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Painted Oak Cabinets

When we moved into our 1950’s home, the kitchen wasn’t really pretty, bit very usable.  It was probably updated sometime in the 1980’s. Over time, the one thing we noticed was how light sucking oak kitchens can be, not to mention that this was an eastern exposure. While the morning sun was amazing, by 11 am, the kitchen was really dark. The old, grainy oak cabinets just made it even drabber and darker. Not to mention the floor that just matched right in. Our painted oak cabinets changed the entire look of our kitchen! Check out the tips below for painting oak cabinets!

Oak cabinets in kitchen before painting

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Painted oak cabinets completely transformed our kitchen

We had contemplating painting our kitchen cabinets but were worried that once it was done, it couldn’t’ be undone. And, what if we hated it? Would the oak cabinets actually look better painted? Could we actually do this DIY project? We had so many worries about painting our kitchen cabinets that we waited far too long to do it!

Oak cabinets before painting

When we finally took the plunge, we wished we had done it sooner. Since the day we initially painted them, we’ve never regretted it once! I have a list of a few of the supplies for painting cabinets here. In fact, we’ve actually painted our kitchen cabinets a few times already for a color change!

Oak grainy oak cabinets
Cabinet painting isn’t just for oak cabinets. One of our clients decided to paint their dark cherry cabinets and remove a set around the window and they saved thousands in kitchen remodeling. They also opted to lower their bar height counter to make it more useful and paint the island.
Dark kitchen cabinets before painting white and adding open shelving

It’s a brand new kitchen with the painted cabinets, new tile backsplash and updated fixtures and hardware.

Removing the cabinets really opened up the beautiful window that seemed swallowed before! Sometimes less is more in a kitchen if you have enough storage! You can see the total transformation here.

Modern farmhouse kitchen update

The steps to painting kitchen cabinets, especially with an oak wood grain are a lot like the preparation for painting any piece of furniture

First, always take proper safety precautions with eye protections, gloves and a dust mask, and always follow the directions of the products and tools being used for a safe DIY experience.

Clean cabinet door to remove any grease, grime or oil. Use a product such as TSP or a grease cutting soap.
Tarp area and plan for a day or two or prepping and painting. Good cabinet prep before painting makes a difference!
Empty cabinets and remove doors and drawers from their hinges, and use a deglosser or manually sand the glossy finish. It does not need to be sanded to bare wood, but it does need to have a smooth finish.
If you are changing the cabinet pulls or knobs from their original position fill the holes with wood filler (make sure to put all of the screws in a baggie!). See this post here for a few tips.
If the cabinet doors have a deep wood grain, fill with a skim coat  of a grain filler like wood putty with a putty knife to cover the oak grain, let dry, and resand until smooth. use a tack cloth to remove any dust.
Sand, prime and paint the cabinet frames and boxes. Using a high density roller to minimize paint texture and a brush to get into any crevices.
Prime the doors with several coats of a high quality primer such as Zinsser or Bin primer. Use a tinted primer from the paint store if you are painting your cabinets a dark color such as green or black.
The kind of paint matters!!!!  Once the primer is dry, paint the cabinets and  drawer fronts with a high quality paint on a satin finish such as Benjamin Moore Advance or similar paint. Apply 2 -3 coats of paint, sanding with a high grit sandpaper and using a tack cloth between coats of paint.
Vintage painted dresser makeover before and after with paint sprayer

When painting you can use a high density foam roller to minimize orange peel or other paint brush textures, or you can use  a paint sprayer for a smooth finish just as you would on a piece of furniture.

When painting the boxes, clean up will be much easier if you use painter’s tape and a tarp to protect the  tile backsplash, appliances and the countertop. If you are creating  sanding dust, you may want to tape off the kitchen. Even a little sanding can make a lot of dust.

Jennifer Rizzo Kitchen White painted Cabinets
Once the oak kitchen cabinets are painted, you can decide if you want to seal them or not, using the same finish as your paint. I recommend a high quality polyurethane or polyacrylic. Stay away from shellac. Shellac is made from the shell of a beetle and  actually has a yellow tint and will continue to yellow over time. You can also spray your sealer on your painted cabinet doors for an even finish.  Once your sealer is dry, rehang your cabinet doors  and add new hardware!
Painted dark green lower cabinets with white uppers
We have loved our cabinet from the moment we painted them!  They have held up fairly well, and needed a little touch up after a few years here and here, as would any surface that is high-use. Our wood countertop is still holding up as well!  Some day we may replace it with a stone countertop, but I worry about trending stone color sometimes. Our clients painted their granite counter and it looks amazing!



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