Painted Kitchen Cabinets Part One - Prep Work

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Last month, we began researching and shopping for new kitchen cabinets to be installed in my (soon to be) remodeled kitchen.  Very quickly, one thing became clear - that I was not going to be happy with painted, distressed MANUFACTURED cabinets!  

From a distance, I loved them...

but up-close, they had a messy look to me.  
The tinted, glazed cabinets were the worst.  
The glaze gooped up in the corners and they appeared dirty to me.  

The distressing was way too even - 
meaning pin holes and distress marks were identical on every single door.  

The art and beauty of (hand) painted cabinets is their uniqueness.  When I paint a piece of furniture, I want it to look like it was possibly painted years ago with natural rub marks around the frequently used areas.  It may sound strange but I love to STUDY pieces of furniture (new and old), staring at them and soaking in the way they were painted or how they have aged or been made to look like they've aged.  It would make me crazy to sit in my new kitchen and look at manufactured "hand painted" cabinets with identical stress marks and goopy glazed corners.

After speaking with a local cabinet representative about my views on painted cabinets, he informed me that I needed to choose a standard painted cabinet without glaze or distressing because I would never be happy with the manufactured ones.  In other words... there is not a cabinet manufacturer that can make something that would be to my standard liking.  

My Designer, on the other hand, encouraged me to order wood cabinets and then paint and finish them myself.  He knew that this was my hobby so I would enjoy the work and he also knew from my other furniture experience, that I could handle the project. I was super excited and ready to get started but Steve hadn't drank the Kool-aid yet.  He thought it was ridiculous to pay for a new kitchen remodel and yet, still have so much work to do.  So we continued to shop for cabinets.

A few weeks later, after we had been looking at cabinets for days and days,  
he was beginning to see my viewpoint.
 It was decided (by STEVE) that I should paint the cabinets... 
the existing kitchen cabinets... 
the ones we were going to be installing in the new laundry room.  
Why not? 
They would look nice transplanted (later) into the laundry room and it would give us a clearer picture of the kitchen with painted cabinets and help us decide if we really wanted me to paint and finish all of the new cabinets after they were installed. 

So I started a project that I thought would take me only a couple of days.  
And... one week later it was all finished!

In this tutorial, I will share my tips along with my failures, hoping that it will help you, should you decide to tackle this project in your own kitchen.  
I must tell you that in the end, I am so glad I did this.  
They are beautiful and I'm very proud of them.


Here's a list of SUPPLIES I needed for THE FIRST DAY...
vacuum cleaner with attachments
screw driver
putty knife
mini pry bar
needle nose pliers
ziplock bags
post it notes
2 small buckets
dish liquid soap - Dawn
scrub brush
wash rags
rubber gloves - a whole box!
caulk gun
painters putty
sand paper - medium
frog tape (cause it's the best)
drop cloths

First of all, remove all cabinet doors.

Place each cabinet's hardware in an individual labeled ziplock bag.  This is very important! Every cabinet hinge has a certain tension that has already been set.  You don't want to have to reset all those tensions after your cabinets are painted and ready to rehang.

Label each door with a post-it note.  Move the note as you work but keep it with or near it's specific cabinet door.  It's amazing how confusing it can be to rehang doors that are not labeled!

I removed this rope trim accent piece because it's just not my style.  This was my least favorite activity of the day.  If you remove any trim work like this, remember to work slowly and carefully.  It's easy to dent the wood with the pry bar.  After you have removed all the rope trim, remove any remaining nails, using needle nose pliers.

Caulk to fill in any cracks where the trim pieces were.  You'll be able to find these places easily because light will shine through!  Let the caulk dry, according to the directions on the tube.

Next, we will fill those little holes where the nails were removed, the ones that were under the trim piece. This Painter's Putty is pretty cool.  Just work a little ball of it - rolling it between your fingers until it is soft and pliable.  Then push it into the nail holes and smooth over the top with your finger.  Let it dry for a couple of hours.

After the caulk and putty are dry, sand them down until smooth (as shown below)

This is what the kitchen is looking like, at this point.
I should have removed EVERYTHING from the cabinets at this time but I didn't have a great tutorial (like this one) to tell me exactly what to do.

Remove everything from your cabinets NOW!

Time to start cleaning! Using your vacuum with attachments, remove any dust or crumbs from cabinets, drawers, surfaces and underneath cabinetry.  Clean it well!

I know that over half of your day has already been spent prepping this kitchen and you're ready to start painting but trust me... you MUST clean and degrease these cabinets or even magical chalk paint won't cling to them.  Start by scrubbing them down, using a scrub brush and soapy water.  Then dry them off with a lint free towel.

Next, using a sponge, wipe down every surface with MINERAL SPIRITS. This is a very important step!  Do not skip it.  If you don't have Mineral Spirits - go to the store and buy some, now.

Also, it might be a good time to change your gloves.

We are almost ready to start painting!  It's time to Frog Tape the trim - place tape around the base boards and appliances.  Run a butter knife along the edge to make sure it is well sealed.

Unless you are Superman or Wonder Woman, you will retire for the day.  
You need a good night's sleep 
and you probably need to soak in a hot bath 
because your neck and shoulders are feeling a little sore.

For tomorrow you will need the following supplies:

4 large drop cloths
Annie Sloan Chalk Paint - 3 quarts (I used Old White)
Annie Sloan Lacquer - 2 quarts
6 medium sand paper blocks
2" angle brush - a good quality brush
scrub brush
Scotchbrite scrub pad sponges (6 pack)
paper towels
vacuum cleaner with attachments

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