Q: We have oak cabinets that are not stained, but they do have a shiny finish. We want to paint them white. What steps do we need to take? Do we have to strip all of the finish, or can we paint over it? Also, the ends of the cabinets are not wood—they appear to be some sort of laminate. How do we treat that area?
A: You can paint the oak cabinets and the laminate ends, provided you do the prep work necessary for a good finish.
Start by cleaning the cabinets with a strong detergent to remove surface oils. Then, use a fine grade of sandpaper to lightly scuff up the oak and laminate surfaces. Applying a high-grade primer is the secret to giving the finish a good foundation. We usually use a water-base XIM primer (www.ximbonder.com). These primers will adhere to just about anything and provide a strong base where paint will stay put.
After priming, add two coats of paint. Use a quality latex that has been specifically formulated for kitchen cabinetry. These paints will dry extra hard, which keeps doors from feeling sticky against the cabinet.
Brushing paint on is OK. But for the smoothest finish, you'll want to spray on paint. Many homeowners are reluctant to spray because it usually involves removing cabinets and spraying outside or in a garage. Consider taking off just the cabinet doors and spraying them outside. You will be pleased with the results.