Prepping Cabinets For Paint (Sanding, Deglossing, Wood Putty)

I guess that title should really be “Puttering Around With Putty (aka: Wood Filler) And Sandpaper And A Spackle Knife And Deglosser.” But that was too long. In a nutshell, we prepped all of our cabinets for primer by:

But that’s not enough detail for chatterbugs like us. So let’s get into the nitty-gritty. First we used Elmer’s ProBond Professional Strength Wood Filler (we asked around for a favorite filler among contractor friends and two mentioned this one) to fill any cracks, old hardware holes, etc. Since our new door and drawer handles will call for two holes instead of one, it was important to hide the old holes with filler so once they’re primed and painted they’ll be completely invisible.

After using a spackle knife to firmly scrape the putty into the holes and cracks to fill them, the holes from the old hardware looked a little something like this:

Then it was sanding time. This is John’s Dexter face (not as good as his impression here):

After carefully puttying and allowing for drying time (we just read the container to see how long to wait), we went to town with the hand sander (using 60 grit paper followed by 200 grit paper) to not only smooth out the parts that were puttied but to rough everything up so primer and paint would stick for the long haul. There are some folks who skip steps like sanding and deglossing but we’re Team Edward Team Super Thorough. Although shortcuts are tempting, we like to go the extra mile in the name of the best adhesion possible for more long-lasting durability (it might take us a day or two more on the front end, but if it gets us years or even decades more on the back end it’s well worth it).

Oh and you can see that the cabinet above is one of the ones that we retrofitted using a pro method (pocket holes with wood glue and a number of heavy duty hidden steel screws) – so these doors are just as durable & sturdy as the rest of the doors in the kitchen. Once we puttied and sanded it the seams were pretty smooth. So we’re still crossing our fingers that primer + paint will add up to undetectable door surgery. Which is always the best kind of door surgery. If not, we’ll buck up and pay for a carpenter to create perfectly matched doors since the half-sunk ones that we have are rare/impossible to find in the custom sizes that we need. We just thought attempting to reuse these solid oak doors was worth a try first (you know we like to use what we have to save money that we can then put towards other things to elevate the room, like new counters/floors/backsplash, etc).

Here’s a photo of another door that was retrofitted:

As you can see, the putty is lighter than the wood tone of the doors, but when you run your hand over the seams they feel nice and flush, which should be the key to a seamless finish. It’s easy to believe that primer and paint will fill gaps and hide flaws, but in our experience they DO NOT! They actually settle into fine lines and dings and cracks and emphasize them. So our big tip to you is before you get near the primer or the paint to get your doors as smooth and seamless looking as possible. Any inconsistencies in color (like the lighter putty) are ok, since primer and paint will cover that. But any inconsistencies in smoothness or dings/cracks won’t likely be hidden by primer & paint, and might even be more noticeable once the wood tones are gone and the door is one solid color.

Once those few retrofitted doors were puttied and sanded while the rest of the doors were just sanded (other than getting a dab of putty to hide the old knob holes) it was time for the liquid deglosser.

We like using Next Liquid Deglosser because it’s low-VOC and biodegradable (and still gets the job done). It removes any sort of oil or grease and strips down some of the shine on things (our doors weren’t too shiny after our rough-everything-up sanding session, but you know we like to be thorough). Especially in a grease-prone room like a kitchen, this step is a good one (the wipe-down also helps remove any sawdust that remains after sanding).

Oh and we also puttied the cabinet frames whenever necessary (like when there were dings, cracks, and screw holes that we wanted to hide). See this screw hole on the edge of the side of our pantry? That’s where another cabinet used to be attached, but since we reconfigured the layout that hole is now exposed, so we filled it and sanded it to make sure it won’t be visible once we prime and paint.

After puttying any areas of the cabinet frames that needed attention, we let them dry and then sanded everything (again to smooth any putty and rough everything up for the best possible adhesion). Then we deglossed everything for even more “adhesion insurance.” Are you sensing a theme? We want that primer and paint to stick for the long haul, goshdarnit. We’ve used this cabinet painting method in our first house’s kitchen, in John’s sister’s house (where it lasted over years until she moved – when it was still going strong), and I also used it to paint the cabinets that we used to make our built-in office desk, so we’re huge fans of how long-lasting & durable things end up being. Even though it’s a pain in the butt to get through since you’re dying to pick up the paint brushes and rollers already. But we’re there! We’re fiiiiiinally there!

Here’s how the kitchen was looking after all those goings-on. Not gorgeous – but lovely because progress is a beautiful thing!

Then it was back into the sunroom with all the doors where we laid them all out for the priming and painting phase.

Oh and see how they’re all sort of popped off the ground a bit? John cut down a bunch of scrap wood pieces that we had in the basement to make little “risers” for them, so we can easily paint the part that faces up AND the sides without worrying about any doors dripping/sticking/sitting in a puddle of primer or paint.

Enough chit-chat, there’s priming and painting to do! We’ll be back with a primer peek later in the week… and once everything is dry and ready to be re-hung we’ll share the full monty reveal with tons of details, photos, and even a video about the full priming & painting process for anyone who wants to tackle this project (hopefully sometime next week, assuming everything is all cured up and dry by then). Exciting stuff. What have you guys been up to? Tell me we weren’t the only ones puttying our pants off (figuratively speaking).



