would you paint wood cabinets?

blackcats13August 15, 2008

I figure most people on this forum probably love wood and original features like I do, so this is where I want to ask this. Our new old kitchen is ... gross to say the least. Had a cleaning crew in, they couldn't get rid of the sticky on the cabinets, were afraid anything else would ruin them, but hey, at least they are kinda clean now. I just read another post about a similar topic, may try those suggestions.

However, these cabinets are very dark anyway. Too dark. Or maybe that is just because the rest of the kitchen is so blah? So, what would you do? Would you attempt to clean completely and hope the finish doesn't get ruined? Clean "enough", then prime and paint? Would you attempt cleaning for now then try to refinish them yourself a different stain later? Something else I haven't thought of?

The back splash and counter are old, worn laminate. They can't be changed right now, so will be painted ... some color, who knows? Floor also has to stay as is.

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Oops - here is the kitchen! I think they look even darker then in the pic.

Here is a link that might be useful: pic of kitchen

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 6:46PM
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Hi! I'm in a similar situation... we are trying to buy a 50's ranch in which the kitchen cabinetry is very dark (yes, darker than shown in the pictures) and very grimey. We have a lot of cleanup to do. Now I will say that I love the 50's feel of this house, but I dislike these cabinets immensely. Although, there are PLENTY of them and the kitchen is a great size so I am happy with it overall. I would try to do something that preserved the *spirit* of the house, but I wouldn't feel obligated to stay strictly original. (There's evidence that these are a 70's redo anyway... there's an older Westinghouse stove, and a metal cabinet with double-basin sink stored in the basement, which I suspect may be original to the house.)

I'd love to be able to completely re-do this kitchen, but that's not in the budget right now so I'm seriously considering painting these so that I can enjoy and use them. I guess I'm not being very helpful here, but to answer your question, YES I would paint original cabinetry if it seemed beyond repair and would enhance my enjoyment of my home.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our 50's ranch

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 10:00PM
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Thanks janetgia! Can't see your house though :(

I too would love to re-do it, but there are so many things to go before it (including new roof and siding) that it may not even get done before we are ready to move again! I think my current plan of attack is to take the cleaning tips from the other post and start trying them out on the inside of lower cabinet doors. Hopefully if the finish is ruined it will be less noticeable there. I'll just try one after the other and see what happens. I guess the worst that could happen is I'll HAVE to paint them, which isn't such a big deal.

The work starts tomorrow, at least there aren't a ton of cabinets to clean! Wish me luck :)

Still interested in other opinions if anyone would care to voice them!

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 11:07PM
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Well, I guess I'll be painting them because:
1. A closer looks shows the stain is very worn and uneven in spots.

2. I forgot to start my cleaning trials on an inside lower cabinet and of course it ruined the stain LOL. Regardless, the only method I found for cleaning them pulls off a lot of stain and finish anyway :)

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 12:51PM
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Try a product called Grease Lighting. I've seen it clean stuff I never thought could get clean. Lowe's and Home Depot carry it. You'll need to wear gloves. Try it first in a small area.

Those cabinets are very dark. You really need to get them clean before you can paint other wise the paint won't adhere for long.

If the Grease Lightening doesn't work I'd take a sander to them and strip them down to the wood or at least to the point, if they aren't wood, the grease is gone and you can paint with good results.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 1:44PM
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This takes longer then I thought. But then, probably everything is going to take longer then I think because I've never done any of this stuff before! What I ended up doing today (also posted most of it in the cabinet cleaning thread) wearing cleaning gloves, this is outside with the cabinet faces only, hardware removed:
1. Spray with oven cleaner (tried other stuff, though not grease lighting, this was what worked) and let sit for 5 - 10 minutes, any longer and it doesn't wipe off.
2. Wipe really good with paper towel.
3. Spray with hose. Ideal? Very much not so, but the cabinets are a wreck anyway and it's the quickest way to get rid of the oven cleaner.
4. Wipe dry with a rag.
5. The "fun" part. Scrape at the gunk, which is still there in the ... creases? of the panels. I was using a flat head screwdriver LOL it's all I had and a break was not a good idea. Yeah, I did scrape a bit of wood in a couple spots.
6. Do the oven cleaner/sit/wipe/rinse/dry thing again.
7. Sand.

This seems to work pretty well. And since the money situation (in other words, how much we are gonna have to spend) has really started to dawn on me, I'm reluctant to spend money on trying anything else when this works. HOWEVER, I'm certainly not going to be using oven cleaner on the parts of the kitchen that can't come outside, so maybe I'll have to buy that stuff anyway.

