Prepping Kitchen Cabinet Doors for Re-Painting

      Here's a heaping helping of advice for a first-timer about to recoat some kitchen cabinet doors with an opaque finish. January 28, 2013

I've been asked to repaint an existing kitchen. There are 25 glass doors, 25 wood panel doors, and 26 drawer fronts. The design is inset doors and d/f. The customer's painter will do the frames with a brush, and they want me to spray the doors at my shop.

What is the best way to mask off the glass? It is set in without any visible fasteners. Should I use tape and paper, or is there a liquid mask that can peel off after painting? As far as proper prep would you degrease first, and what product would you use? Should I sand for mechanical adhesion, and then prime and spray two top coats? I've used a product called care seal before. It is intended to be like a shellac coat but lacquer based like the top coats.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor P:
The same finish should be applied to the doors and the frames. Have you explained to the customer that their kitchen will look ridiculous with brush painted frames and ends, and sprayed doors and drawers? Even if you use the same product they will look completely different. I can already hear the customer complaining about it.

From contributor A:
I do this kind of work often. I clean the doors with a strong mixture of TSP and a maroon Scotch-Brite pad, rinse with clean wet rags, then wipe down with lacquer thinner followed by a scuff sand with a 220 grit sponge. I use Campbell products and will prime either once or twice depending on the wood, and then two topcoats of resistant (all thinned around 30% to avoid excess millage). I do the frames as well though, but if you don't do site work then I wouldn't start - it's time consuming, messy and annoying.

Your painter could do the frames with cabinet coat or similar that won't leave ugly roller marks, but it still won't look as good as the doors and it also won't be as durable (I'd make it a point to mention that to your customer). If Iím only doing the doors/fronts then I won't guarantee the door color will match the painted frame color exactly if Iím not doing both. The sheen will likely be a little different also.

From the original questioner:
Thanks Contributor A, that's helpful information. I will try that wash coat that you mentioned. I forgot about the Scotch-Brite pads. I also didn't know about the 220 grit sponge. I was thinking sandpaper but reading what you said puts sandpaper back on the shelf. Do you have any suggestions for masking the glass?

From contributor A:
For masking I use a 3M hand masker with brown paper and green frog tape. Only problem with glass is that if you can't remove it the original color will still be visible behind it when you remove the tape. The only way around this is to remove the glass - but that's not ever really a feasible option since they're usually glued in, so I just let my clients know about it beforehand. It is just a door back so Iíve never had anyone complain about it - but they should know about it before you start painting their doors.

From contributor M:
I also do this all the time. I use ammonia and water with a scrub sponge for the cleaning and then a damp cloth to wipe off. No residue like the tsp. We spray the boxes on site and it takes us almost three days to get ready for spraying but with your size/caliber job I would think they would want the boxes and especially the panels sprayed. We use SW adhesion primers and then ML Campbell WB products for the finishes since the customer is living in the house.

I would never use different products on the boxes and doors - they will never look right, especially later on. I do on occasion brush the ML Campbell products if I have to and they brush out really nice. For that much glass I think I would use Easy Mask. Whenever we tape anything we run two coats of clear with a brush around all the edges and nothing will bleed under and the tape comes off like a dream.

From contributor A:
I might have to try ammonia if it works as well as TSP. What concentration do you use? It sounds like a lot of unnecessary work brushing clear on the tape. Just use Frog Tape - it doesn't bleed at all and I never need to seal it. Just apply and give it a quick swipe with a putty knife to press it down - practically idiot proof. I've thought about switching to the WB's but have seen adhesion issues using WB over solvent so Iím not brave enough to do that. I received a sample of a new, unreleased WB adhesion primer from a company in New York shipping out to the shop next week. Iím hoping it solves the adhesion problems with waterborne but will just have to wait and see. Until then, solvent it is.

From contributor M:
We use a 50/50 mix - wet the surface with the sponge part and then scrub with the other side. Ammonia will take care of finger and food grime and the scrub part breaks the surface tension. Then use a mechanical bond for the WB material. Actually I think the WB products stick better than solvent ones and they are not fussy about what they go over as long as you have a clean and scuffed surface. They are seriously fussy about contaminants though so everything has to be prepped well. I have tried the frog tape but don't like it. I don't trust it and it tends to peel up.

From contributor A:
Contributor M wow that I think about it youíre right - the frog tape does like to curl up on the edges with WB. Like I mentioned I use solvent so it`s not an issue there. 3M has a new blue edge seal tape out that may be better.

From contributor F:
I'm just curious as to how you determine what kind of finish is on the doors already? The reason I ask is because water based stuff has been around for quite some time now, and it seems like if you try to use solvents over a water base youíre going to have problems? Do you use solvents to test the finish first? What about if the finish is a super hard finish like a polyester or similar? Can you still apply another finish on top successfully? This is something I've wondered about though luckily have not had to deal with yet.

From contributor M:
Contributor F - your note is exactly why I like water based products. I haven't had one failure in ten years of going over everything from regular lacquer to thermofoil. As long as I prep right I donít have to worry about compatibility which is a real concern with solvent products. Also without off-gassing I get to keep all remaining brain cells.

From contributor E:
Will ammonia be enough to stop fisheyes with solvent C/V?

From contributor M:
I don't know about solvent cv and fisheyes. The ammonia and water works for me and I use a complete WB system. The WB products will fisheye if there are any contaminants on the surface.

From the original questioner:
Contributor M - taking your advice I read up on ammonia. I haven't used this before, but it sounds like a good way to go. Do you use regular household strength solution or a commercial product? Iím a little confused because you mention cutting it 50% and the household product is already diluted. Some reading Iíve done mentioned anhydrous ammonia, but that sounded like a different animal. Any particular brand you like?

From contributor M:
To the original questioner: As long as you're asking, I like the lemon scent and the least expensive store brand works. The lemon one seems to have a slight sudsy effect which I like because it must be soap of some kind. Sometimes I use it stronger if I need and don't think it will damage the surface. This isn't rocket science just a very easy no brainer kind of thing. Good luck and please don't let the painter do the site work with his paint, it will be tough to achieve some good out of it.

From contributor A:
Yes I check the finish first with some lacquer thinner to determine what kind of finish is on it. Most of the kitchens Iím asked to paint are around 15 years old or so, and are predominantly finished with pre-cat or nitro. A couple Iíve re-finished were originally done with post-cats. I'm sure by the time I come across my first WB kitchen refinish I will have made the switch already. As for polyester Ė I wouldn't know what to do with it so I wouldn't touch it!

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