Painting Your RTA Cabinets

Let’s say you’ve just purchased some quality white or gray Shaker kitchen cabinets and you’re thinking you might want to play around with the color palette a little bit. You don’t need to stick with the original cabinet color forever – quite the contrary! You may be asking yourself, Is painting kitchen cabinets a good idea? In fact, painting the cabinets is a quick 2- or 3-day project that gives your kitchen an instant facelift for just around $200. So when shopping around for cabinets, the color is probably the last element that you need to take into consideration, since it’s so easy to switch it up once they’ve been assembled and installed. The most important features to consider are quality construction (if they’re made of wood versus particle board), product guarantee, and the optimal configuration of cabinets for your particular kitchen space. With paint jobs being so quick and easy on the pocketbook, the color is just the icing on the cake. Whether that cake frosting is a shade of chocolate, vanilla, or coffee is all up to you.


Testing with a Sample Door
If you’re hesitant to apply paint directly to your cabinets, especially if you have a number of different colors up as contestants, one of the first steps you can take is to order a sample door or two from the cabinet manufacturer (like this Shaker sample door from Nelson Cabinetry). What’s especially ingenious about this as the initial step of your planning process is that you’ll be able to assess how well the paint covers the existing finish of the cabinet before you get out your paintbrushes. In addition, you can look at the painted sample door in different spots throughout the kitchen so as to see how well the color goes with the flooring, wall, refrigerator, and any curtains.


What Kind of Paint?
Acrylic latex paints have one major advantage over oil-based paints: they dry quicker, usually in just a few hours. In addition, they clean up with water, making them easier to work with, more generally, than their oil-based counterparts. However, they take several weeks for all the solvent to dissipate or “cure,” and the paint is still susceptible to damage during this time. Oil-based paints, on the other hand, take anywhere from 6-8 hours to dry and 3-7 days to cure or dry completely. Oil-based paints tend to create a smoother and more durable finish – while experimenting with which paint you will ultimately choose for your cabinet makeover, these are all factors to keep in mind.


Brush, Roller, or Spray Application?
Given that cabinets have some large surfaces to paint, a roller can come in handy for a finish that will be smoother than using just a brush alone. Use the brush for corners and tight spots and apply the roller for larger surfaces. If you’d like to use just a brush exclusively, this can be the simplest way to go about it, with the least amount of clean-up. There’s the possibility of brush strokes being visible, but this risk is minimized if you opt for high-quality brushes. A paint sprayer will get you a smooth and even finish. It is also the quickest method, though it does take some significant preparation, and you’ll need to learn how to use the equipment properly. Not to mention the cleanup afterwards. You’ll probably also need to rent the sprayer, which can add a little extra onto your painting budget.


Preparing the Cabinetry
To prepare your cabinet for the paint job, start by removing all drawers and doors. You can move them to another location where you can paint them separately. In terms of the cabinet surfaces, in most cases it’s enough to thoroughly clean the cabinets and lightly sand them before applying a new coat of paint.


Final Steps: Applying the Paint
Start first with a primer, which will help the paint adhere to the surfaces better, and then sand the surfaces so that the wood ends up feeling very smooth. Follow this with a coat of paint, working from top to bottom, and sand in between separate coats. It’s best to start with the cabinet boxes and then proceed with the doors, drawers, and shelves. Make sure the paint has dried completely before you start to put everything back together and voilà, your custom painted cabinets are ready for you to enjoy.