If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And by try, I do mean to redo all of your hard work two more times until it becomes perfect. Because no one wants streaky paint. Right? In this post, I will share how our Finished Kitchen cabinets went from a drab golden oak to a stunningly bright kitchen with paint!
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Published June 13, 2022
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Golden Oak Upper Cabinets
Our house was built in 1996, right at the height of using Oak cabinets and a beautiful golden oak stain. However, after almost three decades, the yellow undertones have not helped these beauties. The golden cabinets now look orange. Literally, orange. We have so many other projects that have a higher importance than redoing our fully functional and usable kitchen. So, instead of being impulsive and gutting the place, I was given permission to paint the cabinets and bring them into the 21st century.
In early 2022, I was able to complete the lower cabinets using General Finishes Milk Paint in the color Patina Green. As I went with a color, and milk paint is hyperpigmented, so primer is not typically necessary. The lowers got two coats of Patina Green and two coats of topcoat for extra protection. Check out the entire process by clicking the link below!
First things first
When beginning any painting project, having the right tools is very necessary. Sanding, cleaning, removing hardware, stools, rags, brushes and rollers are all really necessary. The first step is to label and then remove the doors and hardware. If you have a whole kitchen full of doors that are the same size, labeling them is very important as the hinges typically are set to a specific spot.
As we were buying new pulls, the old brass ones were just removed and thrown away. Plus, these old pulls were tarnished and starting to flake in spots.
Scrub and Clean
Once the doors are removed, the next step is to clean the cabinets really well. When we first moved into this house in fall 2019, it was dirty and we scrubbed it from floor to ceiling. It was nasty. Even after two years, these cabinets still deserved a good scrub. Crud cutter is a great product, and so are scrubber pads; something to cut through the grime that is typically in a kitchen. Once the cabinets are cleaned, wipe any excess water off and wipe them with a clean rag to make sure all of the soap and stuff is off. Then, wipe them with a dry towel and let them rest for a day or so before painting.
Sanding Time for a Finished Kitchen
Sanding, while using Milk Paint, is important as it helps to cut through the typical shiny poly and helps the paint adhere to the surface. Before you paint, sand all surfaces really well. You do not have to get down to bare wood, just give them a good scruff.
I have found that using a sanding block helps to create a smoother look while keeping the sandpaper even. The sanding block is tapered at one edge which then helps to get into smaller areas.
Once the sanding has been done, clean the dust off of the cabinets using Denatured Alcohol and a clean rag. Then, let the cabinets sit for a few hours to dry again. This product does dry quick, but just to make sure let them rest. Sometimes, if you are doing a large area, once you are done you can typically begin painting.
To prime or not to prime?
Priming while using a lighter color is really important. When you paint over wood that has been stained, the tannins bleed through. You can do two or two hundred coats of paint, but without primer, that wood color will still bleed through. With Milk Paint, there typically is no need to prime. So, in this kitchen I did an experiment. On one side I painted the General Finishes Milk Paint Snow White and on the other side I used primer before painting. Below are the two separate cabinet sides. The left has no primer and the right has primer. The side with primer for sure covered the orange oak much better and required less coats of paint.
I do not like the brush strokes in the paint.
I broke down and used a roller with the Milk Paint hoping the streaking would go away. But then the finish was like orange peel and that was just unpleasant in a kitchen cabinet.
However, once the cabinets were fully painted, it looked pretty good! If you notice the backsplash, I went a little crazy and bought peel-&-stick shelf paper and was testing out the pattern. It was just too busy and did NOT go with the countertops so it was removed after about thirty days.
Grossly underestimated timeline to this Finished Kitchen
Redoing these cabinet uppers took all together way longer than originally anticipated. At first, when doing the lowers, I was excited to use my favorite General Finishes Milk Paint in the color of Snow White. However, once the painting began I ran into a few issues. This paint was thick. Thick like peanut butter. Hindsight is a glorious thing, and looking back I wish I would have learned to thin the paint out.
Once the first layer was done, I was super unhappy. As I have always used a 2-inch paintbrush with G.F. Milk paint, I used this same technique. Milk paint tends to dry smooth and with a simple brush of sandpaper to hit the high spots, the end result is perfection. Maybe this can was bad? Maybe I was supposed to thin it out? Whatever the case, the uppers were streaky and uneven. A second coat of paint was for sure needed.
Below is a before and after of the microwave cabinet! However, this cabinet will have a different use soon as our microwave died during this process. We do not like the countertop style and were hoping for a new microwave as the one that came with the house was well over twenty years old. So, once done, this cabinet will become a cookbook shelf and Tyler designed a shelf over the stove to house our new over the range microwave that has a vent hood fan.
See that hood vent? It is the original with the house and is so gross. Plus, it is almond colored and stained and does not work well anymore. Time for an upgrade! In addition to the over the range microwave, the cabinet over the stove is being relocated to over the freezer.
Working on the doors
As the cabinets dried, I went to work on the doors. The process is the same, you remove the hardware and clean them with good soap and a scrubby. Once they were done, the doors need to dry before you use Denatured alcohol to clean any dust residue off. The upper doors were so much more gross than the lowers, so there were many that needed the assist of a steel wool pad. The water was absolutely disgusting and all of these doors took a few times to wash before they were satisfactorily clean. Once dry, I gave the doors all a good sanding and then cleaned the dust off and cleaned again with Denatured Alcohol. The next day I got to start painting!
Paint the doors
With the doors, I learned from my cabinet experience and painted each with KILZ primer before they were painted. Using a 2-inch brush worked out perfect and the angled brush helped get into all of the small lines that were then on the cabinet door details.
After the primer was completely dry, the doors got two coats of Dutch Boy Cabinet & Door & Trim Enamel Paint in glossy white. This paint is what I ended up using instead of the General Finishes Milk Paint to finish the uppers as I was super not impressed with my can of Snow White. This paint, with a 2-inch brush, gave the perfect finish to these doors. Once they were dry, after to coats, they sat for a day to cure before they were installed.
In addition to using this Cabinet Enamel paint on the doors, all of the cabinets were repainted with one coat for a unified look. As this was an enamel paint, a topcoat was not needed.
The last step to the Finished Kitchen was to paint the walls and give them a refresh. This was by far, the most rewarding as it was an amazing change. Below shows the fresh paint on the right with the old dingy paint on the left. This alone made the room so clean and looks huge! The paint color was the same from the living room and dining room as we had a lot left and it carried well into the kitchen. To check out what the living room looks like, click the link below to see how we updated the greige walls to clean and fresh!
A Finally Finished Kitchen
Tyler built a shelf above our new microwave that fits my stunning pasta drying rack on it perfectly! To finish the kitchen, the doors needed to be installed and the hardware added. Tyler has been working so hard at work and has not had time to do the crown molding on the tops of the cabinets, so that is still unfinished. However, it will sit as the crown is not important to the finished kitchen yet. All of the new pulls were my Christmas gift from Tyler, they are all copper and also have this simple twist in them. The reason we went with the copper pulls, was because the lower cabinets are Patina Green and that is the color that copper turns when it oxidizes, therefore, our color theme will be copper accents.
But for all intents and purposes, this kitchen is done! Just pardon the clutter, it is a lived in Finished Kitchen.