Using FPE on kitchen cabinets-Does it require a professional?

mybrowneyedgirlsJanuary 1, 2010

I am not a professional painter, just a homeowner wanting the very best possible result from painting my builder-grade oak cabinets white. I have had a really hard time finding a good professional painter. Everyone seems to want to cut corners, and I know that the final result is heavily based on the initial prep. I have interviewed at least 5 or 6 different painters, but none that I trust will properly prepare the cabinets before painting. Some won't sand but only prime, another won't use a brush and insists on using a roller (I don't want a stippled texture), another only sands but won't degrease, etc.

So I am considering doing the job myself, using FPE's Eco paint. I have never worked with this particular paint. I have also never painted cabinets. I would much prefer to have someone else do the painting, but I know that I will not cut any corners if I do it myself. Is this a job best left to the professionals, especially using this type of paint? Is the FPE Eco paint something a novice could use? It is super expensive ($115/gallon plus shipping) but I am willing to pay because of the high quality and very low voc's. How would you guys suggest I proceed? I appreciate any advice!

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If they won't sand or degrease...keep interviewing...seriously!

With surfaces like see/touch/clean/bump....everyday...the best only makes sense. This obviously requires meticulous prep though!

You can do just takes time, good technique/brushes/paint.

Do you have some kiddie-pools/large-shallow tubs and a fan?! I'll explain later!!! ;-)


    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 2:38PM
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Faron, no kiddie pools, but I'm sure I can pick a few up somewhere. Why?

What would be the steps required to do this myself? I know I need to sand, degrease, rinse, and FPE recommends also using Wil-bond before priming. What order should all of this be done? Then I know I need to sand in between coats of primer/paint. What grit sandpaper? Is one coat of FPE primer sufficient?

Is the FPE paint that much better than the BM satin impervo (waterbased)? Again, huge price difference, but if it is that much better of a product for kitchen cabinets, I'm willing to pay for it.

Is there anything different regarding the application of the FPE paint that I should know about in advance? Can Floetrol be added to this particular paint?

Sorry for so many questions, I just want to make sure this gets done right the first time. THanks for the help!!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 3:19PM
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This may sound weird...?!?!?

The idea behind the "kiddie-pools" is a technique to keep dust down when doing fine finish-painting!
* I learned of it when visiting with the FPE people, and watching their info-DVD.
* When doing "critical-appearance" projects, use a couple kiddie-pools with 1" of water placed in your workroom.
* The day b4 priming/painting, turn on the fan. This circulates the air in the room. The airborne dust eventually "preciptates out" onto the water surface. Surface-area is important...NOT water DEPTH!
* Cover incoming vents with filter-cloth, sprayed with Filter-charger.
* A spare bedroom works great for doing the Cab-doors. Vacuum/Sweep/Cover flooring. Change furnace filter. Then let the air-cleaning begin!
* Use a top-end brush, such as a Good Corona, Purdy, or Wooster.
* DON'T use Floetrol. Kinda old-school, and CAN affect color in lights/whites. Choose XIM's Latex X-tender if needed...but it's usually not.
* One of the keys is using Looooonnng smooth strokes. Don't use "feather-dusting"-type strokes when applying paint.
* The Face-frames don't need such precision since they're locked in place! Use the same careful "long-strokes" however.
* Don't overwork the paint...if you're brushing more than 6 times thru the same area, it's too much.
* Choose how smooth you want your door-surface. You can use FPE's Grain-filling Putty/primer, but this involves more sanding prep. Results would be spectacular though!!


    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 3:44PM
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I think you will always notice a difference between a homeowner paintjob and a truly professional paintjob. This is especially true for cabinet painting. Sadly, a lot of painters deliver homeowner paintjob quality though. Ask all your friends if they know painters. That is the best way to find a good one.

Why do we need the kiddie pool technique with latex paints though? Dust clinging to surfaces is never an issue when the paint dries in 10 minutes is it?

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 8:40PM
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I hired a crew last year who seemed quite impressive about the details during interview. The job consisted of wallpaper stripping, wall prep, wall paint, and the cabinets. There was no way I could handle all that. Especially the wallpaper above the cabinets.

Before the start date approached, I decided to tackle the door fronts myself (once I learned about BM Aura paints) to save some money and because I figured it would be less intensive as I could do them while off the frames in the basement work area. It was a long project (many steps, 20 doors), but I actually enjoyed it. I definitely put more into the prep than they would have. I could tell by the way they did the frames. They didn't use the TSP they said they would. They didn't sand after every layer, like they said they would. Even the initial sand was not as thorough as mine. They did a good job, but I think I did a better job.

Its not rocket science. You can do it (with the help of this forum!)

