Can you advise on the safest, best way to paint kitchen cabinets?


Can you advise on the safest, best way to paint kitchen cabinets?

Asked by Bill

I painted my house with no-VOC paint but am advised it will not hold up for use in kitchen cabinets. Two options seem to be to paint with no VOC paint, then clear coat (which has its own VOC content), though my contractor does not think this would provide a great result and may be prone to yellowing even with a water based clear coat. Another might be to use a comparatively low VOC primer/paint combo, like Benjamin Moore Advance. There would seem either way some element of off-gassing into food stored in cabinets. Are there any ideal options?

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Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS's picture

Dear Bill,

The following answer is based on the assumption that you are considering painting existing in place cabinets yourself. These are not new cabinets painted in place by a cabinet maker/general contractor.

You contractor is correct that painting with a low VOC paint and topping with a clear coat will not provide you with a durable finish that will be insusceptible to yellowing.

You asked about Benjamin Moore Advance Satin formula. This is an ideal product for painting cabinets in place provided:

  1. You prep your cabinets properly. That is, you sand down far enough to get all existing finish off and out of the grain, remove all dust then prime them properly.
  2. You have enough time to work steadily. Advance is a great product but I would not necessarily consider it a DIY product. In other words you need to allocate enough time to see the project through.Understand that Advance sets up quickly which means you need to work steadily but you also need to understand that it needs a full 16 hours between coats.
  3. Also, painting installed cabinets is difficult whether you are a professional or not and requires a fair amount of patience and diligence.

Advance cleans up with soap and water and is low VOC, despite the fact that it is a hybrid paint.

Painting yourself will not be as durable a finish as let's say a factory finish because factory finishes are actually baked on. Durability in a DIY job will be predicated on the quality of your prep.

No one likes to dump perfectly good cabinets in a landfill so think seriously before you undertake painting cabinets in place yourself.

Good luck!

For more information:

Read "What are the best green products to use when repainting kitchen cabinets?" a Q&A answered by Joel Hirshberg.