lacking in new pre-fab cabinets.

All in all, the painting process went really well, and we loved the colors! (Though the wall colors might have to change…)

We started drilling holes and putting cabinet fronts back up (more on that process later), but we didn’t make it very far before we encountered a problem…which naturally had to happen or it would have all come together too easily.

Since my mom decided to go with brushed nickel hardware, they opted to ditch the grimy old “dirty brass” hinges (not really sure what the color is called, or even what it’s really supposed to look like) and get new matching ones. Little did we know, there are a LOT of different sizes of hinges. We made sure we got the right type at least, but apparently they were too big.

These hinges pushed the doors out further, so where there were 2 doors that should meet, they overlapped. We’re just lucky we started with two doors that matched up. She has several sections were none of the cabinets close together, so it might not have been an issue in those areas, and then we would have had a lot more to undo.

We ended up on a wild goose chase all over Little Rock with an old hinge and the new too-big hinge trying to find a type that would work. We found one, but they only had 2 in stock and would have charged over $6 for a set of 2. That’s a lot of dough. Needless to say, we felt so defeated. We’d come all this way and were so excited to see the fruits of our labor, only to realize that we’d have to order the hinges online and wait for them to ship before the kicthen could be put back together. I’d already been in Little Rock for 2 weeks, so I couldn’t wait around to help put the cabinets back together. Super sadness. 🙁 Whenever the hinges do come in, though, I’ll get them to take pictures so I can share the before and afters.

While in Little Rock, I also got to help my mom pick out her granite and tile for the back splash. I don’t know the name of the granite she chose, but it’s a basic granite and fairly easy to find, I think. “Basic” not only means it’s much more affordable, but also according to the people at the granite place it means better resale. My parents figure they probably won’t be in this house forever, so they’re always considering resale. It has very little variation and is not incredibly taste specific, so it should appeal to more people.

For the back splash tile, she chose a matte white hexagonal tile which will be grouted with white grout. This is a classic tile that’s really affordable, but still a really fun, interesting pattern. She chose a different tile for the area behind the stove, but we’ll leave that a surprise. I’m so excited to see how it will all look together!

Now my knees are so ready for a break! Cabinet painting is not easy work. On the bright side, Andrew and my kitty are really glad to have me home!

6 Responses to Kitchen Cabinets: Painting

  1. Sarah January 25, 2013 at 5:20 pm #

    Hi! We are re-doing our cabinets next weekend and this post was so helpful. Do you have final “after” pictures of what the kitchen looked like? We are thinking of using the light color for the cabinets and the darker gray for the island base. Thank you!

    • Simple House Expressions January 27, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

      I don’t have any pictures yet. 🙁 I meant to take some when we were visiting over Christmas, but I forgot! I’ll see if I can get them to send me some, though. I promise the colors look great together! And this system worked really well, too, but repainting cabinets is very time-consuming! It took us 2 weeks, and we worked at least 8 or 9 hours a day. But it was worth it! The finish looks very smooth and glossy, and my mom’s contractor even complimented her on how great they look!

      Good luck with your cabinets, and hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share soon!

  2. Gina Lanouette March 28, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Hi there! I came across your post when looking for info as to whether or not to caulk my cabinet door fronts or not. Half my kitchen has been painted while the other half is still in its natural state. My painter suggested not caulking because he said the wood panels float and the caulk would crack and it wouldn’t look good. Well, now I have a spaces between the panels where the paint did not flow down through and there are these black spaces on the door fronts. It drives me nuts! I guess I’m wondering if it’s too late to put the tiniest bead of caulking on the already painted cabinets and touch it up with the paint color. I am going to have the other half of my cabinets painted and I’m not sure whether I should caulk that or not.

    Any suggestions? Thanks so much for your help. ~Gina

    PS Your cabinets look amazing and your door fronts are seamless. 🙂 I live in NH so I’m not sure if humidity and changing of seasons has anything to do with cabinet front movement. 🙂

    • Simple House Expressions March 31, 2015 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Gina! I’m a perfectionist so I totally understand how frustrating that would be, but I still have to second your painter’s opinion. I think in less than a year they’ll start cracking and you’ll like that even less than the spaces! We only caulked the mitered corners of the outside piece on the cabinet doors, not the panels. If there’s a space that you can see that hasn’t been painted, then you could try taking a very small brush and working some paint under the edge, but if it’s just the shadow of the space, I think that’s fairly normal for painted cabinets and I’d recommend leaving it alone. If it’s a big space, you could try securing the panels better with finish nails or staples from the back so you see less gapping.

      If you do decide you want to try caulking, it’s not too late. You can do a small bead and touch up like you said (although keep in mind smaller beads crack faster). First, I would make sure your panels are as secure as they can be so they move as little as possible. Then just make sure you use a good siliconized acrylic caulking (less prone to cracking but still water cleanup and paintable with latex). Just make sure it’s not a bath/kitchen one as those can be glossier and don’t take paint as well. Personally, I like Sherwin Williams 950A! I believe it’s under $3 a tube.

      Good luck and I’m sure they’ll look great no matter what you decide!


  3. Anonymous August 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm #

    I am planning to use SW Solo on painted cabinets. Do i still need to use a primer if i plan on sanding them?

    • Simple House Expressions August 15, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

      Absolutely, you do!! I know it’s an extra step and more work, but it’s so worth taking the time to do it right so that the paint job will last as long as possible. Painting cabinets is too much work not to do it right the first time!

      If you don’t sand or don’t sand completely down to bare wood, you definitely want to use a bonding primer to get good adhesion with the paint coat. If you do sand down to bare wood (my recommendation, if it’s possible), you need a primer coat to seal the wood to prevent tannin bleed through (which can discolor your paint otherwise), as well as for adhesion and durability. Priming or painting bare wood will also raise the grain of the wood (moisture causes the wood fibers to swell, creating a slightly rougher texture), so be sure to sand the dried primer coat lightly with a very fine sand paper before painting for the smoothest possible finish! Good luck! 🙂

      – Arielle