Ready for Paint

After the tedium of cleaning, filling and sanding, picking up a paintbrush will seem like a reward: A new surface and a new color are about to emerge. If cabinets are heavily stained, use a stain-blocking primer such as B-I-N, a tinted shellac made by Wm. Zinsser & Co. It dries quickly and seals knots and other surface defects that might bleed through the topcoats. But in most situations, according to Harrison Paint's Shinn, stain-blockers should not be necessary. He suggests either an alkyd or 100 percent acrylic latex primer. If you have stripped cabinets to bare wood, Bonadies recommends using an underbody, a special type of primer that fills minor surface imperfections. This will produce a smoother finished surface.

After the primer or underbody has dried, a light sanding with 150- or 180-grit sandpaper will remove dust nibs and other imperfections before the topcoats are applied. The surface should be wiped down after sanding. One coat of primer is all that's needed.

And, finally, it's time for the payoff. Whether you've chosen oil or latex as the topcoat, don't skimp by buying cheap paint. This is one of those cases where you really do get what you pay for. Latex paint should be applied with a synthetic-bristle brush, which does not absorb water; oil-based paint should be applied with a natural-bristle brush. Gloss paint offers greater protection and holds up to scrubbing better than a semigloss or eggshell sheen.

If you are repainting in roughly the same shade, a primer coat and two finish coats ought to do it. You might even get away with one coat over an underbody primer. But painting over a dark finish with a light color is tougher. It could take a primer and three finish coats. Even so, it's a small price to pay for a kitchen that will look almost new.

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