Problem with cabinet paint color: Where to go from here?

wi-sailorgirlMarch 25, 2013

Our new cabinets were (halfway) installed yesterday. They were made by a custom cabinetmaker who has done a lot of work for us in the past. The difference is that in the past I have always painted what he has built, but for the kitchen cabinets he arranged for a painter. I had very little communication with the painter beyond confirming the product he would be using and running out to his shop to approve a paint sample.

The cabinets were painted with a Sherwin Williams product color matched to BM Cloud White. The sample I saw (which was on scrap wood of the same variety as the cabinets) was close enough that I was OK with it.

Unfortunately, there are issues. There are at least three different whites on the cabinets. Some might be caused by a lack of paint (this is clearly the problem on one of the French-style pantry doors, which don't match in the least), but others, including the fridge surround, which is the part you see from the living room, appear to be a completely different color that is much, much creamier.

I have painted everything else in the room--window and door trims, ceiling, freestanding island, banquette--in Cloud White so I know exactly what the color should look like.

Some cabinets aren't so bad. There are no doors on the upper cabinets yet although I have all the doors here.

The cabinet maker was hoping to do the entire install yesterday but our house is horrifically out of level, plumb and everything else you can think of so it's no easy task. He'll be back at the end of the week to finish up.

Before he left I mentioned the paint to him and he said he noticed some of the problems, although it wasn't until I took a cabinet door to some of the other cabinets and the fridge surround and showed him the dramatic difference in color that he realized the extent of it.

I told him I needed to think about what to do to fix it and that we could discuss it later, which is fine with him.

So what SHOULD I propose to do about this? Obviously everything else including the countertops and backsplash have been purchased to coordinate with this color so it's important to have it right. There are some cabinets that do not look good with the countertop sample I have.

Should I try to isolate the cabinets that are far off and have them repainted? Should the whole thing be redone? Should I just work out a deal with the painter to pay him for materials or whatever and find someone else to fix this?

Sorry for making this so long. I just wanted to get as much information in here as possible.

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Repaint on his nickel. Sounds like he got two different batches color matched and they color matched slightly different rather than having the formula replicated from the first batch.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 10:23AM
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exactly what live_wire_oak said.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 10:30AM
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It sounds like you have a good cabinet maker and he sees the difference too. It seems like usually the problem is getting someone to admit there is a problem.

Hopefully this will just seem like a glitch before long and you'll have a beautiful kitchen.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 10:42AM
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My cabs are BM Cloud White mixed by Kelly Moore. It's a beautiful creamy white and it's the only Cloud White I know. You say you've got a lot of CW on trim, ceiling, etc. Is that with actual BM paint? I wonder if different brands, e.g., Kelly Moore and Sherwin Williams, come really close but you can see subtle differences in the same room, or at least on the same cabinet surface.

In any event, you're entitled to the color you chose, all the same, no discernible variations. You shouldn't pay him for the's the paint that's wrong. If the quality of the paint job is up to your standards, he should be required to repaint and get it right.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:12PM
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You should accept everything that matches the sample. Everything else should be redone. The painter should have made sure that the paint in each can was mixed properly before painting the cabinets. It is the painter's mistake. If he had caught the difference before painting, it would have been the paint company's mistake. By going ahead and using the paint, he accepted liability for the wrong paint.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:44PM
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So sorry you are going through this wi-sailor. Fortunately you discovered before everything was installed.

May I ask a question: What is the reason you would use Sherwin matched to a BM color instead of buying the BM paint ? Is it better coverage, different type of paint(oil or latex)the way it wears, application(sprayer) or cost difference? I'm just curious.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 12:55PM
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Thanks for weighing in, everyone. I'll talk to the cabinet maker later today and let you know what we figure out.

Linelle, everything else is painted in actual Benjamin Moore paint (my preferred brand). The cabinets were to be painted in a SW color match, which I know can be a little off if the person doing the color matching isn't very experienced. A touch off would be OK so long as all the cabinets were a touch off, but with all of them being different who knows what is what.

