Painting Oak Kitchen Cabinetry with Chalk Paint (drawers)

Before reading this post, remember that I’ve done a test door and I’ve already done many of the cabinet doors. This blog post goes over making the new drawers blend with old drawers by using stain and chalk paint.

Matching Old with New

If you’ve read the other entries on the kitchen, you know we’ve made some new drawer additions to the cabinetry. I always knew we would be painting cabinetry and with paint I would be able to blend the new blend with the old. This would be almost impossible to achieve if I had planned on staining the cabinetry. Blending old with new is done easier with paint, then stain.

When choosing wood to paint, try not to pick pieces that have strong grain patterns. It takes more paint to cover this up and may even require a primer for heavily grained woods like oak. I ended up using two coats of primer before using one coat of chalk paint. That got rid of the strong oak graining on the kitchen cabinet doors and drawers.

However, when doing an addition to old, try to pick wood that is all the same type (i.e. all Aspen, all Oak, all Pine etc…) instead of mixing. This will also help with the end appearance as one type of wood acts the same during painting vs. different types may require more layers of primer.

The steps on painting the drawers are basically the same as the cabinet doors but with a few extra steps…

1.) Clean and/or prep the wood (pick one or more of the following):

~ TSP (Trisodium Phosphate): removes grime and grease. It’s found at many paint stores and is a very strong cleanser so use with care and follow instructions;

~ Krud Kutters Gloss Off:  I found at Sherwin Williams. If using Gloss Off do wear gloves as it is a skin irritant;

~ and/or sand the surface smooth using a rough grit (i.e. 80) and electric palm sander.

Black and Decker Mouse Sander

If you try to paint over the wood without any prep work your end appearance and durability of the finish will suffer dramatically. Please don’t skip this step!

Using Gloss Off, soak clean rag and wipe in a circular motion. Let dry for 10 minutes before proceeding. Be sure all grooves are completely clean of grime or build up. If you need too, use an old toothbrush to scrub the edges. I also like the fact Gloss Off doesn’t stink!

IMO the Gloss Off is a product that shines when you start to sand. Sanding with my Mouse (electric palm sander) took less then a minute per drawer and I believe the Gloss Off helped the shiny layer come off more easily as I’ve sanded without it and it took a lot more effort. I don’t need it down to bare wood but I need the drawer to accept a good priming coat.

2.) Help new wood blend with old: With the new wood drawers, I started somewhere different. I needed them to match when I distressed, so I bought some Maple Stain (on the test chip it looked the closest to the red-orange of the current stain). Using a cloth and wearing latex gloves, the stain was rubbed into the drawer fronts (two coats, drying between coats).

3.) Apply two coats of primer. I used Glidden’s Gripper in white (it also comes in gray). I use a primer because the Chalk Paint would have taken three coats to get complete coverage. 1 gallon of primer was $38; 1 quart of Chalk Paint was $38. You can see the financial logic behind using a primer!

The first coat was applied using a brush. With the first coat be sure to work the primer into any grooves yet maintain the edges as crisp and well defined, not blotchy with paint globs. This primer is thick and goes on thick.

I paint my drawers by paying attention to the edges first – this is also the most likely area for drips so always continue to check for them as you rotate the drawer:

The first coat of primer will show a lot of brush marks:

The second coat of primer was applied with a 4″ foam cabinet roller.

4.) Sand with 120 grit. The drawers were much rougher after priming then the cabinet doors were. This is probably because of the deeper grain pattern and the hard use they’ve gotten over the last15 years. Because of this,  I decided to use the electric sander before applying the chalk paint.

Do very little – just skim, with a light touch, the sides of the drawers where drips are likely to have happened and make sure the front panel of the drawer is smooth. If it distresses some don’t worry – the chalk paint or your next distressing will fix it.

5.) Apply Chalk Paint with a 4″ cabinet foam roller.

The small, old drawers only needed one coat of Chalk Paint; on the new drawers,which started as bare wood, I applied two.

Troubleshooting tips!

Drips are most likely to occur on the edges and sides of the drawers. Always do a smoothing pass over these areas before quitting the paint job.

Be on the lookout for any hickeys, blemishes, dried paint flakes that fell onto fresh paint, foam roller bits flaking off (the roller is old! trash it and get a new one), hair etc… Remove immediately and roll back over the area to smooth.

If you paint at night or dusk your light can attract bugs which will get into your paint finish.

Make sure your chalk paint is THOROUGHLY mixed! If not, you might get some gray or greenish bits of clay that didn’t get blended.

Because I was painting cream over white, sometimes it was hard to see if the cream thoroughly covered the white. Always look at your project from different angles and strong light to make sure that the last paint coat covered your base coats completely.

Chalk paint dries very fast so within the hour I could have started my final sanding. However, it was late at night so I decided to save it for the morning! Always distress when you are well rested and NOT impatient! It takes a steady hand and an eye to get it done right. If you are in a hurry, most likely you will take off too much.

BTW I did not apply Chalk Paint on the inside of the new drawers but only used one coat of primer. I’m not going to waste chalk paint on areas like the interior of drawers but I also don’t want to leave them bare wood.

When working with drawers, always use weights to keep them standing.

6.) Sand smooth and distress with 220 grit. Since I had done a smooth sanding at the end of priming, I started with a quick, light touch across the flat facing of the drawer to smooth the chalk paint and then immediately moved into distressing the edges.

Tip ~ Chalk paint makes a lot of dust! Do it in a ventilated area and you may want to wear a nose/mouth paper mask.

I only distressed the edges and corners of the drawers. Some folks also like to distress where the handle will go, simulating natural wear. For me this would have been too much distressing for a kitchen, though I think it would look fantastic on furniture.

Tip~  if your undercoats are tearing or chipping in away you don’t like, wax first, then sand.

7.) Compare your cabinet doors, drawers and facing.

Important! I learned this from my other cabinet project… If you plan on doing any distressing, you need to constantly compare the different components of your project so they match when you bring them all together (click photos to see close ups):

8.) Wax the drawer fronts (3-4times) for protection. The drawers get the most punishment in my kitchen as we open them when cooking and our hands are floured, wet, etc… and drips from the counter usually go down onto them. The cabinet doors (located on the wall, over the counter) will get only two coats of wax as most of their punishment is right around the knob.

