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Yes, it is possible to paint cabinets without sanding. If you prep with the right products, you can save yourself the hassle with these tips.
The kitchen, Saturday morning:
Complete with dirty dishes in the sink. Mom and Granny came over to help me get started. Pictured here is a quick discussion about the game plan. And proof that I don’t DIY in much more than PJs and flip flops.
The basic plan for the day: run over to either Home Depot or Lowe’s to check out cabinet hardware (we wound up going to both), purchase deglosser and other supplies, and prep all the lower cabinets for paint. (FYI, I’ve included links in this post to each of the products I used; whenever I look at reviews of products, I always note the packaging to help me find products in the store, so just in case I’m not the only one who does that, I went ahead and included them. Purchasing any of them from these links will pay me a few cents for my efforts, but you can probably find them all at your local hardware store like I did.)
Confession & a little back story: I am determined not to have to sand these cabinets. They’re old and grimy, but also not very shiny. A few years ago, the same cabinets were also in the bathrooms (original to the house). I painted them with a kit as a trial run for the kitchen, and then promptly moved on to other projects (as I tend to do). I later ripped out the cabinets from both bathrooms, yet somehow managed to hang on to one of the doors. I now use it as a laptop rest on my legs when I write at night while watching TV. But after all of its use, the door still doesn’t have a scratch on it. So I’m thinking with the right combination, I can get away with not sanding. I’m not planning to go with the same kit (mostly because I wanted a different sheen on the end result, I was afraid I’d run out of paint & have to buy more kits, and the color selection for the kit is limited). In short, here’s what I’m thinking of doing:
- Wash down the cabinets with a TSP substitute to remove any grime, grease, or finger oils
- Scrub down the cabinets further with Liquid Sander/Deglosser.
- Prime all the lower cabinets with two thin coats of primer. After lots of review reading, I’m going with Zinsser Smart Prime
- Paint the lower cabinets
- Repeat for the upper cabinets (I’m using two different colors and need to trick out the upper cabs with molding, so that will wait for another day).
To get started, we needed to tape down some builder’s paper to protect the shiny floor from the deglosser fluid. Quick DIYer tip: buy yourself a giant roll of rosin paper (aka builder’s paper). Endless amount of uses (and will even serve as wrapping paper in a pinch), it’s cheap, and it’s more than paid for itself in convenience alone of never running out. Granny wanted to get in on the action too (please don’t think I’m forcing Granny to do this; she has Alzheimer’s and gets restless if she has to sit for long periods of time), so she was in charge of taping the paper down with Frogtape.
I began removing lower cabinet doors and hardware (might I add, 30-year-old cabinet hardware = a bitch to remove old screws, and yuck) while Mom started washing things down with the TSP substitute. The goal was to remove any grease and any possible finger oils (these cabinets don’t currently have doors on them, so you have to grab the edges with your hands, which I’m sure will prevent paint from sticking if they aren’t scrubbed within an inch of their existence). I went with Klean-Strip TSP Substitute and it seemed to work okay, but Mom wound up also trying a plain grease-cutting spray that I use for cleaning the stove, which she also said worked just as well.
I learned that taking the doors off the cabinet and then removing each hinge from the door was the fastest way to execute removal. You’d think these things are common sense until you do it the opposite way like a doof.
My system for keeping track of hardware and screws: hardware goes into the cabinet it belongs to with a piece of tape to indicate which one is the bottom hinge.
Screws are taped together in groups…
And then taped to the inside of the cabinet to keep from losing which cabinet they go to. I’m doing this also because I’ve heard that hinges sometimes go wonky on different doors if you mix them up, so I’m leaving everything exactly as I found it (that thing with the plastic bags in it is a caddy I picked up from Ikea a long time ago; really helps to wrangle in excess doggie bags).
But then again, I’m not planning on keeping these hinges at all, really. I’d like to find new hinges with a different finish to match the new cabinet door handles (see further down this post for a sneak peek of those). But just in case I can’t find a decent replacement and have to put these back on the cabinets, I’m keeping track of everything.
Another learning curve: marking the doors. At first, I marked each with a piece of tape (L for lower, numbering the doors left to right). When we later scrubbed down the cabinets with TSP substitute, the tape wouldn’t stick again.
So, the alternative wound up being to mark the bottoms of each door with a permanent(ish) marker. Which also scrubbed off during the liquid deglosser process (damn) but this is a little easier for re-marking afterward.
As for Charlie, she was happily sitting in the middle of the kitchen and devouring a new toy I brought home for her from Haven (that post is coming, promise). She’s carrying it all over the house now from room to room. So cute.
Once all the cabinets were scrubbed down with the TSP substitute, we started all over again with the liquid deglosser. It may seem like overkill to do both, but I wanted these cabinets to be as ready for paint as possible. I wanted to avoid a really smelly process too, so I went with a deglosser that sounded a little safer for everyone to use. Klean-Strip Liquid Sander Deglosser is water-based and biodegradable. It’s also recommended by the pros which is always a convincing argument for me. Also, just FYI, but it looks like the packaging may have been changed recently. Everywhere I found pictures online, it’s with a yellow label. But the packaging I purchased was much plainer and blue (you can see a tiny glimpse of this when you scroll down to the picture of the cabinets and the counter; I meant to take a closeup but forgot).
It’s important to also note to wear safety goggles and nitrile gloves while working with deglosser. And open your windows for ventilation even if the bottle doesn’t tell you to. These are chemicals, people. No one wants that in our eyes or irritating our skin. The process is pretty simple, though: squirt a good amount of liquid on a course cloth (like the scouring pads I used – you should be able to find them right next to the deglosser in the same aisle if the store is well-organized). Use a circular motion to scrub and a little elbow grease. We were a little surprised, but the cabinets even appeared to lighten a little bit after they started drying (you can see some of the finish coming off a little bit on the pad). There may also be a little bit of a filmy feel when it dries; the packaging says that this is perfectly okay to paint over without washing off.
Once everything was scrubbed, Mom and Granny went home and I got a chance to sit down and snap this pic. It doesn’t look like much got accomplished, but we were pretty tired and the deglosser was already dry. Next up: finding new hinges, patching holes from the old hardware (if necessary), and priming.
And as promised, here’s a sneak peek of the “decisions” so far. I spotted this door handle at Lowes and almost instantly knew that these were a winner. I didn’t even bother to bring an alternative home. I simply purchased the shorter and longer versions (for the drawers) and held them up when we got back to the house. One and done. Also pictured are a few color swatches for the lower cabinets (dark grays are always tricky in this house; everything that’s supposed to be perfectly neutral looks more bluish) and a white swatch for reference for the uppers. Pretty sure I’m going to paint the upper cabinets Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White – I’ve heard that this color is a winner time and time again from recommendations I’ve read online. And finally, the metal pictured underneath the cabinet handle is the new faucet finish. I just got it in the mail and can’t wait to show it off.
Second photo of the same colors – the finish of the faucet hardware is a tad darker than stainless, called “slate” – and I’m definitely happy with the combo.
So, anyone up for delivery? Guess that’s going to be the norm around here until the kitchen is finished (and then a whole lotta dishwashing).
- Priming the cabinets
- Painting the lowers and uppers
- Replacing the countertop
- Cutting the hole for the sink (and fixing a misaligned cut!)
- Treating the butcher block