Kitchen Cabinets and Chalk Paint – The One Step You Can’t Afford to Skip

Chalk painting cabinets has been a thing for a while now. I mean, who wouldn’t want to avoid filling their kitchen with sawdust if they can help it?? So of course, like everyone else, I jumped on the Annie Sloan chalk paint wagon. But let me back up a bit. My first ever project with Annie Sloan was the base of a lift top coffee table, made of medium density fiberboard (MDF). It was very late August in Southern California…and it was just past my baby’s due date. If you can imagine a gigantic, sweaty beach ball of a pregnant woman slowly rolling around the garage in mens underwear (because nothing else would fit), that was me. I’m sure our neighbors were impressed.

I was happy with the way my first Annie Sloan Chalk Paint project turned out. So naturally when our family moved clear across the country into a 1980’s New England home and the oak cabinets just had to go, I figured I would give it another shot. Compared to sanding, priming, painting and sealing this seemed like the easier option. Use Annie Sloan, they said. It will be easy, they said. Famous last words.

Here’s the thing, guys. When you’re taking on a major home improvement project, don’t expect it to be easy. Expect it to be worthwhile, do your research, and be prepared. Here are the tips and tricks that I learned along the way so that will hopefully make your life easier:

  1. Clean Your Cabinets – You’ll want to start with a blank canvas, so clean every surface thoroughly!
  2. Apply 3 Coats of Shellac – THIS IS SO IMPORTANT!! If you are painting oak, mahogany, or knotty pine, wood tannins will seep through your paint in the form of yellowish brown or pink. Not a good look, especially if you’re going for a crisp white finish like I was. And don’t think that just another layer of paint will solve the problem. Trust me, after three coats of paint, the tannins will still bleed through. Sigh…and you will be out a ton of paint and back to square one. Zinsser Bulls Eye Shellac and a $2 paint brush saved my day. The shellac dries pretty quickly, so chances are once you’re finished the first coat, you can move right into the second and so on.
  3. Make Sure You Have Enough Paint – A quart of Chalk Paint will cover 150 sq feet of surface. Multiply your cabinet heights by their widths and add up the totals. Divide your total by 150 to determine how many quarts you will need for a single coat. If you’re painting the cabinet insides, adjust accordingly. White is the toughest in terms of coverage, so if you’re going with a darker color you may be able to get away with only 2 coats. To give you an idea, my 11 cabinet kitchen required 4+ quarts of Pure White with 3 coats of paint. And I did not paint the insides of my cabinets.
  4. Invest in a High Quality Brush – If you’re using Annie Sloan Chalk Paint, you’ve already invested in the best quality product. Don’t diminish your final product by skimping on your brush. Trust me, it’s not worth it. Keep it clean simply with soap and water.
  5. Add 4 Tablespoons of Water to your Chalk Paint, Cover, and Shake – This will provide a smoother finish and stretch your paint a bit more as a bonus.
  6. Keep Your Paint Can Covered When Not in Use – Seems obvious, but cover your paint even during application! Paint begins the drying process almost immediately and a little foil wrap is all you need.
  7. Smooth Your Newly Painted Cabinet Surfaces – Dunk 600 grit sand paper in water and wipe off the drips. Sand one cabinet at a time and quickly follow sandpaper with a damp paper towel to remove the sandpaper residue.
  8. Seal Your Cabinets – Because this is a rental property and I won’t always have the capacity to re-apply wax as needed, I went with Minwax Polycrylic to seal in the paint. I recommend three coats for ultimate durability. You’ll want to wait 2 hours between coats.

Have you tackled this popular DIY home improvement project? What was the one step you wish you knew about before you began? I would love to hear about your experience!



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