5 Cabinet Painting Problems – Solved!


With some of the questions that I receive from readers, as well as some of the situations that I come across in my own experience, I thought a “problem” post might be warranted.  There are different things that always seem to pop up while venturing on a DIY project, and hopefully this will help alleviate some of the pain by sharing my own lessons learned.

Damaged Doors
While the doors/frames might not have started out damaged, sometimes things can happen along the way.  Things happen.  Doors can get dropped in transit or run over by your van in the garage.  Murphy’s Law is in full force in the Land of DIY.

But don’t fret, there is a solution.  Minwax High Performance Wood Filler.  This stuff is amazing and is a must-have for repairing wood – whether it’s furniture or cabinet doors, it’s a lifesaver.  I found this tutorial extremely helpful, and it shows you what an amazing product it is with the furniture piece that was repaired.

I used it on this cabinet door.  It’s kind of messy (and smelly), so make sure you work with it outside.  The corner was chipped and in need of repair.

It’s sandable and will act just like wood when you’re finished.

Good as new!

Smoke and Stains
Perhaps you bought a home whose former owner was a smoker.  The cabinets are in good shape, but you want to make sure that the smoke/nicotine are completely eradicated, and don’t make another appearance.  Or, your cabinets (or walls) are knotty pine, and you don’t want any sap to come through (yes, that’s a concern with knotty pine), and you want to seal off the knots in the wood.  Zinsser’s BIN Shellac Primer is your new best friend.

I have a love-hate relationship with this stuff, let me tell you.  I love that it seals wood and prevents stains and odors from bleeding through and causing future problems.  However, it stinks to high heaven, and I haven’t had any luck in spraying it with my HVLP spray gun, so it’s messy.  But, it’s worth it, as it’s a great insurance policy.

I used it to seal the wood in this knotty pine family room for a client:

Peeling/Chipping Paint
I recently received a question from a reader who is redoing her cabinets that had been previously painted.  The paint was peeling and chipped, and she wanted to know if she had to strip all of the paint off in order to repaint them.  You could, but you don’t have to.  That’s where PrimeRx Peel Bonding Primer comes in to play.  

Zinsser’s Peel Stop is another option that will accomplish the same purpose.

XIM’s Peel Bond Primer is another option:

You can see what I’m talking about with this visual – good stuff that can save your some time and a whole lot of effort.

Unfinished Wood
What if you’re starting a project with unfinished wood?  I’m doing that very thing right now, with the unfinished cabinets that we installed in our garage.

You don’t have to worry about deglossing it like you would a previously finished cabinet door, but give it a light sanding to even out any rough spots, and then prime it with my go-to primer, Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start.  Great stuff.

Painting Laminate
While I have no experience in painting laminate cabinets or furniture, there are lots of people out there who have!  

Check out the laminate kitchen cabinet redo at Cuckoo4Design.  Fantastic!  

Source: Cuckoo4Design

Over at Cute Junk I’ve Made, she does a complete redo of her laminate cabinets.

Source: Cute Junk I’ve Made

Centsational Girl is always a great resource for tips and tricks, and shows how she painted a laminate media center.

Source: Centsational Girl

A fab bathroom vanity makeover at The Little Green Notebook.  Wow!

Source: The Little Green Notebook

So, there you have it!  Just because you have a tricky situation doesn’t mean the job can’t be done.  It just takes a little extra time, research and planning.

Have a great day!

Linking up:
Savvy Southern Style – Wow Us Wednesdays


  • Reply
    Lisa @ Shine Your Light
    June 10, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Great tips, Jenny!! I hate oil based products too but agree, BIN (or Kilz) is a great insurance policy against knots and stains. I always use cheap brushes that I can throw out after because I despise cleaning up oil products with more chemicals. Do you have a good respirator? I just started using one in the past year or so and it makes priming with oil so much more tolerable (and safe 🙂 )

  • Reply
    pam {simple details}
    June 10, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Thanks for putting this together for us Jenny, it's such a great resource of valuable tips! Happy painting!

  • Reply
    Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    June 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    these are great tips! i didn't know there was a primer for chippy paint!

  • Reply
    Kris @ Driven by Décor
    June 11, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    You are the queen of painting! I had no idea that there was a product to help with peeling paint – we've got plenty of that going on in my house. Thanks for the tips!

