10 Mistakes to Avoid When Spray Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets


Homeowners often make a few common mistakes when spray painting their kitchen cabinets. Missteps such as drips, uneven spots, peels and leaks can occur.

To achieve a professional-grade finish, navigate the DIY practice with precision to avoid these common mistakes Ignoring best practices when spray painting your kitchen cabinets leads to a less-than-ideal finish.

Spray painting is wrong


Mistake 1: Neglecting proper cleaning

Painting over dirty cabinets leads to poor paint adhesion. This results in a discolored coating or rough spots on the surface. Surface cleaning helps the paint finish withstand wear and tear from dirt, moisture and heat.

how to fix

  1. Collect cleaning products and clean the work area. Empty your cabinets and cover your cleaning area to protect your floors and surfaces from leaks.
  2. Take apart and inspect cabinet doors and drawers for fixes.
  3. Clean and degrease using the right products. Spray a trisodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner mixed with water onto a soft cloth. A mixture of warm water and mild soap also works.
  4. Do not apply cleaner directly to the cabinet to avoid excess liquid seeping into the wood surface.
  5. To reduce and remove stains, use a paste made of one part baking soda, one part lemon, and two parts water.
  6. Spray it on your stain and leave it on for 5 minutes, then wipe off with a soft, damp cloth.
  7. Wear heavy-duty gloves to protect yourself from the harshness of cleaning products and splinters.
  8. Dampen a lint-free cloth with clean water and wipe all areas to remove residue. Allow cabinets to dry completely before sanding.

Mistake 2: Skipping sanding

Spray paint adheres better to a rough surface than a smooth surface. Sanding dulls the glossy finish of the wood, so primer and paint adhere better. Light sanding between coats smoothes out bubbles and excess paint. This increases the appeal and longevity of your paint job.

Here’s how to create a flat canvas for your paint when sanding your cabinets:

  1. Choose the right grit: A medium to fine grit (100-220) sandpaper roughens your surfaces and removes any previous topcoat.
  2. Fold the sandpaper over the corners and door and drawer details.
  3. Sand evenly in the direction of the grain of the wood. This creates a smooth finish and evens out uneven spots and excess wood filler.
  4. Wipe down the cabinets after sanding to remove dust and debris. Use a clean, damp or tack cloth and allow all surfaces to dry.

Mistake 3: Not removing cabinet hardware and doors

Without installing knobs, handles and hinges, you clean and paint all areas creating a uniform finish. You also preserve the functionality and appearance of reusable kitchen hardware.

Spray painting without doors gives better access to the entire cabinet surface. This prevents drips from forming when accessing cabinet edges.

Number each door or piece of hardware as you separate it and place it in a small bag. Repeat this for all doors, drawers and their respective hardware. This makes things faster during reinstallation.

Surface and Environment

Mistake 4: Poor surface protection

Overspray can make surfaces and countertops look stained and unwanted, ruining the aesthetics of your kitchen. Cleaning up dry overspray requires special cleaning methods or hiring professionals, which increases the total cost of the project.

Cut costs by covering your floors and countertops using drop cloths, rosin paper or newspaper to contain overspray. Secure the edges using masking or painter’s tape to ensure complete protection.

Remove all portable items and tape poly sheeting over fixed appliances, windows, backsplashes and walls.

Mistake 5: Poor ventilation

Spray paint fumes contain volatile organic compounds that cause headaches, mild asthma, nausea and sensory irritation.

Open your windows or turn on your AC to let in fresh air and disperse smoke. Wear personal protective gear such as respirators or masks, gloves and safety glasses when painting.

Choose low-VOC or no-VOC paint to protect yourself from harmful fumes. Take regular air breaks while priming and painting to reduce your exposure time to fumes.

Painting techniques

Mistake 6: Ignoring priming

Priming creates a bonding layer that makes the paint adhere better to your cabinet surface. Primers also fill in spots and cover previous colors or stains, creating a flat surface to paint on.

Oil-based primers are best for sealing kitchen cabinets with stains or discoloration. They produce a strong odor and take longer to dry.

Water-based types have less odor and are suitable for cabinets in good condition. Shellac primers are perfect for cabinets exposed to odors or smoke because they adhere easily and dry quickly.

Mistake 7: Overloading with paint

Using too much paint on your cabinets can cause color variations and uneven surfaces. When the paint is too thick or thin, it takes longer to dry. Three coats, an adhesive primer, and two colors of your color will achieve that flawless finish.

Doors and drawers take the most time to paint, so start with them. Paint one coat inside and let dry for a day. Paint the next coat and air dry for another 24 hours.

Repeat this for the front sides. Use the drying period to paint other cabinet surfaces, leaving each coat to dry completely.

Mistake 8: Inconsistent spray pattern

Factors such as pressure, tip size, wire mesh resistance, amount of solvent and number of spray lines determine the spray pattern. Spray your paint with high, constant pressure to prevent orange peel effects and irregular paint flaking.

When spray painting, do it from a distance. Move fast, keep your hand steady and your finger on the trigger at all times to eliminate runs and drips. For starters, practice on a board to perfect your technique before spraying your kitchen cabinets.

Drying and finishing

Mistake 9: Rushing the drying process

The paint needs at least 24-48 hours to dry before reattaching your door and hardware. Interference before it dries causes nicks and marks in your finish. To check if the paint is dry, press lightly on the back of your hand or a small surface of the nail.

If the paint is sticky or forms a dent, it is not yet cured. Dry paint feels solid and does not leave a residue when touched. Allow the previous coat to dry completely before applying the next one. This ensures that the adhesion between the layers is strong, preventing bubbles and peeling.

Avoid scraping or scratching the cabinet doors for the first week after painting to minimize scrapes.

Mistake 10: Skipping the clear coat

A clear coat provides an additional layer of protection for the underlying paint against constant wear and tear from everyday use. This increases the longevity of your paint and makes the cabinets easier to clean.

Clear coat offers a smooth and satin, matte, or glossy finish, enhancing the appearance of the final paint job. Apply the clear coat when your paint is dry and the surfaces are clean of dust and dirt.

Use quality brushes and applicators and apply in thin layers to prevent drips and sagging. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for the number of coats to use and the drying time between each.

Clear coats for kitchen cabinets are either water-based (polyurethane) or oil-based (wax). Water-based coats provide better protection than oil-based ones but cannot top its aesthetic appeal. You can use both, but only use wax as a final coat.


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