Cabinet painting – without equal, this is the most challenging of all painting projects around the house, it’s a job worthy of respect and research, not to be undertaken lightly except in the case where scores of coats of paint have already been slathered across the doors and drawer fronts – and the good ship Quality has long since sailed.
Notwithstanding that scenario, the first refinish on a set of cabinets is the most important; it will have more influence on future coats than you may think. It will also either cause or conserve effort in future repaints. The original factory coating is the base, what you do on the 1st refinish will cast the die for the next time, and can keep you out of the kitchen cabinet showrooms.
Most kitchen cabinets are finished in an inexpensive pre-cat lacquer that has been machine applied in a large, complex and very impressive cabinet assembly & finish line. Because of this, the finish – although not high quality, materially – is generally well done: smooth and free of sags, curtains, drips, debris, etc.
There are high-end exceptions, but even in these cabinet finish shops the net result is the same; a smooth finish, but one of higher quality. What doesn’t change is the fact that your kitchen is pleading for a new look. Only now, instead of $20K worth of dated cabinetry, you are the lucky owner of $60,000 worth of very fine quality, ugly, dated cabinets.
Should you tear them out and start over? Hardly. Here’s my Top 5 List:
Top 5 Do’s and Don’ts List for Cabinet Painting:
#1: Don’t just get references!
You have to see their work. This is important because not everyone is in possession of high aesthetic standards – some people just don’t see it, whereas others can see it in the dark, with one eye closed, from across the street, etc. So don’t trust references. YOU HAVE TO SEE THEIR WORK! Sorry, no way around this one.
In 20 years I’ve seen cabinets rolled with long-nap rollers, brushed, brushed and rolled – revealing trails of both tools, sponged, wooly-rolled, mopped (my theory, based on breathtakingly sloppy results) and even done with aerosol cans – the horror. And some people just don’t see the difference, or care to!
The bottom line remains unmovable – your standard may not be the same as Mrs. Feenbean from church, or your well meaning neighbor whose aesthetically challenged nephew painted some cabinets, one time a while back, in his buddy’s garage, after band practice.
#2: Don’t be cheap.
There are many projects around the house where it’s perfectly acceptable to save $$, finishing cabinetry is not one of them. It’s not unlike hiring a good attorney vs. a cheap one. It costs more money to clean up the mess than it would have to do it right in the first place.
Be prepared to spend a healthy fraction of the cost of new cabinets – maybe in the 30-50% range – numbers vary and are largely dependent on how many banks of cabinets you have, boxes, door/drawer style, top finish, interiors, crown, etc. There are too many variables for a rifle shot- this is shotgun territory.
#3: Samples: get them.
Any contractor willing to mess up your kitchen ought to be willing to provide a sample cabinet door first. These aren’t expensive to produce – they’re cheap. And doing one for a client who is about to spend $$$$ hiring someone to affirm or afflict their kitchen is not too much to ask.
Old cabinet doors are easy to come by too, they can be scavenged from garages, bought at Home Depot, architectural salvage, made…anything will do – even a piece of veneer plywood with a couple pieces of moulding stapled to it will do for a sample.
What you’re looking for in the sample is a quality finish, one that is smooth in sight and touch, free of blemishes, sags, curtains, dust, bugs, holidays, etc.
#4: this is a don’t item, not a do item:
don’t just hire the guys who painted your exterior because they have a sprayer and would be happy to paint your kitchen cabinets.
This sounds really pedestrian, I know, but it’s on the list for a good reason – heck, these guys would paint your SUV too, if only you would let them. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. In most cases, their reach exceeds their grasp and they should only be in your kitchen for a glass of water. Exceptions exist of course, but do your research.
Magic #5: Pick a convenient time to be without your kitchen for 1-3 weeks.
The contract needs to specify everything. Start date, how long it will take, where they will be finished (on site or removed to shop), what the materials are, what prep steps, how many coats, how long is the warranty, etc. Contract specificity is super-important.
Once you pick a date, confirm the week before and then get ready. Take everything out of your cabinets – even if the finisher says not to worry – it’s your stuff and it’s also a great time to jettison all the old stuff: stale spices, broken gadgets, orphaned storage container parts, plastic kitchenware from when the kids were small, etc.
And, remember, it’s going to be dusty, smelly, inconvenient and disruptive to living. But when finished it will be beautiful if you’ve done your due diligence and contracted the right outfit.
Bottom line; once you light the candle on the cabinet rocket, there is no going back. Make sure you have the right team, pointed in the right direction.
I’m not going to say it depends, that’s punting. I’m going to say every 2 years – for horizontal surfaces anyway. Verticals can go longer, maybe 4-5 years if they’re not south facing, full exposure.
