A few weeks ago, I painted my master bathroom white. The countertop is also white. The tiles are a light neutral color. It was starting to bother me that the vanity was dark wood. For me, it sort of seemed to interrupt the space, so I decided that I would paint it, of course.
This is the cheater’s guide to painting a cabinet. Here’s how I painted our master bathroom double sink vanity without removing the doors and without taking anything out the of the cabinets or drawers.
I researched DIY tutorials and was put off by taking everything out of the cabinets, taking the doors off, deglossing, bond coat, top coat, waiting for one side to dry, flipping … too much for me.
So I decided to give a quart of Cabinet Coat enamel for $14 a shot. I bought it knowing full well I would not take off all the doors and keep track of what hinges belong where. My plan of attack was a flat artists’ brush.
I used the brush to go over stroke marks from the large brush with thicker bristles, to smooth over drips, and to reach in the crevices and molding.
Cabinet Coat recommends removing doors and painting them on a horizontal surface, but I’m always looking for a shortcut. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t! This time, thankfully, it worked. (It’s still a good idea to read the brochure that comes with the paint, though.)
Tools needed for painting a vanity
- 180-220 grit sandpaper or sanding wedge
- quart of Cabinet Coat
- quality paintbrush
- small flat artists’ paintbrush
Time it took me
- Prep: 15 minutes
- First coat: 2 hours
- Second coat: 2 hours
- Third coat: 2 hours
- Touch up: 1 hour
- Remove knobs and drawer/door stoppers.
- Put an old towel on the floor and sand the cabinets well. Pay special attention to areas around knobs and corners so they are less likely to wear after touching them day after day.
- Wash cabinets well to get off sand dust and grime. Let them dry. (There was a spot I apparently didn’t wipe the varnish dust off well enough and the stain on the dust seeped through the paint no matter how many coats I added. Make sure you wash them well.)
- Start painting!
- Use thin, methodical strokes in the same direction. Don’t paint over half-dried paint or you’ll create smudges. If there’s a half-dried drip, you’ll have to wait until it is dry to sand it out. I tried the lesser-seen side of the cabinet first to test my method.
- Use a small artists’ brush to go around hinges and get inside narrow spaces. (This is the key to not taking the doors off the hinges.)
- Let your first coat dry overnight. (I wrapped my brushes in plastic wrap and then put them inside a plastic bag to use them the next day.)
- Apply second coat. Let it dry overnight. I had to do even a third coat the following day because the cabinets were so dark.
- Touch up any neglected spots if necessary. (Keep in mind that it can take up to a week or two to fully set. We still used our vanity during that time, we were just careful not to scratch it with anything.)
- Add knobs after the cabinet is dry and admire your handy work!
I used 3/4 of the quart can with this project — that’s with three coats and a final touch up. Here is how the doors looked after each coat of paint:
I painted the insides of the doors and interior edging, but I didn’t focus my attention there, as you can see below. I like that the inside of the doors are white, but it didn’t matter enough to me to do a final touch up.
I didn’t paint the inside of the drawers or interior of the cabinets because, for me, this light wood tone works fine with the white.
I found these knobs to add a little sparkle at Home Depot for $4 a piece.
I’m pretty surprised they turned out so well. You’re probably not supposed to say that after a tutorial! I’ll be sure to include an update of how they hold up.