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Best Primer for Painting Kitchen Cabinets?
So you are thinking about painting kitchen cabinets as a DIY project, or maybe you are a pro looking for some advice. We want to highlight two other items you should have figured out first. Before priming, the two primary steps are the cleaning process and what you need to protect before painting your cabinets. Don’t forget these critical steps.
Once you have those figured out, you must decide what primer to use when painting kitchen cabinets. There are so many choices it can be confusing. So I wanted to share what I have learned from my many years of painting experience. But first I want to tell you what we choose to use.
We use a shellac primer on all of our kitchen cabinet painting projects. It takes proper steps to protect property and people when used and can harm either of these, so stay safe and always follow your product’s specs!
Different Types of Primer for Painting Kitchen Cabinets
There are many different cabinet primers to choose from, but we will discuss the four main types. We won’t name specific products but rather the types and base materials.
- Water-based primers
- Modified primers
- Oil-based primers
- Shellac based primers
Water-based Primers for Painting Kitchen Cabinets
These are the most basic primers, and they would be the easiest to work with for anyone from a novice to a professional painter. They are easy to clean up with water and maybe a little dish soap for good measure. However, these are usually not the best choice for kitchen cabinet painting projects. Unless you are painting bare wood, you will likely have bonding issues.
Then you also have to worry about any staining coming through since these types of products do not have many stains blocking abilities. So even if you sand off all the current finish, you could still bleed through after the finish coats, especially if you are working with oak cabinets.
Latex primers are also the lowest Voc and can be uWe have a few other essential challenges to share with you before in areas with stringent regulations. These products should not be used on cabinets but are very useful for walls, ceilings, new woodwork, and before installing wallpaper to prep the surface over drywall.
Modified Primers for Kitchen Cabinet Refinishing
These coatings have been made in such a way to have ingredients you used to only find in oil or urethane coatings, which gives them the ability to perform more like oil-based primers that bond very well to most surfaces. Many other ingredients are used in some of these modified primers, but oil is the most common and recognized.
It isn’t easy to spot these types, but they are usually the middle-priced primers you will find at your local paint store or big box store. They still require a spotless surface and scuff up the surface, so you must dull the surface properly before applying your primer.
These primers can be very useful when you don’t want to use such harsh chemicals as you find in oil or shellac-based products. The best part of these products is that they are easy to clean up with water and dish soap.
Oil-Based Primers Best used for Painting Kitchen Cabinets
These are the most highly recommended primers for kitchen cabinet painting projects. Oil-based primers have excellent bonding capabilities while blocking staining of many types. They are very forgiving and have powerful bonding capabilities, even if a surface isn’t as clean as needed for other primers.
The stain blocking will be superior when working with oak cabinets. We recommend doing two coats to make sure, especially when hand painting. When we say two coats, you must allow proper dry times to get good results. We mention this because some may think spraying or rolling over two times in a short period consists of two coats. You would be just applying an extra thick coat.
Oil primer is also tricky to work with as it is sticky and hard to clean up. It requires harsh substances like paint thinner for cleaning tools or any area where some primer went where you didn’t intend to.
You may also need a unique hand cleaner to get the product off your hands. You do not want to use paint thinner or other products made for cleaning tools to clean anything off your body.
Oil primer is the best primer for cabinet painting projects and is usually very cost-effective. But it can be a challenge for the DIY weekend warrior or pros alike. You must follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and take proper precautions for respiratory protection, adequate ventilation, and clean-up steps.
Shellac Primer Better for Cabinet Painting (non-water-based versions)
These are the best-performing primers in my option. First, they have the best stan blocking abilities. Second, they are almost exclusively used for fire restoration and surface animal urine damage. Third, neutralize and block odors and staining from coming through your finish coats or lingering around once the project is completed.
Not only are they great in these areas, but they also dry very fast, allowing for faster production times. Although this is a benefit, it makes them very difficult to work with since they dry so fast.
Because of this, you can wind up with a very rough and not smooth surface, causing you to do a lot of sanding if you want to achieve a smooth surface. For these reasons, most pros will spray this product. Before you think you will get a sprayer to accomplish this for yourself, we have a few other essential challenges to share with you.
They are also not easy to clean up as you need some harsh chemicals to clean. You can use an ammonia and water mix to clean up. If you plan on attempting this method, I recommend you do much more research before proceeding.
So ensure you are safe and know the products you are working with well. Finally, we will give you the products we would recommend if you want to do a DIY project for yourself for ease of use and the skill level of the DIYer.
Our Recommendation for the Weekend Warrior or DIY’ers
- Modified Primers
- Oil Primers
- water-based primers
- shellac primers (non-water based)
Our Recommendation for Professional Painters Using a Sprayer
- Oil primer
- shellac primer (non-water based)
- Modified Primers
- Water-based Primers
These are our opinions and should work well for most DIY’ers or Professional Painters, depending on their skill levels. If there is anything else you would like to know about primers or the painting industry, email me at Joe@thepickypainters.com, and in the subject, put “Blog or video” and tell me what you would like to learn more about. I will do my best to share my knowledge and 25 years of painting experience with you! I hope this helped.
Thanks, Joe Strbik.
Pro Tips from Trusted Local Cleveland Painters
- You should always make sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
- Ensure you have plenty of the proper supplies to protect surfaces from paint.
- Use any protection needed for the products you might be using
- Wear old clothing, and protect your hands and skin, as some people can be allergic to certain coatings.