Basic Cabinet-Painting Advice

What to tell a DIY friend about painting cabinets. January 29, 2009

I have always used MLC pre and post-cat lacquer for finishing, even painted colors. I have a neighbor who is in desperate need of a make-over in her small kitchen and her budget and my time constraints won't allow for me to take her cabinets down and finish for her in my shop. She wants to paint them and I am looking for a suitable paint that she can apply on the doors/drawer fronts and face frames. The cabinets are finished with white lacquer (I have no idea what kind but due to the age and the fact that I know the shop that originally built them they are probably just an old type of high-build).

So, I'm looking for suggestions for her for a fairly user-friendly paint. Budget is also a consideration. Right now she's looking at just a satin latex from SW. I know nothing that fits her requirements is going to be ideal as far as durability but trust me, with the present condition of the cabs it's going to be an improvement.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
Will she be degreasing, removing silicone polish and roughing the surface first as prep?

From contributor D:
I would suggest that you prime with Zinnser white shellac primer. It will stick to even glossy surfaces and prevent peeling or fish eye with Sherwin Williams Proclassic waterborne. It is a decent leveling paint even off a brush.

It sands well if you have to second coat unlike latex and looks good with a brush if you have even marginal skills. Sherwin Williams has many pricing levels. The prices are a lot lower if you have a painter buddy or contractor friend who will let you use their account number to get the good pricing. It doesn't hurt to ask them for "contractor price". I may or may not get it depending on what store I shop at. I have painted more than a few old cabinets for friends and have had good luck either brushed or sprayed with this stuff. It looks like oil but dries quick like waterbased.

From the original questioner:

Yes, I have told her to clean them well with acetone and a Scotch-Brite. Then she will be filling old hinge screw holes and sanding with 150. Contributor D - thanks, that is what I was looking for. We have a SW close and I have an account there. What sheens does the Proclassic come in?

From contributor D:
It comes in all the standard sheens. I swear the semi comes off higher gloss than most gloss latex products. This may partially be due to the super smooth surface it produces since it levels so well. I think you will like it. It is a little pricey but you may get a better deal if you ask the store manager for his best price. It has worked for me. The ease of application and the other characteristics make it worth the extra dough though.

From contributor S:
I would have your neighbor use a milder solvent then Acetone. This is a hot solvent and will cause issues if it starts to pull the existing finish. Paint thinner and VM&P Naptha will usually do the trick with a little elbow grease added.

From contributor R:
Acetone is pretty tough for cleaning. The other solvents DCS mentioned will be safer than the Acetone. Don’t forget to advise her on the use of gloves as well as the proper disposal of any rags that she might use.

From contributor L:
The satin is a very low sheen and the semi is about the normal satin. Pro classic is a very good product, and it does level very well. I don't, however consider it diy friendly with a brush. My local SW sells it all the time as cabinet repaint material and I've stripped and re-worked most of them.

From contributor B:
I've done this same thing for a friend who didn't want to spend a lot of money. Have the client remove all the doors and clean them with TSP and bring them to your shop. Also have them wipe clean all the boxes in the kitchen (they can do this at the cost of their time and a couple of bucks for cleaning material).

Then send one of your guys out to fully mask and drape off the kitchen area (charge them a day’s labor for your guy and $100 for tape, plastic, and paper). Stick a box fan in a window with a filter and spray waterbase primer - two coats with a quick sanding after coat number two. Then use a pigmented topcoat (two coats). Charge them $250 plus material.

Vacuum and remove masking. Have them clean all final dust and sweep up overspray. Then spray the doors at your shop and have them re-hang. Charge them $300. You can do the job on the cheap for around $1000-$1200. If they can't spend that then tell them to save up until they can.