Cabinet tune-up

If those worn kitchen-cabinet faces are wearing you down — and so is the cost of replacing them — cheer up, do-it-yourselfers. Tune up your cabinets with a repainting job that you can do "easily in a weekend," according to Ashland Ace Hardware assistant manager Michael Wann.

You can perk up an average-sized kitchen for less than $100 worth of paint, then go a step farther and replace those aged handles and hinges, too.

To get started, you'll need a screwdriver, a handful of plastic sandwich bags and some masking tape. Begin by unscrewing the doors from the hinges. Mark two pieces of the masking tape with the same letter or number, then stick one piece on the hinge you've just removed and the other inside the cabinet right next to the screw holes. That way, your screws will align properly upon reinstallation. Do the same with the handles.

Your peace of mind will stay more intact throughout the project if you remove the drawers, too, rather than painting them in place. Inside each drawer, you can tape a baggie holding its hardware. Even if you plan to replace the old hardware, it's still a good idea to segregate the pieces, Wann says. Take samples of each with you to check compatibility of the new hardware.

Always do your prep work and painting in a well-ventilated area, preferably in the garage with the big door open. An inexpensive painter's ventilation mask will help keep your throat and lungs clear of fine particulates from sanding dust and paint fumes.

You'll need to clean accumulated grease and dirt from the cabinets before painting. A solution of one part trisodium phosphate (TSP) to four parts water is the professional solution. Many biodegradable degreasers will do the trick, as well. Allow the cleaned surfaces to dry thoroughly before proceeding.

The hardest part — and the key to a fine finish — is to "sand, sand, sand," Wann says. "Start with a coarser grit, say 220 to 240, then go over it again with a finer grit to get the job 100-percent right. There's no substitute for good, old-fashioned elbow grease."

Sanding breaks up the old surface gloss, which would otherwise resist adherence of the new paint.

"After you sand something down, it's best to use a tack cloth that will pick up those fine dust particles that you can miss with an ordinary rag," Wann says. "We stock the tack cloth right with our sandpaper. It's usually pretty cheap. About $1.99."

Now, you're ready to paint.

"Use a good-quality, high-gloss, interior-latex paint," Wann advises. "A lot of people think you need to use an oil base, but latexes are just as good these days." And they're a cinch to clean — just warm water; that's all.

Another advantage offered by latex paints is application flexibility. You can use a brush, roller, sponge brush or spray, with very little difference in finish quality.

"Repainting cabinets is one of the simpler DIY projects," Wann says.

If you have all the materials at hand, you should be able to start the project in the morning, apply a finishing coat in the afternoon and reinstall the doors the following afternoon, he says.

Share This Story