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Raise your hand if you think starting your last semester of grad school and putting impossible deadlines to make over your sad, ugly kitchen is a good idea?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

As you might expect (you do read this blog, after all), progress is slow-going. And I may only have time for phone pictures until the end. My eagerness to experiment with the first coat (thinking that if the streaks were too noticeable, I’d sand them with a between-coat sanding sponge anyway) left lots of streaks across the white primer. I’m also trying to take a few unimpressive between-coat pictures during this process so in case you try it yourself, you don’t wind up panicking when you see something like this:

kitchen cabinet first coat

But that’s ok. I wanted to see the results of this supposed “self-leveling” paint technology without using a roller. The results? They’re alright. Smoother than I expected, but noticeable brush strokes without a doubt (it’s not just the thinness of the coat; when the light shines across the surface, I can see the brush marks). I’m sure I’ll need three coats when all is said and done, and I’m going to try a combination of brush (to get into the grain) and roller (to smooth out the brush marks) on my next go-around.

The area around the sink is looking the most interesting so far. Those two drawer fronts are false and attached to the cabinet, so they’re trickier to paint.

kitchen cabinet color

The color is Martha Stewart’s Seal using Benjamin Moore Advance paint (satin finish). The paint’s consistency was a little thinner than I expected, but it’s layering very well.

It doesn’t look all that promising right now – the kitchen is a mess, the drying time between coats is long enough to let me get distracted with other things (16+ hours), but I know that in the end, the cabinets will be much improved over the ugly oak color. I’ve already done a second coat on the cabinet next to the fridge, and I’m thrilled that only one more coat will have it looking more “shiny and new” instead of “um, did I just cover my cabinets in grease?”

kitchen cabinet second coat

Can only get better from here, right?

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  1. I used Advance paint to paint cabinet faces a few weeks ago, and I found that brush strokes were a lot less noticeable once I got to my second coat (the first was a streaky mess).

    I can’t wait to see your kitchen and I’m impressed that you started this while in school (I just started law school and all DIY ground to a halt)!

  2. I used behr paint and primer in one when I painted our cabinet Seal, it wasn’t as streaky as this but it still took me 3 coats or so to get it to the depth of color I wanted. Now I love it! Hang in there, it will be totally worth it!

  3. Yes, it has to get better. I have heard great things about the self leveling stuff. I hope it works. Now, I know you don’t have the cool temps to do the doors outside but my husband made this exclamation a few months ago…”There are two things in life I know for sure, everthing is better with bacon (he was referring to some gourmet caramels he had with bacon) and a hand held sprayer for painting does wonders”. He got a cheaper one on Amazon. It works great on the smaller projects–like cabinet doors, beadboard–beautiful. Not so good on a fence. You need the industrial rental from Lowes/HD for that job!!! And then you can paint the neighbor’s yard. Or clue in (after wife yells at husband) and have your wife and daughter (on Mother’s Day) hold a tarp (bent over, breaking back, white hair) to protect the neighbors yard :)

  4. I used this paint last year on my kitchen cabinets and I think once you add a few more coats, you’ll get rid of the streaky mess. It fills in beautifully as you add more coats. I’d recommend filling in the grain with the brush, but definitely going over it with a wet foam roller while the paint is still wet. I had oak cabinets just like yours and love the finish I got with the advance. Progress is a beautiful thing! Good Luck! :)

  5. Impossible deadlines are the way to get it done! We’re 1 1/2 weeks into a kitchen reno and I’m 1 1/2 weeks from my due date. Totally normal and do-able. Good luck!

  6. Keep going! Honestly, painting my kitchen cabinets is one of the DIYs I hope to never repeat. This is a labour intensive project IMO, so I’m rooting for you. I used the foam roller as much as I could, so brushstrokes were very minimal. My paint was a super heavy duty BM (this was in the era before Advavnce).

  7. Not sure if this is helpful/ encouraging or not, but it took me somewhere around 6 months to finish painting my cabinets. But to be honest, they look a THOUSAND times better and were a fraction (like 1/10) of the cost of new cabinets.

  8. Loving the color! Am paying close attention since I have the same oak grain cabinets. Yours are going to turn out fabulous with or without meeting the deadline!

  9. Your kitchen project is really coming along. The technique I use to brush on a smooth finish is to apply the paint across the grain and then smooth it with the grain. Good luck.

  10. pat yourself on the back big time!! at least youve started (typed as i give my oak cabinets the side eye…..)

  11. If you want a smooth finish, then I would suggest spraying. You need an air compressor and a spray gun (I use the $50 Harbor Freight gun). The result would be an ultra-smooth finish.

  12. In my experience you always have to sand in between coats and for the last coat brush first and then roll. Only way to get no real steaks. Best of luck.

    1. Yep, that’s the plan. The first coat was experimental, just to see how well the “self-leveling” performed. The next coats will be brush & roll. Thanks for the tip though!

  13. Hey Sarah…..Your site showing the remake of your kitchen cabs convinced me that perhaps we too could do the same reprainting our oak cabinets…….Well, after three days and doing exactly what you guys did I am now ready for the first finish coat….Keeping my fingers crossed that all will go well in the final week ahead. …..will keep you posted if we survive.