Here is your guide on how to pick the best paint for your kitchen cabinets to breathe life into your space and turn it into a welcoming hub.
I must confess that I agree with people who believe that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Whilst this high traffic area which holds our secret recipes, our shared meals and laughter, may not be up for a complete remodel, a simple lick of paint on the kitchen cabinets may breathe new life into your space and help turn your kitchen into a welcoming hangout hub.
Whether you opt for a bold colour or you stick to a more subtle or neutral colour palette, you will need to take great care into choosing the best paint for your kitchen cabinets that is eye-catchy, stain and scratch resistant, and easy to clean without fading after a few years.
Depending on your kitchen square footage, design and cabinet material, this type of project is reasonably easy to tackle both for DYers and professionals alike.
Read on if you want to know how to go about selecting the right paint for your kitchen cabinets based on the paint types available on the market, your kitchen cabinets materials, and the paint finishes best suited to kitchen cabinetry.
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Oil-Based Paint Vs. Water-Based Paint: When To Use Each
The different elements that constitute a paint, be it oil-based or water-based, have an impact on its colour, how the paint bonds to a surface, and what the paint looks like as it ages.
When shopping for kitchen cabinet paints, consider the aforementioned points, and check out what the following three key components are made of on the paint containers:
The binder: is what gives the paint its name such as acrylic or polyurethane. It is the paint component that carries and binds the pigments together, allowing them to dry or cure.
The binder is also responsible for other paint physical properties such as its gloss, adhesion, flexibility, and durability.
When shopping for oil-based paints, look out for a natural oil binder such as linseed oil or modified oil. As for water-based paints, pick the ones with 100 percent acrylic binders.
Pigments: generally in the form of titanium dioxide, they provide the paint with its colour.
Liquids: help carry the binders and the pigments. and they evaporate as the paint dries and adheres to the surface. Water is used in latex paint, whilst mineral spirits are generally used in oil-based paints.
If you want to find out whether your kitchen cabinets are painted with either water-based or oil-based paint, imbibe a cloth with denatured alcohol and use it to wipe a small section of your kitchen cabinet. If the cloth is paint-free after the wipe, it is likely to be oil-based paint, and if your cloth has traces of paint, then it is latex paint.
Oil-Based Paint for Kitchen Cabinets
An oil-based paint is a combination of either natural oils such as linseed oil or oil-modified polyesters with pigments and resin in a solvent thinner such as mineral spirits. When the mineral spirits evaporate as paint is applied onto a surface, the resin forms a hard coating that protects the painted surface.
An oil-based paint offers a scratch and stain resilient and highly durable finish for your kitchen cabinets, and it makes your cabinetry very easy to clean with soap and water.
The downside of oil-based paint is that it takes a long time to dry, sometimes up to 16 hours, in-between coats of paint.
As years go by, there is also a risk that a yellow tint will form on the surface of kitchen cabinets coated with oil-based paint, particularly in spaces that receive a low level of lighting.
This may give your kitchen cabinets a tired-looking finish over time.
Oil-based paint also will not adhere very well over water-based paint or other paint options.
What is however most important to highlight is that oil-based paints emanate a higher level of VOCs, which stand for volatile organic compounds when compared to other paint types.
These may cause severe headaches, dizziness, eye, throat and nose irritation in some people, especially in poorly ventilated rooms.
Due to their severe long-term effects on health, oil-based paint with high VOCs are best avoided near cookware, dinnerware, dried herbs and spices, and any enclosed food.
Water-Based Paint for Kitchen Cabinets
Water-based paints, also known as latex paints consist of acrylic resin as the binder, a pigment and water as the liquid that carries the binder and pigment together as the paint is applied to a surface.
A water-based paint is a great option to decorate large areas. They hold their colour much longer than most paint options on the market. They are also easy to keep clean with just soap and water.
A water-based paint is a great choice for your kitchen cabinets as they emit lower VOCs, require fewer coats of paint on a surface to look good, and have a quicker drying time.
What is also great about latex paint is that it adheres well to surfaces previously painted with oil-based paint. So if you want to change the colour of your existing kitchen cabinets that are treated with oil, water-based paint is a great option to go for.
A drawback you might experience with latex paint is its durability. Not all water-based paints are formulated to handle regular washing and scrubbing well.
