Just painted kitchen cabinets, now the paint is easily peeling.

iris_bulbJuly 2, 2013

(Cross posted.)

My kitchen cabinets had a natural, grainy wood finish. They were from around 1980 and they had a very natural, minimally stained finish. Well to update the kitchen, I recently painted the cabinets bright white, and they look fantastic. :-)

The problem is, I did not sand or prime the cabinets before I started painting. I worked very, very hard, taking all the cabinets off, removing the hinges, putting 3-4 coats on both sides of the cabinets and the frames. spray painting the hinges, reattaching the cabinets, and installing new knobs. I am exhausted from this job.

Now I discover that the paint gets knicked easily and when it does it peels and separates very easily from the wood. I am so annoyed by this, and of course mainly annoyed with myself for not realizing how important sanding and priming are to a job like this. I always cynically thought those extra steps were kind of unnecessary, just a silly ploy for hardware stores to 'upsell' and make people buy more products. But my easily peeling paint makes me think my mistake was not sanding & priming...

I just used regular wall paint for this job, in 'satin' or semi-gloss.'
I'm really upset. I am here to ask what I can do to help reinforce the paint on the cabinets, how I can make the paint less vulnerable to knicks and peeling. Stripping the paint off and starting from scratch is not an option. I am worried because I will be selling this condo soon and the new owner's fingernail is going to come into contact with the paint when they go to pull the knob, and it's going to slice a big chunk of paint right off. Ugh...Surely there is some product or method (maybe applying heat from a blow drier??) that I can do to help the paint harden and adhere, or at least be less vulnerable at the surface?

Your advice, insight, and help would be much appreciated.

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Sorry, but there is no quick, external cure for no surface preparation and the wrong paint. Wall paint was not the choice to paint cabinets, and made even worse by no surface prep. Should have been a high quality trim enamel. The paint is never going to adhere properly, and the issue will just become worse with time.

Whether it is an option for you or not, stripping, properly preparing the surface, and repainting with a high quality enamel paint is the only remedy.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 7:26PM
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Why would now "elect" asking assistance in perpetuating a fraud?

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 7:28PM
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srjohnt: Thank you, I was afraid of that. Is there really a huge difference in enamel paint meant for trim, and my own paint which states Interior Latex Enamel paint? How do these types of paint differ? And do you think it is important to do a coat of primer on the cabinets after sanding?
I guess I will have to get the paint off and start from the beginning. Lesson learned. :-/

Snoonyb: I am not perpetuating a fraud. I want to give the buyer of this condo durable, freshly-painted kitchen cabinets. I absolutely will not sell this condo until the cabinet finish is high-quality and very durable. That's why I am here asking. I think you need to be a bit more easy-going, stop thinking the worst of people.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 10:13PM
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Latex Enamel should work well on cabinets, but go with a quality brand like BM, SW, etc.

The paint you used may be fine for the job, but as you now know the end result was due to lack of prep. Keep in mind that kitchen cabinets from 1980 are also going to need a good cleaning as part of the prep.

If you're not up to stripping the paint and starting over, consider replacing the doors and drawer fronts with new white ones, then strip and repaint the frames.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 11:23PM
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"I am not perpetuating a fraud."

Really! So we're not to take you at your word.

"I am here to ask what I can do to help reinforce the paint on the cabinets, how I can make the paint less vulnerable to knicks and peeling."

"Stripping the paint off and starting from scratch is not an option. "

Your cabinets were stained and finished with an oil based lacquer.
No one who knows anything about painting would recommend, let alone advise you to apply latex, IE. water based paint, over this surface without, FIRST, cleaning with TSP, sanding, and priming with a quality transitional primer.

Your simplest solution is as suggested, replace the doors and drawer fronts, strip, prep and finish the rest.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 1:22AM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting


    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 3:45AM
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The op has made the same mistake twice: rejecting an obvious conventional approach and then limiting the solutions members here can suggest.

