Help!! Need advice on primer and paint for cabinets

cathjamesFebruary 6, 2013

I have read thousands of posts, visited numerous "good" paint stores and have gotten so many different recommendations that my head is swimming. If anyone could give me a recommendation and/or why NOT to go with a particular product I would greatly appreciate it.

I'm painting my cabinets (picture included). They are wood (not sure what kind) and have vertical grooves down the front of them. I am sanding and filling in the grooves with bondo (I know many will have different opinions about that too but that's the route I've taken and have already started it.)

So, given that I have wood (about 25 years old) and bondo - what it the best primer and paint to used for my cabinets. I will be painting them a white/light color. Many have said I need to use an oil-based primer. I will do so if necessary, but would love to avoid the clean up required with oil. But, in the end, I want to do what is best and will last longest.

Primers that have been recommended:
Sherwin Williams Multi-purpose oil based primer
Sherwin Williams premium wall and wood primer (latex)
Zinsser BIN primer/sealer
Zinsser Bulls Eye primer/sealer (oil & latex)
Zinsser Cover Stain primer

Paints that have been recommended:
Sherwin Williams Pro Classic
Benjamin Moore Advance
Benjamin Moore Aura
Benjamin Moore Impervo

Also some have said use TSP to clean the cabinets, others have said don't use it, that it interacts with some paints and causes problems.

HELP!! What to do!

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Check out the paint forum. Lots of posts on this there and if you can't find one that addresses your question there are very helpful folks over there. I learned a lot from them.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 7:56AM
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Here's a repost of my list of how to that I do occasionally. It's geared towards a pro, but if you are DIYing, you need to follow those steps as well.

Short answers to your questions is YES to TSP, but rinse. YES to an alklyd primer. You have to seal the wood properly, and only something like the BIN will do that. No to oil based top coat. You want a high quality latex. And that's were your painting experience comes in. You need to choose a paint that works well in your hand for you. Some people prefer a bit thinner, and some prefer almost pudding. Any that you have listed will do a decent job. I even like the Behr Premium Plus if you want to save a little money and still get a quality job. Buy a couple of the 8 oz samples of the different kinds and experiment a bit if you haven't had experience with them. It's all about your particular comfort level in applying, and that's different from painter to painter.


Here is how I would expect a pro to spray paint kitchen cabinets. A brush painted job would differ slightly in that you wouldn't hang the doors to paint. You'd place them on a work table or easel instead. It's time intensive work, and should take 7-14 days to accomplish completely and cost between 3K-7K depending on kitchen size and amount of detail in cabinets.

Remove doors and drawer fronts.
Remove hinges and hardware.
Clean with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate)
Rinse and let dry.
Scrape any loose finish.
Fill any damaged spots or hardware holes that won't be reused.
Sand fill smooth.
Scuff sand the rest.
Tack off dust.
Hang in dust free paint booth with wires through hardware points.
Tack off dust again.
Spray with alkyd based primer.
Scuff sand again.
Tack off dust.
Spray with second coat of primer.
Spray with first finish coat of latex enamel.
Spray with second coat of latex.
If glazing is to occur, that is next.
Spray with conversion varnish.
(If being brush painted, this step is typically skipped.)

Add more molding or decorative details to boxes, filling nail holes and sanding smooth.

Repeat prep process with face frames and exposed cabinet sides using plastic to create a spray booth on site. If interiors are to be done, they are done before face frames and sides. Interiors are difficult, and add both time and expense to the job.

Allow everything to fully cure.
Clean hinges and hardware and clear coat if you're keeping the old hardware.
Install new (or old) hinges and hardware.
Re-install doors and drawers and adjust for proper clearances.

If you are receiving a job without this amount of effort, then you are not receiving a quality professional job.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:05AM
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I've used both Benjamin Moore Satin Impervo and Advance, and I prefer the Advance for cabinetry. It's less expensive, too. I don't like the Sherwin-Williams products. Unless the bondo requires it (I'm not familiar with it), you don't need an oil-based primer. The best primer I've found is Grip & Seal by Coronado. Because of my paint store's affiliation with Benjamin Moore, they are not allowed to display it on the floor, but they do carry and sell it. So, ask your store if they have any other products they recommend. If you need to use Sherwin-Williams for primer, use latex ProBlock.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:08AM
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On existing cabinetry, you always want to use a shellac based stain blocking primer. NOT latex. There's simply no way that you can clean off all of the grease and grim and silicon based furniture polish, even with a good TSP scrubbing. You'll get fisheye and bleedthrough without that. Seal it good, and then you won't have to worry about any of that coming through your final paint job a month later.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 9:45AM
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I just finished painting my own kitchen cabinets, and learned a few things that I hope will help you avoid some of my mistakes. So much conflicting information!

