repainting bathroom cabinets

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About two weeks ago, with the help my daughter Britta, I decided to dive head first into my first ever “grown up” DIY project….refinishing the cabinets in the “boys bathroom”. (I figured I’d use their bathroom as the guinea pig project and if it wasn’t a colossal fail I would try it in MY bathroom.)
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Back when I revealed my guest bathroom makeover, I told you that I’d share all of the nitty, gritty details of painting the bathroom cabinets. I’m finally ready to share the Average DIY Girl’s Guide to Painting Cabinets. It’s so easy, no professional tools are needed! Yay!!
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These bathroom cabinets sit behind the door in our hall/guest bathroom. They’ve been this honey stain color since we moved in in 2000. I love wood cabinets dark and light, but I’m not a fan of this particular stain. With all the home improvement we’ve done in the past few years, this space always seemed to get the back burner treatment until last week.
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Once the primer is dry, apply two thin coats of enamel paint to the cabinets, drawers, and doors. For bathroom and kitchen cabinets, I prefer the BM Advance water based alkyd enamel paint in semi gloss or gloss. This paint acts like an oil based paint, with a longer open time and it also levels well which reduces visible brush strokes. The color I chose for these cabinets is ‘Soft Chamois’.
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Over the last 30 years or so, builders have consistently installed oak vanities in bathrooms. Although there is nothing wrong with them, over time, they just start to look a little “blah.” An easy weekend project to update the appearance of your bathroom is to give your old oak vanity a new paint job. Like any paint job, it requires some preparation and patience, but the end result is you have a great looking new bathroom at little more than the cost of a can of paint. Here’s how to paint your bathroom vanity.
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Kate – I do have a question for you…..if I am adding bead-board wallpaper and painting my bathroom cabinets all in the same room, should the whites match? For example I was planning to use ‘Soft Chamois” for the cabinets, should I cover the wallpaper once it’s up with a coat of ‘Soft Chamois” as well?
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I love what you’ve done to this bathroom. I have the exact same vanity and wanted to stencil the doors but couldn’t envision what they would look like. This gives me a visual I wasn’t able to come up with on my own. Now I have a question for you. That same bathroom is wallpapered with a border around the walls midway between the floor and ceiling. I like the colors, but don’t like the design on the border. My question is, can I paint the wallpaper border then stencil something on it? Your insights/experience is much appreciated. Thank you.
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Thank you soooo much for your ideas!!!! I am preparing to paint all my bathroom cabinets this summer. I would have done it all wrong if I had not come across your blog. I do have a question. Do you have any idea how to repair small nicks on them. I have three girls who are little monkeys, and overtime they have had minor damage. Can I use a wood putty for it, or is that only for exterior things? Also there is a little scrape on the floor of one cabinet, any idea how to deal with that? Thank you again! To anyone wondering where to get the primer… I have seen it at Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, and Ace in Md. It was recommended to me by a professional, and I’ve been using it ever since!
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I’m so glad I stopped by today and noticed this post. I’ve got two bathrooms that I want to paint the cabinets in. (They’re cherry, but the really awful fake color kind.) 🙁 I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to try painting them and have it end up looking worse… Thanks for the tips – the painter pyramids are so cool, I’ve never seen them before! Your guest bathroom looks fabulous, I love the colors you chose and I am especially fond of the lighting sconces you chose for the vanity wall. Beautifully done!
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Both oil-based and acrylic paints come with a semi-gloss option. Choose a fast-drying water-based acrylic for bathroom cabinets. Use a primer paint first, or lightly sand existing paint finishes for better adherence of the new semi-gloss paint. If available, purchase paint with an added mildewcide. Some manufacturer’s offer “bath paints” that already contain mildewcide and other protective agents.
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Options Both oil-based and acrylic paints come with a semi-gloss option. Choose a fast-drying water-based acrylic for bathroom cabinets. Use a primer paint first, or lightly sand existing paint finishes for better adherence of the new semi-gloss paint. If available, purchase paint with an added mildewcide. Some manufacturer’s offer “bath paints” that already contain mildewcide and other protective agents.
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Been wanting to do my bathroom cabinets for a long time. And, this is the look that I always wanted to achieve. Love the white, so clean and fresh. Thanks for the how to, off to Lowe’s.
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I’m so glad I stopped by today and noticed this post. I’ve got two bathrooms that I want to paint the cabinets in. (They’re cherry, but the really awful fake color kind.) 🙁 I’ve been putting it off because I don’t want to try painting them and have it end up looking worse… Thanks for the tips – the painter pyramids are so cool, I’ve never seen them before! Your guest bathroom looks fabulous, I love the colors you chose and I am especially fond of the lighting sconces you chose for the vanity wall.
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So, for my big home project, I decided to tackle the smallest cabinets in my house first: the guest/kid bath cabinets. Baby steps, y’all.
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HI! I found this via Pinterest and am excited to give it a try. I need to paint ALL of our home’s cabinets–like yours, they are honey oak. IN fact, my second bath looks almost identical to yours–the wall and door in between the sink and toilet/shower area? I have thought about ripping out that wall so many times . . . it seems so pointless to me. Anyway, I am a faithful chalk-paint user but have had reservations about using it on cabinets. I’m so glad to hear about this paint. Thanks for sharing a great post!
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I have the same question as the previous poster. My cabinets are white. They are custom cabinets so I am sure they were sprayed at the kitchen cabinet builder place. Anyway, do I just give them a light sanding and then prime them? There are a few areas where the paint is chipped off. I don’t want to screw it up, cause my husband will kill me! I would like to save the $2500. it will cost to have them done by a pro, not to mention have people underfoot. I can do it myself and take my time and use the money for a new sofa! Anxiously awaiting your response, also going to use the same color. I love it!
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Your cabinets do look so smooth! My kitchen cabinets are my next project, just waiting for a few warm days in the forecast. I don’t think we have an Ace near us, though. I’m not so much skeeered as lazy lol. I know its a lot of work! Thanks for sharing your tips
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I have been looking for ideas on painting kitchen cabinets so I would not have to resort to using expensive chalk paint. However, I want to glaze the cabinets as well. I’ll ask the staff at Ace. Thank you, thank you for the post!
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Would this work with vinyl cabinets? Yes, I have one of those OLD cabinets, maybe I should say formica. but with the zinser (which I love too) I would think it would I’ve just always wanted to know before I tried it. Great job and you are right, I don’t see a streak anywhere. I have a night stand I’ve been wanting to paint so I will definately try this on that as well.
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First remove all hardware and hinges, set them aside for reassembling cabinets when the painting is complete. Start by lightly sanding your cabinets to remove debris. No need to sand away the varnish, just scuff it up for one minute to get it clean, then follow up with a wipe of a liquid sander or deglosser, which preps your surface for primer. If you’re filling old hardware holes, use a wood filler before you prime.
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Fantastic job!!!! Love it! When you mentioned the floor I thought, paint it. I’ve seen videos on painting different kinds of floors. Vinyl, ceramic, wood etc. That would look great in your bathroom.

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