  • Reply
    Bob Strong
    June 27, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    I love the look of this new cabinet. The paint really added a lot more quality to the product. Where did you get this idea? I'm going to talk to my wife about having a residential painter come do work for us now. http://www.ajbluntpaint.com.au/page-residential

  • Reply
    Anderson Joey
    June 11, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I simply want to tell you that I am new to blogging and absolutely loved you're blog. Almost certainly I’m want to bookmark your blog. You surely come with exceptional articles. Thanks a lot for revealing your blog.
    Kitchen Cabinets

  • Reply
    bar kerark
    June 11, 2015 at 10:46 am

    It’s refreshing to read a good quality article for a change. You’ve made many interesting points and I agree. This has made me think and for that I thank you.

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  • Reply
    Kristi Bennett
    June 23, 2015 at 5:20 am

    I'm ready to start my oak cabinets but have two questions: did you start with 100 grit sandpaper? And did you just rough them up or did you get them down to bare wood? Thanks for the fabulous tutorials!

    • Reply
      June 23, 2015 at 11:25 am

      You basically just need to rough them up a little bit, no need to sand them down to the bare wood. You're good to go with a 180-220 grit sandpaper. Make sure you give them a good cleaning as well – Krud Kutter Gloss-Off serves as a cleaner and deglosser – a great product!

  • Reply
    Burton Adam
    August 20, 2015 at 9:56 am

    Nice !!!!
    The Great Informative Content. Thanks for Sharing Information.We are unique in the kitchen installation industry in that we manufacture our own doors and carcasses using old school woodworking techniques combined with modern technology.
    Nicos Kitchens

  • Reply
    Melissa @ CharismaHomes.com
    November 11, 2015 at 10:58 pm

    Hi Jenny! I'd like to paint my kitchen cabinets. I have cabinets that are already painted, but in really good condition. The problem is that they are maroon, and I'd prefer to paint them white. What do you recommend for prepping them? Do I need to sand them completely, or can I just prime over the existing paint? I also have some other cabinets that are painted and have a glaze on them. What do you recommend for that? Thanks so much for your help!

  • Reply
    Fran Baker
    April 6, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    What paint finish do,you recommend for kitchen cabinets…..semigloss, eggshell, etc?

  • Reply
    Robyn C
    November 7, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    We just finished painting our cabinets and are having trouble getting a good finish on the doors. Did all the steps… Sand, clean, prime, resanded cause of bad finish, clean, paint, resanded cause of bad finish, clean, paint and are still getting a bad finish. I’m about to leave the cupboards off rather than keep dealing with this…. Suggestions?

    • Reply
      November 8, 2017 at 8:16 pm

      When you say you’re having trouble getting a good finish, what do you mean exactly? Is it a texture issue or a sheen issue? What kind of paint did you use? What sheen was the paint – satin/semi-gloss? Did you brush/roll or spray?

  • Reply
    Stephanie Long
    December 27, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    What can you do when your “professional” painters don’t do a professional looking job?

    • Reply
      December 28, 2017 at 8:41 am

      Ugh – what happened Stephanie? I’ve seen it happen before, and it always makes me sad and angry at the same time!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    I have cabinets that are peeling from a bad prep job. My local hardware store recommends shellac vs peel stop. They like peelstop for exterior peeling since you can’t use shellac but for cabinets they feel shellac works better. Thought?

    • Reply
      February 19, 2018 at 4:12 pm

      I don’t think you can go wrong with shellac – it’s great stuff and I’m using it on just about everything these days!

  • Reply
    Laura Hanson
    April 4, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Will the peel stop paint work over latex paint? Our contractor used latex and should not have. Also, will KILZ work too?

    • Reply
      April 7, 2018 at 4:51 pm

      BIN Shellac is my go-to primer for just about any problem these days.

  • Reply
    June 9, 2018 at 10:43 pm

    We had our cabinets sprayed and some look beautiful and smooth, others have little drips or are rough. What is the best way to smooth these without ruining the finish? Do they need to be sanded and resprayed?

    • Reply
      June 10, 2018 at 10:34 pm

      You should be able to sand them and just touch them up with a brush.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Godlewski
    August 16, 2018 at 11:07 pm

    Hi! I have purchased Zinnsers BIN Shellac Primer to use on my pine bedroom furniture which has many knots. The can says no need to sand or de gloss which would be a wonderful time saver for my 2 nightstands, large dresser, armoire and headboard. Your thoughts??
    I plan on using BM Advance for my paint. Thank you for help!

    • Reply
      August 17, 2018 at 11:16 am

      I always clean and sand pieces that I’m working on. It just makes sense – your paint job is only as good as your prep work!

  • Reply
    Kelly Kelley
    October 30, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Help Jenny! I originally used the rustoleum product 6 years ago. Repainted this past weekend with a latex paint with primer satin finish. I have applied polycrylic twice and it’s still chipping. What should I do? Better top coat?

    • Reply
      November 4, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      What kind of paint did you use Kelly? What kind of primer did you use?

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