Painting Kitchen Cabinets

  • Why paint solid wood cabinets?
  • Prep work
  • Finishes
  • Application

Should perfectly fine, solid wood cabinets be painted?

There is nothing wrong with painting solid wood. Stained solid wood showing the grain may be beautiful but trends and personal tastes change over time. Also, it’s more than just aesthetics! Wood needs to be protected from the elements and especially from the chemicals, heat, moisture, etc in the kitchen. A new sprayed factory finish will protect the wood much better than the existing old, faded and worn clear coat, so a professionally applied finish will extends the life of your cabinets.

Prepping cabinets for painting.

Prepwork is the most important part of painting in general and it’s especially true for kitchen cabinets. There is grease build up, oil, cleaning product residue and other visible and invisible (like silicone) contamination on the surfaces of all cabinets. All of these will prevent a good bond between the existing surface and the new finish which will result in peeling, fish eye and other problems, no matter what kind of paint is used. Worst of all, a paint finish applied over a surface that hasn’t been prepped properly can not be fixed. The finish will keep failing even if more and more coats are applied on top because the problem is in the foundation. The only way to fix problems like that is to strip the finish completely and start over. Unfortunately this process is more expensive than having the cabinets refaced with new doors.

What finish to use?

Factory finishes of kitchen cabinets are always some type of lacquer finishes. These finishes were designed specifically for kitchen cabinets. They are among the most durable finishes. They resist heat, moisture, chemicals, they don’t stain, easy to clean and the newer ones don’t yellow over time, like some old lacquers. An other very important characteristic of lacquers is that they dry extremely fast. So fast, that they can only be applied by a spray equipment. Once a coat is sprayed, it can be sanded and recoated within 15-20 minutes. This enables professional finishers to apply 2-3 coats within a very short period of time.

What about latex or oil finishes?

None of those finishes should be applied over kitchen cabinets. Even tough some paint manufacturers market some of their latex products for DIY customers as “cabinet paint”, they are nowhere near as hard, durable and cleanable as lacquers. The other major drawback of applying latex or oil based paints is that they dry much slower than lacquers, so applying multiple coats can take days instead of hours.


As mentioned above, only lacquer paints should be used to finish kitchen cabinets therefore the only application method is spraying. Anytime someone attempts to paint cabinets with a brush and roller, he will be using an inferior paint and in addition to that, the final product will have brush marks and roller marks in it which are tell tale signs of a non-factory finish.


Having your kitchen cabinets painted is an investment in your property. Having it done in the right way by a pro will be more expensive than DIY but it will increase the value of your kitchen and your real estate. On the other hand, having it down yourself or even by a painter who is not specialized in cabinet finishing will actually decrease the value of your cabinets in addition to being an eye sore.