I have been working on another client kitchen cabinet project, and continue to research new ways to minimize the grain that you get with painting oak cabinets. (Here is my Tips + Tricks for Painting Oak Cabinets, in case you missed it). This isn’t the first time I’m working with oak, and I’m sure it won’t be my last, but it’s fun to discover and try new things in order to get a more refined end result. So, I’m testing a wood grain filler product for myself to hide the oak grain and see how it fares. This post contains some affiliate links.
I’m really excited about this latest job, and I think the end result is going to be fantastic. I have primed the doors and have started painting them. I thought I would try the filler on the back of a door and examine the difference. I’d like to see how it works and determine whether it’s a service I want to offer at an additional charge, since it is pretty labor intensive across a multitude of cabinets and drawers.
Hide the Oak Grain
Here is a shot of the back of one of the oak doors, primed.
Here is a shot of another door, where I used the wood grain filler. Definite difference, right?
You can still see some of the grain, but it’s not nearly as noticeable as the grain in the untreated door. Granted, this door has two coats of primer vs. one, but the grain is definitely diminished. The nice thing about using a grain filler is that you can apply more than one coat if necessary.
I picked up some Behlen Water Base Grain filler at my local Woodcraft store. The same place where I bought my amazing General Finishes gel stain for my “Stain Without Pain” projects. Sitting on top is their “grain filler spreader/leveler” which is used to smooth it out and work it into the grain.
Now, I have some work to do with my technique, as it’s not a pretty process. This stuff is thick and sticky – not very easy to work with as a beginner.
Obviously, I have some work to do on my technique. I used the spreader/leveler tool to apply it, and I think that was my mistake. Next time I’ll use a rag or even a paint or foam brush to work it into the grain. The good news is that this stuff sands really well.
Definitely a product I want to master, since so many people are looking to say good-bye to the grain. I have an oak bathroom vanity redo in my queue, which I think will be a perfect opportunity to work on my technique.
Another option that’s easier to work with is Aquacoat Wood Grain filler. It’s almost a gel consistency, so it’s easier to work with and work it into the grain. The downside is that it takes more coats to fill in the grain, so it’s a trade-off, but it’s definitely a product worth considering.
This video would have been a good one to watch prior to attempting this. It demonstrates both solvent and water based grain filler applications.
If you’re needing more help in painting your cabinets, check out these posts:
Tips and Tricks for Painting Oak Cabinets
How to Paint Your Kitchen Cabinets Like a Pro
What do you think? Do you have some oak grain you want to banish from your home? Is it worth the effort to hide the oak grain?
Lisa @ Texas DecorApril 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm
That's a big difference! Thankfully we don't have any oak grain to deal with, but we are getting ready to paint our kitchen cabinets next week. I've already bookmarked your "How to paint your kitchen cabinets like a pro" post and refer back to it often. 🙂 We're definitely using Krud Kutter Gloss Off and Ben Moore Advance Paint. Wish us luck!! 🙂
JennyApril 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm
Not having to deal with oak grain definitely makes for an easier cabinet painting project! Good luck – I would love to see your kitchen when you're finished – it's worth the work, I promise! 🙂
Kristin @ My Uncommon Slice of SuburbiaApril 23, 2014 at 4:01 pm
WOW, I didn't know that product existed, the cabinet looks awesome, what a difference!
home before darkApril 23, 2014 at 6:16 pm
I have used Gesso for years. It's easy to brush on. I brush/or roll three coats. They dry quickly. Old school would have you steel wool between the next coats. I used a green scrubber. I keep adding coats/scrub until grain disappears. Prime and you are ready to go. It may sound like more work, but it's easy to apply.
Calypso In The CountryApril 24, 2014 at 12:07 am
Wow that grain filler really makes a difference! The cabinets look great already!
Stacy CurranApril 24, 2014 at 2:42 pm
I would have used wood filler and it would have come out awful. So glad to learn about this! It looks awesome!!
Patricia KrankApril 26, 2014 at 12:58 am
Great idea Jenny! I think the only time I don't mind the wood grain showing through on oak is when it is painted black and distressed. I've never used wood filler so I'm glad to learn something new!
evaMay 6, 2014 at 6:37 am
I'm getti ready to paint my bathroom cabinets…do you apply the wood grain filler after sanding and before priming? Thanks!
JennyMay 6, 2014 at 3:51 pm
That would be the smart way to do it. As you can see, I wasn't smart about it, and put the filler on after I had applied the primer, so I had to put another coat of primer on the door. 🙂
Ms. ButterfieldOctober 7, 2015 at 11:39 am
What primer do you use over the filler? And do you brush, roll, or spray the primer?Thank you.
JenFebruary 8, 2016 at 7:39 am
Did you find out what primer to use? I have the same question. Your supposed to use oil based primer right?
JennyFebruary 8, 2016 at 9:39 am
I have used different primers on oak cabinets, but the one I like the best is SealGrip by Porter Paints. It’s one that’s an easy clean up, but gets the job done. Other options are Cover Stain and BIN (Shellac) but they are much messier to work with and harder to clean up – but they get the job done too. 🙂
Jeff CApril 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm
With the water-based filler, I presume you used the water-based SealGrip primer?
PattyApril 4, 2017 at 4:14 pm
Would this work for covering up knots in pine?