First, no to tsp. It can leave a residue, and who wants to spend that much time rinsing when you can simply wipe on and off the TSP alternative liquid? Works beautifully.

Agree that you need a good oil based primer. Zinsser cover stain oil primer was easy for me to use, and better IMO to the SW primer I started with. You may want to buy a couple of brushes to toss to avoid clean up, but Kleen Strip low VOC mineral spirits and a wire brush cleaner will do the trick.

As for paint, I too dislike the SW products. I found it gummed up even faster than oil yet was runny and difficult to apply. I switched to BM satin impervo (oil) midway through and it was markedly better in terms of application and now in holding up. I do not think that acrylic/latex, even with all the new improvements, are durable enough for kitchen cabs. Just my experience, some will disagree. But I can tell you that the doors I did in acrylic are already showing wear in some places, while the oil painted ones (which are actually used more often) still look freshly painted. They also have a subtle glow that I think looks nicer.

If you are doing white, however, you may want to use Advance to avoid yellowing over time. Haven't used it but hear nothing but raves.

I did not hang my doors or use a spray booth, although I did attempt to keep the area clean as I went with a shop vac. I also found shirt boxes worked really well to elevate the doors on tables in the garage.

Young house love has a nice tutorial on this that you might find helpful. My only change to their instructions are that I do not think 2 coats of primer are necessary. Good luck and have fun! Lots of work but the results are so worth it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 9:58AM
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CAA 60126

I really liked using the ACE hardware "Cabinet, Door, and Trim Paint". Flows very evenly, keep a wet edge though. Clean up with mineral spirits. A little learning curve...because it levels very nicely it is less viscous than other paints you may have used.

used it on cabinets, breakfast booth, range hood, and trim the shelf standard HD Behr

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:17AM
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CAA 60126

1924 bungalow

ACE "Cabinet, Door, and Trim"

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:20AM
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CAA 60126

I should add this was all new construction.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 10:23AM
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Thanks for all the input. It is much appreciated!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:14AM
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I've got to chime in here, given the fact I'm painting over 200 lf of cabinetry and will be painting all the trim in a 2800 sq house with lots and lots of windows and doors.

I second absolutely all the prep work.
TSP is your best cleaner.

Altho TSP is magic...
A lot of my cabinets are reuse center cabinets and I've had to (vomit) scrape grease and nicotine off them with putty knives. I've resorted to washing doors in hot water out in the front yard (no bathtub), which still didn't get the totally disgusting crap off of the doors. The boxes were another story and no less disgusting.

It was amazing and horrifying to watch other, white latex primers slowly turn ... parchment in color as the oil and nicotine seeps thru them. Really, they felt clean! I can't tell you how much I wanted to cut my hands off because I couldn't get the stain off my fingers. Yeah, I know: gloves. The STIX and Zinzer don't to bleed.

After much research, many charts of recommendations, and info from the Paint forum and other "handyman" places, I went with two different OIL adhesive primers: Inslx STIX (with a brush) and Zinzer adhesive primer (spray can). BM now owns Inslx. An oil primer is different than oil paint for some reason I've never understood. But even after priming with Kilz oil, stain blocking primer, which is meant for drywall, I'll never use anything but the previous two. Kilz = drywall. Really.

As for paint, I bit the bullet and tried the Inslx Cabinet Coat. It's latex. Worth every single penny and mile driven to get it.

I am here to tell you after all the proper cleaning, priming and sanding, this paint went on like BUTTER. It was so beautiful and almost a joy to paint. Paint & joy seldom go in the same sentence.

Anyway, I can't see using anything else if you're using light colors. I've even had some custom mixed at BM and L.O.V.E. it. Cabinet Coat is recommended for trim and woodwork because it dries hard as a rock.

When I paint again, I'll use these same products. And sadly, I will paint again because I didn't use samples and my chosen paint looks blue in natural light. [SCREAM]

Anyway, that's my highly researched and (grossed out, yet happy) experience.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:28AM
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I would like to add one question concerning this process:

Following the correct prep work, using the
BEST primer, the BEST paint, does a top coat of water base poly help with wear and tear on the paint. I know oil yellows, so that is not an option for me.

Or should one assume if they used the best primer and paint, the topcoat of poly would not be necessary.

I'm just not seeing that step mentioned anymore.

I will mention, I painted a BR vanity 4 years ago using the BEST prep and products I knew of, and have not problem with even the slightest ding or scratch. Of course we are talking about a bathroom vanity that DH uses and does not get abused.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 11:50AM
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I would.
Simply because the cabinets are going to be beaten to death.

