Cabinet Painting: What You Need To Know


To Repaint or Replace?

If you are trying to figure out whether you would like to repaint your kitchen cabinets or replace them, let’s talk about some of the pros or cons.

Replacing your cabinets is a really exciting prospect. If functionality, quality, general design, and layout are the things that bother you the most then you are most likely going to be happy with replacing your current cabinets. While this will be a significant investment, it’s really the only way to get what you truly want for your kitchen. I recommend working with an interior design firm or kitchen remodeling company who work with high end suppliers for this kind of project. The overall cost of a kitchen remodel is one that you really don’t want to have to do more than once in the life cycle of living in your home.

If on the other hand, you don’t mind the layout, the existing cabinets are a pretty high quality and you don’t want to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars on a remodel, painting is an option that can actually improve the quality of finish on your existing cabinets. It’s a myth that having your cabinets refinished is less durable than the factory or shop finish they originally came with. Professional refinishers and cabinet painters will choose a product and use a process that will be just as durable if not more durable than the original finish; which, could actually increase the value of your kitchen set.

The open concept of this kitchen worked well in this downtown condo. A total remodel might have been overkill but painting gave the kitchen the update they were looking for.

The open concept of this kitchen worked well in this downtown condo. A total remodel might have been overkill but painting gave the kitchen the update they were looking for.

On average, a cabinet repaint is around 1/10th of the cost of replacing them with new high end cabinets and my personal feeling is that if all you really want is to change the dated look of the cabinets and you don’t want to throw away a 30-40 thousand dollar older remodel, then for 3-4 thousand dollars, painting would be worth it.

To DIY or Not to DIY?

Several DIY bloggers out there will tout the ease of application with certain types of paints like chalk paint or milk paint as a cabinet finish. These products tend to be more forgiving in application because part of their gestalt is the hand-crafted, perfectly imperfect, country look. Personally, I can’t attest to their longevity but I would suspect that because they typically are applied in a way that promotes the weathered look that they will continue to weather and distress naturally over time, as do all coatings.

With our spacious offsite workshop we are able to keep the construction site look out of your house.

With our spacious offsite workshop we are able to keep the construction site look out of your house.

If you are going to do the project yourself, I would recommend doing a lot of research and asking specialty paint stores for their recommendation on products for cabinets and their recommended application methods. If you are particularly crafty and good with your hands, using a fine finish micro-plush roller and brush, you can attempt this project on your own. I’ve seen people do it, but I’ve also fixed some in progress projects that have gone awry.

The project for a DIY-er will most likely take quite a while. I had a great friend who is a public school administrator paint his own cabinets. I walked him through the process and he followed it to the tee but it did take his entire summer vacation to complete, where as we would have been done in under a week and a half. I chuckled a little at him but overall his final pictures seemed fairly impressive. Of course I didn’t get to see up close.

If you’re not as handy and you do care about attention to detail I would not recommend this project for the ambitious but inexperienced DIY-er. It’s definitely an advanced procedure. If cost is your concern I would recommend waiting for our winter specials which sometimes include cabinet painting discounts or by applying for 18-month interest free financing.

How To Know If You’ve Made The Right Hiring Decision.

Not too long ago I was perusing one of my painting Facebook groups that I frequent to pass along trade secrets and get educated from some of America’s finest painters and cabinet refinishers and I found a post of a fellow contractor who was working with a customer who was concerned about the price she gave for the cabinet project.

The customer spoke with a couple of other painters who made the claim that she was getting over charged. Being more than 3/4ths of the way through the project my fellow contractor was sweating how to respond. I’ve been in this position before. How do you put a price on quality? How can you as a customer be sure that you are going to get the quality you are paying for?

A philosophy I’ve carried with me for quite some time is best expressed in a simple rhyme: “Buy nice or buy twice.”

“Buy nice or buy twice.”

A recent project we completed after the project had been started by another painter.

A recent project we completed after the project had been started by another painter.

I can’t speak much to the pricing conventions of other painters. I’ve had many conversations with painters all over the country as a national industry speaker and from what I can tell, some painters know their own numbers and some just don’t. Some throw other companies under the bus to get an advantage and some don’t. As for Color Theory, our goal is to determine the price by how long we know things take based on measured experience. Ultimately our strategy is to find a price that will give us enough time to do the project with a high level of craftsmanship quality while making it affordable enough to win the bid. Sometimes that balance is a little or a lot more than our competitors and sometimes it’s less. The important thing is that our pricing is accurate and consistent according to our processes to ensure you great results.

If you have another quote and it’s markably different you may consider asking more questions. Are they going to using a fine finish spray application? What types of primers and top coats are they using?

For the top of the line finish we recommend using a primer with extremely high adhesion properties like a shellac or an oil base. These are definitely less DIY friendly options and require proper respirators and ventilation measures but they will provide the adhesion you need to endure the rigors of kitchen use. After up to two coats of primer we recommend a hard urethane enamel. Other options for top coats are conversion varnishes, pigmented lacquers and, oil enamels. Cabinet refinishers have their preferences for which types of products they prefer working with and the desired look is also an important factor. However, where people get into trouble with choosing a product is where regular latex house paints are used as opposed to a specialty finish. Unfortunately, not many of these specialty finishes are as DIY or novice painter friendly.

Our go to finish combination is BIN Shellac Primer and Emerald Urethane Enamel from Sherwin Williams. This combination delivers high adhesion and a strong durable finish. We use a combination of fine finish rolling techniques and top coat spray with an HVLP sprayer system. The results are amazing.

Thinking about painting your cabinets?

If you’re in Bloomington Indiana and looking for cabinet painters we would be happy to help you. Watch this short video below to watch the progress of a kitchen cabinet painting project we did.

Want to learn more about our cabinet process?