Thursday, August 30, 2012

How I Painted & Aged/Distressed my Oak Cabinets

I painted my cabinets.  My SOLID OAK cabinets.  Please don't shun me. I thought I'd post my idea first on Facebook just to see what reaction I'd get out of my friends and family.  My fellow designers who realize that golden oak cabinets scream "1980's" were all for it.  Others, of course, think that it is a crime to paint oak and that crazies like myself should be locked up for life. To those people I kindly gave permission to refuse any food that comes out of my kitchen in protest.  I'm real considerate like that.

Now, this bit of information that I am about to share may shock some of you, particularly you oak-lovers.  Brace yourself...are you sitting down?  Okay, here it is.  Painting over oak does not ACTUALLY remove any of the quality or durability of the oak itself.  I know, shocking!!  But it's TRUE!  YES, my cabinets are STILL OAK even if you can't see the grain! Okay. Take a moment to digest this information and then read on once your heart rate has returned to normal.

The way I see it, she who spends the bulk of her time in the kitchen, should get to choose how it looks.  Of course I'm not THAT type of took over a year of planting seeds and finally a Photoshopped rendering of the finished idea to convince my hubby.  It took me that long to decide what I wanted to do with them, but whenever I mentioned the "p" word, he would say, "No.  You don't paint over oak."  To which I would reply, "okay, then can we spend more money to replace them with cheaper crappy wood that is okay for me to paint over?"  ;-) Let me just say right now how thankful I am to have a husband who trusts my design decisions.  It took an enormous amount of trust and confidence in me for him to allow me to do this! (and guess what...he even LIKES IT!!)

The theme of this project was: "Do it right! No shortcuts!" I'm an instant gratification kind of girl and when I start a project, I want to see the end result as soon as possible.  I want to see that precise vision that I see in my head translated to real life.  So, I found myself constantly reminding myself of this at various decision points along the way.  Cabinets can make or break the whole kitchen...they take a lot of use and abuse and it really is worth it in the end to take your time and do the best quality job possible!  My husband was worried that painted cabinets look cheap, and I wanted to prove him wrong with a quality job.  Which I did. (whew!)

Step 1 - Clean all of your cabinets well.  I find this easier to do while the doors are still hanging.  Scrub them down good with a grease cutting cleaner.  You'd be surprised the invisible residue that can build up in the kitchen!  If you don't remove the gunk, it is likely to come off later, bringing your new paint job with it.

Step 2 - Remove handles and knobs, and prep for any new hardware changes if you're making any.  I also changed out my cabinet hardware, swapping out many of the old brass knobs with 1950's style chrome and red handles on the cabinets.  So, the first thing I did was take off all the hardware, drilled any new holes that were needed for the new handles, sanded the new holes, and filled any old holes that weren't being re-used.

Bye bye ugly brass knobs...hello 50's style chrome!! Being organized here will save you a lot of time and headaches later!  Organize your hardware in bags or containers.
Step 3 - More organization here...label all of your doors and drawer fronts so you'll know where they go when you're putting your kitchen back together!  I used masking tape and a sharpie and wrote letters/numbers to label them.  Since I painted the upper cabinets a different color from the base cabinets, I labeled all of them with a "U" for "Upper" or an "L" for "Lower" followed by a number.  You'll want two labels per door/ on the door itself (I stuck mine to the hinge) and one for the cabinet.

Step 4 - Now remove the doors from the cabinet facings and the drawer fronts. It took me several hours to get through steps 1 through 4!  The rest will take days so just be prepared.

Try to work around the piles of yellow squash and zucchini on the counter that your neighbor keeps bringing you. Anyone got any good yellow squash recipes?  I digress...
 Step 5 - Set up an area to paint the doors. I set up a few tables in the garage and covered them with old sheets. Try to use fabric instead of newspaper if at all possible.  It eliminates the chances of getting a bunch of newspaper stuck to the paint which ALWAYS happens to me!

 Step 6 - Degloss the surface.  This removes the slick surface of the cabinets without having to sand.  I got a can of deglosser at the hardware store for about $10.  Read the instructions on your can of course.  Mine said to use a rag and rub the surface until it starts to drag.  It also said that the tack only lasts for 30 minutes so I had to degloss as much as I could paint within those 30 minutes. So, it was a degloss-prime-degloss-prime process as I went back and fourth repeating steps 6 and 7...

 Step 7 - Prime.  Here's where my "do it right" mantra trumped my "easy clean-up" preference. Well, almost.  To ensure the strongest bond between paint and wood, I decided to use an oil based primer here.  I bought a can of Benjamin Moore "Fresh Start" primer which is designed to adhere well to glossy surfaces. I could just feel it really sticking to the wood as I brushed it on. Since I'm living alongside a Transformer obsessed 4-year-old, I think I'll call it my "Optimus Primer" from now on. To save the hassle of cleaning up oil paint, I got a few cheap brushes, foam rollers and a paint tray that could all be tossed later.  It only cost me about $10 for enough to start and stop a few times to get it all done.  Home Depot sells a little paint tray complete with a roller, roller pad, and a brush for less than $5 bucks. I also kept my disposable rubber gloves on while priming so I wouldn't have to dunk my hands in mineral spirits either.  Start with the backs of the doors...this way you will always end with the fronts facing up, leaving less opportunity for the finish to get damaged by sticking to a table, etc. 
Use a brush to get in all the cracks and grooves, and paint around the hinges if you left them on. Okay, fine, I did take one shortcut here and left these hinges on.  Mainly so I'd have a place for my tape labels to stick!
Use a roller for all the flat surfaces. (Unless of course you're going for the hand painted look of brush strokes)
Use a roller on the cabinet facings and brush on the inside edges and detail areas. I also taped off the floor to paint the base kicks.
Step 8 - Once the primer dries, lightly sand it with a sanding block and remove any loose dust with a tack cloth or a slightly damp cloth. 

