Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Painting Oak Cabinets - Kitchen Cabinet Painting Makeover

Painting Oak Cabinets - Kitchen Cabinet Painting Makeover

So you've got yourself some builder grade oak cabinets that are perfectly functional, there's nothing wrong with them, but you just want them to look a little nicer. One of the things people do to update them is give them a coat or two or three of paint. But there's a right and a wrong way to do it. Lots of products on the market, and lots of pretend cabinet painters out there. 

In this Painting Oak Cabinets - Kitchen Cabinet Painting Makeover blog post on our low cost Calgary Painters professional House Painting internet website, I'm going to show you what's most familiar to me as a professional painter for those low cost customers and clients out there that don't have a lot of money to go full monty on new cabinets. Just as a disclaimer, you might do some research and find some possibly better solutions out there, but this is what is working for me and my low cost customers.

I'm going to do some fast, simple and easy oak cabinet painting professional style. Now the story here is, this painting customer actually just moved into a condo. The kitchen is nice, the finishing touches are nice, but she's not happy with the builder grade cabinets. Who ever is. And new cabinets are not in the budget right now. She also don't want to necessarily buy new doors, or build new doors for them.

So painting is what we're going to do. But there's a little bit of prep work that goes into something like this, because oak is an open pore wood, so you have to decide if you want to just hit them with paint, or if there's going to be a pore filling process as part of the cabinet painting. But either way, it's a lot of work, and there are only two people on this planet who I would actually do this job for. One is any painting customers out there that like saving time and money on painting.

And the other is any other painting customers out there that might like saving time and money on professional cabinet painting. Maybe. Maybe not. Now, I want you to look closely at this oak door. We'll talk a little bit more about these pores and the deep open grain. If you look closely with a clear finish, sometimes you can see it. You catch the light just right but it can be hard to see. 

Now when you paint this surface, because of all the little deep grain pockets, pore pockets, those indentations become a lot more obvious. And this is why people pore fill oak cabinets. You don't necessarily have to do it, some people don't mind it, you know this customer does, she doesn't want to see it, so let me show you an example of one that's been filled and painted earlier, and one oak door that hasn't been prepped or painted just yet. 

Here we are, and one that hasn't been finished. Now if we look closely at this door, you can see a lot of the obvious grains. What happens is the paint goes on to the surface, it doesn't necessarily penetrate real deep into those little grain lines, and while you could keep coating it with paint and try to build it up it usually winds up telegraphing through the finish, and you see all of these grain lines. 

But if you do a pore fill, it should fill and level out, look a little more like this here. It's much more consistent and solid looking than this one here. We don't necessarily have all those little ravines and certainly from a distance it's just looks like a nice solid clean panel. So it gives you a much cleaner more contemporary look, but again, some people may like this look better. 

Totally up to you. It's a visual thing. Do what you think is best, but we're going to do a pore fill and let me show you how it's done. And there are a lot of poor filling products on the market. What I like to use is timber mate wood filler. It is a water-based sort of powdery kind of filler easy to spread, easy to sand,  I've used other products, and I keep coming back to this. Just so easy to use, and usually you can do it in one coat. 

This product is actually something you would use to do repairs on wood. It's very sort of thick consistency, but you dilute it with water until you end up with something like this, that's got a little bit more of a pancake batter thing going on. And what I have here is just a bunch that I've been using up,  and I put a little bit of dye in there, and while it's a very ugly grayish green color, this cabinet door is going to be a dark brown in the end. Two tone cabinet painting. Fancy. 

So I'm going with something that's in a darker color family, and maybe that'll make it a little easier to coat my paint colors. So I just put some on the surface, and I'm going to get a putty knife, and I'm going to spread it across the grain. The grain is running this way, and if you go with the grain, a lot of times you just got to pull the stuff right back out after you put it in. 

But going across, or going at a slight diagonal like this, will drive this putty down into the grain. Now I should also mention you've got face frames to do right, so the cabinets that are on the walls. It's up to you. That's one shortcut you could take. You could say well, it's just a face frame, most of it's going to be covered by doors, and drawers. So I don't have to do a pore filler there. It's up to you, but the process would be the same. This customer ordered pore fill on everything. 

Now you do want to go right up to the edge where the panel meets the rail and style, but I caution you to be careful there. If you get too much of schmutz underneath there, you are going to have just kind of a weird look where there's some residue left over. We don't want that. Nice and easy. So I'm not putting a lot, but nicely filled and spread out nicely. It looks professionally done.

Once finished you might notice that it doesn't look great. So do your best, just kind of go right up to that edge, and drag it in, and I highly recommend if you have a small very thin putty knife, bring it across here, and just clean and scrape out those profile corners so they are clean and dust free. It's important. But this stuff sands out really easy. 