Paint is a coating so success is entirely dependent on the ability to adhere to a surface. Refusing to accept this obvious fact guarantees a lower resale price when the property is sold. Pay now or pay later. But maybe the buyers are going to tear the kitchen out anyway and will give you a break.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2013 at 12:40PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

I agree with everyone here, that no initial prep was a huge mistake, and can't be reversed.

I taught fine art painting for many years, and I had a motto on the wall. "If you don't have time to do it right the first time, how will you have time to do it over?" This goes for money, too. Substitute money for time.

But you know this. You say you are selling the condo soon. You will need to look at this like a house flipper would. It's all about how it looks with them. Quality doesn't matter. AND, whoever buys may just lurk in the kitchen forum asking about replacing these awful cabinets..... Any paint that peels, just sand, and repaint. I'm sure you have paint left over, right?


    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 11:33AM
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The only thing you can take away from this experience is a lesson learned.

Here are some facts about paint:

1. It's all about the prep.

2.The best quality (water-based) paints are 100% acrylic, or so labeled.

3. Always use the best quality paint. Cheap paint ruins things.

4. Nobody who knows what they're doing uses roller trays.

5. Go to a professional paint store. Better yet, ask a paint contractor if you can use their company discount.

6. This is the most important. Paint takes time to cure completely. If you're peeling the paint that's just a few days or a week old, STOP IT! Let it cure. The problem may not be as bad as you think.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 6:29PM
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No one is born with experience and knowledge of doing everything and anything right. We all live and learn.

It is very likely a less experienced DIY with good intention could make mistake like this.

Why OP cannot come here to ask questions after realizing the paint job was done wrong without being rediculed ??

Most of us have prepared before putting our houses on the market, does it constitue "committe fraud"??

OP, it must be pretty frustrating after you put so much work in painting the cabinets.

Why don't you take a door off your cabinet to a couple of professional paint shops ask for advice and cross check the inputs you received here? It won't hurt to get more than one expert opinions just to make sure.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 10:28PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

4. Nobody who knows what they're doing uses roller trays.

Now that is just plain nonsense.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 3:17AM
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I don't know how it would be possible to paint a cabinet with a paint roller and even if it were, the finish would be terrible.

What is troubling about the OP is the stubborn refusal to consider the only possible solution: remove the poorly adhered finish and paint again. A similar approach is what caused the problem in the first place so the idea that people learn from their mistakes doesn't seem to apply here.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:39AM
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"Stripping the paint off and starting from scratch is not an option" was in OP's first posting before hearing others' suggestions. Based on the questions OP asked, s/he is very inexperienced in painting cabinets. Not necessary being stubborn, perhaps more âÂÂdoes not know better". Stripping paint is indeed a horrible step; anyone would want to avoid it if possible.

Now OP may think differently.

How many of us learn from lesson after first mistake? If it is the case, this world would be a paradise. LOL!

See, now even the experts on this forum are debating about right method to paint, so how could we blame a rookie?

OP, you may want to take the door to a couple of local cabinet making, cabinet painting shops for advice specific to your needs.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 11:27AM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Truthfully, after reading so many OP bashing statements on so many forums, myself being one OP, I understand the OP's frustration.

It's so bad, it almost makes you not want to ask a simple question... Truly!!

I completely agree with azmom's reply above. No need to bash someone for their ignorance about painting... Took me years to understand you must sand first, and i still hate that process!! Hard work!

I am sure the OP knows he/she screwed up. We all gave our advice.

A lot of lessons in this thread for many in the OP's position. Sand prior to painting!!

But do cover the floor and walls when you paint.........


    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 4:34PM
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I just happened to work for several years with the best painter in Pacoima, California and know exactly what is going on.

When you paint FIRST you have to rough up the old paint with sand paper, we called it breaking the shine, DIY books I have seen call it something else but same thing.


That's what primer is for ! It binds the paint to the old paint ! You should never paint with out primer, it binds the paint and also creates a base so you don't need several gazzillion coats to cover the old color !

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 7:04AM
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