What’s happening on the horizontals is UV damage, rain, snow, foot traffic from people, dogs, and miscellaneous abuse.
Between all of it, it will wear unevenly and require at the very least touching up (which never blends well) but more likely corner to corner refinishing.
Sanding; is it necessary?
Not every time, but from time to time it is. If 2 plus layers of finish are on the surface, the amount of penetration a new coat of stain is likely to achieve is minimal – only in bare spots – and so the stain rests on top, and isn’t penetrating the wood.
For deck floors with transparent or semi-transparent coatings, usually a good thorough rinse will do. Be careful to not power-wash the soft grain out of the wood-leaving a washboard effect. It’s better to use a garden hose and cleanser with a scrub brush fixed to the end of a mop handle. This way clean is achieved without damaging the wood.
This is more troublesome with high-solids finishes like solid deck stain, semi-solid, even some semi-transparent finishes have a higher solids content than others.
A good thing to remember is higher solids=higher build. High solids usually have more protective qualities for typical wear. But, like everything else in life, there’s a trade-off. The trade off with high-pigments is poor touch up characteristics, and substantially more prep when it’s time for redo.
Because of the build up, touching up bare spots results in a mottled look. You can touch up multiple times and that will improve the look but will not blend in perfectly.
This is where sanding becomes important. Rent a floor sander and power through it – remember to check for proud screw or nail heads first, reset them before sanding.
Get as much area sanded as you can with the large rental sander and use a hand held electric sander for the detail areas.
When finished, sweep, vacuum and then rinse the dust off. Let it dry then you can begin re-staining.
My favorite method is using a 9” deck stain pad on a pole – do 2-3 boards at a time and continue along the length of these boards to the end, then move to the next group and continue them to the end. This method takes a little longer but it eliminates unsightly over-lap marks which will show up when the finish dries.
Start farthest in, work your way out to the step/access area. If the steps/access point is in the center, do boards on one side, then the other – leaving the center unfinished – then do the center boards back toward the steps/access; finishing with them.
It’s important to maintain the deck floor & tops of handrails too; keep them clean by washing them a few times a season and the finish will last longer.
Why would you want to paint your aluminum window frames? And will they last?
First, why? Two main reasons: ugly and expensive. Aged aluminum window frames are ugly, and new windows are really expensive. So, paint ‘em up!
Here in sunny Denver, it doesn’t take long for aluminum window frames to oxidize, turn chalky and start looking lousy – even from the curb.
Plus, the colors they came in weren’t all that snazzy to begin with, then the elements take over and turn them into an earthen-mush tone – ick.
Can they be painted? Yes. Should they be? Depends. It depends on who, and how they’re painted.
Here’s a quick DIY guide on how to paint your aluminum window frames:
1. As usual the 1st rule always applies: clean, dry & dull. Clean being the tricky part with metal windows. This job is one of the type that you really want to do it right because correcting/fixing it will be a mess if it goes badly.
Often, in high-UV environments, the factory finish on the window exteriors begins to oxidize and turn chalky. This is a major adhesion inhibitor if not removed.
But first, it’s good idea to scuff the metal surfaces with steel wool. Before doing that, tape off the glass edges so the edges don’t become scratched by accident when rubbing with the steel wool.
Remember, some of your windows open, so if you want your new color to be visible when the windows are open, then you need to open them up and prep the insides too — and the edges of the moving sash.
After taping glass and rubbing with the steel wool, thoroughly wipe the surfaces with a non-soapy cleanser or prep solvent product from your Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams store.
I don’t recommend using de-gloss prep products as a way to skip the steel wool rubbing step. It’s a chemical shortcut to what should be a mechanical bond – a finely scratched surface that makes a good bonding substrate – and I just don’t trust it.
2. The 2nd rule of painting aluminum window frames is thin coats of material. Whether primer or paint, keep it thin. This is true of any window painting, but especially true with metal window trim.
Properly rubbed-out and cleaned, now it’s time to prime. Here’s a great and effective shortcut – aerosol primer! You’ll have to apply some 12” paper masking to protect the glass, siding, brick, etc. from the overspray.
The beauty of the aerosol primer is that it goes on very thin and even, which is the way paint performs best – thin coats allowed to dry properly. Choose the best quality primer here, not the $0.99 bargain primer. You’re asking the primer to do a big job here: be the transition layer between your metal window trim and your trim paint.
3. After your primer dries, check your windows for caulking opportunities. Most windows won’t need any caulking, but if so, it’s best after primer, because the caulk will bond better to primer than to bare metal.
4. Now it’s time to paint! Remember to keep it thin. Brushing is fine, spraying is better; again, aerosols are great if you can find the right color. If not, you can spray your trim paint using a cup gun or airless sprayer with a small tip.
