A reader wants to know what would be involved in painting these 25-year-old oak Merillat kitchen cabinets. (Reader photo)

QMy oak Merillat kitchen cabinets are 25 years old. I like them still, but the doors have yellowed while the sides, which are a Formica-type material, have gotten lighter. I would like to have them painted and think that spray painting will likely produce the best result. But how do I find a contractor who does this work?


AAsk painters about giving kitchen cabinets a facelift and you’ll get a variety of approaches, ranging from painting everything in place using spray paint and/or a roller and brush to taking off the doors and drawer fronts and their hardware and spray-painting those in a shop. Part of what’s the “best” solution depends on the look you want to achieve.

If your goal is to wind up with cabinets that look fresh from a factory, spray-painting is best because that’s what a factory would do. One company that retrofits old cabinets this way is Fresco & Faux in Reston (571-306-0880; www.frescofaux.com). Owner Shelly A. Martin estimated it would cost $3,000 to $3,500 to paint cabinets in a typical kitchen, with 25 to 30 cabinet doors. Multiple colors or special paint effects would cost more.

Fresco & Faux takes doors and drawer fronts to its shop for spraying. It uses a roller and brush to coat face frames, cabinet ends and any other parts that need to remain in place. Merillat’s customer care department (866-850-8557; www.merillat.com) said paint should stick well to washed and etched doors, drawer fronts and face frames, which were coated with a catalyzed varnish, also known as conversion varnish. But the representative said paint doesn’t always stick to laminate, used on cabinet ends, and suggested covering those with a thin wood material, such as plywood or wood veneer. Martin said she hasn’t found that to be necessary, provided the surfaces are cleaned, etched and coated with the right primer.

Spray-painting leaves a perfectly smooth surface, Martin said. “The finished doors will literally look like they have been purchased brand new from a manufacturer in that color!” she wrote in an e-mail. “Then the client can decide to leave them as is or add a glazing process or any form of faux finishing as an added decorative design, such as cream doors with a chocolate glazing in crevices.”

Some homeowners, though, don’t really want cabinets to look factory-fresh. Instead, they want cabinets that look like traditional built-ins, which were typically painted with a brush. Rich Winkler, owner of Richard T. Winkler Painting in Alexandria (703-836-4432; www.richwinklerpainting.com), used to offer spray-painting of doors and drawer fronts, but the person who did that is no longer with the company, so now he paints with a brush and roller. “Fine woodwork — it’s all brushed,” he said, noting that he visited a kitchen cabinet showroom recently and noticed that one display had a finish labeled as “custom.” It was brushed-on paint, with some of the brush strokes still visible. “A lot of people like that,” he said. His typical charge for an average-size kitchen is $1,500 to $3,000.

I am writing in reference to the question about feet for telephone chairs (“How to fix antique telephone operator stools,” Oct. 14). It seems that if someone has one complete foot and it comes off, the person could copy it on a 3-D plastic printer. This technology could be useful in many small home-repair situations. Where locally can someone go to get access to a 3-D printer?


Good idea. Yes, small 3-D printers that turn coils of plastic filament into custom-molded parts can be used to make all sorts of replacement parts. Replicating a part involves more than the printer, though. You would need to 3-D scan the existing part or design one on a computer. Besides printing out the design in plastic, you might want to shape the part via a laser cutter, CNC router or other computer-controlled fabrication tool.

One great place to start is Digital Commons, on the first floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in the District. The Fab Lab that opened there last spring has equipment to do 3-D scans and prints, plus other tools including a laser cutter and a CNC machine. The center offers free classes, and the cost of printing objects is low, usually less than $5.

Once you know the basics, you might want to graduate to using equipment at a maker space such as Nova Labs in Reston (571-313-8908; www.nova-labs.org). Access is available to associate members at set times ($50 a month) or at all hours to full members ($100 a month). Members are expected to help keep the place running.

If you’d rather focus solely on your own projects, TechShop in Arlington (703-302-8780; www.techshop.ws/arlington.html) might be a better fit. It is a for-profit maker space equipped with professional-caliber tools. Membership is priced accordingly: $150 a month. Even non-members can take a how-to class, but to work on your own projects, you need to join.

Don’t want to do it yourself or need a part made of a different material? A couple of Web-based companies offer 3-D printing in a variety of plastics as well as metal, ceramics and other materials. Shapeways, based in New York (www.shapeways.com), can produce items made of stainless steel, gold, sterling silver and something it calls “sandstone” — a gypsum-based material that’s mixed with ink to make objects in full color. The company’s Web site also offers links to designers who can take an idea from concept to print-ready file. Sculpteo, a French company with an office in San Francisco (www.sculpteo.com), is similar but also prints ceramic objects that can be used as tableware.

Some local print shops also offer 3-D services. These include ABC Imaging’s headquarters office (202-429-8870; www.abcimaging.com) and the UPS store on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington (202-543-0850; www.theupsstore.com). Print shops typically need a ready-to-print digital file.

Have a problem in your home? Send questions to localliving@washpost.com . Put “How To” in the subject line, tell us where you live and try to include a photo.