Eatrealfood, the painter prefers Sherwin Williams industrial coatings and we settled on their CAB acrylic lacquer system which seems to have good reviews here. One thing I learned over on the paint forum is that it's not a good idea to have a painter use your project as testing ground for trying out a new product (to them) so I didn't want to push him to use something he wasn't familiar with.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:24PM
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Thanks for the answer wi-sailor. I interviewed a cabinet painter before I purchased new cabs and he wouldn't tell me the paint he used. odd, right?I saw a sample and thought it looked like plastic. He was a chancer.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 1:33PM
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I agree the painter should repaint the cabinets at no cost to you. We are experiencing the same problem with our installed cabinets. The doors and frames are shades apart. Most people do not notice, but I certainly do! And, I am the one that looks at them every day.

Get it done right before they are installed. Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 5:53PM
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You should have them repainted, in proper BM Cloud White. Not some 'match' to it. I'd think, and I am likely wrong, but it seems to me that a subtle shade of white would be difficult to color match and you're likely to notice the differences.

Our cabinets were also painted BM Cloud White, but using BM product.

That being said, cabinet painting is different than you or I buying a can of paint and brushing it onto some trim.

Spray painting in a professional setup on cabinets involves thinners and all manner of other treatment to allow for the spraying, and it's likely top-coated with a laquer or something for durability.

Our pro painted BM Cloud White cabinets are not a perfect match to our DIY painted trim, but it's very very close, and all the doors etc. are consistent.

We had a couple doors with a rough feel to them where they didn't do the right between coat sanding or something and they re-did those ones immediately.

Insist on having them ALL redone, at the same time from a properly mixed batch of paint. If they get 4 containers of paint, they need to mix them together into new containers to ensure consistency. But of course they should know this.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 8:53PM
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Painter should calculate how much paint is needed and mix all batches before painting to ensure consistent color. All cabinets should be repainted. It really shouldn't matter whether BM or SW is used.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 11:59PM
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I agree with Mgoblue85. If the paint is superior quality and they're adept at matching colors, it shouldn't matter whose paint it is. My kitchen/dining/living walls and ceilings are SW Antique White mixed by Kelly Moore. During my kitchen reno I had to repaint some walls and the newly mixed paint blended 100% with the 3-yr. old existing paint.

I'm a Cloud White person (hey TTim!). If your eye sees the mixed-by-others color as the same as the BM, then it's all good.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:12AM
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Just thought I'd provide an update of the situation because I really appreciate the continued conversation on this.

I spoke to the cabinetmaker last night who is completely understanding and willing to do what it takes to make us happy and get this done correctly. That's a load off my mind to begin with, frankly.

He had spoken with the painter and I think what happened is becoming more clear. He bought two gallons of paint and realized he was running short (this is definitely why it seems like the application is thin in many places ... because he was stretching it). At some point he realized he was going to need more paint so he went back and got more. Supposedly it was the same formula, but clearly there was something different and obviously he didn't mix all the gallons since he got more halfway through (which seems like a bit of a rookie mistake and is a bit disconcerting to me).

Since the base cabinets and pantry cabinets are installed and the countertops have been templated, we're going to finish installing all the cabinets (there are only two more uppers to do) and the crown molding around the cabinets. Then we're going to start fresh with a brand new color match (or possibly a different product ... I said I would be open to discussion on that although I don't believe that has anything at all to do with what happened here) and repaint everything in place (this is very scary to me because of overspray but there isn't much alternative) and we'll take all the doors and drawers (most of which are not yet installed) to his shop for painting there.

Since I highly suspect there were not two coats done the first time (and there was supposed to be a topcoat as well and I wonder if that was applied ... I sort of doubt it), I'm going to be perfectly clear that those steps need to be taken so we get this right this time.

That's where we're at right now. With luck we could have things repainted next week. It's a major imposition to have these painted in our house because the taping off, smell and loss of the kitchen (again) during the painting and drying time, but there's not much else to be done at this point.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 10:44AM
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wi-sailorgirl, I'm glad this is going to be resolved at no extra expense for you.

My old cab boxes were also spray painted in place (with new drawers and drawers done at painter's shop). While the smell is pretty horrific, they did a great job at my house building a plastic cave around my kitchen (which is open to the rest of my living area). The night between coats, my cats busted through the plastic in several places so I had some patching up to do. :) It's noisy and smelly but you will survive.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 12:36PM
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That is about the best outcome I can imagine. I am somewhat horrified that all the skimping was done the first time around, but it sounds like he's had a come-to-god moment and intends to make it right. We'll keep our fingers crossed.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:21PM
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Thanks, linelle. That makes me feel better.

