How To Paint Oak Cabinets

How To Paint Oak Cabinets

I am a bit confused. SOLID oak is outdated, but MDF is not? Translucent or stained oak is outdated, but painted wood or MDF is not? I guess Formica and vinyl veneered counters are preferred over granite too. I may be just another guy who prefers natural wood to chip board or MDF, but considering real wood costs a fortune today, I would think ANY real wood is a preference over composites, and to paint over it seems destructive. I drove by an MDF processing factory a couple of years ago and was appauled to see whole truck loads of trees being driven into the factory just to be put in a chipper and made into MDF. I thought MDF was originally supposed to be the “green” way to recycle sawdust and wood byproducts. It was supposed to be a cheaper alternative to the cost of real, solid wood. Now they are using whole trees to make MDF and chip board. As with all trends and fads, the stuff we are covering up oak with will eventually become outdated too. I read some info on websites promoting cabinet resurfacing, and they actually said they would apply a veneer of either MDF or PLASTIC film to the honey oak to update it. To imagine that some people would rather see a plastic veneer over oak appears ridiculous and petty to me, but what do I know. To me, cabinet refinishing is along the same lines as the people who insisted on ripping out solid oak flooring a few years ago, and replacing it with fake woodgrained vinyl Pergo. People run away from that junk now. In the end you have to use common sense and take a look at the big picture. Is refinishing “your” idea, or are you just getting sucked in by the fad and jumping on the refinishing bandwagon? So many refinishing projects ruin your cabinets, because they rarely turn out exactly like the picture on the paint can (that was done professionally), and the time and money you spend correcting your mistakes aren’t worth the project in the first place. If it were up to me, I would rather see real wood, over painted MDF, granite counters over Formica, and I wouldn’t concern myself over what some fad or product pushing company has to say about my personal preference for kitchen cabinets. Just my two cents worth.
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How To Paint Oak Cabinets

Okay, before I get into all the how-to stuff, let me take a moment to talk about oak cabinets and the wood grain debate.  Oak cabinets have the special distinction of having a very prominent wood grain.  Most pine, maple, cherry etc. wood cabinets don’t have this extra issue.  I am not just talking about the fact the cabinets look like wood, this grain is etched into the face of the cabinets.  When you paint oak cabinets white, the grain texture remains very apparent.

How To Paint Oak Cabinets

Here’s my $0.02. Oak is the official wood of the middle class. I may be middle class, but that doesn’t mean I need to shout it from the mountain tops by living with an oak kitchen or driving a Taurus. Not that there’s anything wrong with Tauruses or Oak; both are rock solid. I just prefer something fresh and upscale looking. You won’t find oak in a multi-million dollar mansion. You may not find MDF either, but you will find white woods that look like MDF. Oak is unmistakably oak, and inhabits many a trailer park kitchen.
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How To Paint Oak Cabinets

My most popular post, by far, has been “How to Paint Your Cabinets Like a Professional.” As a result, I have gotten a lot of questions, specifically, about how to paint oak cabinets. I have tackled a great deal of oak cabinet client projects, so I thought I would share some tips and tricks for painting oak cabinets that I have learned along the way, if you’re looking to give yours a refresh.
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How To Paint Oak Cabinets

This is a biggie. And I went back and forth several times with him on this. He insisted on oil paint. It’s what he knows, what he’s familiar with, knows it gives a beautiful finish and flat out said that latex paint would not hold up well.  Thinking to myself “man this guy is very old school in his ways,” he just doesn’t know the new paints Sherwin Williams has now are, like their water-based enamel paints which are supposed to harden and finish like an alkyd paint. He said the latex will chip off much more easily and when you wipe the cabinets down, the water wouldn’t do well or hold up well with multiple cleanings.  Now I have no idea if that is true or not. I have several friends who have used that water-based paint on cabinets and love it.  And they love that it’s non-yellowing and no smell like oil based paint. My main concern was the yellowing factor in oil paint. I didn’t want my pretty white cabinets to turn yellow.  But I finally came to the conclusion that by the time my cabinets might turn slightly yellow, I will want a different color on them anyway so who cares? Plus I wanted Adel to be comfortable using the product he is familiar with and will be proud of his end result.
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How To Paint Oak Cabinets

Painting oak cabinets …….been there done that like 50 times . ……sure you can use oil base to help Level it out and try to make it disappear, if you are painting white or off white I don’t care what kind of oil you use or hybrid like Ben moores advance it will yellow. . Most home owners will not pay the labor cost to make it disappear . At some point you have to think , is it worth paying 150 dollars of labor to get the grain out or go buy a new paint grade maple door for 50 dollars . I always clean sand and prime the oak doors , I spray everything , but when it comes to oak I roll on the primer and paint ( sand able waterborne ) and push into grain ( multiple costs and sand between )The trick is a end , I always use a dull precat varnish to hide the grain , the last thing you want to do is shine them up ….. The grain will show like crazy ! . When it comes to clear coats there is no durability difference in w high gloss or a dull flat finish …… Ok that was my 2 cents
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How To Paint Oak Cabinets

Hey Melle! Good question that I forgot to mention in my post. I just personally don’t like the look of painted oak cabinets, that LOOK like painted oak. That first sample that I had made where the grain showed a lot, I did not like it at all. When Adel made his sample it was NOTHING like my first sample. And if I’m being honest, I’d rather have the look of high end MDF (even though it doesn’t look like that) than painted oak that’s noticeable. I just don’t have a special bond with oak or anything like some do. 🙂
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Hello….we are trying to paint some unfinished oak cabinets. Since we wanted to hide the grain we used Behlen’s wood grain filler and have gotten the surface pretty smooth but when we applied the cabinet paint on top of the filled surface (Cabinet Coat) it basically comes right off with a light sanding after drying. So, then we tried putting Zinser’s 123 primer over the wood grain filler coating hoping that the paint would stick to that, but a light sanding of the primer is also coming off. Any thoughts or suggestions you may have would be appreciated. All products are water soluble (I read that oil based white paint yellows), all surfaces had been given more than proper drying times in between and tacked clothed to remove any dust so we think it is an issue with the wood filler causing adhesion issues. When we tried the paint on raw wood adhesion was not a problem. Thanks…
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Hi Emily, we hired a “pro” to paint our oak kitchen and we are so disappointed. This project needs a complete re-do. The grain completely shows through, chipping within one week, and the paint has seeped into the wood so much in some areas that the oak is showing through. She used latex paint. Is it possible for us to coat over with an oil based paint to achieve our goal, or do you have any suggestions to help us?
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Whether you use oil-based or water-based paint is a matter of preference, although in some states laws governing the emission of volatile organic compounds may limit your choice of paints. If cabinets are in frequent use, a high-gloss paint will provide a visually crisper definition of cabinets while lessening finger marks. Cabinets that are seldom opened can be permitted to fade into the background with flat paint, but scuffs and scratches will be more noticeable. Using the same eggshell or satin finish paint that you use on other woodwork offers the advantages of diminished visual prominence and easy surface cleaning. Plan on two coats of your chosen paint for a smooth durable finish.