Kitchen Cabinet Redo Part 1: A Lesson in Product Selection and Surface Prep

So if you’re just joining us here at the LEO homestead, all you need to know is that the kitchen cabinets in our new old house are brown, inside and out, and we’re working hard to change that. Because life is easier when you aren’t worried about creepy crawlies camouflaging themselves against the insides of your cabinets. And, well,because I am slightly obsessed with white-painted anything.

If you know me, you know I tend to jump in feet first and figure things out along the way. (Working on improving my contingency planning skills, but for now it’s a lot of “live and learn”!)

So, given that my cabinets had some weird, dark, patchy faux finish, I sought out what seemed to be a super-product: Valspar ULTRA Paint + Primer. Extra coverage sounded like just the ticket for my brown on brown situation. Well friends, let me tell you… I was so very, VERY wrong!


A mere two days after closing on the house, I got all the cabinet doors pulled off and started slapping paint on carefully applying the first coat of paint + primer. We’re talking inside the cabinets, outside the cabinets, on the doors… pretty much everywhere possible. As I sat on the back porch admiring my freshly first-coat-painted cabinet doors, I looked closely and noticed that the finish was drying with a sort of orange peel texture. NO. BUENO.


Looks OK from a distance, right?       Just wait til you look a little closer…

orange rough-y-to-the-touch
Lumpy and bumpy… definitely not what we’re looking for in our shiny new white cabinets!

So, from past painting epic fails experience, I had a pretty good idea what was happening. The paint + primer was, understandably, very thick and dried fairly quickly (especially on the doors, which I was painting outside). That made for a bad combination. (For all you people way smarter than me non-painters out there, as paint dries, its surface smooths out and brush and roller strokes fade away before the final finish sets up. The thicker the paint, the less it’s able to smooth out. Also, the quicker it dries, the less time it has to smooth out.) All told, knew I needed a thinner paint and a longer drying time.

But wait, it gets worse! Not only was the finish funky, but the paint itself was NOT sticking. Not. Even. Close. A little scratch with my finger nail and it came right off, bringing the surrounding areas with it. Pull the dangling paint and you get a never ending stretchy string of latex, along with a heaping helping of frustration and disappointment. Here’s the kicker: at this point, I realized I was painting on top of… wait for it… WAX. Yes, the faux finish included a wax treatment for that nice “old world” look. No wonder nothing was sticking to the mystery surface that I thought was simply paint.


Trying to resist the urge to keep scraping and scratching at this peeling mess!

Alas, I had no choice but to accept  this temporary setback and go back to the drawing board while I look for a solution. These cabinets want so badly to be shiny white… and white they shall be!

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