Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cabinet Painting: Gun, Brush, or Roller, Choose Your Weapon

It's a lovely 60F day in Ohio in early December, and I'm glad it's raining. Why? So I have an excuse not to spend most of the day sanding and painting cabinet doors, guilt free. When colleagues and friends ask what we did over the weekend and I reply, again, painting cabinets, their overwhelming response is, 'you're still painting cabinets?' Yes, yes we are, and we've still got a long way to go-- at least five more coats on some doors. ARGH! I just want the doors to be done and back in my kitchen already.

Of course I have no one to blame but myself. This is what happens when you start a painting project in fall that has to be done outside and you live in the northern hemisphere. With the short daylight hours and the late fall temps, we're only able to paint one coat per day if we're lucky.

We could be done by now if we'd (a) started earlier or (b) were willing to paint the doors with a brush or roller, which could easily be done indoors, anytime. I tried to brush and roll the doors, I really did. This is part of what made this project take so long. First I tried Benjamin Moore Advance paint, because I saw rave internet reviews about how well it self-levels while still being water-washable. I brushed it as carefully as possible, tried rolling it with three different kinds of mini-rollers (they don't call me a perfectionist for nothing), but we weren't that impressed with the results, especially not for the price.

Then we tried Cabinet Coat, which leveled much, much better. On a small area with a carefully applied brush  Cabinet Coat looked almost sprayed on. When dealing with an entire cabinet door we couldn't quite replicate those results, but it was still an improvement over the Advance. I figured the painting application issue was resolved and we started moving forward.

Then we had a chance to borrow and try an airless paint gun from friends. You can read more about that here, but basically, the airless spray-painted results were amazing, but so was the mess caused by the overspray. After seeing the smoothly-painted surface achieved by spraying, however, the idea of going back to brush marks was very unappealing. Luckily, the boyfriend was able to borrow an HVLP gun from work, and finally we had our answer.

In the meantime, while between borrowed paint guns one day, I tried a hybrid solution. I rolled on primer, which we could do inside before spraying the finish coats. That was a DISASTER. I used those little, white high-density foam rollers that other DIYers rave about. I must say, I don't get it. The results were just awful. Am I just super sensitive to the texture rollers cause or am I a rolling buffoon? I don't know, but the resulting texture on the doors resembled the peel of an orange and it took 80 grit sandpaper and an electric sander to get all that blasted texture off so we could re-spray them. If I wasn't able to spray paint the doors, I would brush them, no question. Those little white foam rollers are pure garbage.

these are the devil - avoid them at all cost

So when it comes to painting cabinets, for best results, my solution is:

  • Spray-paint with an HVLP
  • Use Cabinet Coat
  • Don't wait until fall
What's your recipe for painting success? And if you love those dastardly foam rollers, what's the secret to using them?!


  1. Holy Moly! I think my solution is to live with the ugly color that's already there. You have to do 5 MORE coats?!? How many coats total does that make? I'm utterly flabbergasted!

    1. Well, there are really only 4 coats, two of primer and two of paint, per side. But since we can only paint one side a day due to long dry time, I'm counting four coats per side as eight total. And that doesn't count the mess-ups I've had to sand off. I think if you were less picky than us, and/or don't start painting in late fall, it would go much, much faster. :) Don't let my bad example scare you. The doors are looking brand new though, compared to how they looked before.

  2. It sounds like they're going to turn out amazing.
    Some years ago, I inherited a pan. It had been non-stick but was peeling, and had black burnt stuff hard as metal sticking to it. But it was very solid and good quality, and had sentimental value. So for about 5 years every time I washed it I would have a go at the remaining black stuff. Eventually it was lovely shining steel. Then my boyfriend dropped it and dented it. It was never level again. And then the handle broke. I considered repairing it, but enough is enough. I recycled it. I don´t like to think about all that time getting it to look nice. I´m more accepting of not perfect these days. I don't want to spend all my time making things perfect and then be too tired to enjoy them.

  3. thank you for the advice. I was about to go make a major disaster of my bathroom cabinets by trying to paint them with a brush, or worse, a roller brush!


Comments make my day! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Note: Comments are moderated in order to keep this a spam/ad-free forum.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin