Paint your oak cabinets and brighten your kitchen.

The Best Way to Paint Oak Cabinets

by Matt Smolsky

Updating oak cabinets with new paint can save you the hassle, headaches and expense of installing new cabinets. In fact, a new coat of paint on your oak cabinets will definitely give your kitchen a whole new look The key to success is preparation and attention to detail when painting the cabinets. By taking your time, you can achieve professional results and have cabinets that look like new.

Remove the hardware from the cabinets, then remove the doors. Keep all hardware and hinges in plastic bags. Create a system for remembering where everything goes when you reassemble the cabinets. You might mark cabinets lightly in pencil in an inconspicuous spot, or use blue painter's tape to flag or code items.

Cover areas of the cabinets you don't want painted with painter's tape. Cover the floors with drop cloths.

Scrub the surfaces to be painted with trisodium phosphate (TSP) and a sponge. This will remove residual grease and grime. Mix the TSP according to the manufacturer's directions. Rinse the cabinets with water after washing with TSP and dry with a rag. If the cabinets are coated in polyurethane or have a factory finish, they will need to be stripped with a paint and varnish stripper. If you use stripper you do not need to use TSP.

Repair any deep scratches or dents with non-shrinking putty, smoothing it out as completely as possible with a putty knife.

Sand the cabinets with 150 to 180 grit sandpaper after they've dried. Don't over-sand, but do sand into any cracks or crevices.

Wipe the cabinets down with an oil-free tack cloth to remove all the dust.

Apply a coat of primer tinted to the same color as your topcoat. You may need to apply a stain blocking primer if the cabinets are stained or have knots or other imperfections that might show through. Allow the primer to dry for 24 hours.

Apply a topcoat of high-quality paint using the best brush you can find. Apply latex paint with a synthetic bristle brush and oil-based paints with a natural-bristle brush. Allow the topcoat to dry 24 hours. You may need to apply two coats.

Reattach the hardware and the doors to the cabinets after the last coat has dried for 24 hours.

Items you will need

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Painter's tape
  • Pencil
  • Plastic bags
  • Drop cloths
  • Bucket
  • Trisodium phosphate
  • Sponge
  • Paint and varnish stripper (optional)
  • Chemical-resistant gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Rags
  • Non-shrinking putty
  • Putty knife
  • 150 to 180 grit sandpaper
  • Oil-free tack cloth
  • Primer
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes

About the Author

Matt Smolsky has been writing for more than 25 years. He wrote news, sports and feature stories for the "Omaha World-Herald" and other publications and has continued on in direct marketing and general advertising. He now writes for the web as well. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history and journalism from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images