6 Jun 2012

The Kitchen: Prepping & Priming

The first thing to tackle in the kitchen revamp is the painting of the cabinets.  I am warning you now, this is going to be a long post, but I would rather give you more details than less in case you are thinking of taking on your own cabinet painting project.

I mentioned in my last post that we were going to have do the painting in stages.  Fin is completely obsessed with the cabinet contents these days.  She has to open every door and see what's inside, tear it out onto the floor and then climb inside the cabinet and pick out every last crumb.  It gets old fast. At least when the doors are on we can just put our knee against them and stop her from pilfering the contents.  The thought of living without bottom cabinet doors for a week gave me heart palpitations.  We decided the best idea for us would be to break the painting up between the top and bottom cabinets.  That way we can do the top first, and then when it comes time for the bottom, we can move all of the contents on top of the upper cabinets.  That will leave the bottom cabinets empty, which will hopefully significantly reduce the chance of having all of our mixing bowls and baking sheets spread across the kitchen floor at once.

We started out by removing the doors from the hinges.  To make reassembly as easy as possible we used masking tape to label each door and the inside of the corresponding cabinet with a number.  Then, when it comes time to reassemble, we hopefully won't have to do a jigsaw puzzle of cabinets. 

Because our hinges are invisible (you don't see them when they are closed), and we had enough room to paint around them, we decided to save ourselves the work of removing them.  Luckily we didn't have to remove the contents (yippie) or paint the inside of the cabinet boxes as they were already white.  The only exception was our microwave cabinet.  

The inside of the cabinet above the microwave was not white so I removed all of the cookbooks and took the hinges off.  Here's how it was looking sans doors.  Clearly my cabinet organization skills need a  bit of work.

We moved the doors out to the garage and placed them on sawhorses and every paint can that we had available.

Do you clean the top of your cabinets? I am sure it's something we are supposed to do regularly but honestly, I don't think ours have been done since we moved in.  There was some nasty gunk on the top of the doors.  I cleaned each of the doors using hot soapy water.  Some of the gunk was still stuck so I then used some BBQ cleaner on the gross areas.  I am sure BBQ cleaner is not the preferred product for this task, but it's what I had on hand, and it worked. 

Mr. Swell then rubbed Liquid Sandpaper on each of the door fronts.  We went back and forth quite a bit whether we needed to sand or not.  Our cabinet doors are real wood, but the boxes are covered in fake wood vinyl stripping.  We went to our local Benjamin Moore store and the guy recommended Liquid Sandpaper, as it was easy to use and wouldn't totally remove the finish but would help adhesion.  

This stuff is super smelly, so I got an out and Mr. Swell had to do all the Liquid Sandpaper work.  When I was pregnant our deal was that I had to stay away from anything toxic. Even though I am not pregnant any longer, the deal seems to still be in place - which is totally fine with me! Wonder how long I can milk it for?  It was hard to tell if the Liquid Sandpaper really did much, but when we did look at the doors from the right angle (kneel down and squint one eye shut) you could see how it cut the gloss a bit.  It's hard to see in the picture, but here's one of the doors all washed and liquid sanded.

We then went back inside and repeated the whole washing and Liquid Sanding process on the cabinet boxes.  We also taped off any areas that were against the walls or range hood.

Hopefully I won't empty the liquor cabinet before this project is done.  Having it open and on display makes it slightly tempting to just crack open one of those little tiny bottles.  I could sit down and pretend that I am on a plane going to somewhere nice and hot with a beach, instead of just sitting at my dirty kitchen table inhaling paint fumes.

But I digress....

Once everything was prepped, we then applied the first coat of primer.  I went with my default and favourite primer, Zinsser Bullseye 1-2-3. It goes on really nice, hardly has any smell and is ready for recoat in an hour. 

I used a small 1.5" brush to cut in and then a foam roller for the bigger areas.  Here's how it looked after one coat of primer.  

I should mention that we are only doing the front of the doors at this point.  Once we have two coats of primer on and one coat of paint, the plan is to flip them over and repeat the whole process.  Then we will finish on the front with one final coat of paint.  The hope is that by doing it this way, we will minimize any chipping or scratching on the door fronts while we work on the back.

Here are the cabinet boxes with one coat of primer.

After about an hour we did another coat. Here's how things looked after 2 coats. Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the doors.

I promised to share this project with you in real time.  Aren't you feeling lucky right about now? You get to experience the real nitty gritty of this project right along with us. Woo hoo. This is what we managed to get done in one day over the span of two baby naps and after she went to bed one night.  We must look like a bit of a comedy act because as soon as Fin goes to sleep, we run as fast as we can to put our paint clothes on and get moving.  She's very unpredictable so we never know how much we will get done in one segment. 

Have any of your lived through painting your cabinets? Any advice on how to stay sane?


  1. I have been thinking about repainting my kitchen cabinets for a long time now. I haven't been brave enough to do it. I have alot of cabinets and they are dark. UGH. I ran across your site and am finding some encouragement. I too have an 11 months old, (almost one) that just LOOVEES making messes. I would have to work fast and furious during nap times. Thanks for posting everything step by step. I'm loving this.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Everything is harder with a baby isn't it? We were pretty tired for a couple weeks and felt like we didn't sit down for days because we'd work like mad while she was sleeping. In the end though it was totally worth it. It's changed the kitchen so drastically.


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