10 Mistakes to Avoid When Spray Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Kevin Brown

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Spray Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets

Spray painting kitchen cabinets can transform them from drab and outdated to your desired style. Spraying cabinets often results in a more uniform finish than rolling or using a brush, but proper preparation is crucial to avoid ruining your paint job.

10 Mistakes to Avoid When Spray Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets


Mistake 1: Neglecting Proper Cleaning

Painting over dirty cabinets leads to poor paint adhesion, resulting in a discolored coat or rough spots.

How To Fix

  1. Empty your cabinets and cover the cleaning area to protect your floor and surfaces from leaks.
  2. Detach and inspect cabinet doors and drawers for fixes.
  3. Clean and degrease with a Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) cleaner diluted with water. Warm water and mild soap also work.
  4. Avoid applying cleaners directly on the cabinet to prevent excess liquid from seeping into wood surfaces.
  5. Dampen a lint-free cloth with clean water and wipe all areas to remove residual cleaner. Allow the cabinets to dry before sanding.

Mistake 2: Skipping Sanding

Spray paint adheres better to rough surfaces than smooth ones. Sanding dulls the glossy finish of wood, allowing primers and paint to stick better.

To create a flat canvas for your paint when sanding your cabinets, follow these steps:

1. Choose medium to fine grit (100-220) sandpaper to roughen your surfaces and remove any previous top coating.

2. Fold the sandpaper to sand corners and details on doors and drawers.

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3. Sand evenly in the direction of the wood grain.

4. Wipe down cabinets after sanding to remove dust and debris. Use a clean, damp, or tack cloth and let all surfaces dry.

Mistake 3: Neglecting to remove cabinet hardware and doors.

Remove all cabinet hardware before painting. Number each door or hardware and put it in a small bag. Repeat for all doors, drawers, and hardware.

Surface and Environment

Mistake 4: Poor Surface Protection

Overspray can damage floors, counters, and other kitchen items. Cleaning overspray requires specialized methods or hiring professionals, increasing the project’s cost.

Cover floors and countertops with drop cloths, rosin paper, or newspaper to contain overspray. Secure edges with masking or painter’s tape for protection.

Move portable items and tape poly sheeting over fixed appliances, windows, backsplash, and walls.

Mistake 5: Poor Ventilation

Use low VOC paint on your cabinets and open windows for ventilation. Wear personal protective gear like respirators, masks, gloves, and safety glasses when painting. Take regular air breaks when priming and painting to reduce exposure time to fumes.

Painting Techniques

Mistake 6: Ignoring Priming

Priming creates a bonding layer that improves paint adhesion to your cabinet surface. Primers also fill in blemishes and cover previous colors or stains, creating a flat surface for painting.

Oil-based primers are the best for sealing kitchen cabinets with stains or discoloration, but they produce a strong smell and take longer to dry. Water-based primers are ideal for cabinets in good condition. Shellac primers are suitable for cabinets exposed to odors or smoke because they adhere easily and dry fast.

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Mistake 7: Overloading with Paint

Using excess paint on your cabinets may cause color variations and uneven surfaces. When the paint is too thick, it takes longer to dry.

Doors and drawers take the longest to paint, so start with them. Paint one coat on the inside and let it dry for one day. Apply the next coat and let it air-dry for another 24 hours. Repeat this process for the front-facing sides.

Utilize the drying periods to paint other cabinet surfaces, leaving each coat to fully dry.

Mistake 8: Inconsistent Spray Patterns

Factors like pressure, tip size, wire mesh blockage, solvent amount, and number of spray lines determine spray patterns. To prevent the orange peel effect and irregular paint bursts, spray your paint under high, constant pressure.

When spray painting, keep a distance and move quickly while keeping your hand still and your finger on the trigger to eliminate runs and drips. Before spraying your kitchen cabinets, practice on a board to perfect your technique.

Drying and Finishing

Mistake 9: Rushing the Drying Process

Paint needs 24-48 hours to dry before re-attaching your doors and hardware. Interfering before it dries causes nicks and marks in your finish. To test if the paint is dry, lightly press the back of your hand or a fingernail on a small surface.

If the paint is sticky or forms a dent, it’s not cured. Dried paint feels solid and doesn’t leave a residue. Let a previous coat completely dry before applying the next one.

This ensures strong adhesion between layers, preventing bubbles and peeling.

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Avoid slamming or scratching cabinet doors during the first week after painting to minimize scrapes. Some paints take up to 30 days to cure.

Mistake 10: Skipping the Clear Coat

A clear coat provides extra protection for the underlying paint against daily wear. It increases the longevity of your paint and makes cabinets easier to clean.

Clear coats offer a smooth and satin, matte, or glossy finish, enhancing the final paint job. Apply the clear coat when your paint is dry and surfaces are clean.

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