The issue is just how perfect/smooth/flawless you need it to be.

One of the places I had interviewed said they would spray paint. I think that would be the smoothest possible finish, but I decided against them. I forget why now.

I'm not familiar with the products you are mentioning, but I was very impressed with the BM Aura paint. It is self leveling so brush marks are minimized. Touchup-ability is great. Lower VOC. Dries fast. The oak grain is the real killer. I used multiple primer coats to fill in as much as possible. They are visible close-up but not terrible. I think my cabinets went from a 2 to a 9 (scale of 1 to 10). And 9 is fine with me.

These are my b4/after pics. There's one close-up here of the paint. Maybe this will help.


    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 9:49AM
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oh, I meant to also mention that the crew I used were prepared to give a proposal based on a flat fee, but they were also willing to go with an hourly charge, time and materials. I picked the latter. Its straightforward and less chance of shortcuts on their part or overpaying on my part.

And if I only wanted oil paints, I would not do it myself.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 9:57AM
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I appreciate the advice (and pictures). I am still torn between hiring it out and doing it myself. I just don't think I really want to spend that much time doing it myself, but on the other hand, I know that I will do a better job prepping the wood (but probably not a better job actually painting). But I don't really have anywhere but the basement to paint, and the basement is unfinished, and dusty. Maybe I will do the prep myself and hire the painting? I am thinking I will keep looking for a painter. He insists on rolling instead of that normal? I don't want a stipple appearance on the wood--stipple is for walls. Well, any other advice, either on diy painting or experience with FPE is greatly appreciated!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2010 at 4:50PM
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* Smooth foam rollers are good for smooth surfaces...
* BUT...if your doors are like Wendyb's, a good brush is just as fast, since you'll have to watch for pooling @ the edge-frames, etc. You want to "pull paint out of the corners" when doing edges. Loooooonnng smooth strokes in the panels' center areas.
* Try practicing your techniques on the inside of another rooms' cab-door!
* You'll get a good feel for brush-time, and arm movements.
* It doesn't take much airborne dust to mar a door-job, even with a short "set-up" period.

From FPE's Specifier Manual:

"Primer should be sanded with 220. Then apply 2 generous, even coats of ECO. For optimal appearance, lightly sand with 220 between coats. Apply the paint and walk away. Do not overwork this finish."
Drying time: Dust-free after 1 hr.
Recoatable after 16 hrs.
Binder: Water-thinnable, Urethane-Alkyd Emulsion.

>>> In your basement, get a big roll of painter's-plastic, and make yourself a "plastic room"!
>>> Just a couple staples on some studs, and you've got a paint room.
>>> Get some "Red-rosin" paper for the floors. This comes in 4' by 50' or 100' rolls.
>>> Instead of the "pools" idea, you could hang some furnace filters sprayed with Filter-charger, and have the fan blow for a reduce dust levels.

Voila!!! You've now got a paint-booth!

FPE's ECO, ACE's Cabinet/Door/Trim paint, & CC all need ~ a day between coats, since they're "Leveling"-type paints.


    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 12:34AM
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Thanks Faron. So, do I want to hang the furnace filters before setting up the "plastic room"?
Do you think I should use one or two coats of primer?
I am considering using FPE's brushing putting, but we recently added a large crown molding and a light rail to the cabs, and had it done in oak since the cabs are oak--we thought we were hiring a professional to paint, and they all said it is not worth the time, ie money, to have them do the brushing putty. They said I could buy new doors for the money they would charge to apply the brushing putty, so we figured we'd just deal with seeing the grain and went with matching oak moldings. If I use the brushing putty, that is a lot of woodwork to cover when I could have just had it done in poplar to begin with. Well, thanks again.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2010 at 9:21PM
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These posts are older and by now the original person who started this thread most likely has completed the job. Hopefully this will help anyone else who comes across this thread.

I would have to say everything has a trade off when it comes to paint and painting. I refinish kitchen cabinets for a living and have changed my system through trial and error. There is no question that the best looking results will come from a professional who has the correct expensive spray equipment. If you want a factory looking finish, your cabinets will have to be sprayed. However, if you are looking for an antique look where you like to see brush strokes through glazing then you will have to do it by hand.

Anyone can work and paint with FPE but your potential mistakes may cost more.

FPE or Fine Paints of Europe are very nice paints and I use them often on jobs. They do have a high quality product in a different class than what you find here in the states and until you use FPE you just will not understand. I primarily use all water based products to refinish kitchen cabinets. The products now days have come a long way and the differences between oil based and water based paints are narrowing quickly. Strong VOCs in a home are no laughing matter. These products will also off gas for quite some time.

