What to look for when painting kitchen cabinets

I have a lot of pet peeves when it comes to kitchen cabinets. Okay, maybe in general. But I have one in particular that drives me up a wall. I posted a picture on facebook this morning to see if anyone could find the problem and I think I almost started a riot by not divulging right away! If you are here from facebook and can’t read another word without knowing the answer….keep scrolling!

I think all too often, us DIY’ers and even professionals assume that because something happens or because something is a certain way that it is just the way it is. NOT SO. I get a phone call every single month from someone that has paid thousands to have their kitchen painted and it all cracked, lifted, peeled, wore off…with in weeks to just a few months. Cabinet finishing is so much more than “just” painting. This blog post is coming…stay tuned.

Cabinets Cracking

Until then, I have another PSA that I think needs to be shared 🙂

When you have all your cabinets down, look for cracks near the joints. This is super common and generally, 10-20% of the cabinets in a kitchen have them.  They look like this…

Cracked Cabinet

When you see this, you need to pull it apart and put glue in, clamp, let dry, and sand. You need to do this for a few reasons:

1) if you are a professional, no one else is doing this. it sets you apart

2) if you are a professional, you don’t want a call asking why their cabinet is cracked when its just because they didnt notice it before.

3) Pros and DIY’ers…You are leaving wood exposed. Its a place where moisture can get into and lift your paint. It needs to  be fixed.

Glue & Clamp!

See how bad that looks with just a little tug?

But, here’s the thing, it isn’t always so obvious…I put this picture on facebook and people nearly killed me for not spilling. Besides the obvious yellowing and the fact there are still about 10 more steps to go on this cabinet, what’s wrong?! I got everything from a dirty work bench to being able to see the grain. All those things ARE true but not what I am after 😉

It was a trick question!

The answer is that something BIG is wrong but you CAN’T see it and that was the point! Sometimes you need to just do a little more investigation to get the cabinets in tip top shape! Not only does it pull apart but see where the finger is pointing? Its actually cracked right through about 2 inches higher than the trim. Its a giant crack! In the video below…watch the crack appear going diagonally from the joint towards the finger pointing in the picture below!

Cracked Kitchen Cabinet

You fix this the same way, but you will have to have an extra set of hands. One person needs to pull it apart while the other puts glue in. It is good to close and reopen to get more glue in too. If you can, sometimes we actually take them apart and put them back together. This is not just an oak problem, and it isn’t an old kitchen problem. I would be shocked to find a kitchen that has been used for more than a few months to not have at least one cabinet showing this symptom.

Now, of course this can happen in the future but at least you are fixing what you see while you have them down and giving them extra life. It’s going the extra mile on your DIY project or as a professional that counts!

We generally have multiple people check the cabinets and recheck after painting. That means every joint is slightly tugged at on the front and back twice. So you are checking 4 corners on the front and back twice for a total of 16 tugs.

Steps Before Painting

Well worth it in my opinion. And yes, it adds time to the project but it is WORTH it. I promise! Don’t settle for the cabinet just being cracked. Fix it! You will be so proud of your DIY project and as a PRO you are going the extra mile and truly finishing the cabinets vs just getting paint on them. Little things like this can help set you apart!

1. Glue

2. Clamp

3. Dry

4. Sand

Easy fix! Big reward!