The painter is going to the house to see everything in the daylight this afternoon. My husband will be meeting him there (I sort of got the feeling that this was the kind of guy who would deal better talking with a man and it was easier for him to get away from work today than me). I'll be interested to here how it goes.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 1:46PM
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wi-sailorgirl, I neglected to add that the strong paint smell dissipates fairly quickly.

I consider myself a fairly direct and assertive woman and can generally hold my own with both genders if the situation calls for it. Sometimes, however, you find someone in the trades (as well as other milieux) where they need to hear it from another guy. It's always nice to have a tag team for any situation. :)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 3:25PM
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some things to consider from someone who went through this exact same issue:

-make SURE this painter can do what you need or hire another one NOW. if he botched this job on round 1 what makes you think he is going to get it right on round 2?

-spraying on site will not get you the same quality finish. if i had to do it again, i wouldn't. might be too late now as cabs are installed, but whatever is not installed, do not install, get it sprayed in pro shop first. miminize what has to be painted on site.

i had a problematic paint job which got so bad all the doors and drawer fronts had to be REBUILT and caused weeks of delays, i had to fire the cabinetmaker and spend more money. tread carefully and make sure this person knows what he/she is doing. you can search old threads if you want to read about my horror story.

to understand how disruptive painting cabs can be on site, pics from my job below. think overspray, think multiple visits from painter it will not be one coat, think dry times in between, think odors, think what to do with the pets, think how to live in the house while this is going on.... it is not fun.

kitchen cabinets masked off

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 5:07PM
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wi-s, babushka, I think this is definitely a case when mileage may vary. My ordeal only lasted two days and yielded two coats, with no overspray anywhere. The entire time I had workers in the house my cats were sequestered in a spare room. The reason I had any cab painting done on site was because to save pennies, I kept the old oak boxes which wouldn't have survived removal. Even with the different wood species, textures, in-situ vs. in the shop, a year+ later, it all turned out pretty good.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 5:36PM
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Quick update: The painter came over and agrees it is unacceptable and needs to be redone. The main problem seems to be a lack of consistency in coats. The paint color apparently gets increasingly yellow with additional coats. So the items that are very creamy (even light yellow to my eye) have three coats. Other areas have one (or less).

Unbeknownst to me, the sample I was giving to approve has one coat. Obviously that's no way to sample a paint color. By the time multiple coats are laid down the paint color has no relationship to Cloud White whatsoever. For those who are familiar with Cloud White, you know it's a warm off white with just a touch of yellow, but not enough to make it a cream color. When I compare something I've painted in Cloud White with one of the cabinets that got three coats of paint (why three?), the Cloud White sample looks like a gray white in comparison, which we know is not the case. That's how yellow some cabinets are.

If I'm ever home during a time with decent daylight I will try to snap some pictures.

The painter seems extremely resistant to painting on onsite. His reluctance combined with his failed attempt in round one have me seriously questioning his abilities.

I've called a painter who has done other work for us in the past. I don't even know if he paints cabinetry or not, but I trust his opinion and he would certainly be able to refer me to someone else if he doesn't. Hopefully he'll call me back tonight and can give me some input as to what needs to be done to fix this and, if he's interested/able, a quote. I sincerely hope we are looking at simply a couple more coats of paint and not starting from scratch on the prep.

Babushka and linelle, I very much appreciate you sharing your person experiences. It's very helpful.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 5:52PM
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sailor girl,
sounds like a good idea to get a second opinon and hopefully they can get them painted for you. agree if they did not get the paint sample right time to cut them loose.

i contacted a local benjamin store and got very good guidance and the clarity i needed to take action. once you get over this kink it will work itself out and you will eventually be back in your kitchen loving it and the hassles will be a distant memory. i love my kitchen, even with all the headaches that went along with it.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 7:45PM
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Well, here's what the kitchen looked like last night and this morning. They were hoping to put the second coat on this afternoon and come back later to unmask everything. Doors and drawer fronts are in the shop. Could there be a light at the end of this tunnel?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 4:06PM
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Hang in there, sailorgirl! This looks like progress to me. How long do they expect the doors and drawers to take?

