Notes on Painting Oak Cabinets

We often receive requests to quote the refinishing of oak kitchen cabinets to a solid pigmented finish such as white, off-white or mid-tone colour.

Spray painting finished oak cabinet doors to white or lighter colours, in general, can be a real challenge. The presentation of the grain is always an issue.  We find that customers can sometimes not be happy with the results so we put together this blog entry to detail what to expect when spray painting oak cabinet doors.

oakwoodOak is a very porous type of wood – the gain has deep crevices that cannot be penetrated by the light spray finish created by spray painting equipment – what happens is that spray usually dries prior to seeping down into the gain.  On finishes done in white, lighter and mid-tone colours the grain can appear darker and pimple-like after the spray finish is applied.  When the boards are painted darker colours (darker browns and greys) the effect is not so dramatic.  It’s for these reasons we typically do not paint oak cabinetry a white, off-white, or mid-tone colour.

Grain Fillers:  You can apply products known as grain fillers but I have two general issues with grain fillers.

  1. cost – the time required to apply the gain filling material plus all the other costs of refinishing usually make the project cost-prohibitive
  2. filling the grain and building a consistent presentation across 30 to 50 cupboard doors will also be a significant challenge and contribute to costs.  With the cost of labour you might as well purchase a new set of cabinet doors and hang them onto the existing frames (this is known as “re-FACING”)

Although, I have seen this type of work (grain filling) done on furniture pieces (tabletops) for a kitchen cabinet door it’s not practical.  It would be much cheaper to buy new doors.

If you have been invited to this page based on your request for a quote. Please review the samples below.  For oak cabinetry we provide two service options:

    1. Spray-finish the kitchen in a darker colour, or
    2. ReFace the kitchen with new doors, drawers and toe kicks.  Reface or grain fill the larger gables as required.  Paint the edge banding to match the finish.

Here are a few pictures of oak cabinets doors painted in white to highlight what I mean:

Photos of Oak Kitchen Cabinets Spray Painted White:

This picture is a larger presentation – some customers will say well that’s not so bad – honestly, I don’t think this picture gives credit to just how bad it could look.


Here is a close up picture of where the paint wasn’t able to seep down far enough into the grain.  These cabinets were spray painted.

As an alternative:  if we use dark colours (not mid-tones) a very nice visual presentation can be created.  The darker colour creates less contrast within the presentations of the grain.  A number of examples are provided below but typically we are talking about using a darker brown or a very dark grey.   Such as:


Ben Moore – Espresso Bean – CSP 30


Ben Moore – Wrought Iron – 2124-10


Ben Moore – Grey – 2121-10

Oak Kitchen Finished in Grey:

Here are some photos we did of an oak kitchen finished in grey – the colour is Steel Wool by Ben Moore.

Oak Cabinets Finished in Dark Brown (Espresso Bean):

Oak Kitchen Spray Painted Dark Grey – Wrought Iron

Oak Kitchen Spray Painted Dark Grey

OAK Cabinets Painted Black

Other articles on painting oak cabinet doors white:

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