Kitchen Cabinets- Tips and lessons Learned (Part 3)

This is part 3 from our kitchen renovation series.
See part 1 and part 2 for all the details!
So, after 5 weeks of painting my own cabinets and after 3 years of painting furniture professionally and after opening our business to kitchen cabinets late last year after extensive research….I should have learned a few tricks, right?
Yes, of course! I am always surprised at how every kitchen has a little something new. We are always learning!
Here are a few tips!
1)  When doing your cabinets at home…I only flipped the cabinets once. I did the backs to completion and then the fronts…this was smart or it would have taken a lot longer.
2) I didn’t seal my cabinets because after 5 weeks of painting the same cabinets I was homicidal. NOW, 3 years later I am going back and sealing them….not fun! Don’t do that! Seal your cabinets immediately after painting! WHY? That brings me to tip #3!
3)  Don’t wait three years to seal your cabinets! Do it when you are doing your project. If you wait, your cabinets could start to wear!
4) Thin coats! THIN COATS! This helps for the cabinets to be more durable in the long run.
Almost 3 years later….how have our cabinets held up?
The cabinets have held up very well but that might be because there are 7 total coats of paint and primer on them and because I sanded them almost to bare wood. I do find it peculiar though because I get calls to fix cabinets quite a bit and I can tell when they weren’t properly prepped and/or sealed. These calls have all happened from people with kitchens that have been painted within 3 months to 2 years. This has only solidified to me how important prep work and sealing really are. If you spend weeks painting your cabinets or thousands of dollars, you should not have to worry about them wearing so quickly!
So why did our very tiny kitchen take so long? 
Well, The first week was removing all the hardware, labeling, sanding, and cleaning. Remember all the cleaning steps I told you about in part 2? That takes time. I sanded to almost bare wood…also time consuming.
Once I started painting, I only had time to get about one coat a night on the doors. So just to paint the fronts and backs it took nearly a month! I only had a couple hours a couple nights a week and could only do one side a night. The frames took another week or so. It was crazy! I wanted them to be perfect! I was so nervous. The paint we use now would take less coats and can be recoated with in an hour so if I knew then what I know now it would have only taken 2 weeks. Still a long time for that size kitchen, considering I do kitchens with 5 times as many cabinets in the same amount of time but when you are DIYing it and having to flip cabinets and only have a few hours a day to work on them it just takes longer.
The end result?  We like them BUT I can tell they are painted. I can see some imperfections. They aren’t anything like the cabinets I do now and that makes me so mad every time I look at the cabinet that holds our cups…you can see and feel the difference in texture and quality.  It really gets to me! If someone comes into my house, they think they are just white cabinets. They aren’t as critical as me and I know that. BUT I am so excited to repaint my island with the products and methods we use NOW because it is going to look awesome!
SO…What’s changed?
We use General Finishes Paints these days and Modern Masters Supreme Sealer. This is a combination of durability that will not be beat. It won’t. I promise. I would probably bet a lot on it. We use a purdy paint brush, artist brushes, 4″ foam rollers and an air brush gun to do these professionally. We don’t spray in client’s homes because we find that to be more intrusive for existing cabinets. If you do your own at home I recommend using General Finishes paint because the dry time is AMAZING and its a paint with a higher level of solids which means in the end you will need less coats.  It is also self leveling and goes on like a dream!
We do an average/decent sized kitchen in 8-10 full business days.
We more or less follow the steps above, with some added in kitchen mapping and adjustments for each kitchen and adjustments for the spraying we do in the shop. Other than that, we take our time to make sure everything is thoroughly prepped and sealed. These are the 2 most important steps.  Our goal with every kitchen is to make it look like it came from a factory but to be far more durable.
Can you paint your own cabinets? Absolutely. You just need some space to work and lots of time. I will stress though that for a long lasting finish…you need to do all the steps I mentioned. Maybe you didn’t and your kitchen turned out beautifully (totally possible and good job!) but from my experience and based on the experience of my clients I am telling you, if you want to ENSURE a long term and durable solution there is no way around extensive prep work and a good sealer.
 I am not trying to scare you DIYers out there. Anyone CAN paint cabinets but a lot of people don’t have the time to give it a true professional finish or the patience or the space OR they are just nervous! Sometimes things can happen or come up that experience helps with for sure but I did mine and survived (barely and angrily but I survived!) If I survived, you can too!
  If I were doing them now, they would have been sanded less to bare wood and more to just prepare the cabinet. I still clean excessively and I would/do seal with a high end resin…something we are getting ready to do to our kitchen when we paint our island a new color!  I am not looking forward to sealing after the fact (as in 3 years later).
An important lesson learned:  After doing several kitchens for clients we have learned there are a lot of things going on that show up when you paint that you can’t necessarily when cabinets are just wood. Any cabinets that are uneven, have cracks, have water damage will stand out once it is painted. This is normal. You just have to learn what to look for. We fix all water damage and other damage as we go. Don’t be surprised by surprises though, they will happen and that is okay. Just tackle them one at a time. If you use Modern Masters sealer they will end up being more durable than before!.
Want to tackle your kitchen yourself? We can help get you squared away with the right products and tools!
Want a quote to have it professionally done by us like this one?? Email us at
You can get more info here.