Kitchen FAQs- Our Painted Oak Cabinets Two Years Later

Today I’m addressing a hot topic in my inbox- how our painted cabinets are holding up! It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since we began the project. It feels like a lot more time and a lot less all at once!

Let me start by saying this, although I am still slightly traumatized from the sheer amount of work it took to fill the grain and paint the cabinets… I would do it all again in a heartbeat! I continually see “dream kitchens” pop up on Pinterest that cost a whole lot more, but have a similar impact! Our kitchen cabinets give the exact look I want to create, but on a budget (more on the $$ in a few).

PLEASE NOTE: ALL FAQS ABOUT THE SINK INCLUDING “How Did you cut your granite countertops?” (I get this one almost daily) are answered HERE!

How are your cabinets holding up 2 years later? Did you end up doing a topcoat?

Honestly, they still look amazing. We never did get around to doing a topcoat of any kind, simply because it wasn’t needed. So far there has been none of the massive chipping, peeling, or yellowing that we were ominously warned about by hordes of social media commenters. They look nearly as fresh as the day we painted them, because they clean very easily. 

Kitchen FAQs- Our Painted Oak Cabinets Two Years Later | An honest review of how our DIY Oak Painted Cabinets are holding up two years later.

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We have had one minor issue- and that was with the previously water damaged door below the sink. We debated during the project about whether or not to replace the door, but the bevel of the inset panel would have taken quite a bit of work to replicate. We sanded like crazy and used extra primer, but the water damage is still bleeding through and has caused some chipping. We probably should replace the door altogether, but since it’s a custom door it’s going to require trial and error figuring out the correct router bit.

Also, I made a mistake by caulking at the end instead of before the primer and paint. As a result, the caulking can be seen in certain light. I updated the tutorial and ebook accordingly. 

Warning: a little bottle of lemon essential oil was left on one of the shelves. It sweated or leaked and ate through all of the finish, including the primer, and turned it into a gummy mess. What I took away from that- don’t use strong citrus cleaners on this finish! I recommend just wiping down with a slightly damp cloth daily, and when they are in need of a deeper cleaning I use an organic all-purpose cleaner.

What are the dimensions of your kitchen?

The dimensions of our kitchen are approximately 12 x 20′. Technically, with the DIY island, we left less space than a kitchen designer would recommend for traffic- but we can still move around and open cabinets and appliances without issue.

Are your cabinets oak? Do I have to fill the grain?

oak-wood-grain-texture-collection1

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Yes and YES! I truly believe that the grain filling is what made this project. Otherwise all of those tiny little dashes will become air pockets that eventually show over time with humidity and other factors. I have painted oak in the past without filling the grain and ended up hating the little black speckles that appeared shortly after.

What other grain fillers did you try besides Drydex?

I hate to name names and say that products didn’t work- but I do understand why people would like to know the answer to this question. In my research I saw people raving about Pore-O-Pac Grain Filler for this type of project. I honestly found it to be messy with a strong chemical smell and my finished product still had grain showing. I also tried Minwax Wood Filler, which pilled and was too thick to get in the grain. In the end I was the most impressed with a long shot I took- I loved the results of the Drydex and I think the thin nature and ability to sand was what made it successful.  

Has the Cabinet Coat yellowed?

Nope! I actually wouldn’t mind if it did a little, because our trim is a slightly warmer white. But the Cabinet Coat is as bright as the day we painted it.

How long does it take for the Cabinet Coat to cure?

It takes 5-7 days. However, conditions such as humidity could cause that to vary.

How long do you estimate this project would take if I did it all at once?

This question has always been a little tricky to answer because it varies based on the size and circumstances of your kitchen. For example, we had years of grease and old varnish to sand off before we got down to bare wood. I have heard back from readers who have done a similarly sized kitchen in two weeks straight. 

How much did the painting project cost?

Since at the time the blog was an occasional “here’s what we’re doing in our new house, guys!” (mostly for people we know in real life) I was not so good about keeping track of the costs. However, when I wrote the E-Book (available for free here!) I did my least favorite thing- math– and guesstimated how much the painting aspect of the project cost. We estimate it cost between $250-$300 to paint the cabinets. Like I said, this is the cost of the painting- we did replace the hardware, hinges, appliances, and added trim- so I am not claiming the whole project cost that little of course. 

