Professional Cabinet Painting – Notes for Contractors

Here are some handy notes for the local cabinet painting contractor in Toronto, Mississauga, or the Oakville area.  If you are thinking of providing cabinet refinishing as a service these are some factors you need to consider.

Space and Spray Booth: to paint doors and to have space to allow the doors to dry and cure.  Sharrard Painting & Fine Finishing has a 2500 sq ft painting and fine finishing shop with a compliant spray booth located in central Oakville. 

Lacquer vs Paint:  professional cabinet painting requires the use of lacquer – post catalyzed lacquer is the best to use.  It will cure the quickest.   The product that dries the quickest is usually also the hardest and therefore the best to use.  Consumer-grade paints, like Ben Moore Advance, will take 4 weeks to fully cure and therefore are impossible to use in a commercial setting.  Whether to use solvent (oil-based) lacquers vs water-based lacquers is something to also consider.  I prefer solvent-based lacquers when repainting kitchens and waterbased based lacquers when dealing with new MDF.

Gloss Level:  lacquers come at a gloss level that is expressed as a percentage – it varies from brand to brand.  You really want to avoid using high gloss or semi-gloss products in kitchens, especially repaints. A twenty-five percent sheen is about the highest I would do, this is the equivalent of a satin or pearl finish.  Clear coats on stained – 15 to 10% is the recommended gloss level for a clear coat on cabinetry.

Spray Painting On-Site is an Art.   Make sure you have the right venting tools, especially a portable air exchanger.  Some firms use a brush and roller to paint the onsite elements.  We don’t.  After you tape off about 100 kitchens it will start to become a lot like clockwork and you figure out the best way to do it.   We’ve done over 700!  When spraying your topcoat work in sections and tape off competed work to protect it from overspray.  If you use post-cat lacquer you can put green tape on top of the topcoat within about 1 hr of spraying it.

Don’t SPRAY Paint Oak Cabinet Doors White:  this is a loose / loose situation, it looks awful and you will have wasted your customer’s money.  See our post on painting oak cabinet doors.

Supplies:  you’ll need to buy a lot of sanding paper, tape, and masking material.  Autobody shops usually know where to buy this sort of stuff at the best rates – buying sandpaper and masking material from the paint store is good for one or two jobs but if you do it all the time it will become too expensive.

Dust: created by sanding, keeping the doors dust-free between coats is key to keeping presentations of your work from looking like crap.  Completely clean up (vacuum * 2 prior to the primer coat and finish coats.

Grease and Dirt:  has to be removed – it is one of the most critical and yet overlooked steps in the entire process.  You can actually do some sanding and washing at the same time if you use burgundy finishing pads as a scrub pad.

Removal and Rehanging of doors – putting them back up will take twice as long if you’re not the guy who took them down.  18 Doors can take an afternoon if there are lots of adjustments to be made.  Your customer will expect you to create level cabinet doors and to fix any rubs the drawers might have had with cabinet doors.  These have to be fixed because the rubbing of the doors will scratch the paint off within weeks of you declaring you’re done. Learning how to take apart and put back together a kitchen takes many iterations since the systems used vary between job to job.

Graco 395 Fine Finsh Pro – Air Assisted Spraying provides great finish.

Material Usage:  If you decide to move into spraying remember you`ll use twice as much primer and twice as much paint.  Sharrard Painting spray paints all cabinet finishes but we do it off offsite at our shop in Oakville.  We use air-assisted pumps and pressure pots connected to a 250 lbs compressor.

Transporting the doors:  if recently painted they will easily get damaged during the move. Invest in padded moving blankets if you’re in it for the long run.  Cardboard corners are my preferred way of packing and transporting doors – these can be purchased from Uline.

Summer Humidity: we use post catalyzed lacquer so our paint dries in 30 mins and cures in less than a day but if you’re using consumer-grade cabinet paint like Ben Moore Advance it will take much longer to dry than normal paint.  During the summer rush remember that summer humidity will double the cure time of the paint.  That is going to be a big deal when your sweat-covered hands need to manhandle those doors getting them back onto the hinges and onto the base cabinets. The longer the doors have to dry and cure the better the experience is for everyone.

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