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What's your best advice for cabinet painting?

27 January, 2022

Troy Cullin Cabinets
Troy Cullin works on other tasks while his products dry or set up

It sounds corny, but read the instructions on the products you’re using. If a product says wait 16 hours before you recoat it, there’s probably a reason.

When I first got into this business, it was kind of an eye roll, like, “Oh man, I’ve got to wait four hours just because the can says so? The product feels dry, and I’m ready to go.” The biggest thing that’s worked out for us is that we’ve tried to build our process around those guidelines. If caulk says don’t paint within two hours, and we caulk and we wait the two hours, we figure our day out from there. So painting over it may be the last thing we do.

The minute you start bending the rules is when you start having problems and losing money and going back out to a job for free. It’s boring, but it’s the biggest piece of advice I have.

Troy Cullin, TNC Painting - Grand Rapids, Michigan

Jackson Hunt Cabinets
Hunt's prepping and priming regimen brings his projects top quality results.

If you’re doing any kind of refinishing, you’re probably going to need to take the surface back down to the bare wood. You’ve got to get the cabinet back down to the surface unless the coating is in good condition. If it’s in good condition, then a light deglossing is fine. If we need to get it back down to the surface, we’ll probably use some

sort of heavier-grit sandpaper and then go up a little bit to a more medium-fine grit like 150. We are a huge proponent of the SurfPrep 3" X 4" sander for our cabinet projects.

Then you need to prepare for what’s going to happen with tannins or with nail holes and gouges. We like to have consistency, so the main product that we use to fill anything that’s not too big is Ready Patch by Rust-Oleum. It’s so versatile — and I feel like the less product I have in my van, the better. It’s a high-end product that’s going to have
the least amount of flashing. If there’s going to be something pretty dramatic in filling the wood, we would use probably Bondo Wood Filler.

Now it’s about which type of primers we’re going to use. Obviously, if you’ve sanded it, you have the potential for an issue with tannin bleeding. People who don’t want to deal with that may not want to go the sanding route, so then you probably need to do at least one coat of something like Cover Stain or shellacs. We prime all our cabinets
with a product called PPG Seal Grip Primeline Wood undercoat. It’s an amazing primer that’s also a wood grain filler. It saves so much time because not only does it fill in the grain, it’s a sandable primer. And so we usually double coat with that and then prepare to top coat.

Jackson Hunt, The Pink Guy Painting - Sherman Oaks, California

Greg Hampton Cabinets
Hampton reminds us that because of their constant use, cabinets demand a product that holds up better than conventional wall paint.

It always starts with prep. Getting the cabinets clean and properly sanded is probably the most important thing that you can do. We use Milesi. It’s a two-part polyurethane product that’s made for cabinets and fine furniture. This product has a short pot life. Once you mix it up, you have to be done with it in less than two hours or it’ll set up in your gun. What we do is on a small enough scale that it doesn’t affect us.

We did a set of cabinets two years ago; the client had brand-new doors put on and the painter just used regular trim paint. You could literally scratch it off with your finger. In a case like that, there’s only one thing to do — you’ve got to get it all off. But in the case of a conversion varnish, if it cracks a little bit around the sink area but it’s not cracked all over, you can just sand off what’s bad.

If they go in and put on a regular house trim paint on there, you’ve got to take it off. It will not hold up, because the oils that are on your hand break down your average trim paint, and you handle those cabinets more than anything in your house. You’re there at least three times a day and in between time going in for snacks, grabbing that door every time, and the oils that are on your hand will eventually break down average trim paint. It’s just not made to withstand that.

Greg Hampton, Hampton Fine Finishes - Hornsby, Tennessee

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