Painting Cabinets and Furniture

Painting cabinets and furniture can be a project you'll be proud of to work on. They can be a little tricky and maybe even tedious but the end result will make your customers really happy. The process for both cabinets and furniture is relatively the same. This guide will cover painting only.  Staining and Refinishing cabinets is a little more in-depth and requires a couple of added steps that we'll go over in a separate tutorial.


Take a moment to read what one customer had to say:

Color Theory recently painted our cabinets and we are thrilled with the results. Torlando and his crew were professional and courteous and did an amazing job. They also kept our kitchen clean while they worked so that we were not without that space for the week they were painting. If you have a painting project big or small, Color Theory is the right choice.
— Noel Koontz

By following this simple guide you can have your clients saying great things about your team as well.

Here are some of the benefits to why our customers are painting cabinets:

  • Save, literally, thousands of dollars!
  • Get a customized and personal color.
  • Keep your kitchen operational during project.
  • Maintain and Keep clean easier and longer.

Our number one goal during this process is to reduce mess and allow the customer the flexibility to use their kitchen at night while we are working on their project. Add that to a quality finish and friendly service and your client will call on you time and time again. 

Let's look at the process.

  • Phase One, we de-gloss the finish and wash down the cabinets using Krud Kutter's Gloss Off. Wood cabinets have a clear coat finish that must be dulled before paint can properly adhere. The traditional method is to sand this finish down. But this leaves behind a dusty mess that get's everywhere. The de-glosser is a low potency chemical that promotes adhesion between wood and primer without having to sand. 
  • Phase Two, we remove all of the doors and hardware and move them to an open space for painting and drying.
  • Phase Three, we are using a strong bonding waterborne primer that sticks to just about everything. Appropriately enough, this primer is called Stix and it's remarkable at providing a strong bond between nearly any surface and finish coats. 
  • Phase Four, we begin painting the first and second coats. We use a combination of brushing and fine finish rolling. This avoids the mess and trouble that spraying can pose. We use a hard enamel waterborne alkyd called Advance by Benjamin Moore on cabinets. This remarkable finish levels out beautifully and hardens to provide a durable finish that will last. 
  • Phase Five, we'll reinstall the doors and hardware making sure the doors line up and we replace the felt pads on the back of the doors so they don't slam.
  • Phase Six, don't forget to take a picture of your work and share it! 

Here is a list of tools

  • Krud Kutter's Gloss Off
  • Cut Buckets and Mini Roller Liners
  • Rags
  • Sanding Sponge
  • Screwdriver or Drill
  • Painter's Pyramids
  • Drop Cloths
  • 2" angle sash brushes
  • Wooster 4.5" Mini Rollers
  • 4.5" Microfiber Roller Covers
  • Stix Waterborne Primer
  • Advance Waterborne Alkyd Paint

Here is a video guide with a rough idea of how we paint cabinets. In the details of our process you'll find little tricks that we use to help the job go a lot quicker and cleaner while still getting a professional result.

Here is a more in-depth look at the process:

Phase One: De-glossing and Sanding

De-glossing is a great alternative to sanding.  Sanding creates a lot of dust and is a real pain in the butt. Sometimes we will sand prior to priming but only if the surface isn't very smooth. This sanding should be a light scuff sand using a sanding block and we need to be very cautious of containing the dust. In most instances using a de-glosser will be sufficient. We like the product Gloss Off by Krud Kutter. You apply the gloss off with a rag and wipe it down like you're washing it with soap and water. Then let it dry.

Phase 2: Remove Doors and Hardware

You may choose to do this step before de-glossing and sanding. It's a matter of need or preference. You may find removing the old felt pads easier when the doors are off or that you may need to do additional sanding after removing the hardware.

We prep the customer by asking them to clear out some space in the garage for us to bring the doors. If there is no space in the garage you may need to create a door hanging station like in the video. 

In the garage spread out several drop clothes and set up a work horse where you can paint the doors while standing. If you do not have a door hanging station, you'll use the drop clothes as space to dry the cabinet doors.

Phase 3: Priming

Whenever we have a project going from wood to paint we always prime using a strong bonding primer.  Stix by Insl-x is THE product. As the name implies it sticks to everything. You should be able to pick it up at your local Benjamin Moore retailer as Insl-x is a subsidiary company.

For this process I like to use a mini 4.5" roller with a Microfiber nap as well as a small brush for detail. In general, I'm trying to roll as much as possible because brushing tends to make the project go very slow and you'll get a more uniform stippled finish as opposed to potentially uneven brush strokes. Once you're done with priming let them dry for 3-4 hours before moving on to the first coat of paint. 

After the primer is completely dry I like to lightly sand between coats.  Every now and then a little bit of detritus gets in the finish so go ahead and quickly and lightly sand using a fine grit sand paper. We're using this new 150 grit flexy stuff by 3M. Sanding between coats will give you a really nice smooth finish.

Phase 4: Painting 1st and 2nd coats

For paint we'll be using Advance by Benjamin Moore. This product is awesome! It has a really nice hard enamel; dries level and smooth. It's also a waterborne alkyd which means that it has the finish properties of an oil but with quicker dry time and easier clean up.  It's also a little more environment conscious. with a lower oder than oil. We've been using it a lot for cabinets and furniture.

The first coat should go on similar to the primer coat but it'll cover a little better. The key for coating is to do two thin coats as opposed to one thick coat and then trying to touch up.  If you can make a nice even coat, making sure that it's nice and smooth and blended in, the final finish will look really great.  The key is nice long strokes. You'll let this first coat of Advance dry overnight before re-coating. The manufacturer label says at least 16 hours. 

(Because of the flipping and dry time of the doors its a good idea to use the door hanging station but if one is not available you can do all three steps of priming, 1st/2nd coating on the back side of the doors first then after the 2nd coat is dry, flip them over and prime/1st/2nd coat the fronts.)

Again, Sand between coats and do it all again.  Don't be tempted to leave it at one coat.  The second coat really gives you the depth of color and proper/even sheen that's intended.  It also gets added durability with two coats which with furniture is super important.

Phase 5: Reinstall the Hardware and Doors

This phase is not as easy as it sounds and it can really be a source of frustration if you're not patient with it. There are a couple of considerations and things to look out for.  The first is that because we are adding a few coats of paint that means we're adding up to 4 mils of thickness to every side. If you have cabinets that are close fitting already you may need to sand the touching surfaces down a little with a power sander to compensate for the added thickness of the paint. It's not a drastic difference but if the doors and the casing are already touching you may have a problem at the end of the project.


Another thing you'll encounter when reinstalling hinges is that screws are susceptible to getting stripped. You may want to pick up some replacement screws just to keep handy. You can pick them up when you're buying more felt pads that need to be installed so the cabinet doors don't slam shut. Also, the doors need to be adjusted so they are even with each other.  That sometimes takes a little readjusting and maybe a second hand.

While you're installing the doors you may ding up some over your completed work. Make sure you continually shake and stir the paint so that you can touch it up without any matching problems. Make sure you leave yourself enough time for this step so that it doesn't feel rushed when you're trying to trouble shoot. You may even consider allowing the final coat to dry an extra night for durability and then come back to install the next morning when you're fresh. 

Phase 6: Take Pictures!

It looks awesome, right?!? Take a pic and share it on instagram or facebook!