Need to sand the honey oak cabinets to bare wood before painting?

janesylviaMarch 28, 2014

I'd like to paint all my honey oak kitchen cabinets, drawers, and slabs to BM simply white. I cleaned all with TSP three times, filled holes and some defects with wood filler. Now I am sanding with random orbit sander and sanding blocks. Do I need to sand them to bare wood?
Thank you very much.

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No. Follow the paint manufacturer's instructions.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:11PM
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Janesylvia~ Pop over to the paint side and ask there for a better answer.
They can recommend the proper steps and primers.

Here is a link that might be useful: paint forum

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:21PM
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Your goal is just to knock the sheen down for good adhesion. I gave mine a light all-lover sanding when I did mine, but nothing intense. A good primer will adhere just fine.

Be prepared the oak grain may show through.

When I did mine, I had some holes to fill and I really thought I had it sanded and smoothed perfectly, but alas after it is painted, the imperfections show up easily. I can get a little intense about details sometimes, so it bothered me, but in reality it was not very noticeable.

Another thing i noticed with my cabinets was that with wood when joints don't match up so perfectly, it's not that noticeable. With paint, wood pieces that are not tight to each other are glaring! caulk is your friend. I did a ton of caulking and still missed some areas that were not obvious until painted.

before and after:

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:34PM
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Lovely! Timely as I am about to do this myself. Thanks from me, too, for the info.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 7:59PM
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Trebruchet, forboystoo, and wendyb, thanks for your help.

Webdyb, thank you very much for sharing your experience and attaching the before and after photos, which are very helpful. I am also worried about imperfections shown clearly when they are painted. I'll follow your advice and use caulking and try to smooth them. Your kitchen looks much nicer than before. Did you change your hinges? My current hinges are unsightly exterior brass ones. I am going to change them to exterior satin nickel ones.

This post was edited by janesylvia on Sat, Mar 29, 14 at 11:02

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:46AM
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I wouldn't caulk wood doors. All those cracks and spaces between rails and panels etc. will move as temperatures and humidity changes. That's what wood does; it contracts and expands. The caulk will just crack and make a mess.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:51AM
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I gave mine a light hand sand, with the grain, and did not use primer (I wanted the grain to show through). I did not caulk, but did fill any extra screw holes with wood filler, then just used Behr paint and a Purdy brush. It's been almost three years and it still looks great. The only touch ups I've had to do were where it was knarfed during removal of old tile and install of granite last month.


    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:48AM
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Errant: gorgeous!!!

I used a both caulking and wood putty depending on the type of joint/hole filling. I had recessed panels and at the point of recess needed caulking. Sometimes the paint will fill small gaps, but you really don't know how well until the caulking/filling phase is done. So it's just as easy to do it up front and be sure.

I didn't caulk around the inside of the doors, but later I wished I had. Those paint gaps annoyed me even inside. I think I may have gone back over them afterwards.

I had no shrinking or caulk issues at all in 4 years (then I moved). I think because the wood is 25 years old, it is very stable. Maybe with a lot of humidity, it may be an issue.

Also be prepared that with white cabinets, they do show dirt easily. It amazed me to realize how dirty the wood cabinets were that I never saw. No hiding anything with white! I used BM Aura paint which was very durable and held up great to frequent wipe-ups. I also kept a small bottle of touchup paint handy. (Michaels: 2oz flip top plastic jars) Now BM has Aura Advance "cabinet" paint so either it's just a marketing change or presumably is even more durable for cabinets.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 11:01AM
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I am not sanding my cabinets before I paint them. I'm not using latex paint. I am painting them with chalk paint (not the kind of chalk paint that you can write on). It's called Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - no sanding at all. Just went to a seminar regarding painting kitchen cabinets with this paint. You use odorless mineral spirits to wipe down the cabinets, put a coat of shellac on the cabinets if you have the grainy oak cabinets that you don't want to see the grain through, then paint the cabinets. Two coats. If you would like to look up a good website for this you can go to It's amazing paint and does a great job without all the mess. I am not affiliated with this company or store at all. Just think that it's an amazing product and will make your job a lot easier.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 1:22PM
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I've been stuck between painting my honey oak bath cabinets or stripping and restaining. Leaning toward paint. Just this morning, at the local paint store, the man there told me I could use caulk on the cabinets, if I used a quality caulk it would not crack or make a mess. Maybe it does depend on the type of caulk you use. I am far from an expert, but it seems to me that whatever paint you use, you need to lightly sand to scuff up the surface for good adhesion. And then, primer. I have never used the chalk paint you mention, so I can't say how that works. I've never heard of shellac as a grain filler either. Thats not to say that it doesn't work well, its just about every post I've read says to clean, sand, prime and paint. Without proper prep work it may look great at first, but its over time that is my concern. Is it going to chip or peel over the long term if you skip the sand/prime step?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 3:51PM
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Errant, amazing1 What type of paint did you use? I am going light like wendyb and do worry about durability with frequent wipe ups. Ace Hardware paint gal recommended Impervio for durability and a satin finish. I will be using BM colors mostly.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 7:38PM
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I used HD's Behr Premium Plus, and I believe the color was Black Swan, but I may be looking at the wrong color card. It's a very dark green. Adhesion has been really great. I didn't clean them with anything other than soapy water and a light hand sanding before painting. Being so dark and with all of the construction we're always doing, they get scrubbed down often without any issues.

I used the same brand of paint on the little vanity in the man-cave bathroom and it has held up equally well. I'll attach a photo of that, as well. I did that one in a sort of faux cherry finish to match a silly fishing thing he wanted hung in there. I used a dark red Behr paint and a Martha Stewart black metallic glaze on top. It matched the frame on his thing perfectly.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 4:13AM
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Thanks! And kudos to you for honoring his wishes in "his" space!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:03AM
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A company I used for painting my thermofoil cabinets said that when they paint oak cabinets they use bondo and it sands to a very smooth finish and doesn't crack. Something about conversion varnish as a finish and sealer, but don't know the details. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 9:57AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Chalk paint would be a very poor choice in a kitchen. It's not cleanable without burnishing. You might want to get your money back from that product placement ad disguised as a seminar. They loaded you up with bad advice.

Caulk has zero place being used in furniture and cabinetry. And wood always needs to be cleaned well, scuff sanded, and primed with a shellac based primer like BIN. Grease and tannins have a naty habit of bleeding through otherwise

Thereare no shortcuts to a quality job.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 10:17AM
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I wanted to throw something in, here. This my not apply to you since it appears you are painting only previously-finished cabinets but i will throw it out there anyway, for the sake of information.

Today I primed two unfinished base cabinets with a water-based acrylic primer, and although I had sanded everything smooth the primer raised the grain on the oak, rather quite a bit. I was not expecting that.

I knew pine and the like do best with a conditioner before priming or staining, and that alleviates a lot of the grain-raising but it never crossed my mind with oak.

Now I am hoping that I can sand them down again and that it will not remove all the primer. I will still have to re-apply primer, though, I am fairly certain.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 5:51PM
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