PattyApril 4, 2017 at 4:14 pm
Would this work for covering up knots in pine?
JennyApril 4, 2017 at 5:59 pm
You need to use shellac for knotty pine – it’s stinky and awful, but the only thing that works. Here is a link to a post I did on knotty pine – https://evolutionofstyleblog.com/2013/08/knotty-pine-no-more.html
HermaNovember 4, 2017 at 10:05 pm
I have those awful raised panel, early 90’s oak cabinet doors with raised and rounded trim and edges. How do you think this product would work on those non-flat areas?
JennyNovember 5, 2017 at 8:46 pm
I would consider Aqua Coat as an option here. It’s easier to work with, and you’ll have to get some sanding sponges that will allow you to sand the area smooth.
Barbara DeesJanuary 28, 2018 at 9:50 pm
I am redoing oak cabinet bathroom, If I use the wood grain filler, does mean I don’t need to send. What is the difference in the Bohen wood filler & the Aque wood filler, I start sending that is to hard, the wood grain looks awful. Thank for you help!!
JennyJanuary 30, 2018 at 12:44 pm
The Aqua Coat is definitely more forgiving and easier to work with. The only downside is that you might need more coats to get the grain filled to where you’d like it. You will need to sand it down to get a smooth finish though.
Sharon P GilbertMarch 14, 2018 at 1:43 pm
I’m trying this on a 30″ bathroom sink vanity before I decide about many cabinets in our lake house kitchen that are oak, too. Excited to show my husband it can be done—and by ME! 🙂
JennyMarch 14, 2018 at 8:05 pm
It CAN be done by you! A bathroom vanity is the perfect way to get started!
LoisJuly 14, 2019 at 10:29 pm
My contractor said he didn’t have to sand my oak cabinets that 3 coats of primer will work. I’m very worried that not sanding is goi g to cause a future problem. Please advise
JennyJuly 15, 2019 at 9:38 pm
If he doesn’t sand, I wouldn’t hire him. Sounds harsh, but sanding is what gives the “tooth” that’s needed for the primer to stick to the cabinets. This video is a good demonstration of what I’m talking about when it comes to adhesion — https://youtu.be/ZlvZP4Z9Bsg?fbclid=IwAR3HdEbUFy9vdRu7toF9lUyL5uhWI93sq-mbblGYQP0W1e69cXborcZcAQg
JenniferSeptember 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm
We painted our unfinished cabinets white. Nothing but the paint was used. Big mistake. The cabinets are rough and you can see the grain. How can I fix this? Can I put anything over the paint so that it looks better?
JennySeptember 19, 2019 at 3:43 pm
Ugh – I would sand off as much of the finish as possible, and prime with an oil based primer to help with the roughness of the raw wood. You might need two coats, sanding in between. Topcoat with a good paint (PPG Breakthrough would be a good option, just make sure it’s not the low VOC version, you want the 250 VOC).
vickiSeptember 16, 2019 at 8:54 am
What do you think of covering the grain in oak cabinets and then replacing the doors with maple? Will the finishes look the same after covering the grain in the oak?
JennySeptember 19, 2019 at 3:42 pm
If you can cover the grain really well, I think it would work! The great thing is that most doors cover a great deal of the frames to begin with, so that works in your favor.
DaveJune 14, 2020 at 8:09 pm
Did that cabinet start as a normal oak cabinet (i.e. the oak orange/brownish color as the typical oak cabinet looks). Also, after the filler dried for a few days, was the grain still hidden well, or did it start to show through again?
JennyJune 24, 2020 at 8:56 pm
Yes, it was a normal oak cabinet. As long as you use a good stain blocking primer, the grain should stay sealed in.
Melissa ArdoinNovember 9, 2022 at 11:12 am
Thank goodness for your article! However I have a few questions that I’d love for you to give me your opinion! Thank you!
I’ve painted numerous times but I’ve run into some major problems. I started with original oak “orangy” cabinets. Sanded 80, 120, 220. Primed with water based primer (2 coats), then painted white. As they were curing, my new neighbor came over and said you need to go over this with a 1000 grit… I didn’t know that grit existed. I listened to him because he is a cabinet maker. But will water based primer adhere to the smooth cabinet along with the paint? As of now I don’t see the wood through the newly painted white cabinets (2 coats primer and 2 coats paint). Should I use the grain filler for the rest of the smoothly sanded oak doors?
I also purchased unfinished cabinets to extend my kitchen. I put one coat of primer on a cabinet and after it dried… incredibly fast, I could still see all of the wood grain. I’ve sanded each up to a 320 but they still feel very rough. Is this where the grain filler would work the best? Does it adhere to the wood and smooth out the wood grain?
I have 6 different sized cabinets and 1 bar to do and I don’t want to have to repeat anything as much as I had to do with old oak cabinets. I will be using hybrid colored paint.
JennyNovember 14, 2022 at 5:15 pm
You’re going to need to use an oil or shellac based primer on the new wood, as a water based primer will result in raising the grain. I would recommend a shellac based primer in general for oak since it keeps the tannins from bleeding through your paint job.
As for the 1000 grit sandpaper – I’ve never used that on cabinets that I’ve refinished, Not sure why that would be necessary.