SO. If someone wants to give me some pointers on doing this better (technique, product, whatever), I'm all ears ;) My back is KILLING me (and it didn't start good either) and I've only done 4 :(

Oh, I did say to DH that I should just sand them. He said the gunk would ... gunk up the sander so quickly it'd be useless. But yes, Carol, we need this paint to adhere long enough to get the rest of the house done (years? LOL) so I need to do this right. How long does it take before you don't have to go to the store 2+ times every weekend???

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 7:18PM
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Let see I've been in my old house 10 yrs and every project we start is at least three trips to the the store and that is if we get it right the first time.............
Old houses are a blessing and a curse the thing is you've got to keep a sense of humor about it or you will learn to hate the house and then nothing you do in it will ever be good enough.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 11:41AM
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At this rate I'll eventually have everything we need and it won't matter that we are broke LOL just kidding! Yeah, I am feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment, and a really bad chronic back problem has got me down. This is the 2nd old home I've owned, but the first was in nearly pristine condition. Only other home owning exp was new build townhouse w/association (souless). But this is exactly what I've always wanted - to bring back a neglected house and make it loved again, so I know I'll bounce back. Thanks Carol for the words of wisdom!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 12:20PM
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Before you paint the cabinets you will want to prime them. In our last house, we had the dark 70's cabinets. I used the TSP which dulls down and takes off some finish and scraped with various scrapers, metal and plastic, used small wire brushes and old toothbrushes in the corners then sanded them before rolling on primer. (I actually painted them 3 different times in the course of owning the house, but that's another story.)

The primer helps the paint adhere and gives you a good base for the color to go on. It is a lot of work, but worth it. I'm not one for painting good wood, but in your case these aren't original to the home and it will freshen and brighten up the kitchen up immensely.

Hang in there and be sure to post pictures of your progress and we can help boost your spirits.


    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 2:22PM
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Good luck with the painting, I think it is a great option for your kitchen. Also, you should check out the kitchen forum. Many people over there have painted their cabinets with great results. They could give you helpful advice. And you can also do a search for prior posts on the topic. cheers, -Kim

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 11:27AM
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Definitely paint them! Follow the prep advice that others have given. I chose to paint mine with a high quality oil paint for durability but that is probably not necessary. I also chose 3 colors. If you choose more than one color draw a pic of a section of your cupboards, photocopy it and then color in different ways. I ended up with red drawer fronts and raised door panels. Black door edging, and the background of the cabinets and the space between the edge and raised panel are the kind of blue green often seen in kitchesn of the era (20s) of my home. I wouldn't never have known to do that without the coloring first. Consider not remodeling and keeping them if you can make them beautiful enough. New hardware will help. The "greenest" remodel is no remodel. I love my cabinets now that they are painted tho I am a tiny bit jealous of the bells and whistles of some newer kitchens, I have the money for more important things like vacations and repairing the porches that were starting to lean. I don't know if I would paint the counter tho. Not sure how you would seal it to last.

good luck

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 6:40PM
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Well, I'm half done with the doors I took off - all the bottom ones (what is that? 5? LOL) at this rate I'll be done next year. It will be easier once we move in and once my back heals more. Got to try the greased lightening today, and it works pretty good. It's funny though, seems like the areas where the gunk was the most built up are the areas where nearly all the stain came off. At least it was less toxic then the oven cleaner!

Kim - definitely haunting the kitchen forums, but they make me want to spend more money then I have!

Kathy, if you are around could you post a pic of your cabinets? I'd love to see that idea! I'll take your advice about the coloring - and the 9 yr old will love to help with that one! I did some research on painting counters and I think it can be done to last "enough". You are right, the greenest is none, and in all honesty, I'm not a "bells n whistles" kitchen kinda person (of course, I'm not the cook LOL) if in the end I could just do the counters and floor I'd be perfectly happy. I saw someone post about painting the hardware, and I'm going to try that as well.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2008 at 10:06PM
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strip strip strip! as far as it'll go. my dh had a "friend" redo our cabinets 2 years ago and he didn't scrape well or prime and all Behr kitchen paint i paid for is just screwed. i'll be redoing it myself soon- after i do the bathroom

    Bookmark   August 24, 2008 at 5:30PM
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I used Dirtex and a green scrubby pad to clean our cabinets. They also were very dark. Then painted a light wood color, stained them and used a graining tool to simulate wood graining. Waited two days and covered with two coats of Polycrilic. SIL is a siding contractor and thought they were new cabinets.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2008 at 1:58PM
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Here are my cupboards which I painted maybe 6 years ago.
I only have bottom cupboards, they might have been too much painted this way on top as well. I have a freestanding tall shelf (old and cool), and an oak hoosier bottom as well as a few more of these painted bottom cupboards. And of course a small pantry. Because of this the city calls it an "old fashioned" kitchen in the assessment! Property taxes here in NH are very high, so thats another reason not to remodel. The faux butcher block countertops are at least 30 yo. Might want to replace them someday.

