Common Causes For Painted Cabinet Failure

We are often asked to fix a failed cabinet paint job. Here are the most common causes for painted cabinet failure and how you can avoid them.

Number one: The painter doesn’t know what they are doing. They know enough to be dangerous as they say. Just because you are great at painting a house exterior or interior doesn’t give you the skills or experience to do fine finish work. There is a small number of paint contractors in the Omaha market qualified to do cabinet work.

I have seen some pretty horrible stuff over the years. One of the worst was last year. The homeowner had purchased some fairly expensive cabinets for a new home. The “painter” went to town with a weenie roller. No sanding, priming, no prep at all. While I was looking at this mess, the weenie roller was still sitting in a half dry open can of paint. Wow. The homeowner stopped the process. The cabinets were a total loss. It would cost more to try to fix them then to purchase new ones.

***Check out the paint contractor. Be confident they know what they are doing.

Another type of scary painter is the one that knows how to do it; but doesn’t. They cut corners.

For example: If the Paint Contractor is taking the doors and drawers to their shop to be sprayed but they are brushing/rolling the cabinet boxes in your home. They are only doing this because of the time and material costs involved to prep the cabinets to get them ready to spray. It does take time to prep it out right and it is a pain in the butt but the end results are worth it.

I don’t know how painters doing this type of work can explain it to their customers with a straight face. Do they honestly believe you can’t tell the difference between a sprayed and a brushed finish? Really?

Number two: Poor prep work. You should expect a lot of prep work. It takes days to get a decent sized set of cabinets ready to go. Lots of cleaning, masking, sanding, caulking, etc. Once the process begins you should expect sanding and vacuuming between each coat. Plastic barriers should be erected to protect against dust getting into the rest of your home.

Number three: The choice of products used on your cabinets. This is critical. We use cutting edge primers and top coats. I would put our products up against anything out there. If there was something better I would use it. I am always on the lookout for something better.

Bear in mind that the common causes for painted cabinet failure also applies to stained and lacquered cabinets too.

There are many DIY projects you can do on your home. I wouldn’t include painting cabinets as one of them. We are sometimes asked to fix those projects as well.

These are the most common causes for painted cabinet failure. I guess it should be no surprise that when I go look at a messed up job the home owner often says the painter is out of business. Sometimes, on new homes, they say the same thing about the home builder.

Painting over Lead-based Paint

Painting over lead-based paint is doable. It’s also known as encapsulation. My favorite brand product for this is Insl-X lead block. It has low odor and can be re-coated with most products or left as the finish coat.It has an eggshell sheen.

One interesting thing is it also contains “bitrex” a bitter tasting additive that makes eating paint chips less likely. I never have understood why anyone would eats paint chips anyhow but eh.

The most important thing is to avoid any action that will put lead dust into the environment like sanding. If you do have chips of paint, dispose of them properly.

Lead-based paint is dangerous. Always use a respirator, gloves and eye protection.

If it looks like the paint is peeling or flaking off then encapsulation is probably not an option and you should contact a professional paint contractor to look at the job for you.

If the paint you are encapsulating is in fair condition and you use a quality product like Insl-X you will get about 10 years out of the project based on wear and tear.

The other option is complete removal of the lead-based paint and any other paint along with it. This is a job for the professional. They are time consuming and we don’t do too many of them year to year. This one was done over about 4 weeks.

This one turned out great!! We discovered beautiful cedar siding under many many layers of old paint. Painting over lead-based paint is sometimes an option. Sometimes it needs to be removed. Get the advise of a professional. Our estimates are free.

Quality Cabinet Construction

Quality cabinet construction sometimes doesn’t come to light until it’s time for the cabinets to be finished. We work with several cabinet makers in Omaha. Some are very good. We occasionally have a set of cabinets that are obviously poorly made. Poor joining of materials, bad seams, really bad holes drilled for the pulls/knobs, etc.

Something to bear in mind when looking to have new cabinets made is to consider asking your finisher/painter what their opinion is. We have done work on the work of most of the manufactures in the Omaha market. Even the ones that claim to finish their own work. There is some pretty bad stuff out there.

It is time consuming to re-glue cabinet doors or re-drill drawer glides. We sometimes have to take the work to cabinet makers we are confident in because of our work load.

If you are working with a cabinet maker, ask them if they finish their own work or who they use. If you plan on getting estimates from paint contractors to do the finish work, ask them their opinion on who you may have build the cabinets.

The cabinets in these photos had a glaze finish on the white cabinets and the island and columns, which you can’t see, had a color called black fox. It actually looked more brown then black.

Cabinet Caulking

An easily overlooked detail on a cabinet painting or glazing job is cabinet caulking. I am amazed how many companies doing cabinet finishing work skip this step. Some of the big players in the Omaha market do!!

It is time consuming just like most of the work involved in cabinet work. On average if a cabinet job takes 7 days to do the about 5 of those days are getting it ready to go.

The cabinet caulking or lack of cabinet caulking is not obvious right away but once it is pointed out to you it is so obvious.

See the difference between these two photos?

I have often been asked why i like doing cabinets and I never really have a great answer. It may be because I am very detail oriented as are people that work for me. That is a critical thing on finish work. Especially cabinet work.

There are so many details involved in producing a quality finished product. On this particular job we will be also doing a glaze and we ended up having to fill all the existing cabinet pull holes so we could drill for new pulls the customer had picked out.

As I have mentioned before we use an epoxy filler and a special primer over those areas. It is a great product that we use however it is tedious with all the sanding involved. You can however drill right into the filled in area if necessary without any problem.