I want to use a top coat anyway. What would you recommend?

I would have to recommend Minwax Polycrylic. I have heard reports that it can sometimes yellow over time, but I have never experienced it myself. Personally I’d even be okay with that as the Cabinet Coat has cooler undertones. I would also recommend the satin sheen. I think it gives a smoother finish than the semi-gloss and you are less likely to see the brush strokes. Of course, the ideal way to add the topcoat would be with a paint sprayer. Once again, this wasn’t something I attempted, so you’d have to do some research and play around to get the proper dilution. 

I’m wondering if you happened to try out the Benjamin Moore Advance paint that lots of people recommend to paint wood cabinets?

I have used Benjamin Moore Advance on other projects. I considered the extremely long curing time (several weeks to a month) and tendency to chip to be an issue. It never did yellow in my experience, but projects that I did with BM Advance are already in need of a touch up simply because I didn’t wait out the curing time.

Are they hard to keep clean?

 I touched on this in my FAQ post about our Ikea Domsjo Sink. White cabinets do show the dust more quickly, but I consider that a bonus. It enables me to keep my house cleaner. The oak absolutely hid the dirt, and when I used the degreasing solution during the painting process, I was disgusted by what I was able to remove from them.

The painted surface actually makes the cabinets much easier to clean than the textured wood grain did. It’s like cleaning glass.  I use an organic all-purpose cleaner and a microfiber cloth, and it works like a charm! 

How did you hide your hinges?

When I wrote the original tutorial, one thing I never anticipated was how many people would be curious about what we did to hide the hinges. Although it added some work to the project (and caused more than a couple of eye rolls from Mack at the time), I knew that it was critical to give the cabinets the finished modern design I was looking for. That factor alone should have made it obvious that it was something I should chronicle! Live and learn.

As a result of my lack of forethought, I never photographed the process, so I’m going to have to use my best descriptive language and hope I make sense. Our cabinet doors were partial-inset by 1/4”. By that I mean there was a slight lip that overhung the cabinet faces, and the rest of the door was inset. If you were looking

at the doors from the top or bottom they looked like this:

 Partial_Inset_Diagram_2

Image Source

For doors like this, the only hinge options we found were exposed. Our solution was to add a thin piece of trim to the inset perimeter of the door, giving the door a flush edge. This transformed it to a partial overlay door. We then worked with worked with Blum (not a sponsor) to find hidden hinges to fit our new overlay. They had excellent customer service to help us figure out the particular angles and corresponding parts we would need. Our particular parts probably won’t be of use to you- there are thousands of combinations- but they will help you find the right ones based on your specific measurements. We ended up eventually ordering the Blum hinges from Amazon, as it was the best price. The photo below shows the filler strip. It also shows the recessed hole we drilled with a forstner bit for the hinge. As I said, it was a bit of extra work but I think it really helped give the room a more professional look. If you’re looking for more information, there’s a great tutorial here over at Sawdust Girl about the different types of cabinets & hinges!

HowToPaintOakCabinetsEbook

Would you change anything about the process if you did it again?

A couple of things, although I’m nitpicking- it wouldn’t actually have had a huge impact on our project.

  • I would caulk before painting instead of after, because the caulk is visible in certain lighting- it’s a matte finish rather than the semi-gloss of the cabinets.
  • I would have had the CabinetCoat tinted Benjamin Moore Simply White, to match the trim and built-ins in the rest of the house. I didn’t realize it was an option with the first can, so by the time I went to buy a second, we had already started the project with the cool-ish blue/white of the Cabinet Coat off-the-shelf. 
  • Lastly, we have since upgraded our paint sprayer to the Homeright Finish Max Pro*. It is a vast improvement, and we wouldn’t have had such an issue with overspray. We thought we had escaped without any, but over the months we discovered speckles everywhere in spite of taping off. We’ve since used the Finish Max on our Mudroom with no overspray issues. 

How long do you hope this design solution will last? Will you ever replace the cabinets?