Prepping For Corian Counter Installation

We were feeling a little less than pumped about how unfinished our “new,” tile-ready walls were looking…

… mostly because we found ourselves staring at that mismatched unpainted paneling (shudder) and those ugly unpainted/stained/gross parts of the ceiling that were exposed when we removed the upper cabinets.

So what’d we do? Why we got a-paintin’ of course!

The paneling took two coats of primer and two coats of paint (just to be safe). And the ceiling took… well, more coats of primer and paint than I care to share (I lost count, actually – maybe five or six?). Since some of it was totally unpainted and other areas were stained, we just wanted to be extra sure it looked seamless with the rest of the ceiling when we were done. Thankfully, after lots o’ coats of Kilz CleanStart primer (it’s no-VOC) and the ceiling paint that the previous owners left us in the basement… it all matched in the end. Can I get a whew?

The effect was much improved kinda-sorta improved. I mean it’s still a very raw space. But once we get the new counters installed (we hope to share photos of that shebang tomorrow!), get molding back around the window, add some backsplash tile, redo the lighting, paint those cabinets, and lay our cork floors, things should look a lot more polished. So we’re happy to be inching ever so slowly towards the finish line.

The last thing we had to do before the whole counter installation was add those darn support brackets that we mentioned back in this pre-Thanksgiving post. Basically we learned from the counter template guy that any overhang over 10″ needed some support (our peninsula will have a 12″ overhang on two sides). We could’ve paid $300 to have the Corian reinforced, but the guy also mentioned a cheaper DIY option. It’s like he knew us.

So we bought six 10″ steel brackets in the hardware aisle at Lowe’s and Sherry did her favorite thing (enter spray paint, stage right). At $6 a piece it came to $36, which isn’t free, but sure beats 300 big ones.

Once they were dry I brought them in, along with some scrap pieces of wood that I cut into 12″ sections. The template guy said we shouldn’t just screw the (heavy) brackets into the cabinets alone, but instead should put some wood inside the cabinet to help them hold nice and strong by drilling into that thicker wood surface hidden behind the cabinet.

So after measuring and marking my cabinets to make sure the brackets would be evenly spaced, I loosely hammered my scrap wood in place on the other side of the cabinet (if this isn’t making sense now, it will by the end of the post… hopefully).

To screw them in, I used another scrap piece of wood to act as my temporary counter so I was sure to place them at the right height (to be sure they would carry the load of the overhang without being too high or too low). Then I secured the bracket with three screws.

Here’s how it was looking after I secured the first three brackets in place. Of course, once the counters arrive we’ll also screw them into the Corian from below (Corian has wood reinforcement stuff to screw into underneath it whenever it’s manufactured for an overhang).

And although once the counters are installed and the cabinets are all painted white the brackets will barely be visible, we’re still thinking that we’ll add some shaker-style panels to dress up the back (and side?) of the peninsula. That way those will add some detailing and also allow us to completely hide the brackets behind some panel trim (by routing out the back of it and laying it over the brackets to conceal them). Hopefully it’ll be a fun challenge. I’ll keep you posted on that when we get to that step.

So here’s the kitchen in its counter-ready state. Oh, perhaps you’ll notice that we also primed a stripe of the refrigerator surround right where it meets the counter:

We didn’t want to prime and paint the cabinets before our impending counter installation (when our granite counters got installed in our first house, the white cabinets required lots of touch ups due to tons of scraping and shoving to get the heavy, tight fitting counters in place). So we’d rather just cover the counters and paint stuff afterward. But we thought that little stripe of primer applied beforehand would make it easier to paint right up to the edge of the counters without leaving a sliver of wood peeking through (now if there’s a tiny gap between the paint and the counters, it’ll be white and not brown, so it should blend right in).

It’s looking somewhat like a kitchen, right? Oh but of course ignore the wood chairs (they’re not counter height or the right color so they’re just place-holders for now).

In keeping-it-real news, the kitchen is actually looking more like this:

Of course, as parents when we saw those exposed brackets our “Toddler Impalement Device!” alarms went off, but thanks to some leftover cabinet shelves, we fashioned a dummy counter to make the edges more visible to Clara (and her sometimes clumsy parents). Having the chairs there certainly helps too.

Maybe we should just cancel our Corian order and learn to love these?

Yeah, or not. So excited that our next update for you guys should be INSTALLED COUNTERS. Hopefully tomorrow morning. Woot!

Oh how joyfully we’ll use the sink (my have we missed it!). Merry Countermas to us! We actually have a working fridge, stove, and dishwasher so we’re still able to cook at home (thank goodness) but washing the not-dishwasher-safe-stuff in the bathroom sink/tub is annoying. Is there anything you guys are anxiously awaiting? Have you done any ceiling priming & painting lately? Did you lose count of the coats. Oh man, it feels good to be done, doesn’t it?

Psst- We’ve listed our old granite counters on craigslist for anyone who is interested. You can find more info on them here.