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 4:13PM
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Sounds like next week some time. At least we can get the drawers and some of the cabinets filled up in the meantime, which will alleviate the frustration of stuff spread far and wide around the house. And the countertops are scheduled for install on Wednesday so technically we're still on track ... we just took a roundabout way of getting there.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 4:37PM
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what kind of paint was used, I am having my cabinets painted and I am trying to find the most appropriate product.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 4:58PM
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glad things are proceeding for you! hang in there!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 6:48PM
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Glad things are working out for you! We will be doing some cabinet face frame painting on site by a painter once we get started with our kitchen. How bad is the overspray? He did say he will tape/plastic everything completely but I'm still a little worried. We are keeping our current cabinets and changing the doors (old was white and the new ones will be white again).

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 9:21PM
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@Gina: The paint that was used the first time that there was a problem with was Sherwin Williams CAB acrylic lacquer. I believe this is a perfectly great product (the finish itself was beautiful where enough paint was applied) and I know a lot of people really like it, it's just the painter who did my cabinets did not understand how to work with it.

I don't honestly know what the new cabinet paint is. All I know is that it is Benjamin Moore and waterborne or water-based, but I don't know what specific product. There are a lot of good discussions on this on the paint forum though.

@rkb: I was about to come back and say that the overspray wasn't really bad at all (presuming they do a really good job taping off). I did tell them ahead of time that I'd be repainting the walls so I let them spray there and they said it was easier to go up on the ceiling (which is wood painted the same color in our case) and then come back and touch it up. BUT tonight I realized that our freestanding walnut-topped island, which was pushed way into the far corner of the room, beyond the plastic curtain, got a good dose of overspray. At first it looked like dust, but a piece of paper we had sitting on it left a nice little square of un-oversprayed area. It stinks but it's not a huge deal because we only oil our island, so hopefully it will come right off but if it doesn't I can give it a light sanding and re-oil pretty quickly.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 11:51PM
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Oh, no! Our kitchen is open to the breakfast room and hearth room. I know our GC is planning to plastic off everything and the painter said the same thing. I guess I'll just be extra careful and cover some things in the adjacent rooms before they start.

Hope your island is okay!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 7:22AM
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So I'm just updating this mostly to bellyache a little. The cabinets have been repainted and we finally got our doors and drawer fronts back. My husband was putting the hardware on and used the delicate Frog's tape, further de-sticky-fied by linting it up on his shirt, to measure on the drawer. When he pulled it off (gently), the paint just bubbled right up. We called painter No. 2 and we're all at a loss. Not only did we talk to two separate professional painters, but they also spoke with Sherwin Williams (maker of the original paint that was used) and all advised the same thing: sand the cabinets, prime with oil-based primer, follow up with either acrylic or latex paint.

The painter says the only thing to do at this point is to completely chemically strip the cabinets and start over. I'll ponder over it through the weekend, but we're leaning heavily towards fixing the damaged drawer now and hoping for the best and then doing whatever we have to do to fix them when they start looking like utter crap a few years from now. We just aren't up for ripping apart the whole kitchen AGAIN. It's time to finish this thing and move on ... for now at least.

The irony of all of this is that if I had just painted them myself we would have never been in this position.

Picture attached shows the paint bubbled up.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:10AM
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In my (very limited) experience with paint, I've only seen that "bubble" on a cabinet where latex was applied over an oil-based paint. The problem is that if you pull at that bubble, the paint peels off in sheets, and anywhere the surface is bumped, another bubble appears. Before you make a final-for-now decision, maybe you should do some normal-wear-and-tear bumping before you fill up the cupboards and drawers with all your stuff. I'm so sorry this has turned into such a production.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:31AM
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SG - I have ZERO experience, IâÂÂve just been reading a lot in preparation for painting my own cabinets. From everything I have read, one needs to let their paint cure for 30 days before taping, cleaning, etc. Has anyone said this to you?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 11:38AM
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Sailorgirl this sucks! I have no solutions or suggestions just sending positive vibes your way, hoping for the best. Please keep us posted. Good luck!
Curious what does the cabinet maker think? All his hard work ruined by the paint.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 3:29PM
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Oh, no! I feel so terrible for you. I hope it all works out for you.

Good luck! Let us know what happens.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2013 at 6:29PM
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