To ensure latex paint durability, select a kitchen cabinets paint that is described as washable or scrubbable on the paint container.
A water-based paint also requires more surface preparatory work to obtain a smooth and even paint finish when applied onto a surface, especially natural wood where veins, grain and textures can vary.
How To Apply Paint Based on Types of Kitchen Cabinets Materials
Before starting your paint job, make sure to check out the material your kitchen cabinets are made from. Whether it is solid wood, wood veneer, laminate, or MDF, the way you approach your kitchen cabinets’ paint update will slightly vary based on each type of surface material.
Wood Kitchen Cabinets
Before applying paint over your wood cabinetry, it is important to sand the surface with either a sandpaper or a liquid deglosser as part of your preparatory work.
This is particularly important if you intend to use water-based paint on your kitchen cabinets, as this paint option is more prone to highlighting variances in the wood grain or texture.
If your wood cabinets are all fresh natural wood with zero paint on them, you can get away with very little to no sanding. But, be aware that you might need a lot more paint to obtain a
smooth and even finish, especially if you decide to use latex paint, as bare wood tends to absorb a lot more paint than previously painted surfaces.
Use an adequate primer for real hardwood kitchen cabinetry to ensure you achieve an even and smooth surface coverage.
Wood Veneer Cabinets
If your kitchen cabinets are made from wood veneer, which is basically a very thin layer of solid wood over a pressed surface, the first thing to do is to inspect each cabinet. Look for chipped parts, cracks, and loose edges that first need to be repaired with wood glue.
Sand very lightly to avoid thinning the real wood over which your paint of choice will be applied.
Laminate Kitchen Cabinets
Laminate kitchen cabinets are a little bit tricky to deal with as they are essentially made from a printed plastic that is pressed on top of a composite material that serves as a base.
Professional decorators still recommend to very gently sand your laminate kitchen cabinets before and after priming by using a fine sandpaper to ensure better paint adherence.
To tackle your cabinetry paint job itself, use a primer that will adhere well to the shiny laminate surface.
Shellac based primer from Zinsser B-I-N has become the go-to for many professional decorators and advanced DIYers due to its ability to bond well over plastic, stain, mould, old varnish, existing oil-based paint, and metal , ceramic tiles, and even bare timber.
MDF Kitchen Cabinets
MDF kitchen cabinets demand a good preparatory work before you can apply your chosen paint on the surface.
In light of the porous nature of MDF cabinets, use some drywall compound to seal the edge and the overall surface if your cabinetry does not come with a finished surface layer.
Then apply an oil-based primer as your first coat and let it dry before painting it with either water-based paint or oil-based paint, depending on your preference.
Although you can use latex paint on your laminate kitchen cabinets, avoid using a water-based primer as it will swell the MDF material.
The Best Paint Finish for Kitchen Cabinets
Kitchen cabinets are subject to regular pulling, slamming, touching and more with both clean and greasy hands and feet. Consequently, it is really important to select the right paint finish that will make your cabinets better able to withstand daily scratches and stains, and use.
Semi-gloss paint finish: is the the best option to choose for your kitchen cabinetry. It subtly reflects light and has some sheen. It is very durable and easily washable.
Gloss: is best suited for bold eye-catchy colours. It has a very high shine and is very durable, as more binders and resin are used in glossy paint formulas, giving them a more robust coating once the paint dries off.
Eggshell or flat paint finish: are best avoided at all costs. They are very sensitive to scratches, stains marks, and are not easily washable.
Tips for Painting Kitchen Cabinets
- Remove any kitchen cabinets hardware before painting
- If you intend to upgrade the hardware with a new style that does not require the same holes, fill them in first before sanding and painting
- If you can do it or outsource it, spray paint your kitchen cabinets for a more polished look
- Use a synthetic bristle brush with latex paint, since the water-based formula will swell a natural bristle paint brush
- Use a roller with ¼ inch nap to achieve a smooth and even paint finish if you have flat kitchen door panels
- As for raised panel kitchen cabinets and country style kitchen cabinets, use a paintbrush to work around angled surfaces and inset areas for an even finish
- Use a razor blade to gently scrape any dried paint off glass-front kitchen cabinets