I used the wax that is sold by the chalk paint manufacturer because I like how it glides on smoothly and is easily applied.

Waxing tips ~

Until you wax, your drawers are vulnerable to fingerprint dirt smudges and other damage. Keep them in a safe place until you can start waxing.

Wax picks up lint, dust and even eyelashes! Keep your application cloth or brush completely clean and don’t wax in the area where you are sanding.

Don’t skimp on wax. Especially be generous with the first coat.

Make sure you don’t get wax clumps in the crevices of your door or drawer profile. Wipe out these clumps with a lint-free, clean cloth.

Clean your kitchen doors and drawers with a non-abrasive cleaner.

Plan on updating with fresh wax in heavily used areas in about 2-4 years. This depends on how you clean and the wear an tear you put on your kitchen.

Remember! If doing white or cream colored cabinets do NOT use polyurethane or varnish! This will yellow.

*~*~*~*~*

The drawers have been waxed, but the cabinet unit has not. In this photo you can see the difference in the colors (drawers were installed to measure for hardware placement):

I’ve still got plenty of more painting to do!

Kitchen: Pull-out Drawers for Pot Storage

When the house was built my vision was to have a set of large pull out drawers for pot storage on either side of the stove. Instead the builder gave me two sets of under cabinets with doors on front and pull out drawers inside. This has always irked me as it didn’t give me the farmhouse kitchen feel I wanted, it gave me yet more cabinets among a sea of cabinet doors, and it was an inconvenience every time you wanted to get a pot.

We removed the cabinet doors and found out that the left set had a smooth cabinet facing, while the right set had been cut to fit hinges.

For the fix, we used scrap lumber was cut to fit, glued in, filled with wood putty and than sanded smooth.

Eventually all the doors, drawers and cabinet facing will be painted and that will further conceal the fix.

Because the drawer fronts have a routered edge we figured it would be a difficult DIY project to do without a full shop so we located a carpenter who would take on such a small job. The total cost for four doors to be done and rebuilt was about $135, (I think he undersold himself). The new drawers are stoutly built and pull out easily without having to open a set of doors to do it!

There is a gap between the drawers which I’m not happy about so hubby fixed it.

Front facing was added to the area between the drawers.

At this point the cabinets have been primed white and ready for chalk paint.
These was painted the creamy, Vintage white chalk paint that I’m using throughout the kitchen.

Painting Oak Kitchen Cabinetry with Chalk Paint (doors)

Okay, here we go folks, I’m starting the kitchen! Yeah!

Before I got started on this cabinetry project, I did a test door. This is essential on a large project of this scope where there isn’t room for error.  These cabinets were solid oak and really the only issue is the original stain – they are not damaged or ill-made.

With the test door, I tried darkening it with stain and it gave very uneven and mixed results. Paint was definitely the way to go and if you choose to go with regular paint, go with enamel not latex.

The big reason I chose Chalk Paint is how it adheres to the wood, how it distresses and the end finish.

Cabinetry Prep Work

All the cabinet doors and their hinges were removed. It’s easiest to get a box and put all the screws, hinges and handles in it right from the start. This prevents stuff being lost.

If you were replacing with new hardware you might need to fill in and sand smooth original screw holes. However, this wasn’t necessary on this project as I was re-using the hardware I had installed and the drawers, which were getting new hardware, had never been drilled.

How much prep work you will need to do will depend on the condition of your cabinets. Again, I see a lot of folks skipping prep work because it is slow and tedious. However, lack of prep work WILL impact the end appearance and I don’t care what type of paint you use.

I started with a product new to me: Gloss Off by Krud Kutters. I found this product at the Sherwin Williams paint store for about $8; be careful not to buy the cleanser by Krud Kutters as it has a different purpose. The Gloss Off wasn’t a Miracle Product as it did not remove 100 percent of the polyurethane top coat, however, I did notice it raised the grain and made for easier sanding (80 grit with electric, palm sander).  It did seem to help the primer adhere and gave a smoother attachment.

NOTE! If you decide not to use this option or do any sanding of the original cabinetry, try TSP (Trisodium Phosphate) found at Lowes, Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams to clean the doors of any grime before painting or priming. Remember, lack of sanding will result in a more uneven, end surface and the paint layers will distress more.

After doing my test door, and seeing that it took three coats of expensive chalk paint before the oak pattern was covered, I decided I would use two coats of a primer (1 gallon = $38) to cut down on the costs of the chalk paint (1 quart = $38).  I also think the primer helped the end cabinet as all the paint sanded nicely during the distressing.

The primer I used was another new product to me:  Glidden’s Gripper (comes in white and grey). One thing I really liked about this primer is when I got to the distressing stage, it sanded off smoothly… sometimes with primer or undercoats of latex paint you get the paint peeling off in an unpleasant tearing strip. It’s the major reason to avoid latex paint if you plan on distressing.

I start with a foam brush and push the primer into the grooves of the cabinet door.

The face of the cabinet door has paint applied with a 4″ cabinet foam roller. Be sure you get all the edges of your cabinet door and paint the back. Continue to smooth, using the foam roller to work out any bubbles or blemishes. See the product’s advice on how long it should dry before coats. I did the primer the day before I did the chalk paint so it could dry overnight.

Here is a comparison of the first coat with the second coat of primer. It clearly shows the difference that another layer makes in hiding the oak grain pattern and giving a uniform, end color.

Chalk Paint

After the priming coats are completely dry, next is the Ce Ce Caldwell Chalk Paint in Vintage White. If you prefer Annie Sloan Chalk Paint the directions that follow will be the same.

This is applied with a foam paint roller. I did the backs (let it dry), and then the cabinet face and the edges (let it dry). This stuff dries quickly so this step will easily get done in a day depending on how many doors you have to do.

When you click on the above photo, you can see that the Vintage White has a creamy color, like light colored eggnog.

You may not be able to tell from this photo, but after the chalk paint dries, there is a rough surface due to the foam roller application and the nature of the chalk paint itself.

I used the electric Mouse Sander (also called a palm sander) with 220 grit and LIGHTLY sand it smooth. I first sand all the edges of the door as this is where drips may have occurred and then do the cabinet face. This removed the dimpling that the foam roller caused but be careful with how much you do or you will start distressing.

