Expert Tips for Painting Oak Cabinets

Use the power of paint to give your drab oak kitchen a fresh, updated look with these tips on how to paint over oak cabinets—even if they have laminate parts.

Galley kitchen

If you have oak cabinets with a shiny finish, they may look dated and dingy. If you're ready to take on the job of painting oak cabinets yourself, we can help. Even if parts of the cabinets are laminate, with the proper prep work, you should be able to paint your cabinets any color you want. Follow our steps for the best results.

Start by cleaning the cabinets with a strong detergent to remove surface oils. Then, use fine-grade sandpaper (100-120 grit) to lightly scuff up the oak (and laminate, if you have them) surfaces.

Apply a high-grade primer to give the finish a good foundation. We usually use a water-based XIM primer ( These primers will adhere to almost anything and provide a strong base where paint stays put. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to get the best results.

After priming, add two coats of paint. Use a quality latex paint that's specifically formulated for kitchen cabinetry. These paints will dry extra hard, which keeps doors from feeling sticky against the cabinet and allows for regular cleaning.

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.

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