Spraying Cabinets in Occupied Apartments

Advice on masking and application methods, and commentary on customer behaviors. September 16, 2008

Iím somewhat a beginner with spraying paint over previously stained/finished kitchen cabinetry. Iíve picked up a large, occupied apartment building (24) that requires this. I have an HVLP sprayer and want to use water based paints in lieu of solvent paints. The cabinets are medium oak and will be similar to antique white. I am looking for suggestions on minimum steps, yet producing a nice finish. The face frames and doors are being painted, not the interior box.

The second item I need advice on is a fast, repetitive way to tape off the box once the doors are removed. Does anyone have a way to do this without removing dishes? Are there any gadgets or tools out there that can accomplish this, short of using tape and paper? Any info at all would certainly be appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
I wonít answer the first part of this question, but as for the part about masking off cabinets without removing dishes; as an experienced finisher I have learned that when there is nothing to complain about, a homeowner will always find something.

If you plan on spraying in the customerís house you are going to need a huge disclaimer. The one I type up always ends up being at least three pages long. The biggest one was 13 pages long, but that was for a car dealership.

Anyway, no matter how careful you are going to be, you will still be spraying in the house. Dust will get all over everything, no matter what you do. Food will be ruined, floors will have it, and so will the closet on the second floor in little juniorís room on the other side of the house.

You need to let the home owner know every little thing to expect before you even start the job, or you will be paying for it.

From contributor A:
Don't spray. Muralo requires little masking if you brush it. Dishes can remain. If you are interested and need more details let me know, I'll walk you through it.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the responses. I am new at this particular aspect of the home improvement business, not business. Contributor J, regarding the liability issue as it pertains to customers, I can relate very, very well. I did about 700 countertops in existing homes last year. I had a customer accuse me of killing their dog because it ate some of our A/B epoxy. Another one inspected by turning out the lights, closing window treatments and using a flash light and magnifying glass. I have got many more of those stories and realize there is nothing stranger than reality. As you know, when dealing with that many customers, you understand that some customers will never be satisfied. I think I have encountered every possible scenario known to man. As a result, over the years I implemented a very detailed process that virtually eliminates any surprises (normal ones anyway).

Back to painting, I would like to spray in lieu of brushing due to the potential of getting more work. If anyone else has a production type taping method, input is appreciated.

From contributor S:
Taping/masking is not production friendly. Cardboard inserts are. Cut the cardboard with trued edges and make sure that the cardboard doesn't get bent. Also, oversize it for each cabinet facing and cut the cardboard in half. Insert a screw on each half that would act as "door pulls". The center vertical edge of each piece should be sprayed with spray foam adhesive. Fit in one half, pull it closed and fit in the other half and pull that closed. Now you see why you need spray adhesive because you want to re-mate these 2 pieces of cardboard back together. Better than cardboard is fiberboard if you have it.

From contributor O:
I would say it all depends on the quality of work you do and what they are looking for. If this is a high end job and the customer is paying well. The only way to do it right is to remove everything from the cabinets and the room. Mask off the entire room, and each cabinet.

The only faster production I was ever able to come up with is using different size rolls of paper. I have from 18" to 48", but if there is a short cut to masking off I would love to hear it.

From contributor P:
I think oak looks terrible when painted because of the open grain. If you really want a nice finish, you'll have to grain fill everything. Do a test door to see if you like the results.

From contributor I:
By past experience with apartment complexes that have kitchen re-dos they probably pay about as much as the time it would take to mask off anyway. It was hardly worth my time to set up and get started before I was in the hole - so much for apartment complexes. The liability for those people living there certainly calls for lots of insurance.