Distressing

From the test door I did, I knew what distressing I liked. Using the Mouse Sander and 220 grit, I work around the edges of the cabinet profile. I am aiming almost for an outline. I like to change the direction of the sander, zig-zag it against the door edge, and apply different amounts of pressure depending on how much I want off; this is where experimenting with a test door can really help you.

One thing I noticed is that by having the two layers of primer and using a higher grit of sandpaper (220 as opposed to my usual 120) I got a much softer distressing which was exactly what I was going for!

If you want a rougher distressing use a coarser grade of sandpaper (i.e. 120) and don’t put on a primer. For example, this was my first test door with much more distressing (used 120 sandpaper, no primer with the electric palm sander was aggressively applied):

Distressing is a job that should be done by one person and if possible, all in the same day too for consistency. Always check the doors against each other as you progress through the job.

Wax top coat

Once everything is the way you like it, it’s time to put on your top coat application. You MUST topcoat your kitchen cabinetry – paint alone will not be enough. In this case, I’m going to use clear wax specifically designed for chalk paint (sold by the chalk paint dealers). The wax sold with the chalk paint products is a soft, malleable wax that is very easy to apply. The type of waxes you can buy at Lowes or Home Depot are harder, paste waxes and don’t go on as easily.

I apply three coats (because it’s the kitchen), with t-shirt rags in a circular motion and let it dry to a haze between coats. One problem I find with wax, is that it builds up in corners and seams. Use a piece of thin cardboard or poster-board to draw out any excessive wax that isn’t able to be smoothed out in these areas.

The wax SMELLS! So far everything has been low odor, but with the wax you need to work in a well ventilated area – open windows, work in the garage with the door open, or wear a respirator etc…

BTW I find applying wax to be hardest job on my wrists. This is another part of the job that having a back up helper would save you time and effort.

Be aware that in a few years, wax will need to be freshened up on your cabinets to retain their waterproofing. If this is a maintenance issue for you, I would choose another top coat sealant.

Options

Other things you can do different with this project to change the type of end surface:

The chalk paint folks encourage you to wax and than sand. You might want to experiment with that, however, I have to scratch my head… why put on expensive wax and then sand it off? I would rather sand before wax application however, you may find that waxing and then sanding gives you an effect that you like better, especially if you want to use a tinted wax…. Use a test door to find out!

Use a custom tinted wax you mixed yourself (clear + paint color). Wax can be worked into the grooves for more definition and won’t change the base color of your cabinet face.

Use a dark wax for an aged look. Dark wax is already tinted however, be aware that on some projects it gives a “dirty” appearance that can overwhelm your project especially if you are working in white or cream. I just didn’t think it would look good on kitchen cabinets; I’d keep this back for your antiquing furniture projects.

Another choice would have been wipe-on Polyurethane but in my experience with it, it does not give enough of coverage (even after 2-3 applications) to really protect the undercoat. Polyurethane (and Varnish) will also yellow anything that it is applied onto so if you wanted white cabinets you will get white-yellow cabinets in the end. As polyurethane continues to age, it yellows even more.

If money was no object, I would probably have paid for the cabinets to be professionally coated and sealed. However, this is a DIY project so I do what I know I can afford and can achieve on my own.

Since this is a big project – far bigger then one blog post, I will be putting together several entries about how the kitchen was done, over the next several weeks.

Kitchen’s Final Test Cabinet Door (using chalk paint)

After deciding to go with Ce Ce Caldwell’s Vintage White for the kitchen cabinets, it was time to do a complete cabinet door front. I followed all the same steps I’ve posted before and here it is with three coats:

Distressed with two coats of clear wax:

Indoors, the creamy color is more obvious, against the wall color:

Some things I learned doing the test doors:

1.) To save time and layers of chalk paint, I’m going to check out Gloss Off by Krud Kutter for cleaning the front of the door and Glidden’s Gripper bonding primer for the back of the door (where I won’t be distressing). I’ve used Zinsser and personally, not impressed by it on furniture.

2.) The first coat on the front, I will apply with a brush to get the paint worked into the crevices. However, I’ll apply the 2nd and 3rd with a roller. A brush or foam brush doesn’t give the smooth texture I want to the chalk paint. Chalk paint goes on rather thickly as part of it’s nature.

3.) I may sand the front smooth between the 2nd and 3rd coat to further lessen any brush marks or unevenness.

4.) I tend to skimp on wax and need to remember to really put it on there. The rag should glide across the surface when applying.

The project is ready to start… I’ll start working on the fridge wall this week. Due to the amount of cabinetry to be done, I’ll be doing it in stages: Fridge wall, Upper Stove Wall; Lower Stove Wall and last Sink, front and back, cabinets. The island is going to be completely renovated with a contrasting color (most likely dark brown).

Using Chalk Paint for Oak Kitchen Cabinets (test door)

Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is no longer available in my area. That’s too bad as I really liked working with it but I understand the retailers’ reasoning. She is a small store and the ASCP has little mark up and had backorders so hence makes her little profit. DIY’ers were coming in to buy paint but not buying her furnishings so again, it didn’t make sense to sell the paint.

She’s switched to another brand, American made, lower cost, and I suspect bigger profit margin. It’s called Ce Ce Caldwell and is supposed to give all the same benefits as ASCP but is American made. One thing I don’t like is the color palette; some of the colors are just too trendy. While I could mix ASCP to come up with many classic neutrals, the color pallet of Ce Ce Caldwell doesn’t give me that room. However, the price is definitely lower then ASCP.

I don’t know that I believe the marketing hype. Is there a real Ce Ce Caldwell? There’s no photo of her on the page selling her paint. There’s no bio, no store, no photos of her painting projects etc… so I suspect (and I’ll eat crow if I’m wrong) that this is just to hype the paint to mom DIY’ers who feel they are buying from a “person” not a huge company.

The first thing you must do is MAKE A TEST DOOR! Don’t jump into painting your entire kitchen before making the test door.

Sanding, pros and cons

The Chalk Paint brands say you don’t have to sand. If you don’t plan on sanding you must clean your kitchen cabinetry and I recommend TSP (found at paint stores like Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams) for removing the grease. However, if  you are going to sand, I wouldn’t bother cleaning – the sander will remove it.

