Monday, May 7, 2012

The smell of swiss coffee is in the air.

It has come.  The moment you have all been waiting for:  the cabinets have been painted.  We last left you with this image after all the prep work had been completed: 

As you may have read previously, last winter I painted our bathroom cabinets white as a practice round to painting the kitchen cabinets.  When painting the bathroom I had used a brush to paint all the grooves and a foam roller for all the flat areas.  Everyone claimed that a foam roller would give a perfectly smooth finish.  I had my doubts, but I mindlessly followed their instructions anyway.  In the end, the cabinets looked ok.  I'm sure most people would be satisfied with the results, but I saw roller marks.  The texture is very subtle, much like the texture you see on your wall after you paint it, but I knew I could do better.  So, I started looking into using paint sprayers.

The many paint department workers who all claimed that the foam roller would give me a smooth finish now claimed that a sprayer would actually give a worse finish because it would spray too big of drops.  That thought seemed dumb to me, and their advise had failed me in the past, so I looked into paint sprayers on my own.

I found that paint sprayers that hook into a compressor give the smoothest finish because they have a very fine spray.  Typically these kind are super expensive and therefore out of our budget.  That is when I found this Wagner HVLP conversion gun beauty:     

It hooks up to most compressors, including the one my lovely Titus already owned.  And it was about 50% off.  As you can read on Amazon, it gets glowing reviews.  I bought it.

Now I needed to find the perfect paint.  After reading around the internet I discovered the new miracle paint in cabinet refinishing:  Benjamin Moore Advanced.  It is water based, but is strong like oil based.  Therefore, it is perfect for people who don't want to die from fume inhalation, and also want a durable cabinet paint.  I bought it color matched to Behr Swiss Coffee (same color as our trim) in a satin finish.  I also went with my trusted Ben primer, Fresh Start All-Purpose Primer.

Now that I had the goods, I was ready to begin.  So, I first waited for spring.  Since most paints need temperatures above 40 degrees to be affective I had to patiently wait until the Minnesota winter ended.

When Spring arrived, Titus and I began preparing the garage for mass amounts of spray paint.  We cleared as much out of the garage as possible since apparently these guns have a lot of over-spray.  We also covered the floor in some cheap painters plastic so the doors could be laid out to all be sprayed all at once.  While painting, we found that you actually need to tape the plastic to the floor since the spray gun causes strong winds which causes the plastic to blow up and stick to your cabinet's new coat of paint.

We then laid out small pieces of scrap wood and MDF for the cabinet doors to be place on.

These boards allowed the doors to sit above the ground so the paint wouldn't stick to the plastic.  See how the door sits a few inches above the plastic?  This allows you to spray the sides of the doors without the doors fusing to the plastic when the paint is applied.

I then put on my safety gear.  I wore a mask and safety glasses.  When painting inside I found that the you actually need goggles since there is so much over-spray bouncing around in your business, and you should probably wear a real gas mask. 

I also recommend you wear full length pants.  Your shoes will be destroyed so either do my attractive method of putting socks over your shoes, or use this as an excuse to get new shoes.

Digression:  As far as the actual paint and primer goes, I did not thin the primer or the paint. On the back of the primer can it says not to thin it, so that wasn't even an option.  The paint can told me it could be sprayed, so I just tried it without thinning and it went swimmingly.  I have however used this gun with unthinned Kilz primer which clogged the gun constantly, as well as thinned Behr Ultra which also clogged the gun.  The Behr Ultra didn't clog the gun too badly, and the dry, clogged pieces of paint could be wiped away fairly easily.  I have made it work with the Behr Ultra, it just gets slightly annoying.

Now that everything had been prepared, I painted the first coat of primer.  I first sprayed all the sides.  Then I sprayed the inside at an angle that would get into all the groves.  Lastly, I sprayed the rest of the cabinet facing.  I held the spray gun about 10" away whenever spraying which seemed to mostly work.  The most important thing to do is keep the gun moving at all times so it doesn't build up too much paint, since that is what causes drips.

For the drawers, I actually only wanted to paint the sides and front.  So I painted the sides with a brush to eliminate the over-spray into the drawer the spray gun would have caused.  I then sprayed the front of the drawers with the spray gun.