Step 9 - Paint!  Finally.  Feels like I'm on the home stretch now...but not really.  I used Behr because it's just my favorite paint as far as great coverage goes.  For this I chose an acrylic paint in a semigloss finish for durability and easy cleaning.  For my "do it right" project I decided to get their Premium Plus paint which has even better coverage (paint and primer in one) Start with a brush again, doing all the edges, crevices and detail areas.  Roll on larger, flat surfaces like you did with the primer.  Second coat if necessary.

 Step 10 - Sand to age/distress wood.  I didn't just want the glaze to highlight the cracks and crevices...I wanted to highlight the raised edges too.  So, I sanded all the outer corners and edges down to the wood. I used a coarse sandpaper first to really cut into the paint and get down to the wood, then went over it with a finer grit to smooth it all back out again.

The jade cabinets, sanded and ready for stain!
Brush and/or wipe all the dust off well before the next step!

 Step 10 - Glaze.  I didn't buy any special glaze medium or mix in any paint...I just used a can of walnut colored varnish.  My mom used to do this decades ago, when they called it "antiquing."  But we young'ens like to re-name things with fancy names like "glazing" and then claim they are the latest rage born out of our ingenious modern generation. Use a paintbrush or a foam brush to apply the stain to the sanded outer corners, as well as the cracks and crevices.

Let it pool into all of the cracks.

Now, let it sit for 5-15 minutes.  I let mine sit for about 5 minutes.  The longer you leave it, the darker it will become. It will also become harder to remove excess so be careful.  It's a good idea to start on the back of a door to get the technique down. Do one or two at a time, but not more than you can finish before it dries. One at a time is safest.

A drawer front. I purposely tried to keep the stain away from the main, flat areas.  There is a fine line between an aged look and a dirty look, and I was trying to avoid the dirty look!
After it has set for as long as you've liked, use a rag with some baby oil on it to rub and work the stain where you want it.  The baby oil helps it to come off more easily and move around where you want it...a great tip I read on this blog! You'll go through a lot of rags.
A couple doors, done to the point where I want it!
You may want to do this to the actual cabinets and facings themselves in your kitchen, too.  I just did some of the outer corners of the sides that really show.

Although this is all listed as one step, it will likely take you days!  Don't get're almost done now!!  This whole thing took me 9 days of working every free moment I had...several hours a day during nap times, 1-2 hours after bed times, and as many hours as I could get by with over a weekend.  I don't recommend expecting to squeeze it into that few days.

Step 11 - Clear coat. I decided to cover the fronts of all the doors with a clear spar urethane.  I got some made for indoor/outdoor as my hubby was worried about it yellowing over time and all the sunlight that beats on our cabinets. The ironic thing is that it ended up adding a yellow-ish tint to everything.  Luckily we still liked how it turned out, as it worked with our aged look, but you should really do a test area first to make sure.

Use a brush or foam brush to apply the urethane.  I did two coats.  It took a good couple days for each "round" of doors that I did, because it had to dry 4-6 hours between coats, then dry 24 hours before being totally done and useable.
I am really glad I did this step.  I was debating it, as I really wasn't crazy about extending this whole project by days.  (no shortcuts...) But, it really gave it a nice, rich look, unified the surface texture, gave it even more dimension, and will make them all the more durable down the road.  I used a semi-gloss and really liked the shiny finish!

Step 12 - Re-Assemble your kitchen! The moment you've been waiting for!  Now you can start to get your life back in order and admire the finished product! Re-hang all the doors, peel off your tape labels, and re-attach any hardware.  Don't forget to re-attach your child safety latches if you have them.  Invest $3-$4 in a package of those felt pads to put on the inside corners of your doors and drawers.
I found these vintage chrome & red handles on Ebay. Score! Red mugs were $0.25 cents each at Goodwill.
I LOVE these chrome knobs.  My sister took me to Art & Architecture this summer where I got them.  Her and I dug and dug through dusty bins of vintage knobs in their un-air-conditioned warehouse on a 90-something degree day until we were dripping with dirt and sweat.  Now that's a rock star sister right there.
Felt pads...a nice touch for just a few bucks!
Don't forget to peel off all your labels.
Step 13 - Step back.  Wipe your forehead.  Gasp in awe of the beauty you've created with your own hands.  Then get back in that gorgeous kitchen and cook dinner for that poor family of yours that you've been neglecting for the past week!  (Or order pizza.  Yeah, order some pizza. Cook next week.)

Green sheep is pleased.  Very pleased. This is a ceramic sheep planter that used to belong to my Great Gramma Dorothy.  It was the inspiration for the 50's jadite green that I used on the base cabinets.

For more on my vintage trivet rug, check out this blog post.

1 comment:

  1. Your project looked very impressive. But if you want to add some texture to your project, you should try coating it with a crackling agent. Or, it would be okay if you dab crumpled plastic when the paint's not yet dried. Trust me, the effect is great.

    Arthur Bryant



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