What I Learned From Painting My Kitchen Cabinets

Dated: 03/14/2014

Views: 2384

My friend Ellen, who runs the blog Black and White and Loved All Over, is back with another guest post--this time about painting her kitchen cabinets in East Nashville. Let's talk about value increase!

Painting my kitchen cabinets is something I’ve wanted to do for years but was very daunted by, especially when I learned that I would need to use oil paint if I wanted the paint job to last and be easy to wipe down. In case you didn’t know, oil paint is really tough to work with. It is stinky and sticky and you have to use either paint thinner or vegetable oil (yes, this works!) to get it off your hands. Worst of all, it takes 24 hours between each coat to dry, and it doesn’t respond to sanding as well as latex, so you’re more likely to have to live with your mistakes.  


Here's what the cabinets looked like before I started:


Because I was painting my kitchen, which we obviously use often, I completed the project in fits and starts over a period of three weeks, usually working on the weekends. I always imagined I’d paint my cabinets white or cream, but then I found this gray that I fell in love with—Martha Stewart’s “Bedford Gray,” which I thought would look super pretty against my mint walls (Benjamin Moore’s “Cool Mint”) and perhaps not show dirt quite as easily. I found this color on another woman’s blog, where she wrote about painting her own cabinets this color. I believe Martha Stewart herself has this color in one of her kitchens.
In addition to painting the cabinets, I took down another one of the cabinets beside my kitchen sink and added open shelving with corbels and lumber from Home Depot. We moved the cabinet we took down into our laundry room so we didn’t actually lose any storage. And now we have a great place to display some of our favorite dishes, including the beginning of my cake stand collection.  

Part of the reason I want to share this project here, besides that I love the way it turned out, is that I learned so much during the process. I hope I can save others some time and frustration before they get going with oil paint on their own cabinets. So, in no particular order, here’s what I learned about painting kitchen cabinets with oil paint:  

1.     Don’t worry about painting the inside of your cabinets. No one will notice, and it will save you a ton of time if you don’t worry about this part. I do plan on one day going back and painting the insides with something easy—like chalk paint. But not any time soon.  
 
2.     To minimize the appearance of brush strokes, which are basically inevitable, in both your primer and paint use a paint additive called Flood Penetrol, which extends the already excruciatingly long drying time but really does make your paint less gloppy.  
3.     Spend a little extra on a paintbrush designed specifically for oil-based paints. I began with a cheapie paintbrush but switched halfway through the project to a natural bristle brush that cost $15. This made ALL THE DANG DIFFERENCE in how smoothly the paint went on. The expensive brush also shed far less so I wasn’t constantly picking stray bristles off the wet cabinets.  
4.     In spite of my paintbrush recommendation, try to use your paintbrush as little as possible. I got a far better finish when I rolled the paint on, and it also took me much less time. Also spend a little extra to buy a mini-roller that’s guaranteed to be lint free. I found mine at the Sherwin Williams store and loved it because it smoothed the finish out enough that I didn’t have to sand between coats of paint. Still, the final finish isn’t completely smooth; it’s just so slightly mottled because of the texture of the rolling brush. I suppose if you want a mirror-smooth finish, you need to pay someone a few thousand bucks to spray your cabinets. I spent about $75 on paint and supplies.  
5.     Don’t paint in the dark. Oh, does this sound obvious? Well, since I have two small children, I like to do a lot of my projects after they go to sleep at night. This wasn’t a good one to do. I glopped on a coat of primer in low light one night and woke up the next morning to find a horrifying number of hardened drips. It took me at least an hour the next day to sand off all my mistakes. After that I did all my painting in the daylight.  
6.     Ventilate. It was cold when I took on this project so I didn’t open a window, and I didn’t think to wear a mask. This was dumb, dumb, dumb. I’ve had several migraines in the weeks since and now wonder if this might have something to do with all the paint fumes I huffed for hours on end.  
7.     I also learned: All the hard work was worth it. My kitchen makes me smile so hard now. The cabinets were the one thing that was holding me back from full-on loving my kitchen. Maybe one day we can put in some white quartz countertops to finish the picture—and I’m looking for the perfect pair of barstools—but in the meantime I am so happy with this space now. It seems like a lot of people are dying to paint over their dated cabinets. I say: Do it! You won’t regret it. 

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TJ Anderson

TJ Anderson is a Nashville Realtor with Benchmark Realty who's helped countless clients both buy a home and sell a home in Nashville, Tennessee. He blogs about Nashville regularly, from Nashville-area....

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