Now that these are done, you can see a little bit of this grain filler goes a long way. Look at all the doors and drawers that we filled. And we also did the cabinet boxes. It was only $15 canadian for this material, but the entire process added two days of labor time to fill and sand and clean. It goes a long way. You might be tempted to just to do the panel or the doors only, but I highly recommend you do the frame as well, because that can look bad too if you don't do it all so it looks the same as the rest.

I'll show you a cool little trick here as we're going across getting this frame done. It's okay to be messy with this stuff. You know see that little spillover, that's fine, we want that same thing on the outside profile, and because we have a you know fairly complicated inner profile, and a outside profile here, the putty knife can kind of be more trouble than it's worth in here. You could also gouge the wood. 

So what I like to do is just take that little bit of extra material and use your finger and spread it across nice and easy. The old finger knife again. Every pro painters favorite tool. Try not to get too much into the corners, and into the inside corners like that. That could be kind of a pain in the butt to sand later,  and it's really what you have to keep in mind. 

Everything you're doing right now could become a problem in a few minutes when it's dries and you have to sand it back. Easier to get everything when it's wet. So you know, maybe do one, learn some lessons, and then apply what you've learned to the rest of them. You might figure out some cool tricks to save yourself some work in the sanding process. 

Now, it does set up and dry pretty quickly, as that happens, if you want, you can come back over and scrape one more time. And a lot of times it's a good way to save yourself some sanding later. It's always going to be easier to get it off while this filling material is still wet. Just saying. We're getting some of that excess off, or if you're not comfortable doing that, leave it alone it's very easy to sand and stuff later. 

All right, let's do our other style over here. If you do some research, you'll find there are some other products out there. High Build. Sprayable sort of things you can apply to to the wood, you know via spray, and then sand that stuff back. This is a very manual way to do this it's a very DIY way to do it and that's okay. 

And thing to keep in mind here is, I'm really not shooting for absolute perfection. I want to do something that's just better. I want it to look better than it did. I want to postpone the inevitable replacement of the cabinets, you know, which will happen at some point in the future. But if I can buy her 5 years, 10 years, it's something like this that's what we're going for. And you don't need absolute perfection for that, but you've got the skills and the materials to make it perfect and go for it. 

Now you can see how much time I'm spending on this already. This is one door. I multiply this over the course of 20 doors and drawers, 30 depending on the size of your cabinets, and this is why I say it is a lot of work. This is not a weekend project I can tell you that much. At least that's not a single weekend project no. Remember with the face frames, I told you there was sort of a cheat opportunity where you don't necessarily have to pour fill the face frame itself. 

Here's another possible cheat opportunity, you don't necessarily have to pour fill the inside face of the door. Totally up to you if you want to do it. Obviously it always looks better if you do, but if you're short on time and money, and you just really want it to look good from the outside, and that's all that matters to you, then only do the pore fill on the outside. 

Now within about an hour, your panel should be ready to sand. So it's a good idea to just do the pore fill and as many as you can at once. And kind of batch them through this process, and then start sanding them all at the same time. Easier to keep everything clean. Now to do the sanding. A couple things I'm going to use. 

I've got a hand held orbit sander. You can certainly use a quarter sheet sander. Just any kind of small sander to allow you to get most of the flat surfaces very gently. You don't want to be too aggressive. I've got a sanding block, that's going to be helpful. A card scraper certainly for corners, and things like that. Maybe even a chisel. Depending on your situation, and of course sandpaper now. I'm going to use 180 or 220 kind of whatever I have. 

I like to do the whole little trifold method, where you fold it one time, and then fold it another time on the inside, and this way you have a couple of nice crisp square and rigid edges that you could get right into the corners. I also have one of these sanding profile tools, so just kind of a flexible rubber material.

I think I got these from cloverdale or dulux paints. I don't really remember, I've had these sets for over twenty years. That's a lot of toxic paint fumes ago. These are fantastic for getting into those rounded inside areas, and also on the flats out here. And a very important piece of equipment is a respirator or a dust mask. 

You don't want to mess around with this stuff, you don't want to breathe it. The mask is not optional, it's absolutely required. So highly recommend you wear one of those right. So let's get to some sanding. All right, so let's get to some sanding. There we go. I'm using 220 grit. After a little bit of sanding with the orbital sander, and I'm scraping out these corners here to make sure everything is nice and clean. 

Don't be shy to get in there make sure everything's nice and clean, and as you can see, it really shouldn't look great at this point The idea is, all of that colored material goes down into the pores. Every time you see those dark spots, that's the spot that was filled, but you do kind of want to get back to the bare surface, because we want to at least make sure that we've scuffed the original finish that was on here.

Whether it was a lacquer, or a poly, something like that. We want to scuff it a little bit, so that you have that kind of mechanical tooth for your paint to bind to. But essentially this is what you're going for now if you opt to not do a poor fill on the back side you at least want to make sure you scuff it up with that 180 grit and just get all of it.

If there's a little spots of gloss, it's not that big of a deal. But you want to just make sure it's kind of nice and even, satin or matte look to it. Again giving us a nice surface for the paint to bind to. Now for the paint. I'm going to use general finishes milk paint, and oddly enough, it's not actually milk paint. That's usually a powdered material that you mix with water. 

