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Day one of priming was mostly prep. The cabinets had been scrubbed, supplies purchased, and I was ready to roll. From everything I’ve read online about painting cabinets, the two most important factors are preparation and choosing the right primer for the job. I chose to go with Zinsser Smart Prime for a number of reasons based on the label’s brag points:

Zinsser Smart Prime for kitchen cabinet painting

  • Fast dry time (dry to the touch in 30 mins, recoat in 1 hour, interior stain blocking in 2 hours)
  • Low VOC (I’ve decided that with as much painting as I do, I really need to pay more attention to this)
  • Soap & water cleanup (water-based formulas = awesome)
  • Designed to stick to glossy surfaces (after refusing to sand the cabinets and deglossing them instead, extra adhesion is a very good thing)
  • Stain blocking & sealing without swelling the wood grain (I have ugly oak cabinets, and although some grain texture will be unavoidable, I want to keep the painted surface looking as smooth as possible)

Ok, so let’s get to the good stuff:  for materials, I used just a thin angled paintbrush (for painting the lips of cabinet edges and drawers) and a shed-resistant brush with 3/8″ nap.

kitchen cabinet painting

All of the cabinet doors were propped up on these little plastic triangle thingies (I mean, do these things really need a name besides “thingie”?) that I found in the paint aisle. I normally don’t spend the dough on things like this in favor of using a spray paint cap or something; but for the sake of keeping my doors off the countertops and to facilitate maximum air flow, these worked great. Two packs of these covered all of the doors I needed to paint at once (I would sometimes prop the smaller doors on a triangle shape instead of using four per door to get more out of each pack). Working in a tiny area like my house, space utilization is key. I pretty much just painted the door that went to the cabinet directly below to keep things in order.

propping up cabinet doors for paint

I’m starting each coat on the back side first. Once dry to the touch, they get flipped, and I paint the front. While the little thingies are meant precisely for this purpose, I didn’t want to risk having any marks on the front side of the doors. The second coat will be the same process, and then the subsequent coats of the actual paint as well. This way, the side that’s facing up will be the front, allowing the self-leveling properties of the paint to do their thing.

cabinet door painting

I got primer on just about every inch of my arms. I am not a neat painter when it comes to my own body, but somehow do very well not to drip paint all over the floor. I consider it a unique talent.

Sarah Primer Hands
My new nickname should be “Sarah Primer Hands”

And speaking of unique things, I might very well be the only person who does this (and it’s okay if you think it’s weird, I’m enough of a geek to get a kick out of the sheer science of this):  when I’m too lazy to go find my speakers, I plug the phone in the bathroom and stick the phone in the (dry) sink. The ceramic bowl magnifies the sound and lets me listen to my playlist hassle-free. You could do the same with a ceramic bowl in the kitchen itself. Or you know, just look for the friggin’ speakers.

Did you know that ceramic sinks magnify sound like a speaker?

But I’m well on my way to painted cabinets! Woo hoo!

priming kitchen cabinets

And as promised, here’s your sneak peek at the color I chose:

Martha Stewart's Seal paint
Don’t let the logo for the paint stick fool you – it’s Seal from Martha Stewart!

More tomorrow!

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  1. Sorry to burst your bubble, but I have the exact same talent ;)
    Thats probably why I started wearing disposable gloves for painting…
    Funny how them “thingies” popped up all over my reader this week. I want some now ;)
    Greetings from Germany

  2. Ha, I do the same thing with my phone. Bowls work swimmingly, as do the cup holders in my car. I could always just spend the money and get a hook up for my car but that seems so silly. Until I need to, you know, put a drink in my cup holders.

  3. I think I may be the messiest. My paint clothes are COVERED with paint and caulk. It is because I find it easier to wipe my hands on my shirt and pants vs. a towel. The towel never seems to be close enough. My paint clothes could probably stand on their own :)

  4. We do the same thing when we listen to music on our phones! We grab a bowl from the kitchen and just stick the phone in there. Genius.

  5. As with Kristin, my paint clothes just get propped up! Can’t wait to see the Seal on the cabinets. I, too, ugly oak and look forward to seeing yours complete…so I can make a decision about mine!

  6. Love the color! Painting cabinets is time consuming but so worth it!

    Hey, I have those thingies too. But they’re in the abyss of some junk stash hanging out with my speakers. ;)

    Looking forward to seeing more, Sarah!

  7. Oooooh…I love the little triangle thingies! I hope that’s their official name…if not…totally should be!

  8. Like the color of the paint. I think this color is also ideal for my kitchen cabinets. Too bad I don’t have that creative skills in painting.