Monday, November 12, 2012

Adventures in Spray Painting

When last we left the kitchen cabinet painting project, the boxes were painted and the doors were sitting in the garage waiting for warmer weather. After experiencing the pain of painting the cabinet boxes, we decided to try spray painting the doors. Luckily, some friends had an airless paint gun they weren't using and this weekend with highs in the 60s and 70s we had perfect painting weather.

After sanding, filling, then sanding the doors again last weekend, they were prepped and ready to go. I washed the doors so they were clean and dust free, and hung plastic around the garage.

I was already nervous that morning about whether we could make the tight timeline needed in order to prime and paint 18 doors and five drawers. Because who knows how many more 55+ degree days we'll see in central Ohio between now and next spring? And I know me; I will not make it through winter with door-less kitchen cabinets.

The boyfriend is the dedicated spray painter around these parts. He even painted his car himself and it turned out really well. Even with his skill, my anxiety only increased after seeing the first sprayed door. I expected glass-like smoothness, but what I saw was an orange peel-like texture.

The boyfriend kept spraying, but another problem was soon apparent. The airless put out so much overspray, that there wasn't enough room in the one+ car garage to both shoot and have drying space for the doors. And the overspray was getting everywhere. Any little strip of floor that I hadn't covered was now white instead of grey. The paint buildup was enough that we left a trail of white footprints from the garage to the driveway. Suddenly I understood why, despite better results, more people don't DIY with spray paint.

Ghost footprints? Nope, overspray casualty.
Anyone who knows me knows I hate a mess, and this was turning into a mess of epidemic proportions. I was ready to terminate the project and just go back to painting the old-fashioned way (ok I was freaking out), but the boyfriend wanted to press on. Soon the driveway was littered with empty kitty litter buckets with freshly painted doors drying in the sun. This proved to be less than ideal as, you know, it's fall, so there are leaves and debris falling everywhere. Eventually the boyfriend agreed that the current setup wasn't going to work and we packed it up for the day.

At that point I was already planning this post in my head. The title was going to be, "Spraying Painting Cabinets: Epic Fail," but then I saw the next-day results of the spray painting. Even though only the primer had been sprayed, and not our fancy self-leveling cabinet paint, the finish was amazingly smooth. It was 100 times better than even our best results with brushing previous doors. Some of the doors weren't perfect of course, but that was easily remedied with a little light sanding. Suddenly the mess of spray painting didn't seem quite so bad, and the idea of going back to brush marks galore was a lot less appealing.

Our new plan is to try the HVLP spray gun the boyfriend can borrow from his job since he assures me it will produce much less overspray. And they're calling for warm enough weather next weekend that we can paint outside again.

So what have I learned kids?
  1. Don't wait until October to start painting if you live in a northern climate. You're probably thinking, duh, and I don't blame you. Part of the wait was my own laziness and procrastination, and part of it is due to a really hectic work schedule this summer. Either way getting a late start has complicated everything.
  2. Cover EVERYTHING if spray painting. And I mean everything, every speck of floor, wall and anything else you don't want to get paint on. It's way easier to tape off and cover everything then clean and repair the mess later. Use a tarp or heavy duty plastic on the floor that you don't mind throwing away, thinner plastic is okay for walls.
  3. Take it outside. Before we started spray painting I was thinking I could possibly set up a spray area in the garage, but after experiencing it firsthand I would never ever attempt it. This is an outside-only project in my mind.
  4. As usual everything will take three times longer than expected, so give yourself plenty of time.


  1. Hi! I just found my way here from Miss Minimalist. I think you might provide me with some inspiration to fix up my horribly neglected house. ;-) I'll definitely be back!


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