After spraying the doors and drawers, we went inside and sprayed the frames.  The cabinet frames needed two extra steps of prep work.

At the top of the upper cabinet frames is crown molding.  Just like when I painted the trim around the house, the crown molding wasn't always completely flush to the cabinet frames.  Therefore, wherever there was a gap, there needed to be caulk applied.  Titus caulked along the bottom of the entire length of crown molding and in all the corners where the crown molding met the adjoining piece of crown molding.

To protect the appliances from paint I covered them completely in newspaper, and actually removed the microwave completely.   I did not cover anything else.  I figured any paint that got on the windows could be scraped off, and we were replacing the floors and counters. 

We then painted the first coat of primer.  I sprayed the outside and inside of everything.  Spraying the inside of the cabinets was sometimes tricky.  The gun can't be held upside down for obvious reason, which made painting the tops of the insides difficult.  I also usually had to put my head fairly close to the inside of the cabinets when spraying them, which meant I was breathing in a lot of paint fumes and they were also getting in my eye balls.

I cannot stress to you the amount of over-spray this gun produces.  The countertops now have a coat of paint on them and they weren't within a foot of anything I sprayed.  Not to mention the amount of over-spray that dries in the air and settles as dust around your house.  I would say that spraying the cabinets produces about five times the amount of dust that sanding the cabinets produced. The wasted overspray also means that you will need a lot more paint than if you were to brush and roll the paint on.

Totally worth it.  After two coats of primer, two coats of paint, two and a half cans of Ben Advanced, two cans of Ben primer, and one week of our lives, we have the most beautifully smooth cabinets in all the land.  They are seriously amazing people.

However, this job was not without its flaws.  In my opinion all the flaws are very  minor and pretty preventable.  On one door we had some paint drip off the edge and now we have drip marks.  They can totally be sanded off which I probably won't do because they are on the inside of the door and I hate sanding.

Another problem was that we should have caulked the inset of the doors.  There was a small gap between the inset of the door and the outer part of the door that wasn't always able to be filled completely with paint, therefore there are now little paint caves.  This didn't happen on very many doors and isn't really noticeable unless you look for them.

The last "flaw" isn't really a flaw to me.  If you look closely you are still able to see the grain of the wood.  There are even some places where the primer and paint weren't able to get into the grooves completely and wood is somewhat visible. These grooves mainly just look slightly darker in color than the rest of the cabinets. It is so slightly visible I could barely get a picture of it.  This is one of the largest grooves.

If I were to do this all over again there are a few things I would have done differently.  I would have caulked around the inset of the cabinet doors.  I also would have rolled on the first layer of primer, which I believe  would have solved a lot of the wood grain showing issue since you are able to push the primer into the grain more readily with a roller than with the sprayer. 

Now onto the bad news.  Our original hinges had a brass finish and were therefore no longer welcome in our kitchen.  We had planned on spray painting them to save money, but it was a giant failure.  Therefore, there will be no after pictures with doors actually hung on the frames. The doors instead rest beautifully on our ugly railing.  The suspense lives on.

The anticlimactic before and after:


  1. Wow, It is amazing how much the white has brightened up the kitchen. The suspense is killing me.... Will I get to see the finished kitchen tomorrow????

  2. I looked for a blog today...Tuesday, May 8th. There was no blog. Imagine my disappointment. I'm eagerly awaiting the showing of the floor and counter tops!!!!! The suspense is killing me...........

    1. I wish I had more to show you. Yesterday did not go well, and large changes are needed. Not a good day. I will have to tell you all about it.

  3. You will never guess what color Dad decided to paint the cabinets at his hunting cabin..... No, not Swiss Coffee.... Snow White!!!! Yes, you read correctly!!!
    I used some of the information that you shared on your blog to get started. One thing that would have been very helpful is a paint sprayer!!!! Too bad you live 4 hours away :(
    We used a paint and primer combination and a paint brush. The brush is definitely not a good idea!! I will use a roller on the next coat. Yes, there will be at least one more coat.
    I wonder how long snow white kitchen cabinets will stay snow white in a hunting cabin???