It’s easy to make one of these cabinet painting mistakes, but even easier to avoid! Check out our guide before you begin painting, and you should end up with a great completed project.

1. Not taking the doors down

It’s much easier to leave the doors up and not go through the hassle of taking them down, but it’s a must to getting the best outcome. Not only is it easier to paint on a flat surface with less chance of paint running, but it saves the hassle of painting around the hinges and hardware.

navy painted cabinets

2. Forgetting to clean the doors

Once you get the doors down, they most often are not in painting condition. People will often go straight to painting without sanding or cleaning, but it’s best to clean, sand, and clean again. Use a rag and a little water to wipe them down. If you do have some cabinets with a lot of grease buildup, we’d recommend getting some degreaser to get all the grease off. Paint will take differently to a cabinet that has grease on it and you don’t want your paint job to be uneven.

painting cabinets

3. Not sanding the cabinetry thoroughly

Whether the cabinets were previously painted or varnished, sanding is a must. This step is key in getting a smooth and uniform look on your finished cabinets. Use both an electric sander for all flat surfaces and grit sandpaper for corners and grooves. Just be careful not to sand too hard with the electric sander or you’ll put a dent in your cabinets. You’ll also only want to use the electric sander first go around, so you don’t sand the paint off. Make sure to follow the grain of the wood when sanding. Sanding also helps the paint stick and decreases the likelihood of chipping. There are a couple of phases in the sanding process, before you prime and again before you paint. Let the primer dry thoroughly for 24 hours and sand again with fine sandpaper.

4. Not sanding in between each paint coat

This may be the most skipped step out of all of these because it can be the most confusing one, but after your first coat of paint is on your cabinet, sand again. Once you’re done sanding, clean off the dust before painting. You are not sanding off all of the paint you just put on, but more skimming the surface. Look for any areas that may still be rough or have paint build up, so use a fine sandpaper.

5. Buying cheap materials

Go cheap on cabinetry paint and you’ll regret it within one day of putting them up. Painting your cabinets is a lot of hard work, so the last mistake you want to make is not investing in quality cabinetry paint. Paint is a worthy and important investment and picking a high-quality paint is key to finishing your cabinets. Use a semi-gloss paint on cabinetry because it’s an easy to clean finish. Investing in a good roller pad and brush will save you a lot of headaches and valuable time. Use a 1″ angled brush and a mini roller. You’ll only want to use the brush in the corners and edges and roll the flat surfaces so you end up with an even surface and don’t have brush strokes.

painting cabinet doors

6. Not priming

Prime your cabinets when they are a bare wood finish, but you could also go this route with painted cabinets. Skipping this step is a no-no. Some might say, “well if I’m painting my cabinets white, I can just use the paint as the primer,”… don’t. Primer acts as a cover coating for the paint and will prevent chipping and give you a much better surface for applying your paint.

7. Not momentarily watching the paint dry

Unlike painting your walls, the paint on a cabinet can be tricky to apply evenly with all the corners and grooves. Painting drywall and painting wood are very different in the sense that drywall takes on paint more evenly, so when you paint your cabinets, you must change your mindset about how you paint. Often the paint will build up in corners of cabinets or will roll off the edges creating build up on the back of the cabinet. Make sure to watch the paint momentarily dry to make sure there is even and clean application.

8. Not letting the paint cure long enough

Nothing is more boring than watching paint dry and although you do not need to watch it completely cure, you do need to make sure it is cured before giving it a second or third coat. There is no magical formula for drying time, but stick to at least 2-3 hours between coats. If you start painting the second or third coat and the paint starts peeling or is tacky, that is a good indication the paint is not cured quite yet, and you should give it some more time.

navy cabinet with gold hardware


Now that you know which cabinet painting mistakes to avoid, let us know how your project turned out! Happy painting!