This is an acrylic paint, that is just kind of satiny matte looking, and it gives the appearance of milk paint. But gives you even more durability. They also have a great selection of colors, which is one of the main reasons we're using it. Because cabinets do get abused, I'm going to be using an additional top coat with a satin sheen to it, and that's going to give us more protection. 

Now when it comes to this painting and top coat business, there are a lot of products out there that won't require a top coat at all. Do a little bit of research, talk to someone at a paint store, call in a few local painters and take advantage of those free estimates and free painting price quotes. Great products out there, but I don't paint cabinets with latex paint often. 

So sometimes when it comes time to add color to something I go with what I know. And with what I'm comfortable with. And the system will work and give my customers and the protection she needs and look she wants. So that's what we're going for. I'm going to apply it with a HVLP gun. If you don't have one of those you, or your painter doesn't either, you probably got the wrong cabinet painter standing in front of you.

You could certainly use a regular bristle brush, or a foam brush, or even a roller on some of those bigger panels. That's garbage junk painting. But it works. You can get decent results with that too. So let's load up the sprayer. I like to dilute the paint about 25% with water, and I use it I start by spraying the back of the doors first.

While general finishes milk paint isn't actually milk paint, you can see how matt the dry film is. Very much like traditional milk paint. After a few hours of dry time, I flip the piece over and spray the front with two coats. Once that's dry, I apply a clear coat of high performance. I dilute the finish by about 10%.

Now where you go from here is pretty product specific, so follow the manufacturers instructions for things like the number of coats, sanding between coats, and a lot of it just depends on how much protection you want, and how much of film you want in the end. So what I'm going to do here I really only need maybe one more coat. 

You know HVLP does put down a decent amount of material, look at that beautiful spray painting finish. So two coats is going to do just fine, and I got some 320 grit sandpaper here, and really all I'm looking to do is find any little dust nips or junk in the trunk, just give it a nice light sanding to clean it up, and smooth it out. 

Now this is really more tactile than visual. I'm not too worried about how it looks, I just want to make sure I don't have any grit or anything in the surface. When you get to the edges and the profiles just be really really careful. It's all too easy to dig through your finish and go right through the paint, so only sand where you need to, and then have a light touch while you do it. 

And finally clean off all the dust with a vacuum or compressor, wipe it down with a tack cloth, there we go. Just like the professionals do it. Make sure you double check those corners. So now we're spraying the final coat. So here is our finished door. You know not too bad. It's absolutely not perfect, but I think it's good enough. I think my customer will like this final look considering she saved about $10,000 plus on a new set of cabinets in here.

She will be happy with it. It's a nice satin finish, with that clear coat on top, that allows it to be clean and makes for easy cleaning. You got to remember, if you do something like general finishes milk paint that ends up as a matte finish, matte finishes don't really hold up that well to cleaning. They show scuff marks. It's very obvious when stuff happens to it so something with a little bit of a sheen allows it to be clean very easily. 

And overall, you can see the pore fill makes a big difference in how much of that grain you see in the final result. This one is without pore fill, this one is without. I can see the difference, can you see the difference. You can still tell it's made of wood. You see some of that grain, but it's definitely not as obvious as it was before we rolled in and started painting. 

All right so I had a whole kitchen's worth of these doors and drawers to do in two different colors, and while this really isn't a kitchen makeover blog post, I do want to show you what it all looks like installed at my customers house if you are looking for cheao cabinet painting options that work and that you can probably do all by yourself.

So let's go check it out. So here's what it looked like before, and here's the after. The first thing I did was at a support strip to the top that allows me to attach some crown molding. Such as a simple thing,  but it really makes a big difference in the final look of the kitchen. From there I painted the face frames and the island by hand with the paint gun. We just left it in place, masked up, and sprayed it in after we pore filled these oak grains on these oak cabinets.

I really didn't want to spray inside the house but the customer paid us well for the extra labor. So with a good quality brush you can end up with absolutely minimal brush marks if you thin down your material and have more time to available to get it done. So I painted the doors one color at a time, starting with the upper linen color, and then the dark chocolate for the lowers. 

Now I know some of you will take issue with painting wood, and I get it, but not all wood is created equal. In fact, you should see how much perfectly good wood that used just to build this place .Only to cover it in drywall. But seriously this paint job updates the kitchen and extends the useful life of the cabinets by years in the end, my customer is happy, the price was right, and that's all that matters.

You can probably complete this type of painting oak cabinets kitchen cabinet painting make over all on your own. It might take you about 2 weeks and a couple hundred dollars. You would likely get much better results in much less time calling in professionals to complete the work for you. The economical and low priced Calgary Painters over at the local fast and friendly 1/2 Price Pro Calgary Painting House Painting Company can probably help you save time and money on all types of Oak Cabinet Painting.