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Rescued Furnishings

Kitchen Cabinet Pro Mistakes

I get questions from my out of staters all the time regarding hiring their kitchen out. Here are some tidbits you may find helpful. This is not a how-to but kind of an insiders scoop on some things to pay attention to. 
I have painted a lot of kitchens. A lot. I have painted a lot of furniture too. I have painted enough of both to know there is a HUGE difference. The first time I painted a kitchen (my own) I sat at Quizzno's telling one of my best friends " I WILL NEVER PAINT A KITCHEN AGAIN". Her kitchen was one of the first ones I did professionally. Yep, that happened.
I have learned so much from my first kitchen and since I did hers. SO MUCH. I learn something in every kitchen and I hope that never changes. I hope I am always challenged and am constantly coming up with ways to do things better. I am going to tell you to do and not do some things  and you may have done the opposite and it may be okay for you. But, I promise there is a reason why I am telling you to RUN. 
First, things first. If you are hiring a painter, you need a CABINET painter. A specialist, and a good one. I get calls, frankly way too often, about people having their kitchens completely peel with in a few months. I have seen kitchen finishes wear off BADLY despite good quality paint being used. WHY? Hopefully this list will help.  
1) Make sure your painter is FULLY insured and bonded. This is to protect you and them. Is it your best friend and completely trustworthy? GREAT. They still need to be insured. Bad things happen that are out of everyone's control and kitchens are expensive. Insurance is not cheap and that means the painter is more expensive but DON'T hire one without it. What happens if they damage your floor or drop a cabinet on accident?? Things happen! 
2) Ask about their process in detail, if they can not eloquently state it, I would wonder why. Don't hire a painter without knowing their steps and process.  
3) Your painter/you should be using a specialty cabinet paint, a lacquer or an acrylic paint. Don't use a "no prep work cabinet kit" from the hardware store. Don't  use chalk-like paint. Especially and specifically in a kitchen. Trust me on these things.
4) Your painter or the DIYer should spend on average 2-4 (lower end with 2 people) hours removing doors and hardware and prepping the frames of the kitchen. Your doors and drawers will take on average 4-8 hours of prep work. JUST PREP work. Less than that is a red flag. I would pull the plug on the job if it was me. Experience is good here because we have had some kitchens that require several days of prep work. It truly varies from kitchen to kitchen. Don't hire a painter that doesn't think prep work is CRAZY important. 
5) Painters should not and you should not paint over any rubber bumpers. Don't paint over rubber bumpers! Yes this happens, It drives me crazy. Remove, sand, clean. Once painted and sealed, put on fresh ones! Your paint will cure together. Please don't paint over rubber bumpers. PLEASE. 
6) Before wiping the dust from sanding off....invest in a small compressor and blower. Blow the dirt out of the cracks and corners before getting it wet. Some people paint right over lots and lots of dirt. Do your absolute best to remove everything. Sometimes this mean repeating some prep after the first coat. 
7) Have extra screws handy that are longer in case your holes get stripped out (this is a new one, even for me!) Good tip for the DIYer. But mainly, Don't do a job without the proper tools. We usually have about one super random run to the hardware store. Longer screws was a new one for us but we now carry several types of screw selections to every job :) 
8)  Oak cabinets - the hardest to paint. If you do not want to see grain, there will likely need to be  at least one hand finished coat before the final spray coat. Most painters will not do this unless they are hand painting everything. If they are hand painting everything, make sure they are using a leveling agent so there is minimal brush strokes. P.S. Short of filling the grain, there will always be some up close. Be clear on what you want. Don't assume your painter knows. 
spray only
Spray Plus hand finish
9) Don't  skip Sealing. All cabinets should be sealed. No if's, and's or but's.  I would say the majority of cabinet jobs do not include this service, so be sure to ask about this step.  A good painter will automatically do this. If sealed, make sure they are using a HIGH quality sealer. Most off the shelf sealers from big box stores will not be as good of quality as the paint you are using and would be counter productive. Make sure a good sealer is being used. If sealed with something good, they should last a very long time and at most need minor minor touch ups. Usually just while the paint is still curing. 
10) Don't leave doors on to paint or drawers in to paint. Sometimes, drawers don't come out or at least not easily. I get not wanting to break things....BUT....I can't believe I have to say this but I do....If you can not remove the drawers make sure your painter is painting between them on the frame. Any wood surface facing OUT should always be painted even if it is hard to get to. If they could remove the drawers or drawer fronts and Don't....UM.......yeah. Leaving the actual doors on is never a good idea either.
And number 11) for my DIYers. Don't get into the project unprepared for how time consuming it is. For more about my first kitchen experience, read here. 

Some of these things seem like common sense but I have truly seen it all and am sure I will always see crazy things! When hiring, do your homework ask about their process. Make sure the process includes prep and sealing. Make sure installation is included. Sometimes people expect for you to remove and reinstall. If you didn't paint the cabinets, you don't want to do this!  When painting yourself, it can be so rewarding. We have classes to help give you more tips and confidence. We want you to be successful and proud! Good Luck and Happy Painting or Happy Finding someone to paint. 

If you are in the St. Louis area and would like a quote, you can email us at OR you can go here to learn about our classes. 
Have you painted your own cabinets? Share your best tips with us!



Apr 03, 2016

I’m in the cleaning and sanding process of painting my kitchen cabinets. I have used Krud kutter gloss off and simple green, the cabinets that were above my stove still feel like there is some grease, what do you recommend? I am using General finishes milk paint. I have denatured alcohol, but not sure if that will do the job. Thanks.

Jun 09, 2015

Really great advice! Fantastc and helpful post. People cannot undervalue quality materials. Start with poor quality, go with cheaper materials and you’ll pay double when the job needs a redo in a year! Love your reminder about time invested, especially all the prep. Time IS money! The pro is worth it.


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