If you don’t sand, and you use Chalk Paint, you will get a more distressed look and have less control over the end distressing. If that is what you are going for, cool, but if you are unsure, I would recommend doing one test door without sanding and one with sanding. After I did this I immediately saw that the no-sanded door would not be as smooth in paint coverage as I was going to like.

Follows is a comparison. The first, on the left, was not sanded or primed before adding chalk paint and distressing. The second, on the right, was sanded, primed and than chalk paint was applied before being distressed.

click to see close up comparison

The original oak cabinet door was first sanded with 80 grit and then 120 grit. Plan on at least 2, 80 grit pads and 1, 120 paid for an average door, front and back. I used my Mouse Sander (also called a Palm Sander). The goal is to remove as much of the top, shiny coat (the varnish or polyurethane) as possible. I am not concerned about the stain color or getting it sanded down to bare wood.

In my experience if the shiny coat is not 98 percent removed you will have very poor paint application. This is especially true if you decide to use latex or enamel paint instead of chalk paint.

On subsequent doors I used a de-glossing product: Krud Kutters Gloss Off which helped the prepping go quicker. I used it before sanding.

Priming, pros and cons

If you wish to have a heavily distressed appearance or are looking to sand back for aggressive distressing, don’t bother priming.

If you want an even coverage with no distressing, or have very poorly made cabinets with an obvious grain pattern (such as plywood) that you want covered, consider priming. If you are painting over pine and don’t want the knots to show, also consider priming.

EDITED TO ADD:  Later, I decided to save chalk paint, I did 1-2 coats of priming, depending on the strength of the wood grain and one coat of chalk vs. 3 coats of chalk paint as shown in this post.

Applying Chalk Paint, Coat One

The CeCe Caldwell paint seems a bit thinner to me then the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint brand but generally covers just as well. The CeCe Vintage White color is very similar to ASCP’s Old White, with a cream hue. The CeCe Simply White is a nice clear white which becomes whiter and brighter upon each coat.

From working with both brands, neither will give good coat coverage with one application.  Don’t get sucked into believing the hype on this chalk paint… it’s good stuff but it is designed to show through so you can distress. It will not give even coverage without successive applications. At this point you can’t see as much difference between the two whites – that emerged with the 2nd and 3rd coat.

The first application of paint, I prefer to work down into the grain with an X pattern using a brush. The point with coat one is to get all of the area thoroughly covered. Don’t worry that you still see the grain pattern underneath on the first or second coat.

Applying Chalk Paint, Coat Two

Within an hour it’s ready to coat again. The great benefit to Chalk Paint is it is Low to No Odor paint and it dries amazingly fast. For a kitchen remodel you will be able to get your kitchen up and going very quickly without living with fumes for weeks at a time.

Coat Two I apply with a foam brush and/or a foam cabinet roller. You should start seeing even coverage at this point, though a strong grain or darker stain will still show through. You can distress and go with a very distressed look with much of the under color showing through or go on to Coat Three.

Applying Chalk Paint, Coat Three

I decided to go with Coat Three as I want solid coverage. Before applying use a sanding block lightly over the wood. This will smooth the chalk paint and you will start seeing the brush strokes even out if you used a brush or foam applicator brush. For the last coat I use a foam roller to get as smooth a surface as possible.

Distressing

Distressing is a personal choice. You may want to experiment with how much you like (you can always take off more; it’s almost impossible though to put back on if you take off too much). If you decide to distress, it brings back the undercoat of the original stain or bare wood (depending on how hard you sand and the colors underneath).

On my Mouse Sander I use 120 grit or higher to distress. If you are new to distressing, start with a sanding block or just a sheet of high numbered sandpaper. Focus on the edges of the door and where there is a profile or recess.

To get ideas on distressing patterns you like on cabinetry look at Pinterest, visit Kitchen Showrooms (even Lowes has some distressed cabinet doors on display), Open House Tours, and even Home and Garden Shows.

The national trends on Kitchens state that distressing is out… I think it depends on the area of the U.S. and what type of kitchen you have. I’m going for a contemporary farmhouse kitchen look so it fits. A contemporary modern style of kitchen wouldn’t look right distressed (well maybe if you were going with an industrial loft look but you get my point).

Stain, Colored Wax or Clear Wax topcoats?

At this point your door is ready to finish. You have several options. You could use a Walnut stain to tint the door color which darkens the white or cream and tints the bare wood. This I did with my Annie Sloan Chalk Paint test door (see pic below). The door is all ASCP Old White but the bottom half had a rub of stain on it.

To apply stain, dab a t-shirt or soft rag in the Walnut oil stain and then rub on and rub off. To finish the stained cabinet door I would put on two coats of clear wax.

You could also use Tinted Wax which gives some of the same appearance as the rubbed on and off oil stain seen above but seems to collect more color in the crevices. People report mixed results with Tinted Wax and I think this is because you should do a TEST DOOR! LOL! and experiment with how this medium works before jumping in with it

Or you can go with Clear Wax with no stain or tinting. This will be choice for the Kitchen Cabinets due to what I saw with the test doors (keep reading 🙂

Note! Using Polyurethane or Varnish over white or off-white paint colors is a big NO NO! It will yellow your color and as it ages, yellow more.

Test Door Evaluation

With the finished test doors, what you may not be able to tell on the computer is that the Ce Ce Caldwell Vintage White is a very close match to the ASCP Old White. It’s a creamy, off white color. The Ce Ce Caldwell Simply White is a very bright, clear white that doesn’t quite show up in these photos.

At this point I realize one thing: the Walnut Stain is not going to work with the wall color or the floor tile. It’ s not griege enough to go with the wall, and it brings out the pink in the white floor tile so nothing but ugly there.

Now you’ll see how photos are deceptive. These next were taken without a flash but the Simply White looks creamier than the Vintage White – the exact opposite is true in real life.

This is why you can’t go by the Internet or your computer for colors. Get a test sample and make a test door to see it in various lights and against other colors.

The Simply White would go well with the rest of the white molding and I think would look better undistressed and for a totally white, bright kitchen. However, the Vintage White will go better with the drawer and cabinet hardware, as well as the rustic feel of the drop pendants that I’ve been working with in the design. Vintage White would also allow me to do some topical tint or distressing in the egg and dart crown molding we installed.

