Q. Our kitchen cabinets are wooden and were painted white at the factory. They have chipped in a few places and are stained in others, so we would like to paint them. I am assuming we should wash them first and sand them lightly. What sort of solution should I use? What type of sandpaper? What type of paint? Do we need to apply a primer first?
A. You are asking all the right questions. Rustoleum, a manufacturer of specialty finishes as well as the Zinsser line of primers, has come out with a kit for refinishing cabinets that substitutes a liquid etching and cleaning material for sandpaper, a bond coat for the standard primer, and a finish coat in a wide array of colors, including white. Kits also include a glaze, but you can skip that if you want. One benefit of the kit is that everything’s included and you don’t need to worry about compatibility of various products. The downside is that a kit covers only so much (about 100 linear feet, if you add the widths of upper and lower cabinets). If you have even a single cabinet more, you need a whole new kit, about $60.
It’s also possible to repaint using standard products, of course. Wash down the cabinets first, using TSP or a TSO substitute to remove kitchen grease. Scuff up the old finish with 220-grit sandpaper or a liquid etching product, sold at paint stores. Follow that with a coat of primer. Consider using a shellac-based primer, which will stick to most existing finishes, because what appears to be a factory-applied paint might actually be a lacquer coating. Finally, repaint with enamel that’s specifically labeled for use on cabinets and furniture. A water-based enamel should work fine. Remove hardware first so you can paint doors while they are flat, resting on screwtips driven through scrap 2-by-4s.
Read Jeanne Huber’s roundup of home-improvement tasks you should tackle in October, including clearing away those spider webs, at washingtonpost.com/home.
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