I read somewhere that prepping the cabinets for paint is 70% of the work. Whoever said that is right on. Now that I have the finished product, there is absolutely no doubt that it was worth the chaos and heavy labor, but I definitely don't want to do it again anytime soon! I am not going to give a step by step tutorial, but if you are looking for detailed instructions, here are some of my favorite sources.
As I mentioned before, I decided to paint the upper cabinets white and the lower cabinets gray. My thought is that it would still give the room-opening effect of white, while still grounding the space with a darker color, which would also hide marks from little dirty hands. This meant that my cabinet painting saga had two parts. In part one, aka the white uppers, I painstakingly followed all directions and was a major overachiever. It seemed to pay off, though, as the finish seems very hard and durable. In part 2, I also tried to diligently do all the steps, and the finish is nice, but for some reason I am encountering a small amount of chipping. Even though I used the same paint in different colors, the gray always seemed slightly less resilient than the white... Maybe it is just my perception, though...
So, first of all, I removed the doors/drawers and hinges and created a code with painter's tape, so I could remember what door went where. Then I used a tsp substitute to wipe down all the doors. Let me just say that this was a disgusting step. Three decades of grease, dirt and oil does not come off easily. I had the most success with wiping the doors with the degreaser and then scraping over and over with a sharp putty knife untill all the gunk was gone. Some doors were worse than others. My sister-in-law (who hopes to paint her cabinets in the not-too-distant future) was curious about my process, and she kindly offered to come help me one day. It was super helpful, and we got so much done.
Then I sanded everything down extensively. I used my dremel tool multimax with 60 grit sandpaper, and then followed with a palm sander with 120/150 grit. Thankfully, some friends let me borrow the sander, so all I had to buy was the sandpaper. I also used a foam sanding block to get into the bevels of the doors. Then I primed the doors and cabinet bases with white primer. As you can see below, the upper cabinets have been primed, some of the old countertops have been removed, and the primitive blue tape coding system is doing its job. People, painting cabinets is chaos. Even writing this post is making me feel stressed out...
A little note on my primer. I researched my paint and primer options pretty extensively, because I was determined to do it right. I decided to go with the Benjamin Moore Advance primer, even though it was almost $50. Seriously, it was like $2 less than the actual paint. But, I figured it would work best since it was specifically formulated to go with the top-coat.
After degreasing, sanding, degreasing again and wiping with tack-cloth, I put on the first coat of primer. Within a couple minutes, something yellow started to bleed through. Bummer. I tried another coat, but it still bled through. I had heard of this happening on paneling and wood, and decided to look into an oil based, stain blocking primer. I was really anxious to keep moving on the painting process, so I stopped by the Wal-Mart near my house to see what their options were. I remembered reading on Bower Power that they used oil based spray primer on their doors, so I decided to try it out. I found a stain-blocking, reduced odor, oil-based, spray primer by Zinsser that looked promising. For the cabinet bases, I went with a quart of Kilz, stain-blocking, oil-based primer. Definitely very stinky, but it was such a great consistency, and it totally blocked the yellow.
The spray primer was also really nice. Excellent coverage, and no dripping. I would totally recommend it. I set up a spray paint station on my patio, and it worked out fine.
After priming, I let things dry for however long the paint can said, and then I painted. The Advance paint brushed on really nicely, and it seemed to stick well to the primer. I had to wait 16 hours for the second coat, and then another few days before the doors were ready for hardware and hanging. I didn't really have an area for my drawers and doors to dry, so I just used the space I had.
Prepping and painting the gray bottom cabinets was a similar process, but I used a slightly different oil spray primer by Kilz. It dripped badly and dried with a grainy finish that I had to sand off. I think this primer may be the reason for the chipping that I have encountered. I wish I had just used the Zinsser again, but I used all that Wal-Mart had, and Home Depot told me that the Kilz was a higher quality product. Go figure. For the cabinet bases, I used a quart of the Kilz Original (same as for the upper cabinet bases) tinted to a medium gray. It worked great.
We had lots of help from family and friends with sanding the drawer fronts and priming the cabinet bases, so that went much more quickly than if I were doing it alone. So grateful! After that, the painting went fairly quickly, and I was able to set the doors in the basement to cure for 2-3 days before adding hardware and hanging. All in all, I think the prepping, priming, and painting took me about two weeks--not too shabby for having two little munchkins who needed me much of the time.... Definitely not a weekend job, but totally worth it.