Repainting kitchen cabinets has become very popular in the Pacific Northwest, and in most cases, it’s a pretty straightforward process. It’s an opportunity to bring a lot of light into a older kitchen, and at a fraction of the cost of a full kitchen remodel, but there are factors to consider before you go ahead.
Kitchens and bathrooms are notorious for moisture damage. Even the best oak cabinets will, over time, take a hit from the constant barrage from steam, spills, oils, sauces and the bashing and scraping that comes in any kitchen that’s in constant use. Usually, though, such cabinets are treated accordingly in the first place. A good kitchen installer will use appropriately treated door, sliding drawers, and infrastructure materials. Where shortcuts were taken, the materials you are going to paint upon may be weakened in a variety of ways. If moisture was able to get into the wood itself, over time, that moisture will all but destroy the cabinets. If they are watertight, they should be in almost new condition, and ready to begin preparations for the painting project. Moisture-damaged cabinets are all but impossible to restore, other than to be replaced. If any such damage does exist, consider a thorough inspection before the project begins. That way, you’ll know what you’re up against, and if it is even worth trying to restore at all. Sometimes a kitchen has run its life, and needs a major overhaul, but let’s assume you’re good to go, and let’s look at what happens next.
Again, kitchens present a unique challenge in that food and foodstuffs get everywhere. Even the ceiling of a kitchen collects kitchen related grime over the years. It might even change color because of that. And cabinets, in particular, take a lot of punishment, so the preparation process is vital. Removing all trace of food and moisture from all cabinet surfaces will provide the ideal surface for paint to stick to. The better this part of the job is done, the easier the work will be – because the paint will adhere to all surfaces properly – and the longer the paint will last. Even the slightest presence of moisture, oil or food particles will compromise the finished work, often in the form of slight bubbles or worse, some months later, the paint will begin to flake because it neither adhered to the surface properly, or ‘cured’ the proper way after the work was completed.
If you are using a power sander to score the cabinet surfaces, dust will get everywhere. Even with industrial extractors, some dust will find its way onto anything that is not covered or otherwise protected. Ideally, you should remove what you can from the kitchen complete, especially food, and work in a kitchen that is effectively empty. This will also make the cleanup easier, by the way, as you or your contractor painters don’t have to work around obstacles to do their work.
After preparing all surfaces by scoring, you need to remove any remaining dust. This can be done a variety of ways, but one sure way is by washing all surfaces. Every particle of dust must be completely removed, as it would otherwise get picked up by the paint when that stage comes. A clean, dust-free, dry surface that has been properly scored will ‘take’ the paint properly and will extend the life of the project significantly.
One of the most difficult stages of any paint project is choosing the right colors. Hard as it is to believe, it’s often something that is both left ‘til the last moment, rushed, and consequently less than ideal colors and paint types are selected. If you personally don’t have an eye for color selection – most of us, me included, do not – hire a professional to give you some advice. For the sake of a few hundred dollars, you can vastly improve the quality of the finished job by getting this right.
There’s also a level of gloss to consider. From high gloss all the way down to mat, there is a perfect choice for every situation. Consider the lighting situation in the kitchen. Typically, larger surfaces like more towards the mat end of the gloss scale. This, too, is a great discussion to have with your hired interior designer. Some painting contractors offer the ‘color service’ ahead of the project, and some do not. Some prefer the client to take full ownership of that stage, while other charge for it up-front, and yet others off it for free. Whatever route you take to finalize on color and paint type choice, experience counts.
Paint does more than just dry on the wall after it has been applied. It might feel dry to the touch, but more is happening than meets the eye. Today’s paints need weeks to cure. Curing means a set of chemical reactions that make a paint more durable, and this process usually takes several weeks to complete, depending on the type of paint, the weather, humidity and a few other factors. If you’ve ever gotten part or all of your car painted, you’ll remember being told not to put it into a car wash or other exposure before the new paint has enough time to ‘set’. This process is essential, as it, too, will lengthen the life of the project if it is done properly. Oil-based paints take considerably longer to cure, generally speaking anyway, than latex paints do. More and more, latex paints are used around the home, unless there are special reasons not to. But even with latex paints, give the finished work time to cure properly.
There’s another consideration regarding curing. While this curing process is taking place, keep your living space ventilated. It might be the dead of winter, but minimizing exposure to any paint product is a good idea. Sure, federal law has mandated a number of safety requirements of paint manufacturers – such as the prohibition of lead additives in paint – but why take the risk? Keep the air flowing through your newly painted house interior for two to four weeks.
More next week!