Painting Kitchen Cabinets

By Robert Robillard on Kitchens

How To Paint Over Polyurethane Or Varnish Finishes

Tips On Painting Kitchen Cabinets

Painting kitchen cabinets has become more and more popular.  Many times clients have solid, quality cabinets but hate the color or they are slightly worn.

As with all projects the paint type and condition of the surface will determine which direction to take.   Typically a Cabinet surface that is painted with oil based paint or a Polyurethane or a latex based paint will be top coated with a like-minded top coat.  The process to prepare the surface and subsequently apply paint is very similar to the process of painting any other surface.

I reached out to a trusted painting contractor, and friend, Mark O’Lalor, to confirm my belief. Mark owns and operated O’Lalor Painting Concord MA. (978) 944-1569.

Etch the Cabinets

According to Mark, he always gives the surface a light etch with 220 grit sandpaper and a thorough washing with a strong detergent cleanser like TSP.

“Of course most Kitchen Cabinets have a highly durable, perfect factory finish so the preparation of the surfaces of Kitchen Cabinets needs to be extra thorough.   Kitchen cabinets get a lot of wear and tear and are constantly being subjected to air borne oils and hand oil, so making sure every square inch of surface gets a thorough etching and cleaning is essential,” said Mark.

How To Paint Over Polyurethane Or Varnish Finishes

Paint Cabinets

Mark also advises that once the surfaces are cleaned and etched paint can be applied with a spray gun or rolled out and tipped smooth with a brush.  If a homeowner wants to change the surface type of their cabinets from say a wood grain polyurethane to an opaque white or colored finish the steps may include a primer coat to bridge the different surface types.

There are hybrid paints that combine Polyurethane and latex with incredible leveling action that can be applied by brush.  So a wood grain finished surface that has a polyurethane finish can be painted white or some other color by simply etching and cleaning the surface and applying this hybrid paint directly to the cabinets surface.

This avoids the primer step and takes advantage of an already factory smooth surface.  The leveling action on these “hybrid” paints is amazing.


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About the author

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor

Rob Robillard is “The Concord Carpenter” Rob is a builder, general contractor, carpenter, woodworker, and editor of Concord Carpenter and ToolBoxBuzz As a General Contractor and carpenter, Rob owns and operates Concord Carpenter LLC. A full-service remodeling and construction company. Rob is a recognized leader in home building best practices and a source for how-to information for building professionals. On this website, Rob covers all aspects of home construction, building science, home improvement, woodworking, remodeling, and some of the best product and tool reviews. Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review series - Concord Carpenter Videos where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob approaches remodeling and building construction with a pragmatic and problem-solving approach. He enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the construction and remodeling industry. He's a strong advocate for "raising the bar" in the construction trades and promoting the trades to youth. #BeAMentor #Green2Great Craftsmanship, quality, and pride guide his journey on this channel The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob

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