Tomorrow, I’ll do a full test door in the Vintage White and distress it to see the end result to make sure that it’s the Winner (here is what the final test door looked like):

 

Project: Making kitchen cabinets with doors become open shelves

Previously, the kitchen seemed to be a huge solid mass of cabinet doors. After looking at many kitchens, especially ones in houses about $20,000 over our selling range, I decided to change the cabinets to a combination of glass front doors, open shelf cubbies and closed cabinet doors and drawers.

The original plan to break up this wall of cabinets was to make the cabinet over the fridge and the stove open, and to make the upper cabinets left of the fridge, with glass inserts. Matching molding would unite the two walls. To keep the kitchen usable, we are going in stages: the upper cabinets on the stove wall is finished except for painting, so now it’s the fridge wall’s turn to be transformed.

The cabinet over the fridge was a deep, 24″ cabinet and the first job was to make it less cave-like by putting in a new back, reducing the depth to 16″. These photos show how it was framed in using available scrap lumber:

If you don’t provide enough framing, the beadboard will warp and won’t sit as nicely. Here the beadboard backing had to be cut in half to fit into the narrow space.

A piece of molding trims out the edge of the beadboard so the rough edge won’t be visible. These touches make the finished project look professional so don’t skip them!

The new cabinet facing was applied. Like the cabinet over the stove, this cabinet will project slightly in order to cover the original cuts made for the hinges of the original cabinet doors. Visually, we change the dimesions with facing to make it look less like a cabinet. (BTW we had to remove the facing to put in the beadboard so do the interior back FIRST, before putting on the facing of the cabinet).

Board sizes (and shelf depth) were chosen to match the perspective of the open cabinet now over the stove – always consider matching ratios to current cabinetry in order for a matched, finished look. Doing this lessens the appearance of new additions and makes the entire project look like it was done at one time.

Because the facing overlaps the existing facing, the cut out hinge holes are no longer seen from the front and are hard to see from the side.

Egg and Dart trim molding that was used on the stove wall of upper cabinets is repeated here. It’s wrapped around the corner of the fridge cabinet wall because the crown will not fit due to the existing sofit (sofit contains central air ducting).

The Egg and Dart pattern repeats in the crown molding we will be installing: repeating themes in molding also gives cohesion. 

Brackets in the same design, slightly larger then the open cabinet over the stove, are installed. To provide additional nailing support, a small piece of 1×1 is nailed onto the inside of the cabinet. This will be hidden by the bracket, and covers the top hinge hole cut for the old cabinet doors.

Across the top, we are doing a combination of base and crown molding just like the stove wall of cabinets. We saw this done at the Parade of Homes in houses slightly above our selling price bracket. For someone who can do it themselves it provides a lot of bang for little buck. It will give an upgraded look to your tired cabinetry!

First the base molding is installed and is cut to work around the new cabinet facing.  Between the egg and dart trim and base trim, the seam of the wall has now been concealed. The base molding is installed upside down to show off the decorative trim and leave a flat area for the future attachment of the crown molding.

After the base is installed, crown molding is added. Plan for some of it to cover the base molding:

Once all the trim is added, some wooden medallions are applied to the brackets. Wood glue is applied to the backs and they are nailed into place using small nails called brads.

The most important thing when applying wood appliques are to make sure they are sraight and centered exactly where you want them. More information on using wood appliques and how to apply them to dress up cabinetry can be found on this former post about our bathroom vanity remodel.

Little touches like this can make your end project more personal. Molding and appliques canprovide interesting detail if you plan on glazing, waxing or distressing in your finishing process.

Next up, we returned to the open cabinet over the stove and put in the beadboard backing around an electrical outlet. This beadboard backing was going right against the wall so no false wall was needed.

The shelf front is trimmed with complimentary molding. The back of the shelf was trimmed off with a table saw to reduce the depth as the molding on the front adds depth and we wanted the shelf to fit it’s current opening.

Again when it comes to projects, like these if you know how to work with molding you can trim out something that is average and make it truly special. With some clever pre-planning you can adapt existing cabinetry in good condition to something new.

Some various photos, mid-stage. Once the paint goes on the project will really pull together!

We’ve got another kitchen cabinetry project coming but that won’t happen til August – we will converting the useless breakfast bar to an open shelving unit. There’s still much to do in the kitchen after that – a revamp of the island, a wooden block island counter, granite counter over the rest, and a stone backsplash.

Meanwhile, we’ll be doing some paint sample doors as the paint I was going to use is no longer available in my area.

Project: making an upper wall cabinet taller (kitchen)

When we had the house built we opted for a tall cabinet option. These original cabinets are 42″ high, leaving a 13″ gap between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling. Not only is this gap irritating (wasted space, dust collector) but nowadays, the trend in high-end kitchens is to have the cabinets go all the way to the ceiling.

In a previous cabinet remodel we had extended the height to the ceiling to make it larger. I’ve been asked how we did that and since having tall, upper cabinets, wrapped in crown molding is a big trend in higher end kitchens, I thought I would show how we did it for the kitchen.

Here is the area we’ll be working with: the upper cabinets on the stove wall. The cabinet doors over the stove hood have been removed. There is a 13″ gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling (vintage kitchen items are there now) which we will be filling in to make a visually taller cabinet.

Intalling the Cabinet’s Face Frame

First the original trim is removed and trashed. Next a frame with scrap wood is nailed in. Make sure you recess this so the new facing will sit flush with the old cabinetry.

Because these cabinets will be painted, we don’t have to concern ourselves with putting up wood that would match a pre-existing stain. It’s easier to do this sort of project if you are going to refinish the entire cabinet to a new color.

The flat face boards are installed by nailing onto the wood framework. In this first photo, left is the new facing board, while right is still exposed.  BTW a nail gun with compressor is a must have on this type of job. If you don’t own one, you can rent them.

Because the gap between cabinets and ceiling is 13″, we went with 12″ boards (standard size) which keeps the costs down and the 1″ remaining gap will be covered with crown molding.