This is hard to quantify and I always have trouble answering this one. Mack, if you’re reading, stop now ;) Aesthetically, I am completely happy with the cabinets- they look beautiful. The interior of the lower cabinets sometimes often drives me crazy from a storage perspective. There are no shelves and the drawers are on odd old roller tracks. Overall it certainly isn’t something I can’t live with. That being said, like most things, if I had an unlimited budget I would replace the lower cabinets in a heartbeat. However, since this is the real world, there are certainly other projects in the house that need attention first, and this is by far the least needy space. I will be pleased if these hold up well for another 3-5 years. That would be a very long time for DIY painted cabinets and I would not repeat this project again on these same cabinets. However…

Would you ever do this project again?

If I bought a house tomorrow with dated 1980s Oak Cabinets… yes! But I won’t do this project again on this particular kitchen. I think it would be a lot of work to sand everything down and repeat it, and it isn’t really necessary.

Would you change anything about the process if you did it again?

  •  I would caulk before painting instead of after, because the caulk is visible in certain lighting- it’s a matte finish rather than the semi-gloss of the cabinets.
  • I would have had the CabinetCoat tinted Benjamin Moore Simply White, to match the trim and built-ins in the rest of the house. I didn’t realize it was an option with the first can, so by the time I went to buy a second, we had already started the project with the cool-ish blue/white of the Cabinet Coat off-the-shelf.
  • Lastly, we have since upgraded our paint sprayer to the Homeright Finish Max Pro. It is a vast improvement, and we wouldn’t have had such an issue with overspray. We thought we had escaped without any, but over the months we discovered speckles everywhere in spite of taping off. We’ve since used the Finish Max on our Mudroom with no overspray issues.

Other Resources

How We Painted Our Oak Kitchen Cabinets… & Minimized the Grain (& Free E-Book!)

DIY White Kitchen Reveal

DIY Kitchen Island

Kitchen FAQs- All About Our Ikea Farmhouse Sink

Insl-x Cabinet Coat

Homeright Finish Max Pro Paint Sprayer

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31 thoughts on “Kitchen FAQs- Our Painted Oak Cabinets Two Years Later

  1. We had a similar problem with water damage on a cabinet door. But we don’t have the power tools to be able to cut our own new doors and try to match the existing ones. So when we end up replacing it, we will probably take a door in good condition to one of those shops that does custom cabinets. I bet a single door would cost less than $50 considering the size.

  2. Your cabinets are perfection! Did you fill both front and backs of the cabinets? I am in the process of filling now and dread the thought of doubling the process by also applying Drydex to the backs.

    • Hi Ashland! We did not fill the interiors of the cabinets with Drydex, just the exteriors. Yes, that would have been a nightmare!

  3. Love the info! We’re doing our kitchen cabinets (Oak barn boards) which we sanded the face frames down and now are painting them black. The Drydex should help I would think for the grain issues. Is it like drywall mud? Water soluble and sands easily? Looking for the type of paint that will be black, sturdy, and not hold dust as much as possible?

  4. This kitchen makeover is gorgeous!! I have two questions for you: 1. How would this process change if you wanted to paint natural stained solid cherry cabinets and 2. Where and how did you replace the hood above the stove?? That is exactly what I want to do in our kitchen. Thank you in advance for your time!

    • Hi Kim! With cherry cabinets, there’s no real need to fill the grain, as the grain is a lot tighter. The paint should cover it smoothly! That saves a lot of time in this project. Our range hood tutorial is available here! Best of luck with your project! xx Nina

  5. Hi
    Well, love what you did with the kitchen.
    Unfortunately, I have cheap kitchen cabinets and would like to paint them white.
    What can I do.
    You see we moved to Florida, but I am a New Hampshire girl and the inside of my home is all country and I love it.
    I do have stainless appliance now but need to do my kitchen over and I want the white cabinets.
    Behind the gas stove we have put an all stainless wall already or a sheet of metal that is all stainless in squares designs.
    Plan to get a stainless farm sink also to replace the other one.
    It is a small kitchen, work in only, so trying to make it look bigger and brighter but country in looks.
    So any suggestions for me now.

    Lee

    • Hi Lee! So great to meet another New Hampshire girl :) We have a cabinet painting tutorial here, which a lot of our readers have followed with great results!

