Breathing new life into old Kitchen Cabinets | Sisu Painting

glazed cabinetry by Cylilna

Kitchen cabinets can get worn out and outdated fairly quickly, but the cost of replacement is often prohibitive.  Because painting is the easiest and most affordable way to refresh a look, clients often ask, can I paint over my existing kitchen cabinets?

The answer is yes, painting or glazing your existing cabinetry can breath new life into old kitchen cabinets!  These solutions provide a relatively inexpensive way to update your kitchen, but it’s important to understand which techniques to use, and how to use them,  in order to achieve beautiful and lasting results.

Most cabinetry is made of wood laminates or softer woods such as poplar, maple or birch. These are the best surfaces for painting. I do caution against painting melamine unless you are knowledgeable about the level of preparation and priming necessary to succeed, because it gets tricky.   Likewise, if your cabinetry is made of press board, with or without a tacky paper finish, I recommend replacement over refinishing.

The most common problems people encounter when painting or glazing cabinets stem from insufficient preparation.  If the cabinets have a clear coat (polyurethane or lacquer) finish, they must be thoroughly de-glossed to assure proper adhesion of the new finish and to avoid chipping or paint failure.

Painted cabinets can be delicate, but if they are prepped properly and painted with the best products, they can remain beautiful for years to come.


The process I recommend for  Painting Cabinetry:

  1. De-gloss the original finish using a chemical de-glosser in combination with a lot of sanding.
  2. Prepare the surface by thoroughly cleaning, sanding, filling holes and smoothing surface with bondo and/or caulk, and sanding again. Note: If the wood is grainy, such as oak, the grain will tend to show through the paint.  Therefore, special care must be taken to sand, fill and smooth during the preparation phase.
  3. Apply an oil based primer for best adhesion and to seal in the tannins.
  4. Apply two coats of oil based paint by hand brushing. I recommend  Benjamin Moore’s Satin Impervo for the very best results. Hand brushing will result in a much more even and smoother appearance than spraying.
  5. Note: I recommend spraying, rather than hand brushing, on hardwoods and laminates (see spraying instructions below).








glazed cabinetry







The process I recommend for Glazing Cabinetry:

Glazing cabinetry is appealing because old cabinetry is effectively turned into beautiful and functional works of art, like the cabinets pictured to the left.

  1. De-gloss and carefully prepare the surface for glazing, as described above.
  2. Apply one coat of  waterborne paint.
  3. Apply one coat of glaze.
  4. Seal with three coats of polyurethane.

The process I recommend for Spraying Hard Wood Cabinetry:

  1. De-gloss and prepare the surface as described above.
  2. Apply a primer coat and follow up by thoroughly sanding the surface.
  3. Apply two coats of water based durable enamel paint. I recommend waterborne paint because the maintenance is easier.  There is no reason to use an oil based product when spraying since the waterborne products level nicely when sprayed and are very durable.  For kitchen cabinets, I recommend PPG Breakthrough! which is extremely durable.  This product should only be applied by a well-trained professional.

Note:  I do not recommend urethane products on cabinetry because they tend to cause chipping and cracking over time, and are nearly impossible to touch up.

Painting and glazing cabinetry is a big job, one that few homeowners want to undertake on their own. That’s where we can help!  Give me a call and let’s talk about your cabinetry needs.   You’ll love our green approach to reclaiming and re purposing old wood or existing cabinetry for a beautiful new look and feel!

Until next time,


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