Making Open Storage from a Cabinet with Doors

The cabinet over the stove will remain open for storage. In order to cover the cut outs made for the old hinges (when this cabinet had doors), we nailed a new framework directly on top. This will bump out the cabinet from the others, and make a more interesting face profile. It also will give more depth to the crown molding. Brackets and more trim is added to provide even more interest.

Bump outs on cabinetry, vs. a flat profile, is found in higher end, expensive cabinets. If I had more time and money, I would probably have made this bump out a bit more dramatic but for a house going on the market in a year, this gave it some umph.

Painting and Glazing Detailed Molding

It’s much easier to paint trim before it is installed; this is especially true of molding that has a lot of detail. This project will use a combination of base and crown molding as well as some brackets. Note: the entire cabinet will be touched up with a final coat of Old White to blend old with new and detailed in a later post.

One coat of Anne Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) in Old White is applied with a bristle brush over bare wood

For a glaze, I returned to Walnut oil stain (this can size is about $5 and I used about 1/3rd the can). The first application is applied heavily using a foam paint applicator brush. I use foam because afterwards I’m throwing it away and I also like how foam really crunches down into the recessed areas.

It’s wiped away with a rag. At this point if you think the glaze is too light, put on more. If too heavy, wipe off more. Being an oil stain you have plenty of working time.

When working with stain the areas of previous work vs. new area worked…

…can leave a mark. Be on the lookout for these blemishes and always correct by rubbing it out with your cloth before it has a chance to set and dry.

When the trim is finished, compare it and make sure the glazing is even throughout. Flat areas such as the baseboard will naturally appear lighter then heavily carved and detailed areas:

Installing Base and Crown Molding Trim on Upper Cabinetry

First, the base molding is installed. You need to measure and make sure that you continue to align it straight across. For this we used a board as a temporary spacer which is quicker then trying to measure the spacing with a tape.

Note: if you have an older house that is not level, you will need to make a decision on how you will align the molding – off the ceiling or slicing some off of the molding to give the illusion it is straight.

At this point of the project, all of the base molding is installed and the small gap you see between the ceiling and the facing will be covered once the crown is installed.

We opted for a speciality block at each end of the cabinets as a visual stop to the cabinet molding. The top part of the block must be big enough for crown and base to butt against it. In our situation the rectangular block on top had to be increased in height by re-building the box with thin pieces of Aspen boards.

In this next photo you can see how the base molding trim already installed, works with the crown molding.

Crown molding is cut on the table saw and it does take a bit of practice to know how to manage the cut. I recommend having someone help you the first time or watch a Youtube video (it’s rather complex to go into in this blog).

The edge cut of the crown molding can be lightly rasped to remove any fuzz left from the cut; this allows for a cleaner fit when the next piece is installed. A small wedge of crown is cut so it wraps completely around with a nice tight fit.

Another piece of base molding and some egg and dart trim are added to the bottom. This covers the joined area of old and new, as well as giving the entire unit more appeal.

Nail holes are filled with wood putty. After it dries, blemishes are sanded smooth. Painting the entire cabinet will be covered in a future post. I will also be putting some decorative trim on the shelf front and the backing of the open cabinet will become beadboard.

This is a three day project: one day to paint and the other two to put in the molding. Molding was finished by us in one 1.5 days but I would plan for two.

At this point of the kitchen remodel project the ceiling has been re-wired for drop pendants (4) and for future cabinet lighting; the ceiling was re-plastered and painted; and the upper cabinet (stove) wall refinished with carpentry. I’ve planned to do this in stages to decrease the time the kitchen will be out of use, and to fit within my budget.

Next up will be the fridge wall of cabinets with matching ceiling trim of the crown to tie the two together and finishing off the two open shelf cabinets. From there I’ll paint these two sections before moving on to the lower cabinets and island.  Unfortunately, due to finances this is a long project with here and there, so bear with me and I’ll update photos as we move along.

However, I think it’s looking great!

Selecting and installing cabinet hardware

To me, cabinet hardware really is the finishing touch. Cabinets without hardware look half undressed and unfinished. Dare I write, cheap?

However, I’ve had difficulty in finding hardware for the master bathroom. This is why: the industry standard width of a drawer pull is about 3 to 3 1/2″ (measured from hole to hole). I find this an uncomfortably, small size for a drawer pull. First, it’s hard to fit anything but two fingers in this width and I wanted two sizes – one for the drawers and a slightly larger size for the cabinet.

Secondly, this size looks small on the larger sized drawers that bathrooms and kitchen now have as opposed to say, 25 years ago. For example, the overjohn cabinet we did downstairs was increased in height and we put a larger door pull (7 and 1/4″ from hole to hole) in order to compensate for this:

I unexpectedly lucked out when I found them at Andrews Lighting at a very reasonable price, about $45. The drawer pulls are 5″ and the cabinet pulls are 6″ (measured from hole to hole). They also had some matching knobs. Love it!

For the master bath, the fluting of the knob and pull, mimic some of the wood medallions I put on the cabinet. Another thing I like about this hardware family is that they are not too feminine so can appeal to both women and men, an important selling point when marketing to couples.

I also like to pick hardware that matches a theme in the room. For the kids bathroom, the light fixtures had a bit of chrome and white. I repeated that in the door pulls and toilet roll hanger. These door pulls are industry standard; the cup pulls are from Overstock.com and the handles from Lowes.

A word about installing your hardware. We were at a recent open house where the homeowner (or their paid help) put in the knobs wrong. It looked wonky and just plain wrong and crooked. I would have expected a lot more considering the price of the home! Please take your time and put your hardware on correctly!

On cabinet knobs, I aim for placement in the top corner section of the door. I like the knob to sit where the circle does not overhang the corner of the cabinet.

I also like it not to be too low from the cabinet’s corner. All of these examples have the knob too low or off center on the cabinet door.

On the overjohn cabinet, I like the tail end of the pull to sit comfortably in the corner like shown in this photo:

Placing them in the middle for an overjohn cabinet would make them too high.

Here the tail is higher then the corner and looks slightly off.

If you are putting in multiple pieces in many drawers/doors, use a jig. This is a pattern that helps you get your alignment correct, door to door, drawer to drawer.