Assuming you don’t have a sprayer, or don’t want to fuss with it, buy a good quality Purdy, Wooster or Corona-brand angle sash brush in about a 2½ inch width.
Another tip, start with the windows in the back of the house, just to get in the swing of things. Then by the time you get around to the front of the house, you’ll have it down pat.
The best part of painting aluminum window frames is you get to pick the color! Your house will look so much better, your neighbors will bring pie.
Many thanks, happy painting!
And remember, if you’re located in Denver, CO, you can get your aluminum window frames painted professionally. Contact the crew at Imhoff Fine Residential Painting today for an estimate.
Denver is a brick town, always has been. Our cup hath run over with clay, and the clay doth begot brick, and the brick begot hearth, and hearth begot home, etc. etc. And then it rained…
Let’s be frank, there’s a lot of really ugly brick in Denver! To be kind, I shall call this brick unfortunate. So, with so much unfortunate brick around the questions often arises: should we paint our brick?
For the sake of this unfortunate brick, and the neighborhoods in which it lies (lurks?) the kindest thing you could do would be to paint it. Please, please, please paint the brick! For the love of Pete, please paint the ugly brick!
Ok, it’s not all that bad, to be sure. But from about 1978 to the mid 1980s there was a lot of unfortunate brick used to build houses. Something was in the air those heady years, and people who made brick thought: if it makes a handsome appliance, why not let it make handsome brick? Hues of this aesthetically stricken brick range from golden-gold, to avocado/black to pinky-salmon. None of these outcasts play well with other colors, so…
And, in many cases, my own home included, what was good outside made its way inside too – my ugly brick was a black-hole of unfortunately impossible design gravity; that is until I painted it – then glazed it as a final punctuating statement to seal the stricken color forever under layers of silken, wispy lightness.
The trick with painting brick is the same trick as painting everything else: clean, dry & dull. Well, brick has dull in spades, so clean and dry remain. Power wash, tuck-point gaps, prime with masonry or other suitable primer.
Make sure you use the best primer – Ben Moore Fresh Start, Sherwin Williams Pro-Block. Don’t use cheap primer, this is the layer tat matters the most!
Then, topcoat with highest quality acrylic such as Sherwin Williams Duration, or Benjamin Moore’s Aura.
Technique is optional; spraying is fast, but be sure to back-roll. Rolling is fine too, but it may be difficult to get enough on with a roller. With spraying, you can better control how much material goes on before rolling it out.
Painting brick is like baking pie: it’s good, it’s American, it’s the right thing to do.
Sanding is a lot of work, but is it really that necessary? In some conditions, yes, it is inescapable. In other cases, it’s optional.
First, the must-do sanding scenario: oil trim, no matter what you intend to paint over the oil, it must be sanded first. Oil-based paint dries to a very hard finish, it’s the main reason for the legacy of durability oil paint enjoys; oil finishes are also renowned for wash-ability – thanks again to the hard finish.
The hardness of the finish is also the fly in the ointment when it comes to repainting over it. That hard finish needs to be roughed up a little bit before anything new will adhere properly to it – even primer!
The reasons are two: first, sanding creates a mechanical bond; a rough surface for the primer to stick to is better than a smooth glossy one. Imagine pouring a thimble of paint on your cars’ windshield, and another thimble on your driveway; which one is easier to remove?
By sanding, creating a mechanical bond, you’ve given the primer a roughened surface – a profile – to stick to. On top of the primer, anything will stick very well, without sanding it.
Latex paint or acrylic trim is different than oil in many ways. The most important is sand-ability. These finishes don’t sand nearly as easy as oil, but it’s still important to prepare the surface.
De-gloss shiny acrylic trim paints with steel wool and then clean by vacuum, tack cloth, and then with a non-soapy cleanser such as Dirtex or TSP substitute.
Now, your trim (oil-based, or latex) is ready for the first coat. You can prime if need be; a good scenario for priming is if there’s a lot of staining or heavy prep, or bare wood.
If the existing paint film is largely intact, and now properly prepped, priming is optional.
Primers are designed to accomplish either or both: block stains, adhere to surface. So, if your surface is properly prepped, and in good shape, you’re free to skip primer entirely and paint, unless you’re changing material types.
If you’re going over prepped oil with latex trim, you should prime. If you’re going over prepped latex with oil trim, you should prime.
If you are unsure, prime.
Primers should be sanded the following day, then vacuumed and wiped down before the first topcoat is applied. The 2nd topcoat can go right over the first as long as it is safely within the recoat window – check manufacturer recommendations for this time.
Don’t want to do any of this? Call a painting professional, or look up the PDCA Find-a-painter service to find the pro nearest you.