What type of cabinets shouldn’t you paint? Tips from a home renovation pro.

When it comes to painting cabinets, not all materials are created equal. If you’re considering painting your cabinets, it’s important to know what type of material they’re made of to determine if they’re a good candidate for painting. Here are some cabinets that you shouldn’t attempt to paint:
  • Stainless steel cabinets: Painting stainless steel cabinets can be difficult because paint won’t adhere to the metal surface easily. The paint is likely to chip or peel away over time.
  • Vinyl cabinets: Vinyl cabinets have a slick surface that doesn’t allow paint to stick easily. The paint is likely to peel or chip away, even with proper preparation.
  • Engineered wood cabinets: Engineered wood is a type of wood composite that has a thin veneer of real wood over a core of sawdust and glue. Painting these cabinets is difficult because the surface is not solid wood and is not as porous, causing paint to chip and peel easily.
  • Laminate cabinets: Laminate cabinets are made of a thin layer of plastic laminate over a particleboard or MDF core. Paint does not adhere well to laminate, and it tends to chip and peel easily over time.
It’s important to note that if your cabinets are made of any of these materials, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they can’t be painted. It just means that painting them may require more time and effort and may not last as long as painting solid wood cabinets. In these cases, it may be better to consider other options such as replacing the cabinets or applying a wood veneer over the existing surface.

Understanding the challenges of painting non-wooden cabinets

Painting cabinets can give your kitchen or bathroom a fresh new look, but not all cabinets are created equal when it comes to paintability. Cabinets that aren’t made of solid wood present unique challenges when it comes to painting. These cabinets, made of materials such as stainless steel, vinyl, engineered wood, and laminate, are more difficult to paint because the paint won’t easily adhere to the surface.
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Painting non-wood cabinets requires special preparation steps to ensure the paint sticks and doesn’t chip or peel. Without taking these steps, your new painted cabinets may not last and could leave you with a frustrating renovation.

Why painting stainless steel cabinets may not be the best idea

Stainless steel cabinets are known for their modern, sleek look that works well with contemporary decor styles. However, because of the smooth surface of stainless steel, it can be challenging to paint. Stainless steel is a nonporous material that doesn’t allow the paint to stick. While you can use a self-etching primer to help improve adhesion, the paint may still have trouble adhering and may peel or flake off over time. Additionally, stainless steel cabinets are often subjected to frequent use and touch, which can increase the chances of the paint chipping. Pro tip: When painting stainless steel cabinets, make sure to clean the surface thoroughly with a degreasing agent before priming and painting. This will remove any dirt, grease, or oils that could prevent paint adhesion.

The pitfalls of painting vinyl cabinets

Vinyl cabinets offer an affordable option for homeowners who want a wood-like look without the expense of solid wood. However, painting vinyl cabinets can be problematic because of their slick surface. The plasticized surface of vinyl cabinets won’t adhere well to paint unless they are properly prepped. In addition to using a high quality primer that is compatible with the vinyl, it’s crucial to sand the surface of the vinyl to give the paint something to adhere to. Be careful not to over-sand and cause damage to the cabinets.
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Pro tip: Always prime the cabinets with a product specifically designed for vinyl. This will help the paint adhere and ensure a smooth, even finish.

The limitations of painting engineered wood cabinets

Engineered wood, or MDF (medium-density fiberboard), is made from wood fibers and adhesive. It’s a popular choice for cabinets because it’s cost-effective and eco-friendly. However, painting MDF cabinets can be a challenge because they are porous and will absorb moisture from the paint, which can cause swelling and cracking. To prepare MDF for painting, it’s essential to use a high-quality primer that can seal the surface and prevent moisture absorption. Sanding the MDF with a fine-grit sandpaper can also help the primer adhere better. Pro tip: Use a primer specifically designed for use with engineered wood, which will provide a barrier to prevent moisture from seeping into the MDF.

The difficulties of painting laminate cabinets

Laminate cabinets are made of a thin layer of printed paper or vinyl over a particleboard or MDF core. Unlike solid wood, laminate surfaces are slick and won’t adhere well to paint. To get a paint job to stick to laminate, special preparation is needed. The surface must be cleaned thoroughly with a degreasing cleaner, like TSP (trisodium phosphate), and sanded with 120-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface. A high-quality primer designed for non-wood surfaces will help the paint bond to the laminate. Pro tip: Be sure to let the primer and paint dry completely before using the cabinets to avoid premature chipping or peeling.

Not all wood-based cabinets are paint-friendly

While cabinets made of solid wood are the easiest to paint, not all wood-based cabinets are created equally in terms of paintability. Cabinets made of composite woods, such as plywood or particleboard, may not take paint as smoothly as solid wood. Additionally, some wood types are less forgiving than others. For example, cherry wood has a high tannin content, which can cause tannin bleed-through when it comes in contact with paint. Pro tip: Always test a small, inconspicuous area of the cabinets with your chosen primer and paint combination before painting the entire surface. This will help you avoid any unexpected problems with paint adhesion or bleeding.
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Tips for painting non-wood cabinets

If you’re determined to paint your non-wood cabinets, follow these tips to ensure a successful paint job:
  • Clean the surface thoroughly with a degreaser to remove any dirt, grease, or oils that could affect adhesion
  • Scuff or sand the surface to rough up the surface and give the primer something to stick to
  • Use a high-quality primer specifically designed for the type of non-wood material you’re painting
  • Choose a paint that’s compatible with the primer and the material you’re painting
  • Apply two coats of paint for a durable, long-lasting finish

Alternatives to painting cabinets that aren’t made of solid wood

If you’re not up for the challenge of painting non-wood cabinets, there are alternative ways to update them. One option is to replace the doors on the cabinets with new ones made of solid wood. You can also consider upgrading the hardware to give the cabinets a fresh new look. Another alternative is to have the cabinets refinished professionally. This involves stripping the old finish and applying a new one, which can be more expensive than painting, but can yield better results. Ultimately, the decision to paint or not paint your cabinets will depend on the material they’re made of and your desired outcome. Consider the pros and cons of each option before making a decision, and don’t forget to consult with a professional if you need help.

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