Part of the reason I wanted black is so the old hinges would blend in. Got the small knobs at a house salvage place for $1 each. I love the bin style and wanted to install more of them but it was a compromise with my dh who prefers the others.

Looking at the pics, I realize how wild they are, lol. Not for everyone Im sure.

Also need to refinish floors, sigh.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 11:55AM
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Thanks Kathy! Those are awesome! One of the things about buying a house you really hate the cosmetics of, that isn't your "dream house" (my dream is a brick bungalow, this isn't) is the sudden freedom to do anything, because, if it doesn't work, so what? I'm def going to consider the multi color approach.

Thanks everyone for the advice! We moved in Wednesday and I will be spending the whole weekend in bed due to a flare up of the bulged disk. Sigh. But as soon as I heal (DH says I can't do anything until October) - onward with the cabinets!!! Until then, they are all open, the cats will love this!

    Bookmark   August 29, 2008 at 11:57PM
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kathy those are just fantastic. i have a terrible time choosing colors.
did you do anything to the inside of the cabinets? ours smell musty and i'd also like to install something to make things more accessible- i'm in no shape to be crawling into the back corner of the deep cabinet. i'd also like to have a light in there. i don't have much cabinet space so i need to use what i have.....

    Bookmark   August 30, 2008 at 8:59PM
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Thanks for your compliments.
My cupboards weren't too musty since they were put in in the 1970s not the 1870s like some folks who post here. Atleast they were real wood (cheap pine stained an orangy color). The cupboard floors are junk tho, some sort of very cheap composite that is falling apart. Under the sink my dh installed a piece of white melamine that we had lying around left from a project at a commercial building that we manage. The other cupboards it isn't rotting since it isn't wet, just slowly turning to dust, and I just lined the bottom with wall paper to look nicer and keep the dust down. Should be replaced, but really not a priority compared to so many other things that need to be done to the house. I painted the inside of the cupboard doors the back ground color. Caroleena could you stick an led battery run touch light in the dark places? I use white vinegar diluted with water for musty problems in other areas of the house. I have one of those pull out wire shelves in my old hoosier and it works pretty well except I sometimes overload the cupboard.
Blackcats I hope your recovery is fast. Post pics of what you decide!

    Bookmark   August 31, 2008 at 12:45PM
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I also painted mine a cream color oil-based paint. I loved them. We moved and I did the same thing to my 100 year old cabinets in our current house. Love them too. However, I have seen some non-traditional colors that look fantastic, like sage, blue, pale goldy-brown, taupe and of course Kathy's. So there is no limit to the options! Go for it.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2008 at 2:51PM
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concretenprimroses - I love your paint job! I am in the process of buying an old house, and I plan to paint the ugly dark brown cabinets too. Luckily they do not have grooves to clean, they are flat with a decorative molding attached to the face.

After prepping, what kind of paint did you use? The finish looks so nice!

    Bookmark   September 6, 2008 at 9:06AM
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Absolutly! I painted mine. Old cabinets, new doors/drawers and island. The white is a Benjamin-Moore Impervo. I brushed the cabinets and sprayed the doors (HVLP). The red is a high-grade acrylic that I blended myself. I brushed all the red surfaces, but my cabinet maker thinks I sprayed them!

BTW: Considered painting the floors? I've seen some striking kitchen floor paint jobs! I wish I had painted mine! I refinished with an oil-based stain while I was sick-as-a-dog with flu. Quoth the Raven: NEVERMORE!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2008 at 8:26PM
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Oh! Painting the floor...hadn't thought of that!!! It's sheet vinyl ... makes a difference? I think we are going sage green and either black or really dark brown on the cabinets. Poor kid never even got to color - I saw the combo in a mag and fell in love!

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 12:02AM
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Mac, I love your kitchen. Painting the floor would be easier than refinishing. Not sure my dh would go along, but I like the idea (for the kitchen at least).

    Bookmark   September 8, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Blackcats I saw an incredible painted kitchen floor that was painted over sheet vinyl. They sealed it after with many coats of marine varnish, which yellows, so if you did that you would need to take that into account in your color choice (no whites or creams or tans.)

I'll try to remember where I saw it, and post if I find it.


    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 11:35AM
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We painted the cabinets in the guest house on our property. They date to the 70s at least, and were kind of smelly and not at all light reflective. Still a lot of work to do, but it looks better, eh?



    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 12:21AM
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Oh wow that does look a ton better! I picked out some color chips at the store the other day. When I decided on which ones (pale sage green, charcoal black, and grey/lavender for backsplash) and showed DH he just looked at me. Then said 'yes dear' LOL Granted, my timing on that wasn't great ;) Hmmm, now what color would go with those for the floor I wonder...

    Bookmark   September 16, 2008 at 10:12PM
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