If you’ve priced new kitchen cabinets recently, you already know they can take a huge chunk of a kitchen remodeling budget, especially if the cabinets have custom paint, slide rail, and antique glaze finish. The process to apply paint and glaze to wood surfaces is time-consuming, so that’s passed on to the consumer by way of a higher price tag.
A price I knew I couldn’t fit into my kitchen remodeling budget. With new wood floors going in the kitchen, I wanted ivory paint with a dark-brown antique glaze for my kitchen cabinets to help lighten the look. I knew it was time to find a way to fit my existing kitchen cabinets into a vision I had for my kitchen.
The layout of my kitchen wasn’t going to change and the existing kitchen cabinets were still functional and in great condition. The floors, countertops, and appliances were getting updated, so I knew my pink pickled oak kitchen cabinets had to go, or at least look as if they were replaced. I did this by applying a soft ivory paint and dark brown antique glaze.
Many painters only recommend oil-based paints and primers for kitchen cabinets because of the increased durability. My own personal preference is to not use oil-based products. I’m allergic to oil paints and the clean up is also very difficult. Latex paints, primers, and sealers are more user friendly and clean up with soap and water.
I do recommend using a clear coat of latex sealer as a final step to increase the durability of the paint and glaze. You want the ability to scrub the kitchen cabinets without ruining the paint treatment.
The process for painting and glazing kitchen cabinets is more time consuming than difficult. Don’t skip any of the steps if you want the new paint finish to last. The ideal situation is to have large workspace available to place all of the kitchen cabinet doors and drawer fronts together. This will enable you to paint all of the doors on one side, let dry and flip to the other side. Especially since you’ll be doing this several times.
I used a combination of brushes and small foam rollers to paint the kitchen cabinets. Everyone has their favorite paint tools, use what’s best for you. You’re going to need many old rags for the glazing technique. You can buy a bag of rags made especially for painting. They work well because they don’t leave fuzz on the surface.
Steps to Paint the Cabinets
- Remove the doors and drawer fronts from all of the kitchen cabinets. Remove the handles and drawer pulls if applicable. My cabinets didn’t have any handles so I got to skip this one. If you want to replace the existing drawer and cabinet pulls, this is the time to do it. You’ll be able to patch the holes with wood putty and paint over them, then add new hardware later.
- Clean the kitchen cabinet doors, drawers and frames thoroughly with TSP (trisodium phosphate). It’s available ready-made but it’s more expensive. I used a box of the dry form and mixed with water according to the directions. This cleaner will cut through the grease and grime on the cabinet doors and frames. I even used an old toothbrush to get into the crevices and used old towels and rags to wipe the surfaces as I went.
- Rough up the surface next with sandpaper. You’re not actually trying to remove the existing varnish, sealer or paint but to rough up any glossy surface to help assure the primer adheres. Use a tack cloth to remove any dust from sanding.
- Apply a coat of latex primer to the door fronts and drawer fronts. While they’re drying, apply a coat of primer to the cabinet frames.
- While the primer is drying on the frames, you can begin applying the first coat of paint to the doors and drawer fronts. After the first coat of paint is on the doors and drawer fronts, you can go back to the primed cabinet frames to apply the first coat of paint.
At this point, you’ll have the first coat of paint applied to one side of all the door and drawer fronts and the cabinet frames. Since paint dries much slower than a primer, give the cabinet doors and drawer fronts plenty of time to dry before turning them over to paint the other sides.
- Once the paint has thoroughly dried on the doors and drawer fronts, turn them over to apply the first coat of paint to the back sides of the doors and drawers. It’s hard to give a drying time for paint because it depends on the temperatures and humidity where you live. You can always use a fan to help the paint dry on the doors as long as the work area is dust-free.
- Now that the first coat of paint is on all surfaces, use very fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand the first coat of paint. Remove dust with a tack cloth.
- Go in the same order as above and apply a second coat of paint to all surfaces again.
Allow to thoroughly dry.
You decide at this point if you think your cabinets should have a third coat of paint. I was painting over heavy-grain oak cabinets but I didn’t mind if some wood grain was still visible. If you do want a smooth surface without wood grain showing at all, then repeat steps 7 and 8 until you achieve the look you want.
Steps to Glaze the Cabinets
You will have to decide how much glaze you want to apply to your cabinets. My cabinets only have a glaze applied to the high and low spots such as the crevices in the trim and on the edges of doors and frames. If you want the all-over antique look, then you’ll also apply glaze to all surfaces and then remove the excess
- Use a raw umber universal paint tint (available at paint stores, not art or craft stores) and mix a small amount with water. The raw umber tint is very thin and watery. It’s pure pigment so a little goes a long way! I honestly didn’t measure the tint because it’s quite foolproof, but I probably only used about a tablespoon in less than a quarter cup of water. Have plenty of painters’ rags on hand.
- I practiced applying the glaze in several ways before I found my favorite tool. I used an old “chip” brush with fairly stiff bristles that I could scrub into the crevices. Remember, this glaze is very thin, so be prepared to wipe drips and the excess as you go. This is a forgiving technique because the glaze can be wiped right back off again if you don’t like it.
- Barely dip the brush in the glaze. For my cabinets, I pushed the glaze into the crevices of the door trim and then wiped the excess away with a damp rag to leave the glaze just in the cracks and crevices. I put the brush on the side and lightly ran the brush down the outside edges of the cabinets to hit the “high’ spots on the doors and cabinet frames. Wipe away any excess.
- After the glazing step is complete and thoroughly dry, (remember, at this point, you can go back and apply paint or glaze to an area if you find a mistake.) next apply a coat of clear latex sealer over the cabinets and at least on the door fronts. This will protect the glazing technique and make the cabinets even more durable.
Jane Castro is a journalist and media enthusiast. She graduated from the University of Bacolod in the Philippines. She loves skating, scuba diving, and archery on her free time.