8 Smart Steps to Painting Veneer Cabinets

How can you update your kitchen or bathroom cabinets without the expense and time of replacing them entirely? Easy: with some paint and just a little know-how.

With time running out before the holidays, painting veneer cabinets can be a quick, good-looking solution.

113021 SR SM Blog Paint Cabinets Valspar“From start to finish, repainting average-size kitchen cabinets will take about 40 hours, but that’s much less than the amount of time to replace cabinets,” says Regina Digmann, Cabinet Designer and Assistant Manager of the Monticello, Iowa, Spahn & Rose. “While it takes some time, repainting veneer cabinets is less expensive and can be done faster than replacement.”

Painting veneer cabinets can provide a new, fresh look for homeowners throughout eastern Iowa, northwest Illinois and southwest Wisconsin. Here, Digmann shares her eight smart tips for doing it well.

  1. Talk to the Cabinet Design Team

The Spahn & Rose Cabinet Design Team can assist homeowners and contractors with any project such as this. Cabinet designers have paint samples handy and can also mix samples to help determine which color will be best for your kitchen or bathroom cabinets.

  1. Select a paint and color

Look for 100 percent acrylic, semigloss self-leveling paint, Digmann suggests. This type of paint will help smooth out any worn areas or dings and will also be durable and easy to clean in high-use areas such as kitchens and bathrooms. (Matte finishes on cabinets tend to be harder to clean.) Many of Digmann’s customers have had excellent results with Valspar Pristine. Popular colors include grays, greens and shades of white, such as champagne, according to Digmann.

  1. Disassemble cabinets

Remove all cabinet doors and drawers, and take off all hardware pulls and hinges. If you plan to reuse the hardware, thoroughly clean it.

  1. Sand and smooth surfaces

Use a very fine sandpaper, such as 220 grit. “You want to just smooth the cabinets; you don’t want to break through the veneer,” Digmann says. For deep chips or divots, Digmann recommends wood filler, not putty. Wood filler will become solid and able to be sanded and primed. Before applying primer, thoroughly wipe surfaces with tack cloth.

  1. Clean well

Using vinegar water or ammonia water, clean all cabinet faces. Don’t use any cleaning product, such as Murphy Oil Soap Wood Cleaner, that leaves buildup. “Some cabinets tend to get greasy, so you may also have to use a degreaser,” Digmann says. “If the surfaces of veneer cabinets aren’t clean, primer and paints aren’t going to stick.”

  1. Apply primer

Use a bonding primer such as Valspar Bonding Primer or Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3, which will help paint adhere to previously painted or stained substrate. “I usually recommend two coats of the primer,” Digmann says.

  1. Paint

Use a four-inch smooth foam roller, which will provide an even finish. To avoid drips, apply multiple lighter coats of paint. Paint the front of the cabinet doors last. That way, you won’t have to flip the doors over later and risk smudges or drips.

  1. For a new look, replace hardware

New hardware can give kitchen or bathroom cabinets a fresh look. Digmann recommends hardware that’s the same width as your current hardware, so you won’t have to drill additional holes in the cabinet doors. Antique brass, satin nickel and oil-rubbed bronze are popular choices for replacement hardware finishes. Also, any exposed hinges should be replaced with the same style of new pulls.