  6. I just saw your BHG spread & I know I’ve already pinned from you. I love your kitchen but I don’t see a microwave. Where do you hide it?

      • Clearly you are a real pro! The end results are beautiful and the instructions are spot on. Thank you for all the information and instructions! It’s wonderful when folks go to the trouble of showing us neophyte DIIYers the ins and outs of trying to do a project. Yours in one the very best blogs and I always enjoy receiving the info.

        Thanks so much for blazing the trail for the rest of us.

  7. Nina – first, I LOVE your blog! I have been begging my husband to let me use your tutorial and paint our kitchen cabinets for-EVER! He was so against any DIY method, and says we don’t have the money for new cabinets…. then he got me a paint sprayer for Christmas, so I took it as the “go ahead” for the kitchen painting extravaganza! I am wondering though, in your pictures (specifically the one right before the priming instructions, with who I am assuming is your husband sanding) it looks as though there is a pretty thick layer of drydex on the cabinets…. I have already gone through and filled the grain, and sanded – but now looking at the pictures, I am afraid I have sanded too much! The holes from the previous hardware, and all of the grain is white, however there is very little, if any drydex left on the cabinets, other than what fills the holes, if that makes sense. I just tried to post a picture to this reply and it won’t let me. I planned on caulking the seems and everything tonight before I remove the doors (I found it much easier to use the orbital sander while the doors were attached to something stable…) but was hoping to get some input from you first! You are such an inspiration to us amateur DIYers!

    • Hi Sarah, thank you so much for the sweet words! It’s hard to say without seeing it in person, but I would say the best indicator would be whether it’s smooth to the touch. If you can still feel grain, it’s possible it would show. If not, you should be fine! Best of luck!

  8. First of all, I absolutely love the way your kitchen turned out! I’m starting mine this weekend and had just a quick question for you regarding priming. Did you use any sort of stain sealer before you primed to make sure the oak didn’t “bleed” through the primer/paint? I think I’ve been reading too many blogs, seems like some use the sealer and some rely on a good primer. Thank you for your excellent tutorial, it will be my guide for my kitchen remodel!

    • Hi Julie, we just relied on a really good primer (Kilz oil-based stain blocking). We haven’t had any issues with tannin bleed. Best of luck with your project :)

  9. Hi Nina,
    Your blog is so inspiring. Your kitchen is beautiful. Your style is so fresh and clean.

    I too have 80’s honey oak kitchen cabinets. The doors are solid wood, but the cabinet boxes are not. They are covered in some sort of heavy, wood look laminate on both sides. Will the paint stick to this surface?

    Thanks,
    Diana

    • Hi, Diana!

      I would definitely make sure to use a good primer first, and then I think the paint would work. You will want to research primers that work really well for laminate!

  10. Hi! Love your blog :) I am looking over your “What you would do different” Can you give me an affiliated link (I want to give you the credit!!) for the paint sprayer you now use. There are a few on Amazon but none of them say “pro”
    Thanks so much!! :)

  11. Beautiful kitchen. Congratulations on all the hard work. One question, I don’t dare spray paint would you still recommend this paint if you were brushing it on kitchen cabinets?
    Thanks

    • I have never brushed it on, personally, but other readers have reported back that they did and loved the results! The paint does still have some self-leveling properties, even with a brush. I would recommend using a mini foam roller to smooth out the brush strokes for the smoothest finish with this method!

    • At this point, I use a lot of Mrs. Meyers (non-citrus) cleaners. I’m not sure that they are organic, but they aren’t chemical heavy.

  12. Hello I have been following you tutorial to paint my kitchen cupboards. I did it in my bathroom first to make sure I had the process figured out. I ended up using a different paint and the Home right finish Max also. the results were AWESOME!! I started my kitchen and after the primer and two coats of paint on the back all of a sudden the sprayer was spraying funny and I had tiny bubbles on the surface. They didn’t level out either. Have you ever come across this problem. I have tried everything I can think of to fix it and it still comes out the same.

  13. Thank you for sharing your wonderful knowledge. Please forgive me for missing it when I read, but what paint did you use the long drying time of BM Advance is too intimidating for me. Thank you.

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