Remember, you don’t have to be matchey-matchey, just pick things in color or shape that repeat elements in the room. For example, if using brushed nickel faucets go with the same family, or ceramic for the cabinets. Oil rubbed faucets? Try the same for the hardware. If arched cabinetry, go with arched drawer pulls; straight angled cabinetry? repeat it in the look of your hardware.

Have fun with it – it’s like choosing earrings!

Planning: Master Bathroom

Since I’ve changed so much on the planning of this bathroom, decided to re-post this and move it up as we’ll be working on this project for the next 6 weeks or so.

The trend with master bathrooms is the “spa feel.” I translate that to mean: calming, tranquil and soothing with the almost bland, rich neutrals you see at resort hotels. From viewing a lot of bathrooms on Pinterest (see my board for inspiration) and talking to local suppliers of cabinets and countertops, these are some common themes:

Look for medium to light wall tones. Venetian plaster seemed to be too heavy so I removed it from the plan;

Lots of cream/white especially in mouldings, tubs and sinks;

Granite or marble countertops (in lighter colors esp. marble), many with rectangular sinks (especially in white), either vessels (especially in glass or white), or undermounts (in white or cream). BTW vessel sinks can be hard to clean the outside of the bowl (try removing toothpaste) so I reserved ours for the powder room.

Granite or marble countertops. Lighter colored, neutral tone instead of strong patterns;

High end looking faucets (usually in dark colors such as oil rubbed bronze) with shower heads that offer more then just a handheld such as rain showers, jets etc…;

Dimmer and accent lighting with chandeliers and sconces;

Tubs are moving to stand alones; Showers are becoming bigger;

More open storage options are being added with built ins around the tub and vanity.

What you won’t see – wallpaper or dark colors and patterns (i.e. burgandy, browns, wallpaper on walls). Busy rooms with lots of color contrasts.

Current layout of the master bathroom won’t change:

The vanity has been upgraded with a new cream paint finished glazed with brown, and added wood detailing. Look here for the popular How-To post using Annie Sloan Chalk paint and Dark Walnut stain.

Walls – Lowes’ Waverly Tawny Green WV36007 a mid-tone green that errs on the khaki-tan side of the green family as opposed to the yellow or blue. It should go well with the cabinet and countertop colors.

Ceiling – Lowes’ Brushed Metal EE2069 Pale Glow – a metallic and reflective pale yellow.

Mouldingcornice moulding will be put over the four doors (two closets, toilet door, and entrance door). I had considered replacing the closet doors with vintage, but they were too expensive. Will reserve that idea for the kitchen’s pantry door.

The entire bathroom will have a crown and base moulding combination:

Lighting –  a chandelier over the vanity and new sconces.

$175 on closeout sale

Vanity – I decided to go with a much lighter counter color… from my original darker, busier pattern:

With a moulding curve over the vanity like this:

which will match the curve over the tub:

Shower – needs an updated showerhead combo in oil rubbed brass. The tile needs cleaning and re-caulking.

Toilet – will install the same one we did in the Powder Room. Really love the easy clean features on this toilet. I’ll replace the toilet roll hanger and put one double towel hanger in the tub alcove. Perhaps a shelf under the cabinet in the toilet room?

Linens – Spa white!

The master bathroom should wrap by the end of February.

Project: Transforming builder grade cabinets to Old World (ASCP Old White with Dark Walnut glaze)

The Project: builder grade, oak cabinets installed when we built the house 14 years ago. They have one layer of stain and varnish to deal with and are in excellent condition, needing no repairs. If you have older cabinets, with more paint layers you may need to do more prep work (more sanding or a chemical stripper) then I did.

Here is our master bathroom (before) ~ nice but still a builder grade cabinet with a medium oak blah finish that is very dated:

Before working on paint colors know exactly what else you will be changing in the room. Eventually the counter, sinks and faucets will be replaced, the mirror framed, new lighting installed and paint color changed (for the Pinterest Idea Board look here). Overall, the room will be in the brown-tan, off-white creamy family (here’s the overall planning post).

Hardware was removed; drawers and doors were taken off and moved to the garage. All the cabinetry was first sanded (electric sander, 80 grit and then 120 grit) to remove the top, shiny coat and encourage paint adhesion.

The Annie Sloan Chalk Paint (ASCP) states you don’t have to sand or prime but if you are re-doing cabinetry, either bathroom or kitchen, I would at least give them a good clean with detergent to remove oil, grease, or any residue before painting. I did do a test board that was sanded and another that was not sanded: the sanded side had better paint adhesion and a smoother, end appearance.

needs a cleaning!

To make these cabinets special, I’m adding wood appliques and some very nice hardware. These appliques were found at Lowes but you can also find them online in a wide variety of patterns and sizes:

To apply, two tiny holes are pre-drilled for small (brad) nails. Wood glue is applied on the back and then the small nails are tapped into place after the applique is properly aligned:

checking alignment

Three coats of ASCP in Old White was applied to the vanity, cabinet door fronts and drawers with a 1″ brush and a 4″ foam cabinet roller. Love it!

For the cabinet door appliques, I first painted the door with one coat of ASCP, and spraypainted the wood applique white before gluing and nailing it down. This made it easier on getting the second and third coat to look even.

The first day cabinet door backs, drawer fronts, and the vanity were painted. The second day I painted the cabinet fronts with three coats and applied their wood appliques.

Tip: when painting both sides of a project like doors, be aware when you flip it and the newly painted (but dried) side is down, it can be damaged. Make sure you have a clean and non-stick surface for it to rest upon when you paint the second side.  When I’ve used plastic garbage bags they also removed fresh, but dried, paint. Now, I use a plastic sleeve from a box that originally contained blinds, over the top of the sawhorse.

Quart cans of paint and stain are used to elevate cabinet doors so I can paint the edges and let them dry. You can use cans of vegetables/fruit from your cabinet too.

The drawer runners make these drawers stand slanted, so gallon cans hold the drawers in place so all painted edges can dry without falling over.

Tip: If you are uncertain as to your color choices on your cabinets, it’s always best to do a test board; this will save a lot of time and aggravation! Especially, if it is a project that would be a big pain to redo or is a very important feature to your house (we can all afford to experiment on a small table!).

