A Cabinet Painting House Call with Thrifty Decor Chick


I kicked things off this week with some fun – painting cabinets with Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick!  If you’re like me, you’ve been following her kitchen transformation (here, here and here are just a few recent updates), and the cabinets are part of the final stretch of projects.  Sarah and I had chatted about her cabinets, and I offered up my services since she doesn’t live far from me.  I was thrilled when she took me up on the offer, and it was so much fun to see her beautiful home in person after seeing it through her blog all these years.  It was every bit as beautiful and welcoming as it appears online.

What made this trip even more fun is that I didn’t have to do the prep work like I usually do!  Sarah took all of the doors and drawer fronts off, cleaned them and gave them a light sanding, so when I got there, all I had to do was set up and paint!  I wish I had someone to do that for me all the time – what a luxury. 🙂

I brought some of my favorite tools, and we got to work and made some serious headway in just one day.  Both sides of the cabinets primed!

I saw some of the comments and questions people were asking Sarah about the process, and thought I’d chime in as well since I’ve started painting cabinets as a business, and I learn something new with every job that I’ve done.  This post contains some affiliate links to products I have used and rely upon regularly.

Did you sand before you primed?
I know there are a lot of tutorials out there that tout sanding-free prep, but I’m old school when it comes to painting, and when it comes down to it, your paint job is only as good as your prep.  I clean my cabinets with Krud Kutter Gloss-Off, and sand them before I prime.  You don’t have to go crazy with the sanding, but I recommend sanding.  If you’re going to go through all of the time and effort of painting your cabinets, why risk it?  Sometimes when I sand, I find areas that I thought were clean, but weren’t.  And if the cabinets aren’t clean, they won’t take primer and paint.   

The nice thing about the Krud Kutter is that it gives you a head start on the sanding, by taking some of the gloss off the cabinets for you.

What kind of primer did you use?
I have used different primers depending upon the job, but my latest favorite is Sealgrip by Porter Paints.  It dries quickly, sands beautifully and has great adhesion.

Did you spray or brush the cabinets?
We sprayed them.  I have invested in a turbine hvlp paint sprayer, but when I first tackled my kitchen, I did it without most of the equipment that I have now.  I used this hvlp conversion gun that hooked up to my air compressor:

Don’t be intimidated.  It’s not that scary, I promise.  My kitchen was the first one I ever did, and it turned out beautifully, and still looks great today.

There are other options out there as well, that give you a great professional finish.  You can opt for something like this Wagner Spray Max system if you don’t have an air compressor.

Will you spray the cabinet frames?
You can, but you don’t have to.  In many of the jobs I’ve done, I’ve hand painted the frames, and it’s turned out beautifully.  I spray the frames if it’s a large kitchen (like this one) with a lot of detailed woodwork – it just makes the job easier.

But in most cases, you can paint the frames by hand.  Just invest in some good brushes and rollers.  I use mohair rollers for painting the larger surfaces – it gives your a great finish, and you can’t even tell that it wasn’t sprayed.

Picasso makes some of my favorite paint brushes, minimizing brush marks during the process.

I also love Fox paint brushes.  I learned about them after reading about them on a site called Traditional Painter, where master painters based in the UK hand paint cabinets.  It’s amazing, true artists.  I have more than my fair share of these brushes, but I love them.

What kind of paint are you going to use?
I know there are a lot of tutorials out there for painting cabinets, but my tried and true favorite cabinet paint is Benjamin Moore’s Advance paint.  It levels out beautifully, has gorgeous sheen (I like the satin finish), and cleans up with soap and water.

Tell me about that drying rack!

This magnificent invention is called an Erecta Rack – a brilliant stacking system/drying rack that maximizes space and makes the painting process more efficient since you have everything in one place.  

It’s the difference between this:

And this:

The great thing about about painting cabinets, is that no matter what size your kitchen is, the process remains the same.  It’s all a matter of scale.

If you’re looking to paint your cabinets, here are some of my most popular cabinet painting posts – it’s not difficult, it just requires time and attention to detail.  How to Paint Your Cabinets Like a Professional

Are you painting oak cabinets?

Like all of you, I’m excited to see how Sarah’s kitchen comes together, and thankful that I had a tiny hand in the process.

Thanks for having me Sarah – you have my number if you have any pressing painting questions. 😉


  • Reply
    Jennifer @ Dimples and Tangles
    October 27, 2015 at 12:57 pm

    What a fun client! I'm excited to see some products here that I'm not familiar with, I'll look forward to trying something new. Can't wait to see everything finished!

  • Reply
    Lauren Shaver
    October 27, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    AWESOME POST, Jenny! I'm pinning the heck out of this one and shouting it from the rooftops. I'm so dreading painting ours but it needs to happen. So great that you got to work with Sarah! Hugs, friend!

  • Reply
    marty (A Stroll Thru Life)
    October 27, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    Oh wow, great tips and super info about some special products to try.

  • Reply
    Kristine A
    April 20, 2016 at 4:23 am

    Team effort for the win! It is really nice to do things with other people. It makes everything so fun and finish quickly, too!

  • Reply
    August 20, 2016 at 10:25 pm

    That looks great, just a quick question, I am thinking of painting our kitchen cabinets but am worried about how to sand, and what number of sandpaper to use. it’s been a whilel since I took woodwork at school, and i’m a bit rusty on that. What would you recommend?

    • Reply
      August 20, 2016 at 11:36 pm

      I would recommend 180-220 grit sandpaper. Seems to get the job done! 🙂

  • Reply
    September 1, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    I don’t understand how to use the erector rack???? Do you spread each section out, then paint and restack to dry?

    • Reply
      September 19, 2021 at 4:26 pm

      I paint separately from the Erecta rack, and then stack it to allow my doors to dry.

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