We’ve now painted oak cabinets about three different times so I thought I would share some time-saving tips and tricks to painting oak cabinets that will also help your newly painted cabinets last. There are hundreds of cabinet painting tutorials out there and I’m not convinced that one way is the best but I can share what’s worked for us. The first home we owned we painted our oak cabinets white, by hand, with foam rollers and it was a long slog. This go around we opted to try spraying them and it was a total time saver! If you are interested in painting your cabinets check out these quick tips for painting cabinets without showing the grain below.
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Clean the surface of the cabinets really well
It’s important to clean the cabinets thoroughly before you begin. Our cabinets were filthy and filled with gunk. Gross! We used a product called Murphy’s Oil to clean the cabinets.
Pick a paint with good coverage
What’s the best paint for kitchen cabinets? That’s a great question – I chose Behr Marquee because i love the formula and have used it on all of our walls so I knew that it had great coverage. I tried out a few colors and I ended up selecting a paint color called Still Gray by Behr and had it mixed into the Marquee line formula. Picking a good paint is a huge time saver and potentially money saver. Since our paint had great coverage, we didn’t have to prime the cabinets, and they still only needed two coats of paint.
Don’t skip sanding
I know it’s tempting to pick an option that allows you to skip sanding and just paint over the cabinets but it was a crucial step to getting the paint to bond well to the cabinets. We sanded all of the cabinets really well with an electric sander, then used our shop vac to remove any dust and debris from the cabinets. The initial sand is to just get any varnish off the cabinets and get to the wood.
Fill in the wood grain
One of the biggest questions I get asked in relation to the cabinets is if we have any grain showing. Oak cabinets are notorious for showing wood grain even after being painting so we did take some extra steps to ensure that you would see minimal grain. We used a product called DAP Drydex spackling to fill the wood grain.
To apply it, we took a spackling knife and ran it all the way down the length of the cabinet door, filling in every little crack, then removing any excess. Then, we ran the knife the width of the cabinet, again removing any excess. We allowed the Drydex to dry, then gave it another good sand until the cabinets were completely smooth. After sanding – we vacuumed up all the dust and debris before beginning the painting process.
Use a sprayer for a smooth finish
Since we couldn’t avoid sanding the cabinets it was a relief to know that the actual painting process would be a breeze. When we painted the cabinets in our first home we hand painted them and there was a lot more to paint that time around. It was an exhausted and long process so I knew I wanted to avoid it, if possible.
We opted to paint the cabinets using a sprayer with the HomeRight Spray Shelter so we could take the cabinet doors outside and spray them in the open air. The shelter is great for a project like this because you can spray in open air but still protect your surroundings. The best thing about painting cabinets with a sprayer is the smooth finish you get. No brushstrokes – totally smooth.
There is a bit of a learning curve with the sprayer, we followed the directions to our HomeRight Finish Max Sprayer because you have to get the flow just right. We practiced by first painting the interior side of the cabinets and then once we were confident with the sprayer, we sprayed the outside. It took two coats of the Behr Marquee paint for full coverage – no primer.
Don’t forget a top coat
I have a little secret. We totally forgot to add a top coat on our cabinets. A top coat is important to avoid any damage to the paint. It also makes the cabinets easier to clean. When we painted our cabinets we had multiple other projects going on. It was also right around the holidays, so we wanted to just get the cabinets back up as soon as possible. A year and a half later, we just added a top coat. I will say, I was incredibly impressed with how the paint held up on it’s own. We haven’t gotten a single dent or scratch in the paint, an it’s not impossible to clean. For a top coat, we ended up applying this polycrylic. It’s one that has a true clear finish while some others tend to turn a bit yellow after time.