After doing a test board, I decided to go with ASCP Old White and a glaze of McColkseys (same as Valspars) Buff glaze with the glaze applied with a ragged on/off method (used about 2 cups). This method was done on the cabinet door fronts, the drawer fronts, and the front board where the appliques were mounted on the vanity. Other flat surfaces were left ASCP Old White.

Ragging on is the application of glaze with a clean cloth (i.e. cut up t-shirt). This method works well across large flat surfaces. Depending on the color difference between undercoat and glaze, you can have a high or low contrast. The cloth is saturated with glaze (how much depends on how much color you want applied). I like it soaked but not dripping.

The rag is crinkled in a long tube and then rolled across the surface. I re-crinkle the rag about every 3 to 4 times of rolling and every other roll I change direction. This gives a random pattern.

Ragging on randomly applies paint to a surface

If you get too much glaze or want more exposure of the undercoat you can rag off. Take a clean cloth with no glaze and roll across the wet surface to remove glaze. You will need to keep using clean rags to keep removing; using one that has glaze on it will re-apply the glaze to the surface.

Here I use a clean rag to pat/blot off excess (pat down and lift straight up so pattern is not smeared) or I can use it by rolling it across the surface to remove paint (ragging off) which softens the overall pattern.

ragging off with a clean rag removes excess paint

For comparison, here is a ragged on, glazed door with Buff (left) and an ASCP Old White only (right) cabinet door comparison (click photo for a close up):

You could stop there if you like that look but I wanted to take it further. After the glaze was left to dry for the afternoon, the edges were distressed with an electric palm sander (Black and Decker Mouse) with 120 grit. I blew off the sanding dust with a hair dryer (set on cool) before moving to the next step of glazing with Cabots’ dark Walnut stain (project used about 1 half pint).

A coat of dark Walnut stain was wiped on and off (wear a glove if you don’t want to get your hand stained; I clean my hands with NEXT brush cleaner).  Or you could use a chip brush which I did on the door backs and vanity.

Saturate the rag or brush with some stain and then wipe on your cabinet door, paying careful attention to the distressed areas. Because this is a distressed finish, the stain can be applied in a criss-cross pattern or rubbed on in circles.

worked in circles over center panel

Wherever you have sanded down to bare wood, the stain will be asborbed. Aim for raised areas such as the edge of doors and drawers. Work in circles and straight lines to get the stain worked into the crevices. If you put on too much and it gets drippy, just wipe and blot off with a clean rag.

A stain glaze is asborbed by the undercoat paint more then a traditional, glaze medium; depending on the product it may have a faster drying time then a traditional glaze medium. It’s important you immediately get a feel for how quickly the glaze you are using dries. Different brands have different working times which can be further extended with other products.

The stain on the back of the cabinet doors and the base cabinet was simply wiped off with a clean rag used in a circular motion. The stain on the cabinet door fronts, I wiped off and Ragged Off using clean t-shirt rags. The ragging caused the stain to make a really neat, aged pattern!

Doors for overjohn cabinet

Why did I go with the Dark Walnut stain and not the dark wax? To use dark wax properly, the entire piece has to be coated with clear wax first then dark wax, making this project even more expensive ($28 a can of wax) and time consuming. I also find, for my taste, the dark wax can start looking dirty over certain colors.

I like the clean lines of a liquid product such as stain or glaze and the variety of colors to choose from (ASCP can be diluted into a glaze also). A similar door glazing project (using black glaze over gray paint) is shown for the downstairs bath. I guess it comes down to a personal choice but I prefer glaze over using wax for distressing cabinets.

I left the Dark Walnut stain to dry overnight and the next day (fourth on the project) I darkened the back of the cabinet doors so they would be more in keeping color-wise with the overall project when opened. After everything dried, Annie Sloan clear wax (for water protection) was put over the cabinet doors and drawers. All the hinge hardware was given an oil rubbed bronze spraypaint and left to dry overnight. The vanity was stained and also left to dry overnight.

cabinet door backs

The fifth day the vanity was was waxed and buffed. MISTAKE! When I brought the doors and drawers back in, I realized I had made a mistake on color. The vanity was more chocolate, the drawers and doors a bit lighter. To correct, I sanded them down lightly with 120 grit on my palm sander and applied more stain glaze. This set me back a day as I left them to dry again overnight.

Sixth day, the doors and drawers were waxed and buffed, the hardware installed and the door  and drawers put back in place. Wow!!! So happy with these new cabinets! (but totally disappointed with the photos which don’t show the loveliness as the flash washes out the color)

This was the first time I’ve worked with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint on cabinets and here are my thoughts on the matter:

~ The paint dries incredibly fast with good adhesion, has little drip factor (in it’s original mixture it’s quite thick), and has very low to no odor. This makes it great for in-house projects and “get-it-done-in-a-day” projects.

~ This paint screams to be distressed. Over sanded wood that was quite smooth, when being brushed applied at full strength it did not go on smooth and clearly wanted to become distressed when being brush applied. The unsanded, test door immediately displayed craquelaure when paint was applied in the second coat.

~ It gives a flat, chalk feel and color to the paint; there is no shine unless you wax or coat it.

~ It sands amazingly well! This makes it ideal for distressing as over the counter latex paints peel when sanded.

~ I was concerned about how it would work with other products but it did well with the Cabot’s stain and the Buff glaze.

~ The chalky feel concerned me that it wouldn’t be protective for cabinets, but once it was glazed and waxed the surface is very protective.

~ The project went faster then using the enamel white paint in the kids bathroom so working in a team of two we were able to get them done with three coats of paint, front and back of doors, along with a glaze coat of ragging, a stain coat, and a wax coat in five days (not counting a mistake day).

~ It was brushed on over oak, the hardest grain pattern to conceal with paint. After two coats the undercoat of stain and oak grain were still visible. This is not a high conceal paint. If you want a solid, smooth coat, like I did on the kids bathroom cabinets, I would pass on this product for that purpose.

~ The paint produces the same amount of brush strokes as other paints, latex and enamel, when used without Penetrol. Because it dries so fast it is a bit harder to “feather out” brush marks.

After working with it, I do think it’s a do-able paint for the downstairs kitchen as long as I wax the doors twice. I’m excited that we’ll be able to trim costs and have me give the kitchen a professional finish without paying a professional. woohoo!

Updated ~ New hardware has been added