Painting Kitchen Cabinets

I haven't posted for a while since I've been busy working on a big project. I'm sure the title of the post gave it away -- I'm working on painting kitchen cabinets for a client! I finished the cabinet doors last week and that took a good portion of the week. Now I'm waiting to schedule time with the client to paint the cabinet bases on site. So I don't have a big reveal to share with you yet, but I will share the progress of the project to-date.


Here are a couple of before shots of the kitchen.


Making the Commitment

The cabinets are original to the house built in the 1980's. I suggested refinishing the wood but my client insisted on wants white cabinets. Because painting kitchen cabinets is a big commitment, we had MANY conversations revolving around the theme of "Are You Sure?".

I ended up painting the inside of one of the cabinet doors above the refrigerator as a test to see if they would like it. The answer was "yes" so it's full steam ahead.

Before: Inside of cabinet door used for a test.

I distressed the edges on half of the door so they could see what that would look like compared to un-distressed. They chose distressed.

The right half has distressed edges which is the look the client chose.
My client (should it be plural because the "client" is actually a couple?) chose Pure White in Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Before beginning the project I consulted with my local stockist at Winsome Cottage and was cautioned that Pure White doesn't have pigment in it so it would take multiple coats to get good coverage.

We also discussed methods of sealing the cabinets. I was leaning towards using a polyurethane since kitchens are high use areas, but my stockist recommended using two coats of clear soft wax instead. She was able to show me some pieces she had in her shop that had 2 coats of wax that had already cured, and the finish seemed quite durable. Being able to see and touch finished pieces is one of the benefits of visiting a stockist vs. purchasing paint online. If you're ever in the Waynesville, Ohio area be sure to stop by her shop.

And So it Begins!

There are a total of 15 cabinet doors and I knew it was going to be a big job, but the project hit a couple of snags and ended up being more work than I initially budgeted for (more info later). First each door was thoroughly cleaned before beginning.

Getting started.
 The doors are numbered to make re-installing easier.

Fronts of cabinet doors. The original finish is worn away.
Prep work included repairing a couple of damaged areas. I chose a white wood filler since the paint color is also white. It goes on purple but changes to white when it's dry. Clever.

Patching damaged areas.
I also had to remove the pads from the backs of the doors followed with Goof-Off to remove the sticky residue.
Removing sticky residue.

Snag #1

I started painting the back of the doors. Since I already did a test door I knew I wasn't dealing with bleed through. Or so I thought. Apparently the door above the refrigerator that I used for a test didn't get much wear and tear over the past 3 decades. Not true with the other doors. After the first coat of paint I had to go back and add a coat of shellac to stop the bleed through. That did the trick. It took a total of 3 coats of paint for the back of the doors.

Comparison of "test" door next to the original finish.
The weather last week was warm and dry, so I set up a drying area on my back deck.

Drying area.

Snag #2

Next I started on the front of the doors. Apparently the fronts got even more wear and tear through the years. Long story short, they required 2 coats of shellac plus 4 coats of paint. There's a lack of photos of this stage because it was so time consuming and I was determined to get these finished. But I did get one shot showing a comparison of the back of a door vs. one coat of paint on the fronts.

Comparison of 3 coats of paint vs. 1 coat.
One door itself isn't too time consuming, but 15 doors (front and back) with so many coats is a lot of work! Here's a summary of how many times I needed to "touch" each door. I was way off in my initial time estimate because I didn't count on the shellac and the 4th coat of paint on the fronts.

Backs:  . . . 15 x 4 = 60 (1 coat of shellac + 3 coats of paint)
Fronts: . . . 15 x 6 = 90 (2 coats of shellac + 4 coats of paint)

After all the paint was dry I sanded the doors then added distressing to the edges. Next I applied one coat of wax to each side. I waited 24 hours and then applied a 2nd coat of wax. The doors are now sprinkled throughout my living room while the wax cures.

As I mentioned earlier I am waiting for the client to fit me into their schedule so I can paint the cabinet bases. I'd like to get the on-site work done as efficiently as possible, so I think I will use a stain blocking primer instead of shellac. I'll keep you posted on the progress.


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