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Chalk Paint® decorative paint by Annie Sloan is a good choice for painting kitchen cabinets that are made of wood or finished with melamine or laminate. When keeping the steps simple prep, paint, wax, and cure Chalk Paint® produces a quality finish that you will enjoy for years to come.

Practice your finish first on a small piece of furniture to ensure that you are comfortable with your technique.

Remember that hand-painted cabinet finishes do not have to be perfect. Chalk Paint® is meant to give character and interest to cabinetry rather than a perfectly smooth “factory-like” finish.

The simplest way to paint your cabinets is to paint them in place. Chalk Paint® does an excellent job on the actual cabinets and it can also be used to paint the hardware. If you decide to remove the doors and drawer facings for painting, make a simple schematic drawing, assigning a unique identifying number to each door and drawer location and marking each component accordingly to ensure that every piece gets returned to its original position.

Good preparation and a clean surface are critical to a successful finish. With Chalk Paint®, preparing your cabinets is easy. Most times just a good cleaning will do, but there will be times when an extra step or two may be required.

Use the following information to guide you in preparing your cabinets:

  • Ensure that the cabinets are clean and free of surface debris. Use a safe-to-use biodegradable cleaner and warm water and scrub the surface with a soft abrasive pad. Use a soft brush to work into any open grain. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and leave to dry completely.
  • Smooth any layers of thick uneven paint or varnish with medium (#120 – #150) grit sandpaper. Use fine (#220) grit sandpaper to smooth any rough spots or edges.
  • Fill any holes with wood filler or spackling; let dry and sand smooth. Seal any repairs, including areas that may have been touched up with a stain pen, with clear shellac.
  • Seal any knotholes or open wood grain with clear shellac to block tannins from bleeding up through your new paint layers.
  • Sand melamine or laminate cabinets thoroughly with medium (#120 – #150) or fine (#220) grit sandpaper to break the surface tension. Do not skip this very critical step. Follow up by applying one very thin coat of Chalk Paint® (diluted with approximately 10% – 15% water to help achieve a thin coating) and leave to dry for 48 hours.

Paints of any kind do not bond to a thermofoil finish. Often used for making kitchen cabinet doors and drawer facings, this commonly available synthetic material is a thin, tight, heat-sealed plastic wrap used to mold over an MDF substrate. Thermofoil can be a solid color or imitation wood grain and is available in a range of textures and sheens, the most popular choice being solid white with a matte sheen. A thermofoil finish should never be painted. However, on older one-piece styles the thermofoil finish can be removed for painting purposes. Heat it first with a hair dryer, and then, starting on one edge, slowly lift or pull the thermofoil finish away, exposing the underlying engineered core. Then follow the preparation steps above.

Apply enough coats of Chalk Paint® for good coverage. Allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next. After each coat is dry, inspect the surface for any loose bristles stuck in the paint or any unsightly accumulation of paint along edges and in corners. Remove these imperfections with fine (#220) grit sandpaper and then apply another coat of paint.

When painting a traditional 5-piece cabinet door, begin by painting the center panel. Then paint the outer rails and stiles, starting on the outside edge and working your way in towards the center panel to avoid a heavy build up of paint on inside edges and corners.

Seal your newly painted cabinets with two or three coats of Clear Chalk Paint® Wax for protection and a beautiful mellow look. The wax is easy to apply and makes a good bond to the paint for durability.

Allow your new finish to cure. After you have applied Chalk Paint® Wax, you’ll find that it will become dry to the touch very quickly. At this stage, it is still what you might call “soft.” It will start to harden as the solvents in the wax evaporate. This hardening process is known as “curing.” Curing can take between 5 and 21 days. Be patient! You can use your newly finished cabinets during the curing process but treat them with care. Wipe up spills immediately and avoid scratchy objects, excess steam and moisture, and harsh cleaners and abrasive pads.

Cabinets painted with Chalk Paint® and finished with Chalk Paint® Wax are easily maintained by wiping the surface with a soft cloth and mild soap and water to clean. Any scratches, stains, or watermarks can be quickly and easily fixed with just a bit of wax rubbed into the marked area. Refresh your finish every now and again with a light application of wax if needed.