I find that dust is usually not that big of an issue unless you are working with high gloss paints and kitchens are rarely if ever high gloss.
*The kitchen should be sealed off with cheap thin plastic to keep dust both in and out.
*During my prepping, I always have a box fan blowing out of a nearby window. This will help suck dust out of your sealed off kitchen. The fan should be sealed on all sides so air movement is only flowing out of your kitchen. It will also help to suck any VOCs out while you are painting and to speed up drying time.
*I find that after my initial prepping of degreasing and sanding that vacuuming the entire kitchen with a vacuum that has a high end filter is a good start. I then sponge mop the floors and mop right over the rosin paper. *At this point I usually will not start painting until the next day and will mop again once the dust has settled.
*Using a $10 lint free zip-up suit also helps while painting.

For any questions, feel free to email me. I am Chris with Specialty Cabinet Finishes and my email is

My Strongest Recommendation:
Kitchens can be done by a home owner but the final results really come down to how handy you are, painting experience, and following the proper steps throughout the process. If you are going to hire out the work, find a professional who purely or primarily does Kitchen cabinets, islands, and bathroom vanities. These are not the easiest items to paint. You are dealing with a lot more surface area than you think as well as corners and edges. Most painters out there don't 'do' kitchen cabinets. They paint walls and trim in high volume and that is nowhere near the same as a kitchen. Different products need to be used and in a different manner. If you do the work your self or hire out the refinishing of your kitchen cabinets, here is what should be taking place:

1.) Degreasing of all doors, drawers, and cabinet bodies. You can use a strong concentration of TSP or even Acetone which is a very strong degreaser. I would stay away from the acetone because of the fumes and fire danger.
2.) Sanding of all surfaces that will be painted. You want to sand after you degrease as to not work the oils on the surface back into the wood with the sandpaper. Each job is different but I would sand with a 150-180 grit sand paper. Sometimes 220 is needed. You do not need to sand down to bare wood, however you need to sand everything to get rid of any 'shine' to the old finish. Basically you are creating a surface to 'satisfy the suction' of the paint.
3.) Prime. You should always prime unless you are re-staining your cabinets. Most paints do not have the 'sticking potential' that a primer has. I primarily use water based primer but will use a shellac based primer such as Zinsser BIN for certain kitchens. A shellac based primer is needed for some older oak cabinets where tannins and oils leach out of the deep but tiny pin sized pores. You will not be able to sand this out or degrease. Stix by Insl-x is a good product, and surprisingly Zinsser 123 primer is very good once it has had time to cure. Your best bet is to always read the label and shop for a high quality product. There are too many to mention out there. You usually don't need to prime twice unless you have dark colors showing through.
(As a note, you would want to use your swedish putty or grain filling putty before priming. It's a lot of work, messy, and usually not needed. I would try to apply several coats of primer before going that route. For small projects it's worth it but for a kitchen, it could turn into a nightmare project. Remember that you are dealing with a lot of surface area and ornamental relief. A wall is one thing, 25 doors and another 10 drawers is a whole other beast.

4.)Light sanding of the primer. Use 220 grit. Re-vacuum and mop afterwards. Wipe all surfaces down with a lightly damp lint free clothe. Don't use tack clothes which contain resins that will react to your water based paints in the next step.

5.) Base coat applied. This is your chosen paint color. You really need two coats here. Especially if the paint is being applied by a brush or roller. Ben Moore Satin impervo water based is a wonderful paint. Of course Fine Piants of Europe is incredibly nice as well. They are very helpful if you ever call them.

6.) Glaze- This does not need to be done and is purely used to change the aesthetics. If you are using a water based paint then a water based glaze is used. If you use a oil or alkyd paint then use an oil based glaze. Some of the new oil modified paints will require a oil based glaze. These paints are water clean up and you can dilute them with water but dry as an oil based paint.
7.) Clear Coat. I don't care what people may tell you or how many years experience they have, for kitchens all paint needs to be clear coated. Kitchens are not walls. You will have your hands on them multiple times everyday. You will bang pots against them and plates against them. They take a ton of abuse and then factor in the stovetop grease being splattered and water splashing. Again there are a ton of high quality clear coats out there and the water based clear coats have been improving every year to compete against the old oil based paints. For water based clear coats I would highly look at FPE, Target Coatings, and General Finishes clear coats. Call them for questions and advise to your specific kitchen.

I hope this will help some of you. Again every painter will tell you something different. I just know what works for me and all I do is kitchen refinishing. If you have any questions feel free to email me. Chris at

Here is a link that might be useful: Specialty Cabinet Finishes

    Bookmark   October 9, 2011 at 6:00PM
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