With Cabinet Coat, evidently I don't need to. Another plus.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 1:53PM
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GreenDesigns: You said "Spray with Conversion Varnish" unless being brush painted. Why would you not put a varnish on if brush painting? What Varnish do you recommend?

Caa60126 - Did you brush or spray?

I really have my heart set on BM White Dove, so I'm leaning toward the Advance. Brush or Spray?

From what I am reading about the self leveling properties of Advance, it might not matter as far as seeing brush strokes go.

I understand there is a learning curve with spraying - but if one can master that - is spraying faster/preferred? Should we try to create some sort of spray booth?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 5:25PM
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You said: I went with two different OIL adhesive primers: Inslx STIX (with a brush) and Zinzer adhesive primer (spray can).
Do I understand correctly that you used one primer after the other? What is the reason? Or did you use either one of these primers at different times?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 6:13PM
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Oh, that was confusing, wasn't it?
The first set of cabinets I used the STIX, which I really like.
When I got 22 cabinet doors, I thought I was going to lose my mind painting them in 104 F heat. I sucked it up and went to Duron and got the Spray Zinzer.

You know how it's recommended to sand between coats? With the spray can, I definately had to. It was definitely rough. However, after an actually light sanding, it was just fine. The STIX was far smoother (and thicker from the brush application) and also only needed a light sand.

I think I kind of cheated. On the 2nd coat of primer for the doors, I used the STIX around the frames where they'd get the most use. Particularly on the uppers and base drawer fronts where I might kick it shut. I wasn't concerned about the flat panels because I live alone and was (practically beaten silly as a child) trained not to touch the cabinet doors, but to use the handle. I also am incapable of touching the car windows, glass screen doors, or make finger or lip prints on a glass. Hmm.. I think I just discovered yet another aspect of not only my OCD, but from where it stemmed. Hmmm....

The thing I stand firm on, actually is the Cabinet Coat. I will use it on every trim and cabinet in my house. [she cried out, pointing finger in the air!]

Anyway, just do it.
It's just paint.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 10:48PM
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OK, thanks for clarifying. Just thought you added another step :)
Is Cabinet Coat an enamel, i.e. is it shiny or does it come in different sheens? And also, do you need a grain filler if you paint oak?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 11:37PM
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Thanks to everyone for all the advice! I'm still narrowing down my choices but will be starting on the project this weekend. I'll definitely be doing it in segments since no one else in the house seems to be interested in participating in the "fun". (They all have their opinions however...) I'll post pictures when I'm done. Keeping my fingers crossed that all goes well. Probably should have waited until spring to start all this but I have a son graduating in May and I'm determined to pull my house out of the 80's before the graduation party!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2013 at 11:50PM
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If you want the grain to show, no.
If you want a smooth finish, probably.

It adds a couple extra steps, but there are some great fillers out there.

I did find if I worked the primer into the grain with the brush, i.e. going diagonally, back and forth, then smoothing it with the grain, mine was less noticeable. I am not an oak fan, but painted? I don't care one bit. I think that it's I like painted cabinets so much more.

Cabinet coat is enamel. I don't know if it comes in different lusters. Never thought about it. Love the stuff, though!

Good luck. Don't lose your mind. It's just paint. The toughest part is the prep. I still have 6 doors 1/2 primed and 1/2 painted with big square color samples. I started this in 2008. But I live alone and avoid company, so I don't care. [lol]

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 7:48PM
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another vote for Cabinet coat.
After paying too much to have my cupboards and trim painted on my first floor and not being overly pleased with the result, I decided I could do a better job myself on my upstairs .

I used cabinet coat and it is holding up beautifully. To my knowledge, it only comes in one sheen which isn't overly shiny. The standard white went a little blue in my light so I had them match it to another white.
There is a bit of a learning curve. It is quite thin and you cannot over work it. If you see a run after about 10 seconds, you can't smooth it because it is already setting up.

You just have to sand it out when it is dry. It dries to the touch very quickly.
My cupboards and trim look like they were spray painted.
Lots of instruction on how to use it.
I used a coronado Chinex brush .

They look much better than my kitchen cupboards painted in oil BM impervo.
The kitchen cupboards are wearing through on the edges and because the paint was oil and has yellowed it is almost impossible to touch them up.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2013 at 12:06PM
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Rather than paying for a kitchen refacing, I have decided to paint the oak cabinets myself. I have years of painting experience, but never cabinets. I started by removing the doors and starting to clean with TSP. I took a break to read some blogs about the best paint to use, and read that most oil based primers, I bought Kilz, do not recommend using tsp? I'm wondering why, as you sand after cleaning anyway? Should I be worried that I did not totally rinse them clean?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2014 at 7:12PM
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Everyone with knowledge seems to have given you good advice that we can all learn from. Please update us. Hoping for a great paint job!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2014 at 10:12PM
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