I am drowning in basement update projects right now! One of the latest was painting our bar and computer cabinets. Lots of research was spent deciding which type of paint I should use. Ultimately, I chose the path that would keep me from losing my mind – painting cabinets without priming!
So, lots of confessions will be made during this post. Let me start with saying I would probably do things differently if I were to start over. I am happy with the way our cabinets look now, but there were several things I didn’t love during the process. I’ll share those as we get into the steps of the project.
BUT, let’s start with some before pictures of our very orange cabinets.
BEFORE PAINTING CABINETS:
Yep, everything looks straight out of the 70’s.
If you have a stone wall that is outdated, you’ll definitely want to check that out!
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The above is a picture of our computer work space. Now that I have my lap top for blogging, this space rarely gets used as my husband has his own work space in a different room, too.
My hope is, after this makeover, we’ll all want to use it more!
These cabinets are off-the-shelf cabinets from Lowe’s. A few years after we finished our basement, I used General Finished Gel Stain in Antique Walnut.
I have read reviews that this doesn’t always hold up well, but since our basement cabinets don’t get heavy use, we didn’t have any trouble with the durability of the gel stain for the past five years. But, it was a bit too orange-brown for our slow transformation from browns to grays throughout our home.
Speaking of orange wood, you might want to take a peek at how I updated our yellow / orange oak table in this post. What a difference!
MATERIALS for painting cabinets without priming:
- Screw driver to take off cabinet doors
- drop cloths
- Purdy paint brush
- Fine grit sand paper or sanding sponge
- High density foam roller and brush
- Painter’s tape
- Chalk paint of choice (see below for my recommendations)
Steps for painting cabinets without priming:
1. Prepare your work space.
This is certainly not a very rewarding part of the project, but necessary for success.
- Be sure to use the painter’s tape to keep paint off of walls touching the cabinets.
- Put drop cloths down as needed to protect your floors and countertops. In my case, I also used drop cloths to drape over our computer as I didn’t want to move it!
- Clean all cabinets you will be painting. I merely wiped down all of my cabinets with a damp cloth. Keep in mind if you are painting cabinets in a kitchen, you’ll want to ensure all surfaces are clear of grease and oils prior to starting your painting.
2. Take off cabinet doors and remove the drawers.
I realize this seems like a major pain, but I honestly believe it was faster than trying to work around the doors and drawers. Just do it.
Let me warn you!
You’ll definitely want to mark your cabinet doors and your drawers so you’ll know where to put them after you are finished painting.
Use whatever system works for you. I numbered my cabinets and my drawers. My brother tells me he used numbers for cabinets and the alphabet for drawers when he repainted his kitchen cabinets.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Just do something to help you remember where things go when you are finished.
I didn’t remove the contents of our cabinets and it worked out just fine. This obviously wouldn’t work if you intend to paint the insides of the cabinets.
Do what works for you.
This project is a commitment. Be sure you have plenty of space to leave everything out for several days. As you can see in the below picture, I had things EVERYWHERE!
Another quick FYI, be sure you pull back the cabinet hardware to allow the edges of the cabinet doors to be painted. I didn’t do this several years earlier when I applied the gel stain.
3. Start painting!
Chalk paint was the paint of choice for my project. I am 100% happy with this selection as NO priming is required prior to painting.
So here is one of my confessions…I started painting the lower cabinets in Annie Sloan’s French Linen. I’ve used it in several places in my home and love it (like when I repainted this mirror or on this furniture).
The texture is smooth and beautiful every time I use it.
The problem is below. The color (on the right of the bar) was almost the same as our wall color, Dorian Gray by Sherwin Williams. It definitely wouldn’t work!
So, I did what I do best. I impulsively started painting with a chalk paint I had picked up several weeks earlier “just to try”.
See above left side of bar.
Kilz Chalk Syle Paint in Toasted Poppyseed. This color is absolutely beautiful. It’s a deep, charcoal gray – almost black in certain lighting.
Prior to painting, I turned the can upside down for 15-20 minutes and stirred well. The first coat went on fairly smooth. It did seem a bit thicker than other chalk style paints I’ve used, but as expected a second coat was necessary for full coverage.
This is where the trouble started.
The second coat was incredibly grainy and streaky. Keep in mind, I had thoroughly stirred the can prior to the first and second coat.
In the above picture, you can see where I’ve painted the second coat, going from left to right. Initially, I thought the paint would dry without having the chalky streaks.
Of course, I was wrong.
I let them dry over night, then I lightly sanded the painted surfaces with fine grit sand paper. A lint free cloth was used to wipe away dust from sanding.
A third coat of the dark gray paint was used except this time I watered it down slightly. I didn’t measure how much water I added, I just made sure the paint was constantly stirred.
It didn’t turn out perfectly by any stretch. I do love the color, I just wouldn’t use this particular brand of paint for such an important project.
My advice: IF using chalk paint for cabinets, use a brand you have tried and love. Or stick with a brand with a good reputation if you have no former chalk paint experience. My favorite brands of chalk style paint are by Annie Sloan and Amy Howard.
I’ve used chalk paint countless times and I’ve never experienced the issues I had with these cabinets.
The plan for my upper cabinets was to use a white or off white paint. After the experience I had with the Kilz chalk paint, I went with the off white Amy Howard One Step Paint in Linen. This can be found in most Ace Hardware stores.
Two coats (and a touch up third coat) of the Amy Howard chalk paint was required for the white cabinets. NO PRIMING OR SANDING was used with the Amy Howard Paint. It had a much smoother finish than the Kilz chalk paint.
IF YOU’D RATHER NOT USE CHALK PAINT:
In researching this project, I came across a couple of primers and paints that got recommended again and again for cabinets. A little more work is involved, but after my fiasco, I’m not sure it would be much more labor intensive than what I experienced.
I have no experience with the above recommendations, but as I stated, if I were to use something other than chalk paint for painting cabinets, that is what I would use. Certainly if I were painting my kitchen cabinets that get tons of use, I would likely go for those options.
4. After your chalk paint has thoroughly dried, apply a protective coat for durability.
I used two coats Minwax Polycrylic in Satin, following the directions on the can. Allow the top coat to dry over night if possible.
5. Hang all cabinet doors and replace drawers.
Remember that you numbered all of your cabinet doors. Aren’t you glad!?
Painting Cabinets without Priming AFTER:
Our basement is a bit dark, so taking quality pictures is challenging for an amateur photographer such as myself.
Despite the crazy paint issues I experienced, it is such an improvement!
Although the streaks are annoying in the darker gray paint, I still think they look SO much better than the orange cabinetry.
Don’t get used to the floors or countertops. I have an exciting project I’ll be posting about soon. Just a hint with the floors – there will be stencils involved. AND, no more brown.
I’m also planning on painting the barstools (not sure what color yet), changing out the light fixtures, and adding new wall decor. I recently painted all the walls and changed the curtains. When everything is finished, I’ll create a post with ALL of the fun before and after pics!
I hope you’ve learned some valuable do’s and don’ts about painting cabinets! Please, learn from my mistakes.
Have you painted cabinets before? If so, share your insight in the comments sections.